The Envelope, Please: Oscar Primer Two


It may soon be time to call for a moratorium on Marilyn Monroe impersonations, but we hope that’s only after Michelle Williams collects her prize for her turn: not so much mimicry as an embodiment of the M.M. essence in the Oscar-nominated My Week with Marilyn. In the meantime, as we march toward Oscar Sunday, enjoy The Color of Fame (2008), Alejandro Bellame Palacios’ photogenic fable about a Venezuelan wife who enters a Marilyn Monroe lookalike contest and falls under Norma Jeane’s spell. What follows are more Oscar-related films from the Fandor collection that we hope will wind up on your own list of favorites.

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Cold War and a chilling Poisoned by Polonium

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, nominated for its Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman), was (in this writer’s view) the most satisfying film of 2011 as it questioned the universally deified institutional values of loyalty, sacrifice, and designated enemies through the lens of Cold War spies in London. In 2006 in that very city, a real-life Russian spy allegedly fatally dosed former KGB operative Alexander Litvinenko after he blew the whistle on Vladimir Putin’s secret rise-to-power activities. Andrei Nekrasov’s intimate and infuriating documentary, Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File, tackles this piece of post-Cold War history.

2. War Horse and other animal adventures with The Zookeeper

For want of a nail, or perhaps that hundredth English horn, the battle was lost: What else can we say about War Horse, nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Original Score. A paradoxical concern for the wellbeing of animals during wartime, at the apex of man’s inhumanity to man, also propels The Zookeeper (2001), Ralph Ziman’s politically attuned drama set in Eastern Europe.

3. My Week With Marilyn and other lookalikes in The Color of Fame

After Michelle Williams captures the award for Actress in a Leading Role, let’s demand a moratorium on certain blonde bombshells, from full-blown biopics to cameo doppelgängers to photo-spread “homages” in so-called classy magazines. Before it takes effect, though, curl up with The Color of Fame (2008), Alejandro Bellame Palacios’ photogenic fable about a Venezuelan wife who enters a Marilyn Monroe lookalike contest and falls under Norma Jeane’s spell.

4. Forethought on Footnote: Beaufort

Nominated for Foreign Language Film for his Footnote (Israel), New York-born, Jerusalem-raised director Joseph Cedar has made three other features distinguished by a restless, probing intelligence. Beaufort (2007), his slow-burn study of a deflated Israeli squadron all but abandoned in the titular fort in the last days of the war in Lebanon, was also recognized with an Oscar nomination in this category. Further incentive: The movie opens with a nail-biting scene of a bomb-defusing operation, a year before Oscar winner The Hurt Locker.

5. A Separation and other Iranian greats, like A Time for Drunken Horses

Critical darling A Separation (Iran) garnered nominations for Foreign Language Film and Writing (Original Screenplay); the filmmakers of Iran certainly deserve more attention. The great Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi prevail in most discussions of this nation/region’s cinema, despite the emergence of gifted younger directors. Iranian Kurd Bahman Ghobadi should be in the mix, especially for his wrenching and profoundly rewarding tale of siblings banding together in a battle for survival, A Time for Drunken Horses (2000).

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