Nina Hoss (#110 of 11)

Homeland Recap Season 6, Episode 8, "Alt.Truth"

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Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “Alt.Truth”

Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “Alt.Truth”

On his third tour overseas, Andrew Keane’s (Ryan Shibley) unit was overrun by a barrage of sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades. This soldier died a hero, a fact that’s been inconvenient to Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and his cabal of war hawks, because it’s given President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) a righteous, audience-pleasing “gold-star mother” narrative in the media. Tonight’s episode of Homeland, “Alt.Truth,” eerily and effectively depicts how such stories can be readily orchestrated and flipped on a dime, and rarely for the better good. It’s in Real Truth host Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber) manipulating the reality of Andrew’s demise, running a sort of retcon game for his right-wing audience; in Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub) shamelessly turning on his country, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), and the truth for personal gain; and Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) again suffering the consequences of taking stock of the wrong truth behind his paranoia.

Homeland Recap Season 6, Episode 6, "The Return"

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Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “The Return”

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Homeland Recap: Season 6, Episode 6, “The Return”

The first words spoken in the opening credits for Homeland’s sixth season are from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”: “The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things and see that there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.” This is the central conceit of tonight’s episode, “The Return,” in which almost every protagonist challenges the convenient narratives being fed to them and comes to accept a new and radical point of view.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "New Normal"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “New Normal”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “New Normal”

It’s no surprise that Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) survived his exposure to sarin gas, as last week’s episode of Homeland lingered on the wavering faith of his jailor, Qasim (Alireza Bayram), and explained how atrophine could be used as a counteragent. Nor is it shocking that, having found a way to save Quinn, the writers quickly come up with a means for his rescue, this time by way of a fancy algorithm that Carrie (Claire Danes) and Astrid (Nina Hoss) are able to run off the little information they have about Quinn’s captor, Bibi (Rene Ifrah), and the particular type of mosaic tiling on the floor outside Peter’s cell. These events are unlikely, and Homeland falters when it focuses on the contrivances of its big-picture plotting, but they lead “New Normal” to a powerful ending, as Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) sit silently beside one another in the hospital, watching Quinn’s intubated body. Terrorists may be about to unleash an attack somewhere in Berlin, but it’s this small-picture human element that matters most.

Homeland Recap Season 5, Episode 5, "Better Caul Saul"

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Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Better Caul Saul”

Stephan Rabold/Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Better Caul Saul”

Everything about this week’s episode of Homeland, “Better Call Saul,” suggests that the writers couldn’t restrain themselves from winking at audiences. To begin with, there’s its pop-culturally referent title, which calls a quite different series to mind. Then there’s the overly cute way in which the series appropriates the in-the-headlines “Je Suis Charlie” as “Je Suis Gabehcoud.” And then there’s the snarky way in which last week’s ramifications are recapped through lazy exposition: The day after the explosion, Allison (Miranda Otto) stands on the airport runway and tells Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) that “Someone betrayed us,” to which Dar Adal snaps back: “You think?”

Homeland Recap Season 4, Episode 11, "Krieg Nicht Lieb"

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Homeland Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “Krieg Nicht Lieb”

Showtime

Homeland Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “Krieg Nicht Lieb”

“Krieg Nicht Lieb,” which translate to “war, not love” in German, indeed depicts the multiplying conflicts that consume Carrie (Claire Danes), Quinn (Rupert Friend), the C.I.A., and the ISI after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. Yet the episode, absent the pronounced attention to action-adventure set pieces that marked “There's Something Else Going On” and “13 Hours in Islamabad,” forges its tension from the intimate, rather than the international. As the American presence in Pakistan comes to an end, with no indication of inroads made or missions accomplished, the War on Terror once again becomes a function of flawed, human choices, constrained by the fact that our departure isn't “peace with honor.” It's “the failure protocol.”

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss collaborate on yet another fine quasi-thriller with Phoenix, about a concentration camp survivor, Nelly (Hoss), who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery for a wound and emerges unrecognized by Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband who gave her up to the Gestapo. Well, not entirely unrecognized: He thinks she looks just enough like his presumably dead wife that she could pose as Nelly in order to receive her hefty inheritance. The performative scenes that result from Johnny's coaching elicit yet another spellbinding performance from Hoss, who always makes Nelly look as if she wants desperately for Johnny to see that it's her while also dreading what will happen if he figures the truth out. Further, the film uses this setup to make a keen, occasionally funny comment on the male gaze, as Johnny knows every small detail of his wife's body and movements, yet cannot put together the whole image of Nelly now that it no longer exactly matches up to his idealized memories.

Viennale 2013 Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Gold, Demolition, Three Landscapes, & Our Sunhi

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Viennale 2013: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Gold, Demolition, Three Landscapes, & Our Sunhi
Viennale 2013: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Gold, Demolition, Three Landscapes, & Our Sunhi

Though “Safety Last!” was the name given by the Viennale this year to a special program compiling 12 Will Ferrell sketches from Saturday Night Live, it could have also titled an unofficial subsection of films during this year's festival. We're now past the midway point of the 51st Viennale, and I've already seen a number of features and documentaries in which people endure—or see themselves perilously close to enduring—profound hazards to their bodies.

Two such films premiered (and invited unlikely comparisons) at the Berlinale earlier this year: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, by Quebecois writer-director Denis Côté, and Gold, a Canada-set western by German filmmaker Thomas Arslan. Both works contain a scene involving the lethal jaws of a bear trap. In Vic + Flo, the snap brings the film's tonal peculiarity and suggestive menace to a logical endpoint, whereas in Gold it sends one of its more intriguing characters to an early death.

Berlinale 2013 The Grandmaster, Gold, & A Single Shot

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Berlinale 2013: The Grandmaster, Gold, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, & A Single Shot
Berlinale 2013: The Grandmaster, Gold, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, & A Single Shot

Since coming home from the sumptuous, if lopsided, American road trip of My Blueberry Nights, Wong Kar-wai has been hard at work on his martial-arts epic The Grandmaster. Perhaps the most explicitly in dialogue with film history of all his works thus far, the film will read as a much-needed strike of lightning to wu xia for connoisseurs of the genre and a feature-length TV spot for others. Which is to say that its visual design is (surprise, surprise) magnificently original, but it lacks Wong's characteristic elliptical approach to storytelling that has won him so many admirers. Pierre Rissient allegedly dismissed Wong as “postcard cinema”—and it hurts to say it, but The Grandmaster might be more impactful as a series of stills than a motion picture.

Set mainly over the course of the 1930s in Foshan, a city in southern China, the film narrates the Ip Man's (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) rise to prominence as a Wing Chun grandmaster, focusing especially on his brushes with Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of one of the grandmasters from the north. Although they cross paths across many years, Wong forgoes the melancholic romanticization of time we've come to expect from him and opts to tell their story in a disappointingly linear fashion, Hollywoodian flashback included. Essentially a biopic wrapped in a kung-fu art film, The Grandmaster's ambition but feeling of incompletion brings to mind Sam Peckinpah's analogous probing of national history, mythology, and masculinity.

New York Film Festival 2012: Barbara

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Barbara</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Barbara</em>

For those who've seen German filmmaker Christian Petzold's previous films (most recently, Jerichow and the first film in the Dreileben trilogy, Beats Being Dead), the style he employs in his latest film, Barbara, will be familiar: cool, precise, omniscient in its gaze. And yet it's quite possible that he has never quite put that style to such appropriate and cumulatively devastating use.

The director's close-to-the-vest approach fits in the context of a narrative that takes place in 1980 East Germany, a time marked by paranoia thanks to the prominence of the Stasi, East Germany's notoriously corrupt secret police. In an environment marked by fear and distrust, it's no wonder that Barbara (Nina Hoss) maintains a reserved, distrustful profile among her co-workers at the small pediatric hospital in which she works (previously a more well-known doctor in Berlin, she's been banished to this small-town hospital as punishment for applying for an exit visa from the GDR). It doesn't help that, outside her day job, she's spied on and periodically hassled by one Stasi officer, Schütz (Rainer Bock).