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Friday, Feb 1, 2013
Emotions and political stances run high and rampant regarding the documentary’s deeply complicated subject matter, but Oscar-nominee Dror Moreh has crafted a startlingly straightforward work virtually devoid of agenda.

For Dror Moreh, the early weeks of 2013 have been a whirlwind of near-unanimous critical praise, prestigious festival screenings, Q&As panels, interviews, “Best Of” lists, and well-deserved awards.

Having recently secured the highest-profile nomination of all—an Academy Award nod for Best Documentary Feature—for The Gatekeepers, his internationally acclaimed look inside the Shin Bet, Israel’s highly secretive internal security service, Moreh has somewhat unwittingly been made de facto spokesman for the many political controversies at film’s forefront. That Moreh was able to convince the six surviving former heads of the Shin Bet—each tasked during his tenure with conceiving of effective counterterrorism strategies, each with his own successes and failures—to speak candidly on camera is something of a miracle.

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Thursday, Jan 31, 2013
I forgot to look at my watch. Forgot there was a world outside of Jackson’s conception of Middle Earth and when the movie arrived to its conclusion -- the first of two cliffhangers -- all I knew is I wanted more.

More than a decade ago, my grandma took me and my two brothers to the first showing of a little movie called The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, as a sixteen year old I found myself completely enamoured by a world I’d only known from the Rankin/Bass animated specials I’d watched growing up. Once the movie reached its wondrous finale, all I knew was that the next installment couldn’t come soon enough. I came out of the theater truly elated, wondering how it was possible for a movie about wizards and hairy humanoids to make me feel like a child.

Like this, Peter Jackson’s thrilling film series captured my imagination for three consecutive years. Time during which I finally listened to an advice my father had been giving me since I was eight and decided to read The Hobbit. As it tends to happen with everyone who reads Tolkien’s novels (I devoured every book he wrote about Middle Earth) I became strangely protective of its characters, like an unofficial park ranger trying to guard an imaginary reserve.

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Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013
Short-listed for the Best Documentary Oscar, acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney's film will be broadcast on HBO February 4th.

Just when you thought you’d heard everything about Catholic priests molesting children, here comes one of the most disturbing documentaries released in recent years. Alex Gibney shares the untold story of the children of St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who for decades were under the sick regime of Father Lawrence Murphy, a cherub-faced man who raped over 200 of them while the Vatican kept it a secret.

Featuring interviews with four men - Gary Smith, Bob Bolger, Terry Cohut and Arthur Budzinski - who were abused by Murphy, the film finds the right amount of scandalous storytelling without ever becoming downright sensationalist (meaning it will infuriate you, but it will also make you want to help these people after watching the movie). The men’s testimony is read by famous actors (including Ethan Hawke and John Slattery) but you don’t really need the celebrity sounds to make out the heartbreak, horror and disappointment in their lives. Their lack of a “voice” is in fact what makes the story’s center all the more horrifying.

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Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013
If the Best Picture race was decided solely by which film made the most money, Lincoln would be your victor. So, who says it doesn’t work that way?

There’s always been a dicey relationship between the Academy’s voting members, its governing body, and the network that airs the ceremony. The former is focused on doing its job—picking the best picture of each year. The latter wants ratings and needs popular films to be nominated to get them. The governing body coordinates between the two, trying to please both.

The mid to late aughts was perhaps the most trying period between the groups. A scourge of unpopular nominees forced the Academy to make one of its most controversial rule changes. In 2005, none of the nominees surpassed $100 million at the box office. 2006 and 2007 only featured one each, and 2008 had two—but no Dark Knight.

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Monday, Jan 28, 2013
With a history of unusual winner choices, is Amour headed to the podium on Oscar night?

A lot has been said about the fact that in 2012—more than any other year before it—the number of submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar defied expectations. A total of 71 films were submitted by countries ranging from Albania to Venezuela. Countries like Kenya entered their movies into the competition for the first time. But before nominations were even announced the race had come down to two movies: Amour and The Intouchables.

One is the Palme d’Or winning-crowning jewel in the career of one of the most respected auteurs in the world, the other is France’s biggest moneymaker of all time. One is a harsh look at old age, often cruel, never dishonest; the other, is a buddy movie that appropriates Hollywood values like white guilt filtered by a lovable “magical Negro” and “based on a true story” conventions. One was directed by the man who first broke into the scene by making a movie about a soulless boy who murders a girl, the other is a feel good hit backed by The Weinstein Company.

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