Sunday, February 10, 2013

56 Up

Last night I saw the documentary 56 Up.

Since 1963, director Michael Apted has followed the lives of a group of British school children every seven years.

It was considered a ground-breaking feat in its first few incarnations; now it's nothing short of a miracle that most of the players are still around and willing to participate, and the director (now in his 70s) is as sharp as ever with his questioning.

It's difficult to review this film without spoiling it, but I will say some of the marriages remain in tact; one of the characters who previously dropped out returns to promote his band; many of the subjects are experiencing the sorrows that come with being older (loss of family, etc.) and some are still completely nutters.

I enjoyed this version immensely, just as I've enjoyed all the rest.

I can only hope that 63 Up includes as many updates and insights into this fascinating group of people.


Live Action Short Film Nominees (Oscars 2013)

Yesterday I saw all five of the nominated films in the Live Action Short category. I'll present my reviews in the order they were shown.

DEATH OF A SHADOW (Belgium/France)

This sci/fi head scratcher centers around a purgatory-dwelling soul who died in the war and is now tasked with photographing the shadows of death. These 'moments' he captures are then collected for a ghoulish gallery managed by a more dominant presence, who may or may not be evil. It's all very confusing, but the haunting elements and beautiful cinematography hold the audience attention well.

HENRY (Canada)

Another sad look at the progression of dementia in the elderly—this film focuses on Henry, a man who desperately misses his beloved wife Maria and can't face the fact that she is gone. The character is treated with dignity and the story is bittersweet as we see Henry's memories brought to life through his own confusion.


The strongest of the five, this short brings us into the life of a troubled brother and sister. They're trying to navigate their adult lives, which are littered with drugs and abuse, and find a common purpose in the sister's young daughter Sophia. This is sad, funny, poignant and unfortunately relevant in today's tumultous times.


Two boys maintain a friendship and a sense of normalcy in one of the most dangerous areas of the world. What's remarkable about the film is not the plot (as we've seen this coming-of-age message time and time again), but the fact that the filmmakers shot on location in Kabul with the blessing of an international film alliance.

ASAD (South Africa/USA)

A young Somali boy has the weight of the world on his shoulders, collecting food and saving friends from armed soldiers who will kill them in the blink of an eye. It's a tender story that is made lighter by the clever screenwriting and somewhat unexpected ending.