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Pina (#110 of 2)

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Documentary

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature

In recent years, Academy members have repeatedly favored the most high-profile, buzzed-about doc in this category, from The Cove to Man on Wire to March of the Penguins. For a break in the trend, you’d have to go back to 2005, when Born Into Brothels bested Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s suffering-for-art experiment that had people thinking twice about McDonald’s, at least for a few months. With expected hopefuls like Project Nim left out of this season’s race, 2012 could prove the bookend of the category’s seven-year populist itch, as the most-discussed nominee is probably Wim Wenders’s Pina, an offbeat film that really only looks like a winner on paper.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Kid with a Bike, Pina, & Good Bye

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Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, <em>Pina</em>, & <em>Good Bye</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, <em>Pina</em>, & <em>Good Bye</em>

Famous auteurs occasionally cruise through material so smoothly we misjudge potentially complex efforts as minor. I fear Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes new film, The Kid with a Bike, will be seen as such a film and get overlooked due to its short running time, concisely linear storyline, and almost perfectly aligned mosaic of fatherly failures. Like their masterpiece The Son, the Dardennes insist on destroying stereotypes regarding familial relationships. Yet in The Kid with a Bike they craft an entire film around one young boy’s relentless pursuit of home and protection, packing each frame with a sense of unlimited persistence. Still, the child’s search for identity can be easily manipulated, and the film’s most cutting moments come when adult indifference preys on the gullibility of youth for selfish ends.

An enduring drive propels 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Dorset) to ignore the writing on the wall that his young father, Guy (Jérémie Renier), has indefinitely left him to the care of a state-run facility. The opening sequence introduces Cyril’s durability and directionality, as the boy escapes and heads toward his now abandoned apartment looking for his father and beloved bike. This trend of catch and release continues throughout The Kid with a Bike—Cyril running or riding away from places he hates for those that might represent home. His struggle is consistent, with every scene dedicated to Cyril outmaneuvering adults and roaming from one father figure to the next.