Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last Minute Oscars Dash

I'm not one of those people who tries to see every Oscar-nominated picture before the show.  My preference is to see those films I generally have an interest in.  But this year, I did do some last-minute movie watching in preparation for the Oscar party I'm going to tonight.  So earlier this week, I went to see the Oscar-nominated live action shorts.  Two films stood out to me.  Raju, from Germany and India, tells the story of a German couple who travel to Calcutta to adopt a little boy named Raju.  When Raju goes missing, the couple come to find that Calcutta is full of missing children, but the real question is if they are all truly orphaned.  The second short I enjoyed was Tuba Atlantic, a comedy from Norway.  It tells the story of Oskar, a crusty old man who has just been given six days to live.  A young girl, trying to earn her angel of death wings, shows up to help Oskar in is last days, but Oskar is a tough customer and somewhat shocking as he spends his days trying to kill the sea gulls that hover over his seaside home.  But the two do ultimately form a friendship, especially when the girl helps Oskar contact his long-estranged brother by using a giant tub the two built in their boyhood.  An odd story for sure, but very funny.  You can see a description of all five shorts here.  I think Raju will win.

Yesterday, I went to see A Separation, an Iranian film that has been nominated for best foreign film.  Usually, I am not able to see films in this category until after the ceremony.  This year, I had read a lot about A Separation being the favorite and was pleased to see that it was playing at a local theatre.  While I thought it was good, I don't know that its as good as other nominees in this category in years past. [I liked A Prophet and Incendies better than this film.]  At it's core A Separation is about the difficulty of going through a divorce.  What makes it unique is the cultural context in which it unfolds--Iran which  is a very traditional Muslim society.  Simin, the wife, wants to leave Iran to raise the couple's daughter in a better environment, but Nader does not want to leave because he wants to care for his father who has Alzheimer's disease.  Because Nader is the husband, he has the final say where the daughter goes.  The bulk of the film focuses on the week of the couple's trial separation during which the family's life is drastically altered by a tragic event that befalls the domestic worker who comes to care for Nader's father in Simin's absence.  I thought the story was both thoughtful and insightful. The honest depiction of Iran's legal system made me glad to live in a country where people have a vast number of freedoms. And while the story was engaging, the ending will leave you frustrated.  And maybe that is the point--a family's breaking apart is a very sad and frustrating experience, leaving no one better off in the end.

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