The Danish Oscar Contenders

Thursday September 3rd, 2015 The Danish Film Institute announced which three films will compete to be the official Danish Foreign Oscar contender for 2015. That's the award show that take place February 28th, 2016.

And today they made their final choice.

I thought it might be fun to look at the options these films were picked from.


To compete in the Oscar race in the foreign film category the following rules must be observed:

A) The film must be shown to the public between October 1st 2014, and September 30th 2015.
B) It must not be in English (sorry Trier)
C) It must not have been shown on TV first.

Apparently there are no rules that state the film must be in the local language, just that it must not be in English. Kind of weird if you ask me.


26 feature films and 5 documentaries were eligible.

We can discard a few titles up front. Films aimed at children or even families won't stand a chance. Neither will colossal box office failures or critically ravaged films. So immediately we can get rid of these options:

The kid flicks

  • Albert
  • Antboy 2: Den Røde Furies hævn
  • Dannys dommedag
  • Familien Jul
  • Krummerne - Alt på spil
  • Min søsters børn og guldgraverne
  • Skammerens datter

Unseen or just hated

  • Comeback
  • Encounters
  • I dine hænder
  • Jens Munk NordvestXpeditionen
  • Rosita

The mainstream fodder

  • Fasandræberne
  • Klovn forever

The Documentaries

These are not completely without a chance, on paper, but realistically speaking documentaries are rarely picked for the foreign Oscar race, and they need a certain cachet to break that 'rule'.

  • Cirkusdynastiet
  • Ekstrabladet: Uden for Citat
  • Fassbinder: At elske uden at kræve
  • Skyggen af en helt


So, after getting rid of these weak contenders, we're left with 13 movies, which could conceivably be picked as an official Danish foreign Oscar entry.

Note: A film needs to sell more than 200.000 tickets to be considered a hit. Preferably more than 300.000 to be called a 'blockbuster'. Yes, we're a small country. Get over it.

Stille hjerte
Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror) directs this drama about a mother who plans to kill herself before she succumbs to an incurable disease. Her family gathers around her for an emotional goodbye during a weekend. A hit with critics and audiences. Was expected to be one of the three shortlisted films.

Tickets sold: 258.868

All inclusive
Two daughters take their mother to Malta to celebrate her 60th birthday, in an effort to cheer her up after her husband walks out on her. Lots of drama and sexy times ensues. Directed by insufferable 'comic' Hella Joof.

Tickets sold: 307.207

En chance til
Oscar-winning director Susanne Bier (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit) returns to her roots, but squanders home-field advantage with this tame drama about a cop who steals a baby from a junkie couple, to raise it as his own with his wife.

Tickets sold: 215.873

Based on the true story about Eik Skaløe, lead singer of the single-album acid rockband Steppeulvene, who in 1962 meets the girl of his dreams, only to commit suicide 6 years later at the age of 25. Ole Christian Madsen (Flammen & Citronen) directs. The movie was met with sympathy from critics, but largely ignored by moviegoers.

Tickets sold: 39.430

Mennesker bliver spist
National treasure, entertainer, writer, debater Erik Clausen directs and stars in this well-received dramady about a man who suffers from Alzheimer, and how his family suddenly realize how special he is, and how much they love him.

Tickets sold: 237.429

9. april
All-out good guy Roni Ezra (yes, I know him in real life) directs this straightforward war movie, about an often ignored part of world war II: The small group of Danish solders who took a stand when the Germans invaded. Unfortunately they didn't get the memo about us not putting up a fight. Largely well-received, though the general consensus was that it's not a terribly deep film. Would probably have done very well, if submitted to the Oscars.

Tickets sold: 241.391

The true story of driven investigative reporter Poul Brink and his search for the truth in the case of the 1968 crash of an American plane carrying nuclear bombs at the Thule base in Greenland. The film doesn't really work, but the story is fascinating. Audiences stayed away in droves.

Tickets sold: 44.718

Lang historie kort
The story about a group of thirty-something friends, their lives and especially their love lives, told in 8 chapters, each taking place during a party. Well-received by critics.

Tickets sold: 136.609

A historic drama about a young man's fight against slavery in 1836 on the Gold Cost of Africa. A gorgeous movie, but critics were divided about the quality of the story and the acting. One called it nature-porn.

Tickets sold: 72.705

Sommeren '92
Another true story, this one concerns the fairytale story of the Danish national soccer team who surprised everyone and won the European championship in 1992. It's also the story about the coach Richard Møller Nielsen and his controversial methods. Largely well-received and could have been an intersting choice for an Oscar bid, if anyone in the States cared about soccer.

Ticket sold: 197.050 (and counting)


Finally we've made it to the top, and the three movies shortlisted by The Danish Film Institute. They are:

Mænd og høns
Writer and director Anders Thomas Jensen created this so-called comedy about grotesque, ugly people doing stupid things. The cream of the crop of Danish actors dirty themselves up to play a group of brothers, and then not much happens. It's unclear what director Jensen is trying to accomplish, most of all to himself, all I know is that it doesn't work. At all. Seems odd that this distinctly un-Danish film should be picked to represent the country.

Tickets sold: 357.850

The Look of Silence
A documentary from American Joshua Oppenheimer, who also directed the morally dubious The Act of Killing, and once again the subject is Indonesia. I'm not sure how this counts as a Danish film by any stretch of the imagination, but there we are.

Tickets sold: 1.368

From director Tobias Lindholm, who also did the dull Kapringen, comes this story about the controversial war in Afghanistan, and one man caught up in its horrors, played by Pilou Asbæk. The subject matter alone would make this the ideal choice for an Oscar bid, not to mention the the fact that both foreign and domestic critics seem to love it.

Tickets sold: 45.829 (just released)


And the final choice is.... Krigen! Probably the movie with the best chance, but realistically speaking, we're not expecting Denmark to get a nomination this year, when the final five are annuounced. Oh Well....


Wait, This Isn't Out on Blu-ray? (part I)


You know the feeling, right?

You walk over to your Blu-ray shelf to pull down that classic movie you love so much. Then you pause, it dawns on you that it's not going to be there. You never actually bought it. Oh sure you have the DVD, probably the LaserDisc too, and maybe even the VHS tucked away in the basement somewhere, but you don't have the shiny new high-def transferred Blu-ray.

And then you realize the terrible truth: That's because it's not out yet!

This is a list of movies I desperately want on Blu-ray.

No reason to go into a long speech about why, I just want them. Now. No questions asked.



The Abyss (1989)
- Can you believe the DVD I have isn't even in anamorphic widescreen?!

Salute of the Jugger (1989)
- No, I mean a proper version, not the edited AND pan/scanned one released in Scandinavia.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Pretty in Pink (1986)
- It's John Hughes! What are you doing?! Get this out on disc!

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
- It's effing John Hughes! What the eff are you doing?! Get this out on effing disc!

Dragonslayer (1981)

Stakeout (1987)

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)

Little Darlings (1980)
- It's Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol being slutty! Come on!

The Thing (1951)

Year of the Dragon (1985)

Great Expectations (1998)
- Screw the Lean version, THIS is the one I want!

Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Nobody's Fool (1994)
- Paul Newman AND Jessica Tandy died making this (well, not really) and you can't give this a proper release? Come on!

Last Night (1999)

Spartan (2004)

Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

The Gate (1987)
- As a general rule ALL 80's movies should be out on Blu-ray.

The Golden Child (1986)

Alien Nation (1988)
- The aliens get drunk on sour milk! Come on!

Solar Crisis (1990)
- Yeah, I know it's shit, but it's sci-fi, and I want it!



Oh, and you thought that was it? Noooooo! How about these?

The Gate II, Multiplicity, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Fright Night II, Remember the Daze, Crossroads, What a Girl Wants, Life as a House, Lost & Delirious, Threesome, Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Spice World, Dancing at the Blue Iguana, General’s Daughter, A Better Way to Die, Wind Chill and Wisegirls.

I want every single one of these, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Okay, maybe Spice World a little bit. Actually no, I love it.


Now, I don't claim to be perfect (not true, I claim that all the time), but on the off chance that any of these are available anywhere, PLEASE email me!

Oh, and as you'll notice I've called this part I, because you know there's going to be a part II, right? Those freakin' guys just won't release the blu-rays I want.



Review: Big Sky (2015)

The story sounds simple, and infinitely cool.

Teenage girl Hazel (Bella Thorne) suffers from a crippling case of agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces. She's scheduled to visit a treatment facility, but on a normal day she can barely get out of her room, much less down the stairs and into a car. Her frustrated mother (Kyra Sedgwick), however, has managed to arrange for a transport, where Hazel can lie in the back, in a closed box, so she can get where she's going without having another seizure. Her mother comes along for the ride, as well as a few other patients. Along the way there's an accident. Hazel is fine, but everybody else is killed, and her mother is mortally wounded. There are no cell phones in the car, the road they traveled is isolated, so no one is going to come by and help them, leaving Hazel in a crushingly simple, yet impossible situation: If she wants her mother to survive she'll have to venture into the open dessert herself to get help.

Like I said: A simple and cool story. It's not like the goal of the plot isn't obvious - Hazel must confront her demons and overcome them - but it's the kind of story where I could enjoy the ride, knowing full well what the destination is going to be. I could, if the film delivers on the promise, of course.

There are two big weak links in Big Sky.

The first one is Bella Thorne. This is the kind of role a serious actor would do a ton of research for, to be absolutely sure they had the manic behavior of an agoraphobe down to a T. Thorne doesn't look like she did any research. She either hides behind her hair, or groans like a teenage girl who has just been told she must be home by 9. When she attempts to show Hazel struggling with her sickness she sounds like she's trying to parallel-park a car for the first time ("I can DO this!"), rather than dealing with serious mental issues.

The second big problem is the script. The story is poorly told and manages to make a mess of a crystal clear, simple premise in a spectacular way. The story is padded with needless storylines, some of which are inexplicably dropped along the way, never to be referred to again. Several solid plot lines remain unexplored, while other hastily introduced ones are allowed to take over the film.

For example: We've got some bad guys with a complicated plan, one of them is a completely retarded (yes actually retarded) young man, who can't be left alone for a second before he shoots somebody or tries to rape them, and yet for some reason the other bad guy (Frank Grillo, putting in a decent performance) constantly leaves him alone to create more problems. I was left yelling at the screen in frustration at times. Meanwhile Hazels mother is bleeding out in the car, but don't worry, her situation will remain unchanged for most of the film. And by the way, how about giving Hazel some sort of deadline ("you gotta get back before the sun goes down"), or at least a sense that the mother's situation is worsening? Nope. She just sits there and bleeds like a stuck pig. Worse yet, she literally spends hours pointing a gun at a bad guy who's afraid to move. Just pointing a gun at him. And he doesn't move. And she doesn't move. She just points that gun.

When the film gets to the big finale we're left with a lackluster shootout that plays out between characters we've barely met, and largely off screen. I think the filmmakers think they've shown us some sort of emotional journey, where Hazel has confronted her demons, and come out on the other side. In actuality Hazel's journey consists of her stumbling through the dessert, stuffing herself with pills, talking to a cactus and getting saved by strangers. We're not sure how long time she's walked or how far she's gone. At one point we're told Hazel is several miles away from her starting point, but if you had asked me, I would have guessed she had barely moved a quarter of a mile, and that she could still see the car, but I guess not. We never get the sense that Hazel faces her problems and overcomes them, she just stumbles along, a slave to the whim of other characters and her pills. The whole idea was that the crisis Hazel is facing would shake her up and push her forward, but honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if she was back in her room the next day, afraid to go out again. And then what's the point of the whole thing, right?

I love discovering little gems - barely released films that no one has heard of - and championing them. I really wish Big Sky had been one such film. Unfortunately it's not. Rather, it's one of those films where it's obvious why it was dumped on VOD platforms with little or no fanfare. It just doesn't deserve any better.