Saturday, August 29, 2009

my (long long) shortlist

Having waded through the pool of press releases this summer and critical responses to other festivals and markets this year, here is my long list (alphabetically) - soon to be reduced to an actual short list. For ease of reference, each of these movies is linked to the relevant festival page and it's all in alphabetical order. These are my top 96 films. Asterisks indicate films that are in my top 25 picks. [NB note: September 10th: Italicized entries indicate a film seen/review underway.]

Adrift. Bui Thac Chuyen's film observes an aimless young couple's encounter with social mores and their own needs, in contemporary Vietnam.
Ahead of Time. Ruth Gruber, the world's youngest Ph.D. at age 20, is now 97 and has spent a lifetime helping to raise awareness to Jewish cultural experience in Europe and America. Her life is profiled in this film by Bob Richman.*
Applause. Danish actress Paprika Steen stars in Martin Pieter Zandvliet's first dramatic feature.
The Art of the Steal. Don Argott's documentary examines how the Barnes collection of Impressionist art was wrested from its home in Pennsylvania after the death of the collector.
Bare Essence of Life. Sotoko Yokohama's film is about a mentally challenged young farmer who falls in love with a girl from Tokyo.
Beyond the Circle. Golam Rabbany Biplob directs this Bangladeshi tale of a man whose music takes him from the rural north to the big city of Dhaka.
Blessed. Australian Ana Kokkinos looks at the lives of seven children and their respective mothers and the uneasy relationships among them.
The Boys are Back. Scott Hicks' story of a bereaved single father coping with parenthood is his first film back in Australian since Shine.
Bran Nue Dae. The hit aboriginal musical hits the big screen in this adaptation by Australian Rachel Perkins.
A Brand New Life. Ounie Lecomte's movie about a little girl who is abandoned by her father so he can form a new life has been a favourite of mine since Cannes.*
Bright Star. Jane Campion's latest film is a portrait of the poet John Keats and his relationship to Fanny Brawne.*
Broken Embraces. Almodovar's latest film will likely be my first festival screening. It is the story of an aging blind screenwriter forced to face unresolved past life decisions.*
Cairo Time. Canadian Ruba Nadda's latest feature stars Patricia Clarkson as a woman who befriends an Egyptian man while waiting for her husband.*
Capitalism: A Love Story. The world of financially-melting down corporate America is under the lens of Michael Moore's 20th anniversary pic.
Carmel. Amos Gitai's films, which I do not miss each year, are always complexly nuanced tales of Israeli/Jewish identity. This very personal addition allows Gitai a chance to reflect on having a child who is a soldier.*
Chloe. Atom Egoyan's feature may be better known at the moment for being the movie Liam Neeson was making when Natasha Richardson died. However, that will soon change, as Neeson and Julianne Moore are said to give career-best performances in this film based on a film by Anne Fontaine in which a woman seeks to test her husband by secretly setting him up with another woman.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. A favourite actor of mine, Mads Mikkelson, stars with Anna Mouglalis in this look at the intersection of two famous lives, made by Dutch helmer, Jan Kounen.
Colony. Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell profile a family dealing with 'colony collapse disorder', the disintegration and decline of bee colonies, and its impact on agrarian economy.
Cooking With Stella. The best of Deepa Mehta's Water are on hand for brother Dilip Mehta's feature about a New Delhi diplomat's cook whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of new residents.
Creation. Jon Amiel's psychological emotional portrait of Charles Darwin.
La Danse - Le Ballet de l'Opera de Paris. This Mavericks presentation screening of Frederick Wiseman's documentary on the famous Parisian ballet company will include a discussion with the master afterward.
The Day God Walked Away. Philippe van Leeuw revisits the Rwanda genocide of the 90s through the harrowing story of one woman.
The Day Will Come. German filmmaker Susanne Schneider's film shows how one woman's family is disrupted forever by the appearance of a woman from her past.
La Donation. Quebec helmer Bernard Emond's tale of a Montreal doctor who takes over a country practice and finds deeper meaning in what she does.
Dorian Gray. British filmmaker Oliver Parker directs Colin Firth in this adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel.
Down for Life. Set in South-Central L.A., this film by Alan Jacobs tells the story of a Latina girl gang leader, striving to be free of the gangs and become a writer.
Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl. Manuel de Oliveiro's luscious look at thwarted love in 19th century Portugal.
An Education. Lone Scherfig, one of my favourite Danes, returns with this tale of teenaged life in London in the 1960s.*
L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Cluozot. Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea profile the great filmmaker and his unfinished final projet, L'Enfer.
Eyes Wide Open. Haim Tabakman caused a stir in Cannes with this sensitive portrait of two Orthodox Jewish men in love.*
Face. Taiwanese festival favorite Tsai ming-liang returns with another one of his mystical magical fantasies, this time about a director making a movie at the Louvre, based on the Salome legend.
Fish Tank. Andrea Arnold's film about a tough, working class British teenager has also been a favorite of mine for this festival since it debuted at Cannes.*
Five Hours From Paris. Leon Prudovsky's first feature brings together an unlikely couple in this romantic comedy from Israel.
Gigante. A romantic comedy from Adrian Biniez about an overweight close-circuit tv security guard who falls for a cleaning woman in a supermarket.
Glorious 39. Bill Nighy and Julie Christie are two reasons to take in Stephen Poliakoff's drama about war-time England.
Good Hair. Jeff Stilson's doc about the African-American 'do' with Chris Rock narrating, promises to be fun.
Green Days. A new feature by the youngest of the brilliant Makhmalbaf women (Hana) appears to have come in over the transom: there is not even a full write-up yet on the website, but some good pictures.*
Hadewijch. I have very high hopes for Bruno Dumont's profile of a contemporary theology student who falls in love with an Islamic fundamentalist in Paris.*
The Happiest Girl in the World. Romania's Radu Jude's comedy focusses on a teenager who wins a car and finds herself the target of family manipulation.
Heiran. Shalizeh Arefpour's feature debut observes the repercussions of young love in modern day Tehran, when same is not endorsed by family.
Les Herbes Folles. Legendary filmmaker Alain Resnais' tale of two people who meet over a lost wallet.
I Am Love. A Milanese family empire slowly unwinds as the patriarch announces his plans for his family in this feature from Italian Luca Guadagnino.
I, Don Giovanni. Anything by Carlos Saura, the Argentinian master of dance on film, is a must. But this playful profile of Mozart's librettist is a top seed for me.*
Jean Charles. Henrique Goldman looks at the life of a Brazilian immigrant to London, as same is impacted by the terrorist events of July, 2005.
Kelin. Ermek Tursunov's film profiles a young woman torn between a true love and a husband she has come to love. Boasting absolutely no dialogue, it is yet another film from the emerging cinema of Kazakhstan.
Life During Wartime. Allison Janney is reason enough for me to make Todd Solondz' latest film about a woman whose ex-husband is released from jail at the very moment she is remarrying, a very top seed.*
London River. Rachid Bouchareb examines the intertwined lives of two parents during the London bombings of 2005. Starring Brenda Blethyn.*
Lourdes. Jessica Hausner's third feature film observes a physically and emotionally challenged young woman as she visits the famous shrine.*
Max Manus. I will probably see Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning's movie about the famous WWII resistance fighter, for its Scandinavian context.
Melody for a Street Organ. Two Russian children, orphaned by the death of their mother, search for their father in this film by Kira Muratova.
Men on the Bridge. A true-to-life fiction about three men whose lives intersect on the Bosphorous Bridge in Istanbul, by Azli Osge.
The Men Who Stare at Goats. Grant Heslov's all-star cast film is based on a true story about a troop of psychic soldiers.
Micmacs a tire-larigot. Few will be able to resist Jean-Pierre Jeunet's comedy about a man who falls in with an ex-con.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Although I was a new teen at the time, this controversy in the 70s led me into an obssession on Watergate, and the birth of my political consciousness. Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith's doc looks at the man often forgotten in those anals of history.
My Queen Karo. Belgian filmmaker Dorothée van den Berghe offers a coming of age tale set in a 'free love' community in Amsterdam in the 70s.
My Dog Tulip. As a puppy parent, this animated tale of a man befriending a German shepherd by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, is a high contender.
My Tehran for Sale. Granaz Moussani's first feature looks at youth in Iran. Made under political constraints by an Iranian-Australian.
My Year Without Sex. This title might have indicated the journallings of a young would-be femme fatale, but Sarah Watt's film is something better: the profile of an Australian woman who, after suffering an aneurysm, finds friendship with an equally-in-crisis clergywoman in trying to recover.
Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country. Xiaolu Guo's other film in this festival is a poetic meditation on the lives of 12 average Chinese workers.
Ondine. Neil Jordan goes home to Ireland in his latest feature, a magic realist story of a man and his daughter whose lives are turned around by a 'woman from the sea'.
Partir. Catherine Corsini's story of a mid-life love affair starring Kristin Scott Thomas is another high-ranker for me.*
Le Pere de Mes Enfants. French actress Mia Hansen-Love turns to directing in this family drama equivalent of Run Lola Run. A family's disintegration is shown first from the father's point of view, then the mother's.*
Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands. Peter Mettler takes an Edward Burtynsky-style look at the controversial energy project. Likely to be this year's Manufactured Landscapes.
La Pivellina. Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel's film looks at an Italian Roman trailer park family and how their lives are turned upside down by the sudden appearance of an abandoned two year old.
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. That long-winded title has been as much of a deterrent for me as the overhyped festival appearance of Oprah Winfrey, but there is a lot to hope for in viewing the trailer for this second feature from Lee Daniels.
Same Same But Different. German Helmer Detlev Buck's film is a youthful love story set in Cambodia.
Samson and Delilah. Warwick Thornton's first feature chronicles the friendship of two Australian aboriginal teens who are both outsiders.
The Search. Pema Tseden's journey through small villages of Tibet searching for singers to play characters in a Tibetan opera, is a film within a film.
She, a Chinese. Guo Xiaolu has two films in this year's festival and both are on this list. The write-up for this film describes the story of a woman told "using short, lyrical captions or silent, beautifully composed snapshots of landscapes."*
Short Cuts Canada 2. This collection of short films by young Canadian filmmakers (and veterans like Guy Maddin) looks to be the most promising of the five programmes.
A Single Man. Tom Ford brings together Colin Firth and Julianne Moore (both here with other films as well) in a story of a gay college professor coping with the death of his partner.
Solitary Man. I normally am not a fan of Michael Douglas but Brian Koppleman and David Levien's film also co-stars Susan Sarandon and is said to have a tight script.
Soul Kitchen. Fatih Akin's Edge of Heaven was a major discovery of recent TIFFs. His latest is the saga of a young German chef sorting out his bad life luck.
Sparrows. This projection, accompanied by live piano music, features Mary Pickford in one of her most popular roles as a Louisiana girl raising neglecting children on a baby farm. Directed by William Beaudine, it was originally released in 1926.
Spring Fever. This taboo-breaking feature took years to make in China where director Lou Ye has been under a five year ban since his film Summer Palace. It is the story of two men in love and the jealous wife who observes.
St. Louis Blues. Hard to resist Dyana Gaye's Senegalese road trip musical that uses French songs of the 1960s.
The Sunshine Boy. Fridrik Thor Fridriksson's documentary follows an Icelandic woman seeking ways to communicate with her severely autistic son.
The Time That Remains. This semi-biographic film by Elia Suleiman, divided into four historical episodes, portrays the daily life of Palestinians in 1948 who were considered a minority, even in their homeland.
The Topp Twins. Leanne Pooley's doc looks at this popular lesbian, country and western singing New Zealand twin performing duo.
The Trotsky. With its all-star Canadian cast and mixture of styles, Jacob Tierney's film about a young man who believes he is Trotsky could be the best Canadian feature this year.
The Unloved. Actress Samantha Morton turns to directing in this film based on her own childhood experiences growing up in the social services system in England.
Vincere. Marco Bellochio directs this profile of Benito Mussolini's formational years and passionate relationships before becoming Il Duce.
Vision. Margarethe von Trotte's much anticipated depiction of the medieval spiritualist Hildegard of Bingen.*
Wavelengths 1: Titans. George Méliès’ playful and eccentric spirit hovers throughout Wavelengths’s opening programme.
Wavelengths 2: Pro Agri An appreciation for nature and its untold mysteries.
Wavelengths 3: Let Each One Go Where He May. A celebration of Chicago-based filmmaker Ben Russell.
Wavelengths 4: In Comparison. Observation is the main modus operandi of these films.
Wavelengths 5: Une Catastrophe. From agitprop to poetry, personal expressions of historical and collective memory confront spectres from the past throughout this programme.
Wavelengths 6: Flash Point Camera. Art and experience partake in these films about the passage of time.
What's Your Raashee? Ashutosh Gowariker's romantic comedy about a man who has to find a bride in 12 days is likely to be the best of the Indian/Bollywood fare this year.
Whip It. If I end up seeing Drew Barrymore's first feature about roller derbying women, it will likely be for Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden and a bit of respite from more serious fare.
White Material. Isabelle Huppert starts in Claire Denis' African tale of a French woman plantation owner threatened by civil war.
The White Ribbon. European auteur Michael Haneke explores events in a small village on the eve of World War I. Winner of the Palme d'Or.*
The White Sheik. Neil Jordan introduces Fellini's first feature, a romantic comedy about a honeymooning couple in Rome.
The Window. Buddhadeb Dasgupta's morality tale looks at how one man's gesture to repair a school window leads to complex political and personal trouble.
Women Without Men. Shirin Neshat looks at the lives of five Muslim women in Tehran in the 1950s.*
The Young Victoria. Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee directs an all-star British cast in this depiction of the early years of the famous monarch.

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