by Matthew Socey
The Academy Awards are this Sunday. There are only two award shows I watch with any interest, this and the Tonys. The Tonys, to see what shows will be done by a slew of theaters nationwide within the next couple years. The Oscars because I’m a film nerd and I haven’t missed one in four decades.
You will not get a category by category breakdown of Sunday night. Remember, if you’re gambling on the Academy Awards, you have a problem. I do want to acknowledge a couple films that are up for awards this Sunday.
The documentary “Faces Places” (previously written about for DIVA and one of my top ten films of the year) is up for Best Documentary. Part buddy road trip of two unlikely artists, part art exhibit outside the box, or in this case the sides of buildings. The message that everyone is a work of art and has a story to tell is much-needed in these times and timeless inspiration.
One of the films up for Best Foreign Film is a satire called “The Square,” a Swedish/German/French/Danish co-production set in an ultra high-end art gallery in Stockholm. The type of art gallery where one of the exhibits consists of carefully placed piles of crushed rubble on the floor. A new ad campaign for a new exhibit called The Square (“The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.”) A social media attempt to promote the exhibit goes horribly wrong. The curator (Claes Bang), when not attempting damage control, sleeps with an arts reporter (Elizabeth Moss) and he runs around town trying to pick up his phone and wallet after being the victim of a con.
As if all this wasn’t enough, there’s a very long sequence involving a black-tie fundraising dinner with a piece of performance art by a man acting as an ape. Really acting like an ape.
At 2:30, the film is a cinematic workout and not for everyone. There are a number of subplots and scenes stretch out to at times an uncomfortable length. Squirm humor is not just for the U.S. and England. The film takes great pride in poking fun at the people running the museum more than making fun of the artists.
Don’t forget, if anything else, Academy Award nominees and winners do bring out more people to see the work, just out of curiosity. We should always be this curious.
In other news about films involving the arts, there are two recent video releases from Film Movement worth checking out. “My Art” tells the tale of Ellie (Laurie Simmons, star/writer/director), a disilussioned New York artist house sitting in the country. Her art is filming her versions of famous film scenes (the end of “Some Like It Hot,” the car scene in “The Misfits,” the opening scene from “A Clockwork Orange,” etc.). She meets some locals who assist in her project and in her life. The material is familiar and there could have been fewer cinema renactments (the film runs 87 minutes), but I am a sucker for stories about the creative process especially the beautiful, quiet upstate countryside. The type of cinematic small town with interesting cinematic characters. Oh, Blair Brown, Lena Dunham and Parker Posey have cameos.
The documentary “The Paris Opera” follows a year in the life of one whirlwind season of company. Labor disputes, debates over ticket sales, a live bull on stage for one production, having to replace a lead on opening night. All this plus some lovely ballet and operatic performances in this impressive documentary with an amazing amount of access behind the scenes.