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Posts tagged ‘Denmark’

Oscar Nominee”Land of Mine” One of the Best Films I’ve Ever Seen

615One of the greatest pleasures of being a film critic is stumbling upon a work of pure cinematic art that will  rock your world and stay with you forever. I just had that experience with the Danish Oscar Nominated film “Land of Mine” which I feel is one of the best films I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE. And it was totally unexpected, so it had tremendous shock value. Including suspense that didn’t let up, once it started. And I LOVE suspense. It’s so hard to create a real thriller diller, and I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of World War II movies. But “Land of Mine” blew all those preconceptions about war movies totally out of my head. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was on the edge of my seat, to the point where I felt like was STANDING, perched mid-air agog at all the atrocities of war crimes that were being perpetrated on this group of young German POWs, aged 15-18.

The premise is staggering, and it’s also true. That the Germans planted something like two million land mines on the beaches of Denmark, where they thought the alllied forces were going to land first. They never did, thank god! Or they would’ve been blown to smithereens, as many of these hapless young boys, and others, are during the course of this brutal, but brilliant film.

The Danish director/writer Martin  Zandvliet is new to me, but his talent is up there with the greats. And so is his great co-collaborator Camilla Hjelm Knudsen, DFF, who is his wife and cinematographer. “Land of Mine is filmed on a beautiful, pristine beach, where there is no civilization in evidence to spoil the view, except the roiling blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

Danish actor Roland Moller is superbly frightening as one of the most sadistic villains the screen has ever seen.He is constantly yelling at his captives in both guttural Danish and German. Telling the boy soldiers that this fate is just what they deserve, being Germans. He never lets up and he never feeds them.

Zandvliet is smart enough, as a screenwriter, however, to give him multiple dimensions. His Captain Rasmussen is simply a solider doing this dreadful duty as part of his job. And while he loves being a soldier.  we come to see he hates the horrifying assignment he is tasked with.

He has to make these teenage German P.O.W.s (This is right after WWII. ends), clear the nearly two million land-mines that are on that beautiful, wind-blown beach. And the boys, of course, do not know how to do this at all. They have no training whatsoever, and are completely lost in every imaginable way possible. Some of them are crying for their mothers

And yes, many of them are blown to bits. The lucky ones die. And Rusmussen keeps cruelly telling them, that whenan they clear the beaches of these deadly land mines, they will be sent home. They are more apt to be sent to heaven.

But Zandvliet plays his cards very close to his vest, and never lets us, the audience, know WHEN it’s coming, though we know WHAT’s coming. And he surprises us at every turn.And of course, it’s more horrifying than you could possibly imagine.

The boys start off as faceless, pale, ghostly figures, seemingly dead already, but as they film goes on several of them begins to emerge as three-dimensional characters as Rasmussen does. There are two twin brothers who are heartbreakingly protective and dependent on each other.They are both astonishingly first time actors, Emil and Oskar Belton.

A very complex wise-guy who looks almost Jewish is played grippingly by Joel Basman. There is one compelling scene where he is constantly being slapped in the face. And astonishingly he starts off laughing, and he keeps being hit and hit and hit again, until well, he is crying. Reduced to tears by the brutality of this violent assault. And dirty and foul-mouthed and repulsive as his behavior is, Basman just kills you, If this was an American film, he’d be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

Fiskebranchen

One of the two doomed twins.Stillfoto fra filmen Under Sandet/Land of Mines. Foto: Henrik Petit

It’s wonderful that this horrifically violent but beautiful film has managed with very little fan-fanfare to land an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in a very crowded, competitive year, it is hardly being talked up at all. It’s up to audiences to discover it and I’m sure they will. They never will be able to forget it. “Land of Mine” is one of the greats.

#Land of Mine, #German, #Best Foreign Film Nominee, #War Film, # Boy Soldiers, #Martin Zandvliet,# Twins

Oscar Winner “Danish Girl” now on DVD & It’s Glorious!

The Danish Girl 1My Number One Film of the Year “The Danish Girl” is now out on  DVD & Blu-Ray and it’s glorious! Its’ sumptuous, heart-breaking love story maintains all its’ lush simplicity on the small screen, making it even a more intimate yet stupendous experience as it relates the star-crossed story of two Danish painters Einar and Gerde Vegener in the 1920s in Copenhagen & Paris. Eddie Redmayne got an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor for playing Einar, who transitions into Lili Elbe, one of the first known transgendered male-to-females.

And I’m so happy that the luminous Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her tour-de-force as Gerde, his stalwart, beloved wife. Who encourages her husband to start cross-dressing as a lark, then begins to turn into something deadly serious, which confounds and confuses her as much as it does him.Alicia & Oscar 1

As Redmayne changes into Lili, every beat, every heart beat is beautifully rendered by director Tom Hooper, and matched in heartbreak, confusion and love by Vikander’s superb performance.

The story, in case you haven’t heard, has a tragic, heart-stopping ending. It’s no walk in the park. The pain and suffering of both leading characters’ true story has echoed down the ages. A transgendered tale such as this has never been translated into a major feature film and with such delicacy and respect. And with such magnificence and splendor by Production Designer Eve Stewart and costume designer Paco Delgado, who both also got Oscar nominations.Danish Girl Duo

Danny Cohen is the genius cinematographer, who captures all the various lights and colors of both early 20th century Copenhagen and the demimonde of Paris art salons with breathtaking accuracy. His camera just PUTS you there, and enthralls as vibrantly as the two leading players.

And I think it’s a crime that Hair and Make-Up Designer Jan Sewell did not get an Oscar Nomination for her transformative styling of Eddie Redmayne, turning him from a man into a woman, and all the stages in between with the utmost believability and subtlety. Sewell is also responsible for turning the dark-haired, olive-skinned Vikander into a pale Danish blonde.The Danish Girl 2

I also want to mention Ben Whishaw’s charmingly quiet and touching performance as Henrik,  the gay artist in Copenhagen, who is the first male to fall for Lili at an Artists’ Ball that serves as her coming out into public for her first nervous appearance as the shy country cousin of Einar’s.The Danish Girl 3

Whishaw and Redmayne’s first kiss, and indeed all their subsequent ones made the ground quake and the earth shake as they both don’t quite know what is happening between them. And of course, Vikander as Gerde sees this tryst. And her character goes through as many transitions and changes as Redmayne’s Lili, as she tries to understand and adjust to this cataclysmic situation the husband she loves has put himself, and HER into.Alicia 8

“The Danish Girl” moved me beyond tears as it did when I first saw it in Toronto. I’m so glad the Academy embraced Alicia Vikander and made her a star. And if Eddie Redmayne hadn’t won the Oscar last year for “The Theory of Everything,” he would have certainly won Best Actor for his beautiful “Danish Girl.”Alicia Oscar 1

 

Oscar Afterglow A Week Later

CaptureYes, dear readers, dear cineastes, it’s only a little less than a week ago that we were all going cra-zee with anticipation of the March of the Li’l Golden Guys into the hands of this year’s winners.

And so what has happened since? Eddie Redmayne has emerged as a major international superstar with his win for Best Actor in “The Theory of Everything.” And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

This triumph at age 33 makes him one of the youngest winners for Best Actor ever. And the two mature ladies who won Patricia Arquette and Julianne Moore, who are in their 40s and early 50s respectively struck a blow for actresses of an “age certaine” as the French say. This year Eddie was the ingenue!

Arquette used her acceptance speech to create a new image for herself as a firebrand, a feminist activist, with her rabble-rousing call-to-arms for equal pay for women everywhere. Moore revealed something we did not know. That Richard Glatzer one of the two gay directors of “Still Alice” did NOT have early-on-set Alzheimers like she’d been saying all season, but ALS the debilitating syndrome that astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is afflicted with. And that neither he nor his partner Wash Westmoreland could attend that night “because Richard was so ill.”

It seems like if you played someone with a ravaging disease like Moore and Redmayne both did so flawlessly this year, you WILL win a Oscar.

Lady Gaga completely re-invented HER career by singing what I initially thought was a completely unnecessary tribute to the 50th Anniversary of “The Sound of Music.” Revealing stunning legit vocal chops that who knew she had? She brought down the house and opened up a new career. Gaga on  Broadway, anyone? It could happen.

Neil Patrick Harris, I’m sorry to say, ENDED his career as an Oscar host. But he looked great in his underpants, and certainly was the only Oscar host to ever do THAT. But the complaints were many that he just wasn’t funny enough. He had dreadful, unfunny writers.

Neil showed that he had what it takes as a serious dramatic actor in “Gone Girl” a worthy film the Academy completely ignored in every single category.  Well, Neil you’ve always got the Tonys…

And “Birdman” won four Oscars. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography, which will lead me forever into head-scratching land, with the eternal,unanswerable question, WHY?

And  so now poor little “Boyhood” goes into the history books as one of the most unfortunate Oscar pass-overs ever. Only Patricia Arquette won for that movie.

Looking back to my initial review, when I saw it first this summer, I accurately predicted this would happen. I’ll have to re-post it. I was right. But it was better than “Birdman” which I thought was un-reviewable. So I didn’t. Review it, I mean.

And now less than a week, later comes the exciting news that Eddie Redmayne flew back to London to start shooting “The Danish Girl” were he plays the first transgender, Lili Elbe in 1930’s Denmark under the direction of “The King’s Speech” Oscar winner Tom Hooper. Picture below `Eddie LiliI’ve posted this shot before, but I’m posting it again, because there is something absolutely HYPNOTIC about Eddie’s eyes. And that’s an incredible, perfectly styled wig.  He lost three Stone, which is something like 36 lbs. And yes, I think this means he’ll be back at the Dolby again NEXT February with another nomination for a transformative role.This picture just nails it.

It about a Danish husband and wife, both painters, who one day when the wife’s(Alicia Vikander, also in a star-making role) asks her husband (Redmayne) if he would mind posing in her model’s female clothing, one day when her painting subject doesn’t turn up. And he finds he just can’t stop the music…

Vikander was the beautiful young, blonde ingenue in “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley. And in those days, the late-20s, early 1930s, sex change operations were unheard of and very, very dangerous, bordering on butchery.And what were female hormones like in those days? The journey was fraught with peril.

And today we have Bianca Jenner, who just seems to be flying through it all with nary a care in the world. Bianca was formerly Bruce Jenner, the step-father, and now mother on “Keeping Up With the Kardassians.”

“The Danish Girl” I think will show every single step of this process that we now call “transitioning” or “Sexual Re-assignment Surgery.” The part of Lili Elbe requires ANOTHER tour-de-force, bravura turn from Redmayne, and we all know now that he’s totally capable of it.Budapest Occar Wins 1

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” won FOUR Oscars for Production Design, Best Costumes, Best Hair and Make-Up and Best Score. Alexander Desplat FINALLY taking home an Oscar and Wes Anderson FINALLY being recognized big time by the Academy after being ignored(except in Screenplay nominations) for the bulk of his long career.

And I can’t even begin to imagine how bummed and depressed director/writer Richard Linklater of “Boyhood” must feel. And no Oscar for Michael Keaton for losing to Redmayne for Best Actor. The “Birdman” film flew into the history with the caveat, oh, but it lost Best Actor for Michael Keaton…

Why did Keaton lose?

Was he away too long from film? And when he came back he was playing basically a very apt version of himself, a situation he would never acknowledge in interviews.

Tom O’Neil, the grand-daddy of all of us Oscarologists, said that also Keaton was known in the industry as “difficult” and did not do the huge full-court(ing)  and charming of the press that Redmayne did. Actually, Redmayne took a leaf from the glorious Marion Cotillard’s “How to Win an Oscar” book, and basically camped out in L.A. for a month between the announcement of the nominations up to right before the win, when he had to return to London to start rehearsing and shooting “The Danish Girl.” And he won.

As Tom O’Neil said over in one of his video “slug-fests” at http://www.goldderby.com, “You’ve got to kiss babies.”

And the beat goes on…

“The Bridge” Mhz International Mysteries, Saving the Best for Last

BridgeChristian HilborgBridge 2I’ve been saving the best of the MHz International Mysteries for last, and it’s a humdinger, a nail-biter and as gripping as any James Bond thriller (and much more gory). It’s “The Bridge” or “Bron/Bronen”, a Swedish/Danish TV series that is now in its third season with no signs of stopping.

I’ve just finished the terr-rific first season and I can recommend it whole-heartedly for those of you who like the Steig Larson-ish take on modern Sweden, and in this case, too, modern Denmark.

It’s premise is intriguing and it is built around the gigantic Oresund bridge that now connects the Southern most tip of Sweden with Copenhagen. The Bridge is used as a symbol throughout as a bridge of understanding between the two Scandinavian countries. And also of crime-solving.

You see, a corpse of a woman has been found placed exactly on the demarcation line between the two countries during a black-out on The Bridge of the title. Since the dead woman is positioned exactly on the boundary(and she also turns out to be actually two halves of TWO dead women) both Swedish and Danish police have to be involved in this case that is truly an International Mystery. And neither likes or wants to be involved with the other! Typically, a Nordic dilemma, that is played out quite, quite entertainingly.

Sweden of course is represented by a beautiful blonde named Saga, played with great conviction and skill by Sofia Helin. Saga is almost robotic in the way that she treats crime and crime-solving and her personal life, too. “We have sex now?” she states almost mechanically when a guy approaches her in a bar. She doesn’t mince words, does Saga.

And she is known for blurting out the most intimate details of her own and her colleagues personal lives at the most inopportune moments, usually at staff meetings. It is to Sofia Helin’s credit that she makes the character of Saga continually believable and also trustworthy.

Her Danish counterpart is the much older Danish Police inspector Martin Rohde, who is always unshaven, looks like a rumpled, unmade bed, and frankly can’t stand working with Saga, whom he finds incredibly irritating. Saga feels she is always right and Martin hates to admit that she is. He is played marvelously by Danish character actor Kim Bodnia. Saga and Martin are like Beauty and the Beast. And Bodnia reminded me of the late, great James Gandolfini. But this time he’s a hard-working cop, not a criminal.

The series is in Swedish AND Danish and is constantly flipping back and forth between the two languages neither of which I speak. Danish and the Danes as a whole seem funkier and more guttural, more working class, if you will, than the high-brow Saga and the Swedes.

But they make for a VERY interesting crime=stopping couple, and in that sense “The Bridge” is quite character-driven, which I liked.

The crimes are horrific, too. The upper half of the torso of the first corpse(and there will be many of them as the series progresses) is a Swedish diplomat and politician. The lower Danish half is an unknown prostitute/drug- addict. Immediately, the dramatic dichotomy between the two countries is set up right at the get go.

One of the more ghastly murders takes places on TV sets in both countries as a gagged and bound-in-a-chair homeless man is slowing being bled to death on International TV by the murderer..

And there are other colorful characters who come and go throughout the episodes. Main among them was the  smarmy journalist Daniel Ferbe played by the charismatic Christian Hillborg(pictured above^) The murderer sets up contact with him early on, as the criminal mastermind behind all these killings is also trying to use Ferbe as a way to get his message about Swedish(and Danish) societal wrongs out via the media.

This first season was filmed and aired in 2011. I can’t wait for Series 2 and 3. Stay tuned! Love that Swedish noir! Or in this case I should say Scandinavian noir, since “The Bridge” involves both countries marvelously.

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