2/20: Amour and Shorts, Oscar-nom and otherwise, and a virtual trip to Poland

There has been a great deal of talk that Emanuelle Riva should and will win the Oscar for Amour. Certainly, the first is correct. I haven’t seen Naomi Watts in The Impossible (I don’t think very many people have), and I’m going to try to catch Zero Dark Thirty before Sunday to watch Jessica Chastain. But as good as both those women are, and both will win at some point, nothing can compare with Riva. The compassion and courage of her performance, along with the sheer technical difficulty of portraying a stroke victim, should fill anyone with “wondering awe,” as the old French carol says. That Jean-Louis Trintignant didn’t get nominated for Best Actor is just another example of the tone-deaf quality that the Oscars exhibit with cheery reliability.

I’ve stated before that I don’t think Academy voters will vote for a woman who is old and beautiful—Riva was born in 1927—over someone young and merely pretty. I truly hope I’m wrong.

I am happy I got a chance to view some of the Oscar shorts; I missed the documentary program, unfortunately, while I was gone, but I did at least catch the live action short subjects the same day as Amour. Death of a Shadow is high concept and extremely impressive from a production standpoint, but for me lacked staying power. Curfew, probably a favorite and the U.S. entry, has enormous plot holes but does feature a very, very cute kid, Fatima Ptacek, who could sway the vote. But The Buzkashi Boys, made in Afghanistan by mostly Americans under the direction of Sam French, looks to win based on how much I’ve seen it advertised, and it’s a delight. A well-written saga about a street urchin and his buddy, it’s unpredictable, moving, and absolutely gorgeous, providing a view of Kabul, which, even war-ravaged, has to be set in one of the most dramatic terrains on earth.

Two of the other shorts are terrific as well, including Asad, from South Africa and made entirely with Somalian refugees. It’s obvious, even without understanding Somalian, that these are amateurs, and yet the brio of the performances and of the filmmakers propels the movie into a joyous place. I heard Noam Chomsky say not long ago that what gave him hope—he was discussing the Palestinian situation—was the resilience of the people. That core and ability to smile and transcend difficulties that we in the west can’t even imagine—I complain that my seat warmer doesn’t work fast enough—should be enough to renew even the hardest heart. And Henry, from Canada, walks carefully in the same terrain as Amour, chronicling the often harrowing world of a man racked by dementia. It’s another beautiful and compassionate look at aging, with a spectacular performance by Gérard Poirier in the title role.

The fact that both Yan England, the director of this film, and Michael Haneke are tackling this subject, long neglected, is marvelous.

Over at vimeo, where the editors’ picks always enrich my day with some type of beauty, this gorgeous short, Bipoland, showed a new way to think of the travelogue.

This may put you in mind to pay Poland a visit, at least virtually. So this link has some gorgeous pix. Then again, if you’d rather go someplace hot, these shots of Carnival over at The Big Picture should warm you up.

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