In the short film OMG, a teenage girl and her grandmother learn to communicate in the modern age, with hilarious results. In Transit shows a touching encounter between strangers at a bus stop who find they have more in common than they think. And Fetch is the story of a young boy who is trying desperately to find his mother.
Chinese Take-Away (Un Cuento Chino) is the feature film for subscribers in the U.S. and Canada. Directed by Ricardo Darin, this film from Argentina is a powerful story about two men from completely different worlds who, in the most unlikely ways, help each other heal their broken hearts and spirits. Film critic Roger Ebert awarded it his top rating.
Awaken, this month’s feature film for international subscribers, is a mind-bending and heart-opening time-travel love story where two lovers meet and change each other’s lives in a completely unique environment.
The Camera is a haunting, wordless short film that reminds us of the power of love and the magic of memories.
In Tick Tock Time Emporium, a girl who desperately wants more time with her mother enters a strange shop where time is actually for sale.
Pioneer focuses on a mysterious, haunting bedtime story that a father tells his son. This powerful short film was voted the Best Narrative Short at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
A Bird of the Air is our February feature. Filmed in New Mexico, it tells the story of a solitary man (Jackson Hurst) whose life is altered by both a stray parrot and a woman (Rachel Nichols) who inspire him to ask questions about his past — and his future. A Bird of the Air was directed by Margaret Whitton and written by Roger Towne, best known as the writer of The Natural, which starred Robert Redford.
Although I am proud to be a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I have a conceptual issue with the notion of “Best” film, actor, etc. Art is way too subjective to be making objective distinctions. For me, it is simply impossible call one film or a performance “better” than another. Who, for instance, is to say that Mozart wrote “better” music than Chopin, or that Gauguin was a “better” painter than Van Gogh?
For these reasons (as well as the incredible personal politics surrounding nominations), I feel much more comfortable using the phrase “favorite film.”
Another criteria for this list is a simple question that I ask myself: Do I feel better about being human after having seen the movie? This personal qualifier is certainly not a part of the Academy voting rules, but it is an essential one for me.
While I respect others who praise the “craft” of slickly produced and directed films that illustrate how violent, cruel and/or awful we can be as human beings, I personally do not want to feel assaulted or depressed by a dramatic film. I acknowledge all the fear, cruelty and negativity in the world and need only read a newspaper or watch the news or any one of several documentaries to see that side of our humanity. For me to enjoy and recommend a narrative film, however, I want it to show that, despite all the challenges and frailties we have as human beings, we can also be a generous, compassionate species that consciously loves, forgives and embraces the wonder and magic of life itself.
Here are my favorite, life-affirming films of 2011:
My wife Lauren and I were delighted to see Woody Allen’s new film,Midnight in Paris, over the weekend. The film is wonderfully entertaining, very sweet and really a lot of fun.
Owen Wilson plays a successful screenwriter who has come to Paris with his fiancée and her parents. While his fiancée sees the trip as a shopping opportunity, Mr. Wilson has a different agenda. He has always loved the notion of being a novelist, has indeed written his first book, and is enamored with the whole concept of being an artist in Paris, not a commercial “hack.” Unfortunately, his fiancée (played with great audacity and courage by Rachel McAdams) is shallow, materialistic and totally horrified that her soon-to-be husband is actually considering a career that is not based solely on making money.
From time to time, I will highlight a classic film that some — maybe even many — people might have missed. Or forgotten. Or maybe you did see it, and forgot that you asked for it to be erased it from your memory?
I am honored and proud to be a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that nominates and then votes each year for the Oscars.
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how to judge a “best” film or actor or screenplay or anything else. To try to do so seems akin to going into the Louvre and picking out the “best” painting. So the Van Gogh is “better” than the Renoir or Gauguin or any other painting? Oh, please! I hope we get to a time when the Academy changes “Best” to “Favorite,” to more accurately define the process.
That being said, I always look forward to your responses to my personal favorites, and to seeing a list of your favorite films of 2010. Here are mine:
The Oscar nominations are in. As a 25 year Academy member who votes each year for these awards, here’s my perspective on the crosscurrents I sense this year from my fellow Academy members:
I’m personally thrilled that Avatar and The Blind Side are the two most nominated films. Yes! They both richly deserve that recognition. While I expected Avatar to get its due, I was very pleasantly surprised to see such warm acceptance of The Blind Side. Usually, the Academy is very snooty about films that do not win critical accolades, and it was not exactly a critic’s favorite. It’s way too positive and emotionally satisfying for the cynics, uh, critics.
As always, my list includes my own personal favorites, not the films I consider best — a classification I find to be both impossible and absurd. I have no idea what the “best film” is, but I know the films I enjoyed the most. I also only reference films that have played or will play widely in theaters. If I included our Spiritual Cinema Circle films, this would be a completely different list!