The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Archive for the ‘Senna’ Category

Scattered thoughts on the Oscar nominations from a Swedish perspective

with 18 comments

I hear you people. The buzz about the Oscar nominations is everywhere. I could sulk and put up a signpost at my café, claiming this to be an Oscar free zone. After all I’ve only had the chance to see a fraction of the most talked-about movies. Or I could embrace it and give it a go anyway because the Oscar frenzy is here and there’s no way to escape it anyway.

I choose the latter. So here we go folks: my first reactions to the nomination list.

Getting out of our bubble

First of all: The Oscar nominations is a good time for film buffs to get out of their bubble.

So Shame didn’t get a single nomination. Drive got one for the “sound editing” – whatever that means. Call me a noob, but I have no idea of what distinguishes “sound editing” from “sound mixing” (they are different categories.) And exactly what constitutes a good “sound”? Is it that they are particularly good at finding up faked sounds of punches and explosions and such? Well, I’ll leave that question for now. All I know is that neither Michael Fassbender, nor Ryan Gosling got nominated for best actor.

For someone who is spending most of her film-related time dwelling in forums and blogs and podcasts with other nerds, this was a little shocking. We loved those movies and performances so much! Haven’t they seen any of the love we’ve shed over it over the year? They deserved a nod!

But let’s face it. We live in our own little world with our own trends, our own darlings, our own preferences. The Academy lives in a different world with different rules, different considerations and in the end sometimes very different choices.

As a matter of fact it appears as if my 65 year old mother-in-law, who goes to the movies once every second year – at the most – has more in common with the Academy than I have. She watched The Help months ago and urged me to watch it since it was so good. I felt quite lukewarm towards it after what I’d read and the fact that SHE liked it so much made me even more reluctant to watch it. I know, I have prejudices against mothers-in-law. So I ended up not doing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’ll turn out to be a fan of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well. She’s got a sense of what’s an Oscar worthy movie that I obviously lack.

The ones I missed

For all I said above about film buffs living in an isolated bubble I can’t refrain from sharing a few of the names and movies I miss most. No Oscar post is complete without it!

1. The Skin I Live In
With the risk of being repetitive – this is one of my favourite movies of 2011 and it was a shame that Spain didn’t nominate it for best foreign film. The Academy could have picked it for a different category. They didn’t. I disagree.

2. Senna
With the exception of Pina, I’ve never heard of the films in the documentary category. Perhaps they’re awesome. I still find it hard to imagine that all five of them are better than Senna. It’s mindboggling that it didn’t even make it to the short list. I would also have loved to see This is Not a Film getting a nod. I don’t know why it didn’t. Perhaps not spread enough? Perhaps not politically OK? Perhaps it’s not considered a film (Panaha calls it “an effort”).

3. Melancholia
OK, I get it. Lars von Trier has made himself quite impossible in PR situations. And what’s the Oscar if not one huge PR arrangement? No one wants to let him anywhere near media. I figure the Academy wanted to save themselves some troubles. I might have done the same in their situation, what do I know? I still think it’s sad. If The Tree of Life could get some love despite being off the beaten track, Melancholia could have gotten it as well.

4. Miscellaneous complaints
I would have loved to see some more love for Beginners. Best screenplay perhaps? The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is competing in the visual effects category, but I’d rather have seen Andy Sirkis nominated. He’s more than just a visual effect, isn’t he? And no love for Hanna? At least the score should have gotten a mentioning. I know a lot of people will be sad at the disregarding of Tintin. I wasn’t a fan myself, but I can understand if they’re puzzled.

The Swedish perspective

The Swedish candidate, Beyond, wasn’t among the nominated foreign films and to be honest I’m OK with that. I’m not opposed to showing misery on screen, but watching Noomi Rapace doing absolutely nothing expect looking generally sulky in a tableau gets tiresome after a while. 2011 just wasn’t a particularly memorable year for Swedish film. Tomas Alfredson became an export and Lukas Moodysson seems to have tired on making films. Still there were a couple of Swedish connections to mention.

One is obviously the love for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with three nominations. Some of the light on Oldman belongs to Alfredson, right?

I was also delighted to see Max von Sydow nominated for best supporting actor. I’m a huge fan of him. He’s got a crazily diverse list of roles. He’s done silly roles in super hero movies such as Flash Gordon and he’s worked with some of the biggest directors such as Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman. His range and productivity is outstanding and I would love to see him grab an Oscar one day. Sadly enough he’s competing with Christopher Plummer, who was fantastic in Beginners and deserves an Oscar just as much. It’s a tough call. I’ll be happy if either of them wins (in the case of von Sydow for old love’s sake; I haven’t seen this particular movie).

The third Swedish connection is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, nominated for the best actress category. I liked her a lot, but I wouldn’t say that she’s better for the role than Noomi Rapace. It’s not her fault; Fincher just made some different choices. I preferred her a little older and less vulnerable. Swedish connection or not though – there were other actresses I’d rather have seen winning, but they weren’t even nominated: Olivia Coleman in Tyrannosaur. Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia. Elena Anaya in The Skin I Live In.

In the end: I don’t think we’re supposed to agree with the Oscar nominations. On the contrary: it’s a take-off for discussions, an excuse for us to go through all the movies from 2011 yet another time.

It’s working as intended. I’m actually starting to become a little bit interested in this Oscar business. I blame my blogging. I might even consider watching it this year. 🙂

Written by Jessica

January 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Another first class movie about a sport I don’t care about

with 21 comments

OK, this is getting repetitive. This is the third time in a week that I, who claim that have no interest in sports whatsoever, watch a sport themed film and end up loving it.

My credibility is falling. Sorry.

The thing is that motor sports leave me ice cold. It’s beyond my grasp why someone would like to watch extremely noisy cars doing the same round 60 times in a row. How do you even keep them apart? They all look the same.

And what’s there to admire about the guys who drive them? If they ever get wet, it’s not by sweat but by champagne, which they love to poor over themselves instead of drinking it. (Which I guess is a good thing, they’re trying to put up an example there. Don’t drink and drive!) They seem to be fearless, not to say stupid, risking their lives on a daily basis. But is that a good thing? And as with all material depending sports you may ask who the true competitor and sportsman is – the one who holds the steering wheel or the mechanic in the background? In the end I’ve always assumed it’s about money and possibly some weird blood thirst deep down, since the crashes is what brings the drama and nerve to it.

Praise at Kermode
I knew nothing about Formula One before I watched Senna and obviously I had never ever heard of the guy whose life it depictures, the Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, who won the world championships three times before dying in an accident in 1994.

The idea to watch a documentary about car racing wouldn’t have occurred to me if it wasn’t for my reoccurring critic darling Mark Kermode. While being as much of an opponent to motor sports as I am, he sang his praise for this film on several occasions last year and was quite upset when the Academy didn’t include it in their short list of documentaries eligible for the Oscar.

Ever since I heard about it the first time in his podcast, I’ve been waiting for it to come up in a theatre near me. I thought chances would be fair since my country has a story from the past of our own famous Formula One driver, Ronnie Peterson. He died in an accident in 1978 and caused headlines equivalent to if the World War 3 had broken out. Maybe something of our old connection to this sport still would linger? But apparently not. Perhaps our interest in Formula One died with our one star driver. In any case someone must have decided that Senna wouldn’t sell any tickets in Sweden, so I had to wait until it turned up in my video rental store.

I’m glad I finally got to see it though, because it turned out that Kermode was right.

Archive footage
Senna is a very well made documentary and one of my two favourites from 2011 (the other one being This is Not a Film). I can’t quite pinpoint what’s so good about this film, but I think might have to do with that the story is told through archive footage. There are some interviews with people sharing memories from the time, but you only hear the voices. It gives a feeling of authenticity.

Of course I realize that the script of a documentary film is just as carefully elaborated as the one of any feature movie. You build up a story in a certain way, you present conflicts to make it more interesting, you assign heroes and villains and you pace it in such a way that you’ll make sure to keep the viewer alert and invested all the way through. Senna does all this, but you never feel manipulated, not for a second. Everything feels natural and genuinely true, which is one of the reasons why it’s so good.

Hard to watch
I admit that I was a bit of a mess as the credits started to roll. The last 20 minutes of the film, including the footage from the crash, are hard to watch. I knew all along that he was going to die; nevertheless it took me hard. And what really made it burst for me was watching his antagonist for many years, the racing driver Alain Proust, carrying the coffin and learning about what Senna had meant to the people in Brazil. He gave them hope. He gave the one thing in their life that was fun. And eventually he gave them of his money, founding a charity that until this day has helped 12 million poor children to a better life.

Senna inspires me, not to go into Formula One racing, but to become a better person and make a difference to the world with my life. That’s quite an achievement for a documentary about a sport I don’t care about in the first place.

And I can only agree that it’s incomprehensible that Senna didn’t get an Academy nomination. But then again, I suppose that the Academy like the Formula One scene is a place where you don’t always understand the decisions, since they ultimately are decided by politics. Oh, the irony.

Senna (Asif Kapadia, UK, 2011) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Senna