When the nominees of the 95th Academy Awards were announced on January 24, we took a beat to consider the list and then thought to ourselves, “Hmm… seems familiar.” Never mind the usual overlap with our own Film Independent Spirit Award nominees–we’re used to that. What caught our eye this time was just how many Oscar nominees had previously screened their work at Film Independent Presents.
So! Please enjoy this round-up of Fi Presents filmmaker Q&As from this year’s incredible roster of newly-minted Academy Award nominees. And if you want to see what’s coming up next in the program, just click here. Good luck filling out those Oscar ballots!
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
About: All Quiet on the Western Front tells the gripping story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience firsthand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives–and each others’–in the trenches. The film, from director Edward Berger, is based on the world renowned bestseller of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, and is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best International Feature, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects.
What critics are saying: “All Quiet on the Western Front is a substantial, serious work, acted with urgency and focus and with battlefield scenes whose digital fabrications are expertly melded into the action. It never fails to do justice to its subject matter,” writes Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.
About: Argentina, 1985 is inspired by the true story of Julio Strassera, Luis Moreno Ocampo and their young legal counsel in a true-live David vs. Goliath battle. Against all odds and under constant threat, this team of unlikely heroes dared to prosecute Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship, in a race against time to bring justice to the victims of the Military Junta.
Nomination: Best International Feature
What critics are saying: “For a wider viewership, Argentina, 1985 is an instructive and thoughtful depiction of what it takes to hold tyrants accountable within the perimeters of a legal system, the persistence and paperwork and fearlessness required to achieve justice,” writes Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter.
About: Based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde boldly reimagines the life of one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons, Marilyn Monroe. From her volatile childhood as Norma Jeane through her rise to stardom and romantic entanglements, Blonde blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik, the film boasts a cast led by Ana de Armas and featuring Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody, Julianne Nicholson, Xavier Samuel and Evan Williams.
Nomination: Lead Actress, Ana de Armas
What critics are saying: “A brash, inventive, stunning film. Ana de Armas captures Marilyn Monroe perfectly. She embodies her so effectively that some scenes feel like memories of archive footage. She captures Marilyn’s whispery delivery perfectly, and without slipping into pastiche. It’s an epic performance, going beyond an impersonation of a sex symbol to reveal the tragic humanity beneath,” writes John Bleasdale, The Times.
About: Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway is the intimate portrait of a soldier struggling to adjust to her new life after returning home to New Orleans.
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, Brian Tyree Henry
What critics are saying: “Henry once again proves that he’s one of the most exciting actors on the rise right now. Like the relationship between Lynsey and James, Causeway is a film that slowly grows on you, a film that puts on a tough front—with its devastated characters and desire for escape—yet at its center is a tremendous about of heart, love, with its found families and shared pain,” writes Ross Bonaime, Collider.
FIRE OF LOVE
About: Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things—each other and volcanoes. For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. Ultimately, they lost their lives in a 1991 volcanic explosion, leaving a legacy that forever enriched our knowledge of the natural world. Director Sara Dosa and the filmmaking team fashion a lyrical celebration of the intrepid scientists’ spirit of adventure, drawing from the Kraffts’ spectacular archive. Currently in theaters from National Geographic Documentary Films, Fire of Love tells a story of primordial creation and destruction, following two bold explorers as they venture into the unknown, all for the sake of love.
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature
What critics are saying: “The remarkable footage accumulated by the French celebrity volcanologist couple Katia and Maurice Krafft captures the multiple, unpredictable personalities of the volcanoes they studied. But the way this lyrical documentary, operating in the intersection between science and poetry, tells it, the danger of the eruptions was part of the attraction. The closer Katia and Maurice got to the boiling earth, the more their curiosity grew stronger than their fear,” says Wendy Ide, The Guardian.
MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON
About: Marcel is an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colorful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and a new hope at finding his long-lost family. A beloved character gets his big-screen debut in this hilarious and heartwarming story about finding connection in the smallest corners.
Nomination: Best Animated Feature
What critics are saying: “Its effervescence is its secret weapon: Thanks to the disarming simplicity of the filmmaking—the basic animation, the unostentatious mockumentary style—we might not realize we’re being slowly eased into a story about the importance of belonging, about an individual’s place in the world and about how the only way to forge stronger bonds is to break free of those very bonds. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is the most unassuming and delicate of movies, but don’t be shocked if it leaves you in ruins,” says Bilge Ebiri, Vulture.
THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT
About: She was once as famous as Jackie O.–and then she tried to take down a President. The Martha Mitchell Effect is an archival documentary portrait of the unlikeliest of whistleblowers: Martha Mitchell, a Republican cabinet wife who was gaslighted by the Nixon Administration to keep her quiet. It offers a female gaze on Watergate through the voice of the woman herself.
Nomination: Best Documentary Short Film
What critics are saying: “This documentary is brilliant. It’s a powerful insight into what it was like to be in the eye of the political storm Watergate and the tragic events surrounding Nixon and his administration. From a political point of view, I feel it’s essential viewing–especially given all the misinformation that clouded this scandal in the past. If you want to sit down and watch something gripping, intriguing, and educational, I recommend checking this out,” writes Pooja Sharma, Leisure Byte.
MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS
About: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is the enchanting tale of a seemingly ordinary British housekeeper whose dream to own a couture Christian Dior gown takes her on an extraordinary adventure to Paris.
Nomination: Best Costume Design
What critics are saying: “Indeed, fashion equals love in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” which understands on a deep level why a handsome dress or a head-to-toe put-together outfit can feel like an armor of invincibility,” says Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com.
About: In August 2020, a plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow diverted to Omsk when a passenger onboard became deathly ill. That passenger was Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic—Alexei Navalny, the leader of Russia’s opposition, a man many had long feared would be killed for his refusal to be silent. Navalny’s wife and colleagues, convinced that Navalny had been poisoned and terrified of what might happen to him in a Siberian hospital, raced to Omsk and fought to evacuate him to Germany. Shot in real time in a small German town as Navalny recovers and the murder investigation unfolds, director Daniel Roher’s Navalny is also a study of Navalny the man. Scenes with his wife, children and colleagues offer a portrait of a masterful media strategist and a leader who is utterly committed to his homeland. Navalny offers extraordinary access to a politician who is resolute in his insistence on reform—a leader who will not be cowed by anything, including his own poisoning.
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature
What critics are saying: “As Putin’s nemesis Alexei Navalny phones up the secret agent who put Novichok in his pants, this terrifying documentary enters the realms of the far-fetched spy thriller–and yet it’s all true,” writes Phil Harrison, The Guardian.
About: Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a West Texas single mother struggling to provide for her son (Owen Teague) when she wins the lottery and a chance at a good life. But a few short years later, the money is gone and Leslie is on her own, living hard and fast at the bottom of a bottle as she runs from the world of heartbreak she left behind. With her charm running out and withnowhere to go, Leslie is forced to return home to her former friends Nancy and Dutch (Allison Janney, Stephen Root). Unwelcome and unwanted by those she wronged, it’s a lonely motel clerk named Sweeney (Marc Maron) who takes a chance when no one else will. With his support, Leslie comes face to face with the consequences of her actions, a life of regret, and a second chance to make a good life for her and her son.
Nomination: Lead Actress, Andrea Riseborough
What critics are saying: “Riseborough’s performance is nothing short of spectacular. She doesn’t compromise, she doesn’t hold back, but she doesn’t endow the character with any sort of fake flamboyance. In each scene, she shows you what Leslie looks like from the outside—the precise level of dissipation, of her sozzled “charm” and flaunted, stunted anger—but she also cues you to what’s happening inside her: the woman the drinking covers up,” writes Owen Gleiberman, Variety.
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
About: In Ruben Östlund’s wickedly funny Palme d’Or winner, social hierarchy is turned upside down, revealing the tawdry relationship between power and beauty. Celebrity model couple, Carl and Yaya (Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean) are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared Instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay
What critics are saying: “It’s a brutal satire whose comedy ranges from deadpan subtlety to the most raucous and outrageous slapstick imaginable. It’s brilliant and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny,” says Mike LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle.
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