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December Movies at Saigon's Alternative Film Venues

The awards season has officially started and for once, we welcome the razzle-dazzle that will come in the next three months, after a very dull summer, which was rescued only by independent cinema. The nominations for the Spirit Award, British Independent Awards and the European Awards are out and this week, Gotham handed out its own prizes. In December, Saigon’s alternative film venues will screen many films that are or will be part of the awards season frenzy, which will conclude with the Oscars at the end of February.

December 2 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Tangerine (USA, 2015)

Shot entirely on an Apple iPhone 5s (with an app called Filmic Pro), Tangerine launched at Sundance and is now in competition at the Independent Spirit Awards (for Best Film and Best Actress). This low-budget comedy stunned with its cinematic beauty and inventiveness as well as for its bombastic characters. Set on Christmas Eve in the dodgy neighbourhood of West Hollywood (Los Angeles), the story revolves around the friendship of two transgender sex workers – Alexandra and Sin-Dee – over the period of one night. Director Sean Baker is more interested in the life of marginalised communities than in gender issues and presents his subject with comic outrageousness and breathtaking rawness.

 

December 3 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Zoolander (USA, 2001)

“There is more to life than just being really, really, really good looking,” says Derek Zoolander after his whole world crashes down when he loses, for the first time, the male model award of the year to Hansel (Owen Wilson). Zoolander is determined to find the meaning of life, but his total detachment from the real world leads him to be manipulated by evil fashion guru Mugatu (Will Ferrell) in a murderous plot against the prime minister of Malaysia. Ben Stiller, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the titular role, makes fun of the superficial world of fashion with depth and pure silliness. Unlike Adam Sandler’s tired comedies, Stiller’s comedic chops have allowed him to make fun of the absurd world of stardom (remember his satire against Hollywood actors in Tropic Thunder?) in an intelligent and populistic way. Zoolander, Hansel and company will reunite again in Zoolander 2 in 2016.

 

December 9 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Listen to Me Marlon (USA, 2015)

Marlon Brando on Marlon Brando. Throughout his life, the great American actor recorded a vast amount of personal audio tapes, self-hypnosis sessions and business meetings. Like a sci-fi film, Stevan Riley’s documentary opens with a digital recreation of Brando’s face – he himself "mapped" his face digitally years before – and that unmistakable voice comes back booming from the dead. Riley juxtaposes selected audio sessions with archival footage, film reels and still images from the tumultuous and tragic life of Brando. From his theatrical breakthrough in A Streetcar Named Desire, his thoughts on acting, his mentor Stella Adler, his political views to his family life, Listen to Me Marlon is the ultimate intimate portrayal of a great but complicated artist that changed the art of acting forever.

Variety just published the Oscar nominations for Best Documentary and Listen to Me Marlon happens to be under consideration for the prestigious award.

 

December 10 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Mr. Nobody (Belgium/Canada/France/Germany, 2009)

Jared Leto is Nemo, a 118-year-old man and the last mortal human living in the year 2092. The first English-language film by Belgian director Jaco van Dormael, Mr. Nobody is an ambitious psychological and existential sci-fi film that explores the human memory and the domino effect that an individual’s life choices may create. The fragmented narration plays out like a multi-storyline film divided in three central love stories. The contradictory recollections from Nemo’s life surface during his hypnosis session with Dr. Feldheim who wants to understand how the memory of a mortal person works. Despite the sleek and beautiful production sets, Mr. Nobody is ultimately a story that touches the heart with no room for rationality.

 

December 16 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Youth (Italy/France/UK/Switzerland, 2015)

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel lead the first film by Paolo Sorrentino after his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty.  In Youth, Sorrentino abandons his recurrent political themes and cynical views on life for a story about gained wisdom, memory and lost opportunities. While Sorrentino’s ability to turn anything into a poetic and stylistic feast is not news to anyone that has watched his previous work, Caine and Keitel’s performances as two long-time best friends on vacation in the Alps that make the story relatable and emotional. Caine and Keitel capture the comedy, the surrealism and the morality of an experienced life.

 

December 17 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Black Mass (USA, 2015)

Black Mass sees a glorious return for Johnny Depp with a penetrating and chilling performance as real-life gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger. Bulger controlled Boston in the 70s and 80s as the boss of the Winter Hill Gang. Black Mass does something that almost no other gangster film does: it focuses on the relationship between institutional power and organised crime and the role that government agencies as well as politicians have in supporting and allowing organise crime to thrive.

 

December 23 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Victoria (Germany, 2015)

Run Lola Run meets The Russian Ark in this heist thriller by actor-turned-director Sebastian Schipper (Run Lola Run, The 11th Hour). Shot in a single take over two hours in more than 20 locations, Victoria is more than a stylistic and technical feat. Its heart and soul comes from the fearless and selfless performance of Laia Costa in the titular role. Victoria is a twenty-something Spanish woman who has recently relocated to Berlin where she tries to make up for lost time after her childhood dream was abruptly shattered.

She finds the wilderness that she is craving in the underground world of the German capital where she meets a group of shifty guys who lead her to be involved in a heist. Nominated for Best film, Best director and Best actress at the European Film Awards, Victoria is an artistic gem that reminds us all that cinema is the only truly collaborative art form: the actors improvised almost all the dialogues, cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen provided the atmosphere and Schipper’s direction pulled off a fluid and gripping story.

 

December 24 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

The Martian (USA, 2015)

Matt Damon is astronaut Mark Watney on a mission to Mars in the latest film by Ridley Scott. Watney is stranded on the Red Planet after his crew believes him dead and are forced to quickly abandon their mission due to a dangerous windstorm. Unlike in Blade Runner and Alien, Scott takes an entertaining and optimistic approach in this survival-adventure sci-fi flick that sees Damon’s character – an expert botanist – use all his strength and inventiveness to find sustenance on the red planet. Although The Martian has an A-list cast – Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Danny Glover, among the others – it is a one-man show for Damon who manages to pull off the role of believable hero by creating a relatable but never dull persona.  

 

December 30 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Mistress America (USA, 2015)

Cinema has found its 21st century golden couple in Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). The multi-talented couple has written, directed, produced and starred (Gerwig) in Mistress America (their second collaboration): a funny portrayal of New York creatives.

The story revolves around two female characters  Tracy (Lola Kirke) and Brooke (Gerwig). Tracy is a young college student with a strong desire to become a writer but who lacks the life experience to compose anything shockingly original; Brooke is an older woman whose bursting creativity has led to numerous unfinished endeavours. Mistress America is filled with witty dialogues and comically grotesque encounters to highlight our society’s desperate infatuation with success and what it means to be a creative individual in one of the most modern and fast-paced cities in the world. 

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