19.January.2012: The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences has shortened its list of films competing in the Foreign Language Film category to nine. Among those selected are Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (Israel), Wim Wenders’ Pina (Germany), and Ashgar Farhadi’s A Separation (Iran). Meanwhile, there are many contenders for this year’s most controversial omission (Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men was a clear winner in this unwelcome category last year). Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s One Upon a Time in Anatolia, Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, and Gerando Naranjo’s Miss Bala were all hailed by critics and festival juries but didn’t pass muster for the Academy.
Regardless of where you how you feel about Michael Hazanavicius’ Oscar favorite The Artist, it’s certainly drumming up wider interest in the masterpieces of silent cinema. Turner Classic Movies chimes in with a list of the 10 Most Influential Silent Films, three of which are streaming on Fandor (Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, Lang’s Metropolis, and Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin). Hazanavicius answers the TCM list with a few more exotic selections, among them F.W. Murnau’s City Girl and John Ford’s Four Sons.
Poet and translator Charles Simic contemplates a different measure of influence in a lovely essay published on the New York Review of Books blog yesterday: “It has always seemed strange to me that writers and poets of my generation and slightly older say little about the influence of movies on their work, and yet our first knowledge of the world came from them.” He works up to describing a powerful, illogical epiphany at seeing Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves at an early age, “The day I saw Bicycle Thieves I had become an aesthete without realizing it, more concerned with how a particular film was made, than with whatever twists its plots had. All of a sudden, the way the camera moved, a scene was cut and a certain image was framed, were all-important to me.”
There have been several film-related deaths reported this week. Variety noted the passing of Robert Dozier, a Hollywood screenwriter who penned the script for Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal, as well as the death of veteran costume designer Richard Bruno, best known for arranging the slick threads of Goodfellas and many other Martin Scorsese pictures. Silent-era screenwriter and bon vivant Frederica Sagor Maas was the 44th-oldest person in the world before she died on January 5 at 111 according to the Gerontology Research Group—though that was hardly the only remarkable thing about her. Douglas Martin begins his obit for The New York Times, “She told of Hollywood moguls chasing naked would-be starlets, the women shrieking with laughter. She recounted how Joan Crawford, new to the movies, relied on her to pick clothes. Almost obsessively, she complained about how many of her story ideas and scripts were stolen and credited to others.” He’s primarily referring to Maas’s memoir of early Hollywood, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, named after a 1947 film she wrote with her husband Ernest.