January 6, 2012

‘Pina’ Sets New Standard for 3-D Dance Filming

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(WOMENSENEWS)--As the Jan. 13 announcement of the Oscars nominees looms, moviegoers are now in that annual thrall of awards campaigns.

For the record, my top-10 list, in alphabetical order: "The Adventures of Tintin," "The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Guard," "Le Havre," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Meek's Cutoff," "Midnight in Paris," "Oranges and Sunshine" and "Win Win."

But don't spend all your time herding to theaters for last-minute looks at films on critics' top-10 lists.

If you missed the brief December run of "Pina," Wim Wenders' wonderful biodoc about the famous and beloved German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, be sure to see it when it starts rolling out across the country this month.

With dance sequences shot in 3-D, Wenders sets new standards for the use of this kind of camera work in documentary and dance films. "Pina" is best seen in 3-D, but also a treat if your nearest theater presents it only in 2-D. The film is as extraordinary as was Bausch, its subject, who died suddenly--five days after her cancer diagnosis--in 2009, while she and Wenders were in the pre-production phase for a documentary about her work.

With encouragement from members of her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Wenders proceeded to turn the film into a beautiful and poignant tribute that interweaves dance performances--some on stage, others in outdoor environments--with commentaries by Bausch's colleagues and rare archival footage of Bausch, herself.

Recommended Flicks

I have three other recommendations, which open Jan. 20.

"Carol Channing: Larger Than Life" is Dori Berinstein's fine documentary tribute to the actress best known for originating the roles of Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and Dolly in "Hello Dolly" on Broadway. The film is filled with vivacious storytelling by Channing, now in her 90s, about her career highlights and the fascinating people who visited her dressing room in bygone years. Channing's a treasure and Berinstein mines her memories well.

Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire" stars mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano as a black ops super soldier who's out for revenge after she was betrayed during a mission. Kick ass fantasy, Soderbergh style, with a new female action star. If you crave that sort of adventure, take this trip.

Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Volumnia in Ralph Fiennes' contemporary cinematic production of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" is reason enough to see the film. But you also get Jessica Chastain as Virgilia. Both actresses are attracting Oscar buzz.

Here are a few more for your watch list:

In "The Devil Inside," an Italian psychological thriller, a woman subjects herself to exorcisms as a way of discovering what happened to her mother, who allegedly went mad after she killed three people during her own exorcism. A well-made, scary escapade for horror-genre fans. It opens today.

"Miss Bala," Mexico's submission for Oscar consideration, opens Jan. 12. It's Gerardo Naranjo's gritty crime drama about a young beauty queen contestant trapped within the machinations of the Mexican mob. It's gripping entertainment with an edgy perspective on the beauty contest scene.

Three Openings on Jan. 13

Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton and Keke Palmer light up the screen in "Joyful Noise," a rousing musical about competing choir members who have different strategies for winning the national choir competition. Grand spectacle, good performances and great music.

In "Sing Your Song," filmmaker Susanne Rostock documents the life, career and political activism of the great Harry Belafonte, who continues, at age 90-something, to rock the establishment with his take on social issues. Belafonte's power and longevity, so aptly illustrated in the film, is inspiring. Rock on!

With significant Oscar buzz for director/writer Lynne Ramsey and star Tilda Swinton, "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is a deeply disturbing narrative drama about an inexplicably bad kid and the havoc he causes in his family and their community.

On Jan. 18, documentarian Frederick Wiseman's "Crazy Horse" rides into theaters. The film is an insightful and respectful look behind the scenes at the legendary Paris nightclub that features females dancing in the nude.

On Jan. 20, "Declaration of War" opens. It's a heart wrenching French film about a young couple coping with their toddler's cancer diagnosis. Based on their own true story, director Valerie Donzelli and writer Jeremie Elkaim also star in this poignant, inspiring drama.

Also opening Jan. 20 is "One for the Money." Directed by Julie Anne Robinson, it's written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius and is based on the novel by Janet Evanovich. All in all, it's a female-centered crime comedy in which Katherine Heigl stars as the newly divorced Stephanie Plum, who gets a job at her cousin's bail bond business and winds up on the trail of an ex-beau. Cute and mindless.

I must also highly recommend something worth watching from the comfort of your own couch. Connie Field's remarkable "Have You Heard From Johannesburg" airs on PBS Independent Lens throughout January. This series of six films chronicling South Africa's long, hard battle for equality and social justice is a must-see masterpiece and a great kick off for 2012 movie watching.

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In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com (http://documentaries.About.com ) and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (http://www.AWFJ.org ), a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the Broadcast Journalists Association.

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Alliance of Women Film Journalists
http://www.awfj.org

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