Berlinale 2016 Homo Sapiens

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Berlinale 2016: Homo Sapiens

Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion

Berlinale 2016: Homo Sapiens

At this year's Berlinale, the most easily recognizable cliché has been the obligatory scene of a character so frustrated they start breaking furniture or throwing objects against a wall and out a window. This has been true for Lily Lane, I, Olga Hepnarová, Don't Call Me Son, Jonathan, and Boris Without Béatrice. It isn't without irony, then, that Nikolaus Geyrhalter's dialogue-less Homo Sapiens features 94 minutes' worth of destroyed, decayed and looted environments. There are no humans in this world, only the traces of our violence, and our neglect. This experimental gem from Austria portrays a planet as if abandoned by persons who made sure to ransack it on their way out to brighter galaxies. There are deserted Japanese-style rooms defaced by hundreds of chaotically stacked books; wrecked movie theatres with rotting film projectors; bars invaded by mold and moss; flooded auditoriums; and dilapidated hospitals, corporate offices, prisons cells, and bowling alleys.

Berlinale 2016 Lily Lane

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Berlinale 2016: Lily Lane

Himpor Film

Berlinale 2016: Lily Lane

The first batch of films to screen at this year's Berlinale International Film Festival suggests a single thread stitching the human race together: its utter inaptness to handle emotion. Soul-crushing restraint and reckless violence seem to be our only two strategies for surviving sentiment. This is just as true for the pathologically butch fraternity brothers of Goat as it is for the queer adolescent murderer from I, Olga Hepnarová. And in Benedek Fliegauf's remarkable Lily Lane, a young mother can't quite cope with separation, from her ex-husband and from her parents, which shapes her relationship to her seven-year-old son in eerily provocative ways.

Rebeka (Angéla Stefanovics) mothers Dani (Bálint Sótonyi) with the no-nonsense storytelling wit of a witch, whether she's making up horror tales or refusing to sugarcoat the truth about, say, the large substance he touches when they scatter his grandmother's ashes (she says it must be her vertebra). No wonder the kid's father, who only speaks to her through a video-messaging program's text function, tells her she should “just read from a book.” If the mother's desperation looks sublimated into the fictive tales she tells her son for most of the film, perhaps not that fictive after all, we eventually watch the return of the repressed explode before our eyes—which, by then, have become the eyes of the child.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016 Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, 25 April, & Vinyl Generation

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, 25 April, & Vinyl Generation

Zeitgeist Films

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, 25 April, & Vinyl Generation

One of the most challenging and intellectually rigorous films to play at this year's Santa Barbara International Film Festival was Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt. Ada Ushpiz's documentary was presented as part of the KOLNOA sidebar, “a selection of feature films and documentaries that examine Israel from a variety of diverse historical, cultural and political perspectives.” Hannah Arendt, whose work has elicited growing interest in Israel in recent years, is presented as a flawed figure, an intellectual who vociferously defended ideas in public that she later disavowed in private. Though some of her complex views on ideology, totalitarianism, and Jewish refugees left stateless by the Holocaust have been challenged since her death, they continue to resonate in today's contentious geopolitical climate.

Given the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, it's perhaps natural that Arendt's thoughts on European refugees rendered stateless by the outcome of WWI and their lack of rights receive special focus. Throughout, the filmmakers present a critical, largely evenhanded take of Arendt's accomplishments and failures. She's taken to task by commentators for her misjudgment of Adolf Eichmann's character, her apologia for Martin Heidegger's Nazi affiliation, and her vitriolic, factually inaccurate portrayal of the Judenrat (Jewish councils that were established by the Nazis) and its leaders, which Arendt herself later repudiated. The documentary even implies that her most famous concept, the “banality of evil,” was appropriated from her mentor, Karl Jaspers, who coined the phrase in a letter to her.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016 Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Broad Green Pictures

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Santa Barbara, with its picturesque movie palaces mere minutes from the beach, feels like an idyllic remnant of Old Hollywood. Fitting, then, that the centerpiece of this year's Santa Barbara International Film Festival is Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups, a parable about life's transience posited as a rumination on Hollywood vainglory. Opening the film with a quotation from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Malick makes immediately clear that his relatively plotless narrative about a Hollywood screenwriter's (Christian Bale) various romantic encounters is, in essence, about humanity's efforts to regain a lost paradise from which we've all been expelled. As allegory, it works on both a literal and metaphorical level, one being meaningless without the other, as it's precisely that tenuous connection between those two planes that represents Malick's insistence that only there, in the interstices between the material and the spiritual, does life possess purpose and meaning.

Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions Album of the Year

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Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Album of the Year
Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Album of the Year

The last time Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar faced off in this category, a reluctance to award an artist twice in four years (Swift's Fearless won back in 2010), as well as the Academy's reticence toward hip-hop in the general field, resulted in Daft Punk's star-studded commercial juggernaut Random Access Memories taking home the top prize—an outcome, it should be noted, we predicted. It's tempting to make a case that voters, with #OscarSoWhite on their brains, will want to distinguish themselves from their myopic cinematic counterparts by rewarding a socially conscious album by a black man. But it's unlikely they'll feel obligated to make that course correction here, especially for a relatively new rapper whose album title contains the word “pimp.”

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Visual Effects

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

Warner Bros.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

We often time our prediction articles, perhaps shamelessly, days after a guild has announced its winners so we can get a better sense of how some strata of the Hollywood establishment feels about Oscar's nominated films. This is meant, of course, to make this process a little less complicated for us, but then nothing about this year's Oscar season has been simple. When the Visual Effects Society handed four awards to Star Wars: The Force Awakens last week, this should have been an open-and-shut case, except the victories for The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road in some of the guild's below-the-line categories may reveal more than just this particular group's feelings about what truly matters when it comes to special effects in movies.

Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions Record of the Year

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Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Record of the Year
Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Record of the Year

We've compared the correlation between Record of the Year and Song of the Year against Oscar's tether between Best Picture and Best Director before. And every time we think we're finally settling into a pattern, Grammy reverses course. The year after Daft Punk's “Get Lucky” staged a minor upset in this category without a Song of the Year nomination to its credit, the two categories almost completely aligned, resulting in identical winners (Sam Smith's “Stay with Me,” which in retrospect couldn't have been more perfectly engineered to conquer the top categories). So, naturally, this year finds only two songs competing on both sides of the producer/songwriter divide: Ed Sheeran's “Thinking Out Loud” and Taylor Swift's “Blank Space,” the latter of which we give the clear edge in Song of the Year.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Music Score

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Music Score

The Weinstein Company

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Music Score

That John Williams is nominated this year presumably for re-interpolating his striking themes from the original Star Wars franchise, and not so much whatever new material he brought to the table, only stresses the extent to which respect for longstanding reputations is running through the minds of the music branch. (Oh please, fanboys. If you can correctly identify and hum from memory one single leitmotif that doesn't belong to Han Solo, Princess Leia, or Chewy, we'll willingly clear our throats on Adam Driver's lightsaber.) In fact, the only score that doesn't fit within this year's pattern of rewarding longevity is young buck Jóhann Jóhannsson's work on Sicario, a brutal and audacious series of industrial horror cues that couldn't be further from the lilting delicacies of his The Theory of Everything score, and the nomination for which in part excuses the Academy's predictable cold shoulder toward Disasterpiece's monstrously effective compositions for It Follows.

Lana Del Rey & Father John Misty Summon Jim Morrison in "Freak" Music Video

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Lana Del Rey & Father John Misty Summon Jim Morrison in "Freak" Music Video
Lana Del Rey & Father John Misty Summon Jim Morrison in "Freak" Music Video

Late last night Lana Del Rey dropped the nostalgic music video for “Freak,” the latest single from last year's Honeymoon. It's no big secret that the singer is enamored with all things past, and the clip, co-starring Father John Misty, is a hazy, drug-dosed trip back to 1960s California. In her 2012 song “Gods & Monsters,” Del Rey conjured Jim Morrison, and she resurrects him again here via Misty, who does an uncanny Lizard King impression. The pair drinks Kool-Aid, drops a tab of acid, and is soon joined by the girls from Del Rey's “Music to Watch Boys to” video. The 11-minute clip then segues from “Freak” into Debussy's “Clair de Lune” as the group of would-be lovers float angelically underwater for over five minutes. Watch the video below:

Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions Song of the Year

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Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Song of the Year
Grammy 2016 Winner Predictions: Song of the Year

When deliberating over how we expected the general field to go down this year, the question was never trying to figure out why Taylor Swift would win. Rather, it was: How could she not win? It may seem like eons ago in this current era of welcoming Adele to our collective heaving bosom to the tune of eight million albums, but for a brief while her publicists were doing a pretty bang-up job of selling the entire industry on Swift as their cute, crossover savior. The sentiment of “How many Grammys can we give you?” hangs thick in the air despite her nomination haul of seven seeming rather paltry against Kendrick Lamar's 11.