The Contenders 2014
November 13, 2014–January 16, 2015
Organized by the Department of Film.
The exhibition is supported by BNP Paribas.
Media sponsorship is provided by The Hollywood Reporter.
Related Film Screenings
2014. USA/Russia. Directed by Gabe Polsky. Red Army tells the fascinating story of the Soviet Union's dominance in ice hockey from 1954 into the early 1990s, when the Soviets used hockey as a means to project their socialist strength to the world, using a tough methodology that gave the players great personal pride—and caused behind-the-scenes strife. Director Polsky, a Yale hockey player born of Russian immigrant parents, tells the story through the passionate and shrewd perspective of Slava Fetisov, an engaging, talented Soviet star who became the youngest-ever captain of the USSR team following their shocking defeat by a team of American college players in the 1980 Olympics. The film is filled with big personalities, great sports stories, and a fascinating inside look at the politics of ice hockey during the Cold War—from the ruthless tactics of Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov to the massive NHL recruitment push that brought many Soviet players to the States but sometimes left them feeling rudderless, caught between Soviet and American playing styles. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. 76 min.
Goodbye to Language 3D
2014. France. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. With Héloise Godet, Jessica Erickson, Kamel Abdeli and Richard Cheavllier. A man, a woman, and a dog. Something happens among them, though it is hard to say what. It is, in fact, hard to say anything, despite the flurry of communication—through words and images, looks and gestures, literary citations and visual allusions—that fills Jean-Luc Godard’s latest film. Perhaps language is a thing of the past, a nostalgic relic of a lost world of cohesion and coherence? But if sense is gone, sensuality remains—in the form of some of the most ravishing images Godard has ever created, here pushing their way beyond the boundaries of the screen, in three dimensions (and occasionally four). Courtesy of Kino Lorber Films. 70 min.
Laika Studio Day
2009. USA. Directed by Henry Selick. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman. With the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, John Hodgman. Coraline is the first in the Laika studio’s bravura trilogy of features centered on lost and neglected children whose frustrations lead them to alternate realities of marvelous and frightening dimensions. A hidden door in her new home provides a bored girl with a second set of parents, but these affectionate, button-eyed creatures are secretly determined to steal her humanity. Director Selick (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) makes the finely tailored craftsmanship that characterizes Laika’s puppetry into a subtle thematic element of the production. Courtesy of Focus Features. 100 min.
Laika Studio Day
2012. USA. Directed by Chris Butler, Sam Fell. With the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin. Laika’s second feature is a horror comedy set in a haunted town in modern-day New England. Norman is a psychic boy with unappreciated powers that allow him to converse with the dead. Defying clueless parents and bullying classmates who doubt his predictions of doom, he explores graveyards, awakens zombies, and battles ghostly storms in an effort to reverse a 300-year-old witches’ curse with therapeutic lessons in tolerance and self-help. The film excels on the basis of its singular character design, outstanding production values, and distinctive visual effects that benefit from groundbreaking advances in puppet engineering. Courtesy of Focus Features. 93 min.
Laika Studio Day
2014. USA. Directed by Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi. With the voices of Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette. Based on the novel Here Be Monsters, by Alan Snow, and animated on three and a half acres of stop-motion sets, this comic fantasy follows an orphaned boy, raised by a race of underground trash collectors, who saves the creatures from self-centered city-dwellers and a megalomaniac pest exterminator above ground. Although it flirts with environmental and social justice issues, the film is an amusement park of gizmos, narrow escapes, and grotesque transformations played out on expressionistic streets and in cavernous hideouts. Stay seated to the end of the closing credits for some existential slight-of-hand celebrating the Laika studio’s mastery of character and form. 100 min. 96 min.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
2014. Japan. Directed by Isao Takahata. Isao Takahata, a Japanese master of animated film, deserves to be as widely recognized as his fellow Studio Ghibli cofounder, Hayao Miyazaki. His Tale of Princess Kayuga, based on a timeless, oft-told folk classic of the 10th century, is a striking departure from his unflinching tale of World War II devastation and survival, Grave of the Fireflies; his environmental allegory Pom Poko; or his popular domestic comedy My Neighbors the Yamadas. The diaphanous beauty of Princess Kayuga—a radiant moon nymph who achieves an uneasy aristocratic stature on earth—is instead achieved through Takahata’s delicate watercolor aesthetic, through scroll painting and period architecture, and through his graceful hand-drawn line. This is arguably the most extraordinary achievement in animated film this year. Courtesy of GKids. 137 min.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
2014. USA/Great Britain. Directed by Nick Broomfield. "Throughout Nick Broomfield's career, he has frequently turned to crime investigations (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Biggie & Tupac) that raise larger questions about gender, race, and class inequalities in America. Now he digs into the case of a South Central Los Angeles serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, whose string of murders spanned 25 years. Lonnie Franklin, Jr., was arrested for the crimes in 2010. His court case still drags on as police seek connections to over a hundred unsolved murders. Broomfield's first-person presence in Tales of the Grim Sleeper is more subdued than in his other films. He enlists the help of a former prostitute, Pam, who shines as a lively, funny, and courageous personality. Together they hit the streets to dig up information where the police investigation has run cold. Broomfield researches a citizens' group called the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, formed out of frustration over the lack of police action on the case back in the 1980s. In archival clips and new interviews, he documents the coalition's refusal to let the Grim Sleeper's victims be forgotten. The film reveals a social strata that has largely been left to fend for itself, failed by institutions of law, education, and job opportunity. Behind the camera is the director's son, Barney Broomfield, who also shot with Hubert Sauper in Sudan for We Come as Friends. His skilful cinematography conveys a dignity to street characters subsisting in an underground economy, as the elder Broomfield's film builds to a powerful assemblage of testimony conveying a grave injustice that extends well beyond this case" (Thom Powers, Toronto International Film Festival 2014). Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films 110 min.
Finding Vivian Maier
2013. USA. Directed by John Maloof, Charlie Siskel. In 2007, while seeking material for an art project, photographer John Maloof bought a small collection of photographs and odds and ends from a local Chicago thrift-auction house. Intrigued by what he found—an idiosyncratic and seemingly obsessive collection of ordinary objects as well as powerful black-and-white street photographs—Maloof’s interest blossomed into a singular search to learn more about the identity of the photographer and her creative process, and he became a collector and champion of her work. The film unfolds like a detective story, as Maier’s mysterious life as a nanny and a loner is revealed through the recollections of her various employers and their children, and as other details of her past come to light. Through the reconstruction of a large portion of Maier’s collection of over 100,000 photographs and interviews with other well-known American street photographers and collectors, the film challenges our notions of the artist and the creative act, and how art is made and marketed. This is Maloof's and Siskel's remarkable directorial debut. 83 min.
2012. France/Great Britain/USA. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel.
Marking a full decade since his 2003 debut, The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev's magnum opus, Leviathan, premiered at this year's Cannes to unanimous acclaim, winning the Best Screenplay award and establishing him as a true master of cinema.
With the film's magisterial opening—the coastal landscape of the Barents Sea, set to the clarion call of Philip Glass's symphonic score—Zvyagintsev sets the stage for a story in which human intrigues are indistinguishable from forces of nature.
In a small seaside town, weather-beaten patriarch Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) lives with his teenage son Roma (Sergey Pokhadaev) and second wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova). Their idyllic homestead harbours deep-rooted familial resentments that are aggravated by the aggressions of the local mayor Vadim (Roman Madyanov), a drunken, corrupt bureaucrat set on grabbing their land for himself. When Kolya calls in his lawyer friend Dima (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov) from Moscow, this defensive tactic triggers a series of dramatic events.
In the hands of Zvyagintsev and co-writer Oleg Negin, the premise expands from a rural-scale morality play to a philosophical examination of contemporary Russian society. Zvyagintsev and his regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman give a painterly, meditative rendering to this tale whose near-primordial themes have their roots in Thomas Hobbes and the Book of Job.
Zvyagintsev has already been called a successor to Tarkovsky; with Leviathan he forges ahead and stakes out a cinematic territory of his own, analyzing the human (and, implicitly, Russian) spirit with an immediacy and urgency that will bear repeated viewings for decades to come" (Dimitri Eipides, Toronto International Film Festival 2014). Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. 87 min.
From the Collection: Michael Keaton
1988. USA. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Michael McDowell. With Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Glenn Shadix. A recently deceased small-town couple are required to haunt their own house for 125 years, but when they are unable to frighten the insufferable urbanites who move in, they hire a “bio-exorcist” to reclaim their home. The director’s cynical version of hell as a bureaucratic waiting room is leavened by such sophomorically gruesome delights as shrunken heads and flattened corpses, creating an atmosphere that shuttles between the world-weary attitudes of adulthood and the unbridled imaginative possibilities of youth. 92 min.
2014. USA. Directed by Ava DuVernay. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures. 122 min.
From the Collection: Michael Keaton
1989. USA/Great Britain. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren. With Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger. Eschewing the campy aesthetic of previous Batman movies, Burton’s cerebral, witty take on the Caped Crusader reinvigorated the Batman franchise. Burton, along with production designer Anton Furst, applied his eye for inventive set design to psychologically darker material than in his previous films to create an iconically twisted, phantasmagorical Gotham City—a place unrecognizable to citizens of any city in the real world. 126 min.
The Missing Picture
2013. Cambodia/France. Directed by Rithy Pan. Courtesy of Strand Releasing. 92 min.
2014. Canada/Germany/USA. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. Courtesy of Sony Pictures. 105 min.
2014. USA. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures. 169 min.
2014. USA. Directed by Dan Gilroy. Courtesy of Open Road Films. 117 min.
The Theory of Everything
2014. Great Britian/France. Directed by James Marsh. Courtesy of Focus Features. 123 min.
Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2014. USA. Directed by Alejandro González Iňárritu. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight. 119 min.
2014. USA. Directed by Laura Poitras. Courtesy of Radius TWC. 114 min.
2014. USA. Directed by Frederick Wiseman. Courtesy of Zipporah Films. 180 min.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
2014. USA. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. This super-stylish and spellbinding Persian take on the vampire genre doubles as a compact metaphor for the current state of Iran. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature guides us on a dreamlike walk on the wild side, into the nocturnal and sparsely populated underworld of “Bad City,” an Iran of the mind that nevertheless rings true. In a cool and brooding scenario that involves just a handful of characters, an alluring female vampire stalks potential victims with a judgmental eye—but isn’t immune to romantic desire when it presents itself in the form of a young hunk who’s looking for a way out of his dead-end existence. With to-die-for high-contrast black-and-white cinematography and a sexy cast that oozes charisma, horror has seldom seemed so hot. Courtesy of Kino Lorber. 107 min.
The Normal Heart
2014. USA. Directed by Ryan Murphy. Courtesy of HBO Films. 132 min.
2014. France/Mauritania. Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. Courtesy of Cohen Media Group. 97 min.
Listen Up Philip
2014. USA. Directed by Alex Ross Perry. Courtesy of Tribeca Film. 108 min.
2014. Ukraine/Netherlands. Directed by Sergey Loznitsa. Courtesy of Cinema Guild. 130 min.
Bert Williams: 100 Years in Post-Production
1913. USA. At a challenging time of segregation in the fall of 1913, a virtuoso cast of African American performers led by famed Caribbean American entertainer Bert Williams (1874–1922) gathered in the Bronx to make a feature-length motion picture. After more than an hour of film was shot, the unreleased project was abandoned by its white producers and left forgotten until today. Found in MoMA’s Biograph Studio collection, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage represent the earliest known surviving feature with a cast of black actors. Shot at locations in New York and New Jersey, the comedy centers on Williams’s efforts to win the hand of the local beauty, and boasts among its highlights a two-minute exhibition dance sequence and a cutting-edge display of onscreen affection between its black leads. Additionally, nearly 100 remarkable still images of the interracial production were recovered from within the unedited material, providing evidence of an historic effort by a little-known Harlem theatrical community to gain access to the developing medium of moving pictures.
[Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day]
1913. USA. Produced by Biograph Co. for Klaw and Erlanger. Directors Edwin Middleton, T. Hunter Hayes, Sam Corker Jr. With Bert Williams, Odessa Warren Grey, Walker Thompson, and members of J. Leubrie Hill’s Darktown Follies Company. Silent.
A Most Violent Year
2014. USA. JC Chandor. 125 min.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
2014. USA/Germany/Great Britain. Wes Anderson. 100 min.
2013. Poland/Denmark/France/Great Britain. Pawel Pawlikowski. 82 min.
Queen and Country
2014. Great Britain. John Boorman. 105 min.
2014. USA. Darren Aronofsky. 139 min.
The Imitation Game
2014. Great Britain/USA. Morten Tyldum. 113 min.
Nymphomaniac: Extended Director’s Cut
2013. Denmark/Germany/Great Britain/France. Lars von Trier. 325 min.
2014. USA. Gillian Robespierre. 90 min.
2014. USA. Bennett Miller. 134 min.
2013. Nepal/USA. Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez. 118 min.
2014. USA. Damien Chazelle. 106 min.
2014. USA. Richard Linklater. 165 min.
2013. South Korea/Czech Republic/USA/France. Bong Joon-ho. 126 min.
2014. Canada. Xavier Dolan. 139 min.
2014. USA. Angelina Jolie.
2014. USA. Jean-Marc Vallée. 115 min.
2014. USA. Paul Thomas Anderson. 148 min.
2014. Great Britain. Mike Leigh. 150 min.
The Great Invisible
2014. USA. Margaret Brown. 92 min.
2014. USA. Clint Eastwood. 134 min.