Pop quiz: what do Alaskan halibut fishing and Hollywood awards prognostication have in common? Answer: they both require their participants to get up at freakin’ 5:30am on a Tuesday. The former, to barrel deep into the heart of the Kachemak Bay before the Arctic sun drives the delicious whitefish deeper underwater; the latter, to watch attractive Hollywood ingenues Jack Quaid and Zazie Beetz phonetically pronounce the names of film artisans off a teleprompter!
But mostly when the nominees of the 96th Academy Awards were announced on January 23, we just were thrilled once again to see just how many Oscar nominees had previously shown their work as part of our signature screening series, Film Independent Presents.
So! Please enjoy this round-up of Fi Presents filmmaker Q&As from this year’s incredible roster of freshly-anointed Oscar noms. And if you want to see what’s coming up next in the program, just click here. Good luck filling out those ballots!
About: In filmmaker Cord Jefferson’s satirical feature debut, Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America, The Batman) plays a struggling novelist fed up with the establishment–and particularly the publishing industry–profiting off reductive stereotypes of Black culture. Using a pen name to write a false memoir trolling such archetypes, Wright’s character is accidentally thrust into the spotlight, propelling him to the heart of the hypocrisy and madness he claims to disdain.
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jeffrey Wright), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sterling K. Brown), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score
What critics are saying: “A biting satire of just about every aspect of American life, especially academia, publishing, and racism and a heartfelt story about family connections… It is provocative, funny, and searingly smart. In my opinion, it is the best film of the year,” writes Nell Minow, Movie Mom.
SOCIETY OF THE SNOW
About: Based on the remarkable story of the 1972 Uruguay Rugby Team–whose story also inspired the glossy 1993 Hollywood drama Alive–Society of the Snow is a harrowing adventure saga based, remarkably, in fact. When, en route to a match in neighboring Peru, their charter plane crashes on a glacier in the unforgiving Andes, the rugby players must find a way to stay alive amid one of the world’s most unforgiving environments, battling hunger, despair, bitter cold and, occasionally, each other.
Nomination: Best International Feature, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
What critics are saying: “Bayona’s direction accentuates the personal despair, not the horror. He exposes the danger, making it look formidable, but not insurmountable. The ensemble cast shines under his guidance,” writes Dwight Brwon, Dwight Brwon Ink.
ANATOMY OF A FALL
About: Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, Justine Triet’s masterpiece is a courtroom thriller about the mysterious death of a man at a remote mountain cabin. Was it an accident? Was it murder? The prime suspect is the man’s wife (Hüller, star of another 2024 Oscar favorite, The Zone of Interest). The only witness? The couple’s blind son, who faces a profound moral dilemma as he approaches his testimony in French court.
Nomination: Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Sandra Hüller), Best Director (Justine Triet), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing
What critics are saying: “An intricately layered, surgically controlled drama that operates as both a courtroom thriller and an investigation of the mysterious recesses of domestic life, the film is as chilly as its French Alpine setting yet never distancing,” writes David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter.
About: The much-awaited reteaming of director Alexander Payne and star Paul Giammati (Sideways), The Holdovers–set in the late 1960s–follows the travails of a cranky history teacher at a remote prep school. Drawing the worst gig on campus, Giammati’s Professor Hunham is forced to remain on campus over the holidays to serve as guardian for a troubled student (breakout star Dominic Sessa) who has no other place to go. They’re joined by the school’s cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), mourning the loss of her son in Vietnam.
Nomination: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Giamatti), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing
What critics are saying: “In Payne’s work, one individual’s foibles and failings can open another’s perception; his humans lead not by example, but through their flaws. This is one of the director’s greatest films,” writes Bilge Ebiri, Vulture.
About: An original story inspired by the true crime case of Mary Kay Letourneau, New Queer Cinema icon Todd Haynes’ latest feature stars the powerhouse duo of Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. Twenty years after Gracie (Moore) and the much-younger Joe’s (Charles Melton) notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, the couple–now married with children–has their relationship tested when a Hollywood actor (Portman) arrives to do research for her role as Gracie in an upcoming film. For fans of female-driven psychodramas such as Persona, 3 Women and Mulholland Drive.
Nomination: Best Original Screenplay
What critics are saying: “Haynes has made a beautiful, terrible nesting doll of a film with a uniquely twisted core. Beneath the droll portrait of an actor’s obsession with her muse is an unsettling tale of what happens when people refuse to tell the truth,” says Shirley Li, The Guardian.
THE ETERNAL MEMORY
About: Maite Alberdi’s emotionally harrowing nonfiction feature follows the story of married Chilean academics Augusto and Paulina, who have their 25 year marriage tested by Augusto’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As the progress of the disease is captured by real-time video diaries, both spouses feat the day that he is no longer able to recognize her.
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature
What critics are saying: “Rarely if ever do movies depicting the descent into Alzheimer’s qualify as “enjoyable.” But director Maite Alberdi’s documentary … isn’t just an Alzheimer’s story. It’s a love story, and an undeniably beautiful one at that,” writes Mike Scott, NOLA.com.
Congratulations all! Great, now that we’ve paid our dues to the giant gold bald kings up the street on Wilshire, back to plugging our own thing! Here again are the nominees for the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards, presented by Joel Kim Booster and Natalie Morales:
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