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Tough Decisions, Close Calls and Quiet Victories: Why This Year’s International Oscar Race is An Agent of Chaos

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This year’s 15-film shortlist for the best international feature Oscar was, by Academy standards, a reasonably diverse one. Four Asian films, two from the Americas and one from Africa helped to counter the branch’s traditional Eurocentric bias; of the remaining European selections, meanwhile, three came from filmmakers of color.

So, there was some disappointment today that the final nominees were somewhat less varied, with Santiago Mitre’s Argentine entry “Argentina, 1985” the only exception in a field of European titles from white male directors. That South Korea’s entry, Park Chan-wook’s critically adored romantic noir “Decision to Leave,” failed to make the cut was one of the morning’s biggest eyebrow-raisers; that the three female-directed titles on the shortlist, Marie Kreutzer’s BAFTA-nominated “Corsage,” Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer” and Maryam Touzani’s “The Blue Caftan,” were also passed over was a further disappointment.

This was as competitive a shortlist as has ever been seen in the category, and it was always going to yield some of the day’s unkindest cuts. The five films that made it include some of the year’s most celebrated festival hits, including two child-oriented narratives that go straight for the heart — often a surer path to Oscar glory than cooler, more cerebral works like “Decision to Leave.”

At Cannes last May, A24’s Belgian submission “Close” was declared an early frontrunner in the race by many industry pundits: Lukas Dhont’s wrenching story of an intimate bond between two 13-year-old boys severed by sudden tragedy tends to leave audiences thoroughly red-eyed. “Close” seemed at risk of losing steam in the weeks before the nominations, largely failing to show up in the major critics’ awards, losing at the Golden Globes and surprisingly failing to score a BAFTA nod. Today’s nomination, however, proves that Dhont’s blend of elegant aesthetics and pummelling emotional force has plenty of fans in the Academy, even if the film — Belgium’s eighth nominee in the category’s history — looks a long shot to score the country its first win.

If “Close” had heavy expectations placed on it from the beginning, Ireland’s “The Quiet Girl,” true to its title, instead got to sneak up on people. Premiering modestly but to glowing reviews at Berlin last year, Colm Bairéad’s debut feature, about a shy, neglected country girl who blossoms under the care of bereaved relatives, went on to win viewers’ affections at one fest after another, and distributor Super (an offshoot of Neon) capitalized on strong word of mouth in awards-voting circles. A good showing at BAFTA (where it additionally landed an adapted screenplay nod) was the first clue as to its popularity; its nomination here — a first for Ireland — caps a sterling year for the Emerald Isle in the Oscar race, from “The Banshees of Inisherin” to Paul Mescal.

Also having a good year at the Oscars? Donkeys. The humble mule plays a memorable part in two best picture nominees (“Banshees” and “Triangle of Sadness”) but gets the starring role in Poland’s nominee in this category, “EO,” an altogether radical experiment from 84-year-old veteran Jerzy Skolimowski, distributed by Janus Films and Sideshow — who worked wonders with last year’s winner “Drive My Car.”

Inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 classic “Au Hasard Balthasar,” this immersive, iridescently shot chronicle of a donkey’s cross-European journey through an assortment of owners and abusers makes a devastating animal-rights statement, and was a favorite of U.S. critics, winning at the New York Film Critics’ Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association and the National Society of Film Critics’ awards. Poland’s 13th nominee in this category, it’s likely too offbeat to transcend that unlucky number, but the category is livelier for its presence.

In another year, “Argentina, 1985” might have been the one to beat. Mitre’s rousing true-life courtroom drama for Prime Video centered on the country’s landmark post-dictatorship Trial of the Juntas has proven a consistent crowdpleaser since premiering in competition at Venice. Bringing a hint of Aaron Sorkin to South American history, this Amazon Studios entry might be the most straightforwardly entertaining and accessible of the nominees — a factor that landed the Oscar for Argentina’s “The Secret in Their Eyes” in 2010 — and duly beat some tough competition to the Golden Globes.

But there it wasn’t up against a best picture nominee with a whopping nine nominations overall. Back in the fall, Netflix’s campaign for Germany’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” got off to a relatively low-key start. Critics weren’t going out of their way to champion Edward Berger’s technically dazzling adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s First World War novel, and it had no major festival hardware on its mantel — but industry peers were wowed by its craft and its epic-scale storytelling, and it steadily rose up the ranks. No film nominated in both the best picture and best international feature categories has ever lost the latter award. And, if history weren’t sufficiently on Berger’s side, the 1930 American version of “All Quiet” won best picture back in the day. Everyone loves a David-versus-Goliath story, but few will bet against Germany scoring its fourth win on March 12.



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Director Jafar Panahi Anxiously Awaits Iranian Court Ruling on His Release From Jail

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A ruling on Jafar Panahi’s release from Tehran’s Evin prison is deemed imminent now that Iran’s supreme court has overturned the conviction that led to the incarceration last year of the auteur who is considered one of Iranian cinema’s greatest living masters.

Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, has launched an appeal on Instagram stating that his lawyers have managed to successfully overturn the six-year sentence issued against the director in 2010 for “propaganda against the system.” That sentence has become obsolete due to the country’s 10-year statute of limitations. Panahi’s case has now been sent to an Iranian court of appeals.

“Last week we were informed that Jafar will be out in a week,” Saeedi said in the appeal posted on Instagram this week. However, “a week passed by and Jafar is still not with us,” she went on to lament.

Panahi’s lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht, told French news agency AFP that under Iranian law, “he should immediately be released on bail and his case reviewed again.” But the directors’ wife and others in Iran’s film community fear that Iranian security forces will manage to force the judiciary to keep him behind bars.

“The liberation of Jafar is in total accordance of their own laws,” Saeedi pointed out in the appeal. “But they [Iranian authorities] are above the law; without any respect for the law,” she said.

Panahi, 62, is known globally for prizewinning works such as “The Circle,” “Offside,” “This is Not a Film,” “Taxi,” and most recently “No Bears,” winner of last year’s Venice’s Special Jury Prize. He was arrested last July in Tehran in the wake of the country’s conservative government crackdown. Panahi had been there to visit Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of fellow dissident filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulov, who had been incarcerated a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.

On Jan. 7, Rasoulov was granted a two-week release permit for health reasons, his lawyer told AFP. Panahi’s lawyer also said that Panahi, during his detention in Tehran’s Evin prison for political prisoners, has contracted a skin disease which requires treatment in a hospital outside the jail.

Rasoulov and Panahi’s imprisonment took place before the wave of protests sparked in September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held in custody for allegedly wearing a loose hijab. Those protests have caused more than 500 civilians to be killed by government security forces and more than 100 members of the Iranian film industry to be arrested or banned from making movies.

On Jan. 4, Iranian authorities released Taraneh Alidoosti, the star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” almost three weeks after she was jailed for criticizing a crackdown on the anti-government protests.



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Archer Star Reacts To Live-Action Jon Hamm Movie Fancasting

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Exclusive: Archer voice actor Chris Parnell reacts to Jon Hamm’s fan-casting as the eponymous main character in a live-action film adaptation.


Chris Parnell, who voices Cyril Figgis on the long-running animated sitcom Archer, gives his thoughts on Jon Hamm’s fan-casting as the secret agent Sterling Archer in a possible live-action film adaptation. Archer follows the narcissistic and clever eponymous main character and parodies espionage while also making commentary on culture, society, and the human condition. The show, which debuted in 2009 and is still running, has received wide critical acclaim and has even racked up four Primetime Emmy Awards during its run. But like many animated shows, there has been a discussion about what a potential live-action Archer movie may look like and its cast.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

In an exclusive interview with Screen Rant‘s Grant Hermanns, Parnell discussed the possibility of an Archer movie and whether he thought it would be better to remain in the animated format or adapt a live-action feature film. Parnell, who also revealed that production for Archer season 14 is already underway, said that he didn’t expect himself and the rest of the voice cast to necessarily be able to play their respective characters in a live-action format. He also commented on the possibility of casting Jon Hamm in the live-action role of Archer for the prospective movie. Check out Parnell’s full quote below:

“I’d love it if it happened, especially if I was involved with it. If it happens, that would be very cool. But, I don’t know that there’s an assurance that any of us would get to play our actual characters. I think, if anything, it might be more likely to have an animated movie version of the show, but I’m open to whatever. I don’t know that you’re gonna get too many actors who want to have their voices dubbed in English. [Chuckles] He is a fun guy, he’s a good guy. I don’t know how he’d feel about that. I can’t speak for Jon, but I think he would probably feel like he could bring enough of Jon’s style to the live-action version that that wouldn’t be necessary, but you can also put a wig on Jon and dapper him up. [Laughs]”


Will An Archer Movie Happen?

Archer holds his pistol from Archer

The idea of an Archer movie adaptation has been floating around for some time now. Executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis stated back in 2016 that a discussion between the producers and Archer creator and writer Adam Reed about a movie happens once every couple of years. Back then, the producers said that in a perfect world, Hamm would be the actor to play Archer if the film ended up being a live-action project. Reed also supported that Hamm would also be his choice while revealing that a lot of Archer‘s production and costume design was influenced by the look of Hamm’s show Mad Men.

Should An Archer Movie Stay Animated Or Live-Action?

Lana and Archer in Archer Season 13 wearing their parachute gear

If the movie does get made, the big question is whether the producers would be better off sticking with their tried and true animated format or taking a risk to make it a live-action production. Any plot for the film adaptation of the super spy animated show would also have to work without Archer’s mother and spy agency head Mallory Archer. After Mallory voice actor Jessica Walter passed away in 2021, her character was written out of the show during season 13, with the egotistical Sterling having to take the reins of the agency and lead the way.

While live-action films generally rake in more money, the action-packed high jinks of a Sterling Archer story would likely be expensive to bring to life in live-action. H. Jon Benjamin, who voices Sterling on the show, said in 2022 that he was interested in participating in a feature film adaptation, citing the success of the recent Bob’s Burgers movie – a series where he also lends his voice to the main character. Benjamin’s voice is synonymous with Archer, so it would be tough to envision the character without him. But as Archer‘s Benjamin himself admits, the voice actor doesn’t quite match up with the animated character’s looks. If an Archer movie does come to fruition, difficult choices will have to be made regarding its casting and the live-action vs. animated format.

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‘Girl’ Review: Luminous Visuals Buoy a Heartsore Portrait of Immigrant Unrest

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It’s five years since Theresa May, then the United Kingdom’s first prime minister of the Brexit era, coined the term “citizen of nowhere” to denigrate residents of the country who identified themselves more globally. Those three words swiftly became a media catchphrase to encapsulate the Conservative government’s apparent hostility toward immigrants; liberal-minded multinationals adopted the […]

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