As the rattle and hum of Oscar season approaches its end with the upcoming Academy Awards, one can’t help but preemptively ask: where did it all go wrong? Critics go one step forward by clamoring for Richard Linklater’s Boyhood while the industry takes a leap backward by highlighting Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. Never would I have considered that an Iñárritu citation be a regressive step, if only because he’s one of the handful of Latino directors working today with any a modicum of international presence. And despite the insufferable and useless “single-shot” technique that he adopts for Birdman, he’s a fairly impressive technician, evidenced most clearly in his debut feature Amores Perros. But Birdman, along with a slew of recent and forgettable Best Picture winners like The King’s Speech and The Artist, ultimately does not prompt an iota of passion from this viewer. It’s devoid of anything I admire in cinema. It’s relentlessly cynical, self-important, and well, stupid.
I would offer my Academy Award predictions, but typing them up conjures so much anger and depression that one might consider it a form of self-mutilation; I oughta stop.
On the brighter side, my temporary inactivity has not been for naught. March will bring my coverage of Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival, one of the Midwest’s most vital and thriving reflections on contemporary nonfiction filmmaking. It’s an honor to cover the festival, which will include screenings of Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary Going Clear, Adam Curtis’ Bitter Lake, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence.
Also, Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center presents its 18th Annual European Union Film Festival, perhaps the city’s most valuable and rewarding film festival. Based on its scheduled lineup, it’s continuing the theater’s remarkable and unrivaled programming. Notable films include Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, and Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
Though before too long, I look to highlight the decade’s best offerings, including the top 50 best films of the past five years. So, prepare for that.