Short Films for a Short Month

February 28th, 2014 by May

When I first started my cinema studies, I was told feature films usually last around 90 minutes. Years passed, and today it seems if a film is not at least 120 minutes it can hardly call itself a film! Just look at the recent list of Oscar nominations with The Wolf of Wall Street (180 min.), American Hustle (138 min.) and 12 Years a Slave (134 min.).
But cinema does not have to be that long to be masterful, as this list will try to prove. Each of the following shorts is captivating, touching or unique  in its own way. So as we finish up the shortest month of the year – here are 10 great short films.

The Red Balloon (1956)
Touching on the verge of sentimental, this is a story about a young kid and a red balloon in Paris. With no dialogue at all the film lets us see and understand the kid from the balloon’s point of view.

Facing Fear (2013)
Nominated for best documentary short in the upcoming academy awards, this short tells an amazing story of a former neo-Nazi and one of his gay victims when their paths collide. The way it continues is surprising, to say the least.

The ittle Matchgirl (2006)
If this short won’t make you cry, you have a heart of stone. This adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story beautifully captivates the hardships and loneliness of a poor young girl dreaming of a better world.

Strangers No More (2010)
Sincere and uplifting, this best documentary short Oscar winner for 2010 revolves around an exceptional school in Israel, where refugee children struggle to fit in to a sometimes unwilling society.

Vincent (1982)
One of the shorts which launched Tim Burton‘s long, fruitful career deals with an eccentric boy who love everything gothic, dramatic and surreal. Burton’s unique visual style is apparent even in this early effort.

La Jetee (1962)
One of the most well-known and acclaimed shorts ever, Chris Marker‘s La Jetee is an atmospheric and bleak tale about time travel after a 3rd world war. Using unique cinematic language Marker managed to create a film every cinema lover knows.

9 (2005)
A surrealistic future dystopia is the setting of this amazing short, which deals with strange puppets who come to life. Creator Shane Acker was approached to make a full length feature of this short, which unfortunately failed to remain as tight-scripted as the original.

Un Chien Andalou (1929)
The famous collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali is not meant for the faint of heart. Without any real narrative this short follows Dali and Bunuel’s dreams and sub consciousness to create something that wasn’t seen on the screen until then.

Get a Horse! (2013)
One of this year’s nominees for best animated short, this film does a masterful job in showing how 3D can be used. A hilariously comical clash between cartoon characters of the past and special effects of the present.

Room 8 (2013)
This year’s BAFTA winner in an eerie tale of a convict, a prison cell and one strange box. Telling anything more will be a spoiler, but believe me – you don’t want to miss this one.

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Berlin Film Festival

February 5th, 2014 by May

Berlinale 2014

The Berlinale is once again upon us, with new intriguing features by creators like Yoji Yamada, Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson and George Clooney. The annual controversy will probably not be missed either, with the screening of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac in the extended version. And if you enjoyed House of Cards you’ll be glad to hear the festival holds a special screening event of the 1st episode of the 2nd season.
This is a good time to pay homage to some of our favorite berlin winners from the past decade. If you want to get a taste of what the festival had to offer over the years, this is a good place to start.

Prince Avalanche (2013)David Gordon Green‘s remake of the Icelandic film Á annan veg is a great offbeat comedy, with great performances from Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other.

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) – It’s difficult to produce an original love story, but this Belgian heartbreaking gem is a masterclass in storytelling that bursts with real emotions. It is a story about how a loving, happy couple deals with an terrible tragedy.

Tabu (2012) – An offbeat and surreal adventure from Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes, that goes back to Portugal’s colonial past. Each scene is surprising, and you never know what to expect. Filmed in black and white, this film does not follow any conventional romantic formula.

The Messenger (2009) – With an American film about the Iraq war… everything could go wrong. But the restraint of this gloomy and captivating film and the strong performances of Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson make it all the more powerful.

The Wayward Cloud (2005)Ming Tsai Liang‘s enigmatic style at its best in his surreal musical extravaganza that tells a love story between a porn actor and a young woman during a dystopic drought… and watermelons. Fans of the director will be glad to hear that the current berlinale screens a new film of his, called Xi You.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)Bela Tarr is one example of cinema as art. So beautiful to look at, so lyrical, with every detail important and meaningful. This is probably the most important work of the Hungarian director that sadly hung his director’s cap in 2011. Hopefully, he’ll reconsider.

Adama Meshuga’at (2006) – A disturbing look at the much heralded kibbutz life in Israel. This socialistic ‘heaven’ has some skeletons in its closet, and this sincere coming of age tale reveals them in a very realistic way that leaves the viewer with a very uneasy feeling.

Mary and Max (2009) – This offbeat answer to all those Pixar animated films is a touching and sincere story of an unlikely friendship between two social misfits, an Australian teenager and an aging New Yorker (the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Cesare Deve Morire (2012) – Convicts stage a William Shakespeare‘s play… those are real convicts, and most of their acting is amazing, but my favorite parts are where you see some shady acting, which brings you back to the reality of the film.

The Act of killing (2012) – Reconstructing the mass murders during the sixties in Indonesia sounds a drab, but here’s the fun part: the director is doing it with the help of the guy who was in charge of those killings. Will he realize what he did? You’d better find out.


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The Paradox of Choice – Explained and Resolved!

August 26th, 2013 by Ran


OK, so on August 28th the Venice film festival begins and it runs through September 7th. Two days before it ends begins the Toronto film festival. Soooo many films, sooo little time. How can you choose what to see? Most people believe that the more choice we have the better and we all celebrate the abundance of choice as one of the greatest things in modern society, but facts and research suggest otherwise. Hear me out, let’s say you have two options. Usually you’ll have no problem making a choice, because the difference between them will be clear and you have less parameters to deal with when choosing. Now, let’s say you have five things to choose from. Now the differences between the options become less obvious, numerous parameters come into play and you might get confused. Your chance of being satisfied with your choice diminishes AND you are more likely to experience cognitive dissonance. Yeah psycholobabble!

So when looking at the selection those two fine festivals have to offer, it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed. But fear not, let the (self proclaimed) expert do the first sorting job for you. After that, you’ll have a much easier time deciding what to watch. So here are five films from Venice and five from Toronto that are definitely worth checking out (there are, of course, many more).


1. Gravity (2013)

Alfonso Cuarón comes back with his first feature film since Children of Men. And we missed him… George Clooney and Sandra Bullock star in this sci-fi flick about being stuck in space, and it looks both intense and awesome.

2. The Zero Theorem (2013)


Another anticipated sci-fi film, directed by Terry Gilliam, starring  Crhistoph Waltz, Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton, and dealing with the secret of human existence. I haven’t been this excited about a math-themed title since Pi.

3. Child of God (2013)

James Franco helms this surely bleak to be adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about Lester Ballard – a misfit, a psychopath, a killer. This is McCarthy’s six novel to be adapted to the screen, and considering that No Country for Old Men and The Road are among them, it sounds promising.

4. Tom à la ferme (2013)


A tense Canadian drama-thriller about the twisted relationship of a man and his deceased lover’s family, who weren’t aware of his sexual orientation. This is Xavier Dolan’s fifth film, a promising young director who seems to have a unique cinematic voice.

5. The Unknown Known (2013)


It’s fitting that the first documentary to be in the Venice competition comes from master documentarian Errol Morris. Controversial and maligned former American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talks about his career, which ‘culminated’ in the 2003 Iraq invasion. This promises to be explosive.


1. The Fifth Estate (2013)

Another controversial and maligned figure, but from the other side of the tracks, is the subject of this Biopic. Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), founder of Wikileaks changed journalism forever, and this is his story. Even though director Bill Condon’s filmography is uneven, with the excellent Gods and Monsters alongside two Twilight Films and some mediocre TV movies, I’m hoping for the best.

2. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (2013)

The life and career of legendary documentary filmmaker Marcel Ophüls. Being the son of legendary director Max Ophüls, being German during WWII and moving from Germany to France and then Hollywood, his story is surely to be fascinating, to film buffs at least.

3. Kill Your Darlings (2013)

John Krokidas first feature film is about the poets of The Beat Generation. Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C. Hall headline an excellent cast that already made some waves in this year’s Sundance festival.

4. Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Another film that comes to Toronto via another film festival, this one won the Jury prize in Cannes. Hirokazu Koreeda, who gave us the excellent Still Walking and Nobody Knows, comes back with another film concerning family relations. It’s about a man who learns one day that his son is not his biological son. Few directors can achieve the poignancy of Koreeda.

5. Enough Said (2013)

This year the film community lost one very memorable and important member – James Gandolfini. He rose to fame pretty late in life, but had such a strong impact on fans and colleagues alike that his sudden death left a big hole in our hearts. Here is a chance to see him in an indie sort-of-romantic comedy alongside Toni Collette, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener – Enough said.

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Cannes 2013 – Round Up The Usual Suspects

May 13th, 2013 by Uri


We are all creatures of habit, and the people heading Cannes Film Festival (and probably the most prestigious of them all) are not all that different, as evident from this year’s line-up, which includes many past winners. It’s also safe to say that the competition is more open this year, since the Festival’s favorite auteur of recent years, Michael Haneke (3 grand prizes in 11 years) is absent this time. Here are some choice repeat offenders, and a couple of hopefuls, we’ll be seeing this year:

Baz Luhrmann

The Australian director won a minor prize at Cannes in 1992 for the stylized romance Strictly Ballroom. More than 20 years later he returns with another film in the same vein, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.


Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola won a prize in 2006 for Marie Antoinette, a film based on a true story, which centered around a strong female presence and featured an abundance of style and fashion. Fast forward 7 years and Ms. Coppola returns with The Bling Ring, a film based on a true story, centered on a strong female presence which features an abundance of style and fashion.

Nicolas Winding Refn

A brooding Ryan Gosling as a criminal hero already brought Winding Refn the grand prize in 2011 with the rough, L.A set, neo noir Drive, so why not repeat parts of the formula, only this time set the action in Thailand? Hopefully, Only God Forgives will not follow in the footsteps of The Hangover Part II and will manage to replicate its predecessor.

The Coen Brothers

With no less than three previous wins (Barton Fink, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn’t There) Ethan and Joel Coen are undoubtedly well liked on the French Riviera, so Inside Llewyn Davis, their gloomy musician’s life affair, will probably be warmly received.

Jim Jarmusch

Another multiple Cannes Winner (Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Broken Flowers and the short Coffee and Cigarettes III), Jarmusch returns to the festival with Only Lovers Left Alive, a film that looks like a diversion from his usual oeuvre, since it deals with vampires, but, come to think of it, he will most likely portray them like all his heroes, as quirky misfits.

Steven Soderbergh

It is fitting that Soderbergh, who won in 1989 with his debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape and helped usher in a new era of independent cinema, will screen Behind the Candelabra, his self-professed last film, in the same venue. Similarly to his first film, Soderbergh’s last one also deals with sexuality, although this time in a much flashier way.

Roman Polanski

Polanski has only one Cannes win, which came pretty late in his career, for the epic The Pianist. However, Venus in Fur, his entry for the competition this year, is a little more reminiscent of his latest film, Carnage, since it’s also based on a play and seems to have the same chamber drama qualities.

Paolo Sorrentino

With Il Divo, his Cannes winner from 2008, becoming unexpectedly topical since its subject, former Italian head of state Giulio Andreotti, passed away last week, Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza may not enjoy the same success, as it brings a different, more personal, view of life in Rome.

James Gray

Being in the competition three times (The Yards, We Own The Night and Two Lovers) and never winning, James Grey can only hope that fourth time is a charm. The fact that The Immigrant is a gloomy period piece certainly won’t hurt its chances.

François Ozon

Nominated only once, a decade ago, for Swimming Pool, French director Ozon should hope to benefit from a home court advantage (as some of his compatriots have in previous years), with Jeune et jolie, an episodic and contemplative tale of a young prostitute.

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The 2013 Oscars Recap. Jinni Style.

February 25th, 2013 by Uri

So, the Awards season has come and gone, leaving us with some smiling faces holding golden statues; and now it’s time for a quick recap of the major categories and trends.

Best Film – “Don’t Go Fully Period”

Dealing with state affairs and basing your film on a true story are good starting points on your journey towards the coveted golden bald man, but know this: you better not stray too far into history, since in the last ten years, no best picture winner took place in a time earlier than the  20th century. covering these three points and adding a topical touch by dealing with Iran, it’s no wonder Argo took home the big prize (portraying Hollywood producers as life savers probably didn’t hurt either.)

Best Director – 3D, Done Right, For A Change

Granted, Life of Pi isn’t as groundbreaking as Avatar, nevertheless, it is the first 3D film to win an Oscar for direction, and a much deserved one, since Ang Lee and cinematographer Claudio Miranda (who also won an Oscar for his work on this film) managed to create one of the most elegant and visually mesmerizing films in recent memory.

Best Screenplay – Festive Fifty

Quentin Tarantino celebrates half a century next month, so the academy for motion picture arts and sciences decided to give him an early birthday gift for Django Unchained’s controversial screenplay. The fact that it’s also his biggest blockbuster to date probably helped as well.


Best Actor – The Sure Thing

In the words of the great, incarcerated Wesley Snipes

Just replace “roulette” with “Oscar bets” and “black” with “Daniel Day-Lewis with facial hair”, this time, taking the prize ,as expected, for portraying the United States’ most beloved head of state.

Best Actress – Life imitates Art (or at least imitates SNL)

It’s almost impossible to win when you’re not acting in a serious film, and we’re not talking just about gross out comedies, even semi serious films are usually shunned. However, playing a troubled, or better yet, mentally unstable character can greatly improve your chances. No wonder Jennifer Lawrence was so convincing in this Saturday Night Live sketch.

Best Supporting Actress – The Other Sure Thing

The old age maxim, that in order to win an Oscar for acting you’ve got to play a suffering character (and preferably while degrading your physical appearance,) worked well for Anne Hathaway. In fact, it looked so calculated and worked so well it even spawned a pre-Oscar parody (and hats off to you, Emma Fitzpatrick.)

Best Supporting Actor – A New Winning Formula

Christoph Waltz + Racism = Oscar Winner? Yes, it does sound far fetched, but it has already proven itself three years ago in Inglorious Basterds and again this year in Django Unchained. It looks like the Tarantino/Waltz duo should brush up on their Anti-Samoan racial slur skills for the 2016 Academy Awards. To be honest, how can he lose with such a great theme song (lifted from a little known Spaghetti Western from 1971)?

Best Animated Film – Pixar’s Home Advantage

In what has become an inner Disney Derby between Brave and Wreck-It Ralph, the red headed young heroine had the upper hand, since in the last ten years the only Pixar produced films not to win an Oscar where the mediocre Cars and Cars 2.

Best Documentary – Odd (Sugar) Man Out

Being the only one of the five nominated films to not deal with a social issue, but rather chronicle the quest for finding a presumably dead legendary musician, Searching For Sugar Man won the thing that eluded it’s hero – real time acclaim and recognition.

That’s all for these Oscars, folks; we’ll leave you with this year’s wistful Animated Short winner:

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