In case you weren’t paying attention, given Sally Hawkins’s egregious snub and all, Werner Herzog is now an Oscar nominee—and not a moment too soon. Now it remains to be seen if an adventurous cameramen will pick out the maverick director out of the Oscar crowd and lock on to the man’s eternally and blissfully blazed face—assuming, that is, Herzog even shows up. We can’t imagine Herzog expects to win this one, even if he probably has the vote of every academy member who counts Aguirre, Wrath of God as one of their favorite movies. On paper, the excellent Katrina doc Trouble the Water screams a winner, but this enraged examination of social injustice is possibly headier than even Encounters at the End of the World. Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath’s acclaimed The Betrayal and Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s The Garden bring to mind past winners in this category, but this one seems like a knockout punch for Man on Wire, especially with Standard Operating Procedure out of the running. As big a crowd-pleaser as Slumdog Millionaire, Man on Wire has won almost as many awards since the start of the Oscar season, connecting with people first as a thrilling exaltation of high-wire artiste Philippe Petit’s chutzpah, then as a memorial to the similarly superhuman daring responsible for building the stage the man walked across on the morning of August 7th, 1974.
Trouble The Water (#1–10 of 3)
Of the things that will have shelf life in my memory as the rest of the festival collectively fades, I’ll long remember the SIFF trailer that ran before each film. “Tell me everything you saw,” Grace Kelly, in her pearls and black gown, implores Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, as frames within frames of iconic images flicker past—among them, Sean Young exhaling in Blade Runner, a car skidding along the façade of a building from Day Watch, and Claudette Colbert showing Clark Gable exactly how one hitches a ride in It Happened One Night. This beautiful piece, designed by Digital Kitchen, deserves a small prize of its own, if only for being a welcome departure from the leaden clunk of SIFF trailers past. Any festival-goer who recoils at the mention of “Who ordered the murdered mistress?” or “We’re gonna take little Joey and put ’im in show biz!” will undoubtedly share my sense of gratitude.
In this festival where bombs and duds are commoner than April showers and May flowers, it’s practically a gift from God (if not an Act of God) to discover a movie as provocative, thoughtful, heartrending, and soul-stirring as Abdullah Oğuz’s Bliss, a near-great film that showed up last weekend with no fanfare from SIFF whatsoever: There was no advance press screening; no screeners made available—no attendant hoopla of any kind to alert us that something important was in our midst. Yet we found it anyway, an almost full house on Sunday afternoon at Pacific Place, grateful moviegoers moved to applause—and some to tears—at the film’s end.