Cinefile: Good movies, bad movies

Audiences all over look forward to Israeli movies instead of avoiding them. That's the real win this year.

beaufort film 88 224 (photo credit:)
beaufort film 88 224
(photo credit: )
Thanks to all the readers who emailed following the Oscars. Unlike many of those who wrote in, I don't see The Counterfeiters win in the Best Foreign Film category as a commentary on anything except the fact that Academy voters thought The Counterfeiters was an excellent movie. It was an honor for Joseph Cedar's Beaufort to be nominated with such a distinguished group of films, including the latest by world-famous directors Andrzej Wadja and Nikita Mikhalkov. This is the one category in which voters have to see all five nominated films at screenings in order to vote, so Israel's entry certainly had a fair chance. I doubt any of the Monday-morning quarterbacks in the US are interpreting the Best Picture Award for No Country for Old Men as a slight against corrupt oil company executives (the subject of There Will Be Blood) or pregnant teens (Juno). It's just not very useful to read too much significance into any Oscar win or loss. The nomination for Beaufort capped an unprecedented year of triumphs for Israeli films at film festivals around the world. Now, audiences all over look forward to Israeli movies instead of avoiding them. That's the real win this year. SPEAKING OF the Oscars, the reason most movies the studios hope will win the awards open towards the end of the year is that executives want them to be fresh in voters' minds. The cutoff for Oscar eligibility is the end of December, so during the first months of the new year, the studios release all the movies they don't think would win any prestigious prizes. What this means for moviegoers in the US in January and for Israelis in late February is that most of the movies opening now are lousy. A recent major-motion picture, that thankfully has not made it here yet, is The Hottie and the Nottie, starring formerly incarcerated heiress turned actress, Paris Hilton. Do you really need to hear the plot to know it's not at the top of your list? Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, two of the world's most evenly tanned people, star in Fool's Gold, a caper about treasure hunters who used to married and trade barbs while they hunt hidden gems. There are actually two new dead-lover-haunts-old-flame romantic comedies, the just-released here Over Her Dead Body starring Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) and the soon-to-be-released P.S. I Love You with two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank. There's also one of those caveman movies, 10,000 B.C., coming up. So if you go to the movies for any reason other than to hang out with your friends, you'll probably be spending some time in the next month watching DVDs. Many recent high-quality films from the winter have already been or are just about to be released on DVD (the lag time gets slower every year), so if you missed Michael Clayton, American Gangster, Atonement, Across the Universe, Eastern Promises, or 3:10 to Yuma in theaters you can see them now at home. There are also a number of recent Israeli films now on DVD, including Beaufort (although this is one film that really should be seen on the big screen), Avi Nesher's The Secrets and David Volach's My Father My Lord. IF YOU like to surf the 'Net, let me recommend a site I've mentioned in the past, Angry Alien (www.angryalien.com). This site features 30-second animated parodies of recent and classic films, with all the characters played by bunnies, and over the last year it has greatly expanded its offerings. The latest to go up on the site is a Grindhouse parody. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can see the lead Bunny giving a hilarious parody of a junket interview, in which he talks with great seriousness about "the work." You have to see it for yourself. IN THE US, they start releasing good movies again around May, although many tend to be in the big summer blockbuster mode. Here, we can look forward to the upcoming film festivals. The next big one is Docaviv, the documentary film festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, which is celebrating its tenth year and will take place from April 3-12. In the summer, there's the Jerusalem Film Festival. Also in the summer, Israelis can look forward to the opening of a new cinematheque, this one in Holon.