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Two Films the Academy Missed Oscars 2015: “Force Majeure” and “A Most Violent Year”

February 24, 2015
imagesThis time of year, people are talking about who was nominated, and who was snubbed, who won, who lost, and who should have won.
Every year there are surprises and omissions. Two omissions were, for foreign film, Force Majeure and for feature film, A Most Violent Year which is still in some movie theaters.  Both of these powerful dramas focus on the challenges of married life. And it’s not all that pretty.
 Why should these two films be on your must watch list?

 

Review by Ron Wells of Force Majeure (Foreign/Subtitled) A husband, his wife, and their young son and daughter are on a five-day ski vacation in the Alps staying at a very modern resort and escaping the intense pressure of the husband’s work. While eating outside on the top-level of their lodge, a “controlled avalanche” threatens everyone and a catastrophe seems imminent.

What follows is a deeply psychological, almost clinical, study of the underpinnings of a marriage and what defines masculinity, heroism, trust, and the bonds that hold husbands, wives, and children together.

MV5BMjQ4NzY0ODg0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjY3OTc2MjE@._V1_SY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_As the story unfolds, there is the type of uncomfortable humor that makes one laugh when one watches others squirm while trying to come to terms with the truth. What does one do when a life threatening situation is upon you (and your family) and you have only seconds to react? That is the key jumping off question of this movie, and then as written and directed by Ruben Ostlund, the movie slowly cuts deeper and deeper into who we are as human beings and how we relate to those closest to us.

This is by no means a mainstream film, and thus not for everyone, but for those who like to really think about how we act and are bound to others, this is for you. By the end of the film, there are few clear cut answers though clues have been thrown in along the way so that by the time you leave the theater you will still be talking about what it all meant.

–Ron Wells

This should be one of the frontrunners for best foreign film this year, however, it was not even nominated. Instead, in the Foreign Language Film category, the Winner went to Ida from Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (View Trailer).  Nominations went to Leviathan from Russia (which made 14 in Ron’s list of the Top 30 films of the year); Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev; Tangerines from Estonia; Directed by Zaza Urushadze; Timbuktu from Mauritania; Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako; and Wild Tales from Argentina; Directed by Damián Szifron.

Best Picture Award as well as several other Oscars went to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. (View Trailer).  However, in Ron’s ranking of the Top 30 Films of 2014,  Birdman rates only 17 while his #1 film was The Imitation Game (review here) which got 8 nominations including Best Picture and went home with only one (adapted screenplay).

Ron’s #2 film for 2014 was Wild (review here) with nominations but no wins for Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. His #3 film, Selma won for best song, and his #4 film, a documentary titled Citizenfour won in that category.

Ron’s #5 film, A Most Violent Year was completely shut out of the Oscars, possibly because it was released Dec. 31, 2014 and no one knew about it. Read this article for more ideas why.

Review by Ron Wells: Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” opens A Most Violent Year, and the “bad breaks and set backs” that he sings about underscore the drama of this film. More than the actual violence, it’s the threat of violence that hangs over every scene of this taut, engaging film from writer/director J. C. Chandler (Margin Call; All Is Lost). Chandler has given his leads, Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), the most interesting and powerful roles of any married couple seen in a long time.

Issac, as Abel Morales, has the look, intensity and instincts of a young Al Pacino as he tries to buy some waterfront land and expand his heating oil company in 1981 New York, as Chastain’s Anna, the daughter of a small time gangster, supports and pushes her husband in a variety of welcome and unwelcome ways.They have 30 days to close the land deal, even as Abel’s company is having its trucks hijacked and his drivers and sales people beat up. All the while the District Attorney, rather than helping Abel, is threatening to take him to court over alleged corruption.

Through all of this Abel tries to follow “the right path” and not get involved with any wrongdoing. It’s a tightrope he’s walking over the highways, dirty buildings and back streets of NY—wonderfully photographed by Bradford Young—and played over an Alex Ebert soundtrack that portends menace, allowing the film to have the scope and feel of a much larger film.Ultimately though, it is Abel trying to do big business on the dirty waterfronts and alley-ways of the American dream, while keeping his full length camel-hair coat clean, which makes this outstanding film always worth watching.

–Ron Wells
Oscar draws attention to the best films released in a given year as chosen by the Academy. But when strong films are snubbed it is worth seeking them out. Add these to your list.

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