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La Dolce Vita (#110 of 6)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

There’s a great line in Jules and Jim about fictions that “revel in vice to preach virtue.” It’s a mantra that practically explains why Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street enters this year’s Oscar race with five nominations, why another Italian, Federico Fellini, won the most awards in this category’s history, and why a third, Paolo Sorrentino, will win his first trophy here for The Great Beauty. As for a possible spoiler, don’t look to The Missing Picture (too form-pushing), Omar (too pro-Palestinian), or even The Hunt, whose Lifetime-grade simplicity becomes increasingly transparent with each new letter the members of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s tribes send to The New York Times, but to The Broken Circle Breakdown, a clumsily constructed musical weepie that suggests Inside Llewyn Davis as directed by Susanne Bier. Made in homage to the myth-making works of Fellini, namely La Dolce Vita, The Great Beauty’s study of a social class’s dissolution is so esoteric by comparison that it’s tempting to question its frontrunner status. But in reveling in the crumbling glitz of its Roman locales with the same ravenousness that Jordan Belfort shows for coke, fame, and snatch, it’s easy to imagine many of Hollywood’s reigning elite confusing it as a rise-and-fall chronicle of their own lives.

Roger Ebert in Illinois: A Tribute to the Man From His Permanent Stomping Grounds

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Roger Ebert in Illinois: A Tribute to the Man From His Permanent Stomping Grounds
Roger Ebert in Illinois: A Tribute to the Man From His Permanent Stomping Grounds

On Monday, April 1, the day after Easter, I was in Chicago with a few hours to kill before getting on an Amtrak train to go back south to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I went out to lunch with a friend, and he brought somebody who runs an AMC theater in the Near North Side, the one that shows the press screenings for critics. I mentioned to my friend’s guest that I had just moved back to Urbana, and was going to write about Ebertfest this year. He interrupted me and said Ebert wouldn’t be there this year—that he wasn’t doing well and had stopped going to his press screenings.

I got on my train and returned to Urbana thinking that what the guy had said about Ebert could probably count as a legitimate (albeit invasive) news item. On Thursday, April 4, I saw that Ebert had announced his “leave of presence,” thus breaking the news himself about a setback, health-wise. On Friday, April 5, in the morning, I saw the news that he had died. A couple of hours later, I walked outside to check the mail. Inside my mailbox was a manila envelope from the University of Illinois’s College of Media, and inside was my press pass to Ebertfest. I then headed toward the library, took a different turn than usual, and saw some flowers on the sidewalk in front of a house. “Somebody must’ve died,” I thought. Then I saw that there was a bag from Steak ’n Shakeamong the flowers, and a plaque that had been set in the concrete.

15 Famous Oscar Snubs

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15 Famous Oscar Snubs
15 Famous Oscar Snubs

No Kathryn Bigelow?! No Ben Affleck?! Yesterday’s Oscar nominations brought their fair share of shocking snubs, but it certainly wasn’t the first time the Academy stuck it to likely contenders. Looking back over Academy Awards history, there are many dumbfounding, surprising omissions to be found—realizations that underscore the belief that Oscar nods hardly indicate long-term quality. Be them unforgivable or just bewildering, we’ve selected 15 snubs that no doubt had people talking…heatedly.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time

For many years, I maintained a Top 10 list. It was changing all the time, but by the mid-1980s, I had pretty well nailed it down. Only by then was it a Top 12, not a Top 10, and anyone who asked me my Top 10 films got an unexpected bonus. And that was how it was until a couple of years ago, when I allowed myself the latitude of increasing my all-time favorites to a list of 15. But as a devoted game player, I respect rules and try to play by them, so for this personal Top 10 list project, I’ve forced myself to pick just 10. These are not necessarily the same 10 I would pick if my criteria were cinematic greatness, beauty, and far-reaching influence—though they easily could be. No, these are favorite films, the films that mean the most to me, the ones that give me the most and best chills. There are lots more where these came from, but for now, these are the ones. I present them in chronological order to avoid any suggestion of preference.

SXSW 2012: The Comedy and Los Chidos

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SXSW 2012: <em>The Comedy</em> and <em>Los Chidos</em>
SXSW 2012: <em>The Comedy</em> and <em>Los Chidos</em>

Billed by one audience member as “our generation’s La Dolce Vita,” Rick Alverson’s The Comedy isn’t quite as beautifully elegant as the Federico Fellini classic. But it’s depiction of disaffection, fraught with punishing close-ups and squirm-inducing behavior, is a convincing picture of a generation in crisis, with a group of artists disconnected from both feeling and their art. All this from a movie that opens with tubby men in briefs spraying beer on each other in slow motion.

Swanson (Tim Heidecker) is a different breed of man-child, one whose immaturity exhibits itself in a kind of half-joking cruelty toward everyone, including his circle of like-minded friends. Straddled with a dying father and a considerable estate, he hides from his problems inside a floating metaphor (his yacht, bobbing along in the East River) anesthetized to most elements of everyday experience, encased in a protective shell of irony and sarcasm. This shell is represented both sartorially (ever-present blue sunglasses, jokey combinations of cut-off shorts and too-small button-downs) and in Swanson’s friends, which include Tim and Eric collaborator Eric Wareheim and a host of familiar musicians, from James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem to Richard Swift and Will Sheff.