“In Hollywood, no one knows anything.” – William Goldman

Is Hollywood liberal? The majority opinion held by Americans is most decidedly yes. On the upside, the industry seems to promote diversity, inclusiveness, secular values, and human rights of all genders and colors. But many people are turned off by the downside of liberal media: all the profanity, sexual explicitness, secularism, and violence in the pursuit of more realistic portrayals of the hardships and vulgarities of life. Families find it more difficult than ever to protect their children from such adult content. It’s understandable why one does not need to be a conservative to distrust Hollywood.

The movie industry also glorifies war and state violence, champions American military dominance, and demonizes countries and ethnicities unfriendly to U.S. interests. All those revenge stories, and comic book superheroes who combat evil – these narratives seem much less liberal and more corporate state in their agendas. After all, Hollywood is a fabricated myth. The six major studios produce content in an attempt to capture the largest market share. And these studios are in turn owned by giant media conglomerates whose only objective is to extract the most wealth from the market for Wall Street.

The awards season has become Hollywood’s annual attempt to redeem its guilty conscience for producing the overwhelming number of mindless, manipulative, socially irresponsible films they churn out all year to the multiplexes. And recently the Academy has done a good job in acknowledging some deserving films. Last year a low-budget arthouse drama about the life of a gay black man growing up in the South won best picture. And this year’s nominations again neglect the box-office champions in favor of quality character dramas.

It certainly feels as if there’s a shift happening in the Academy. Just consider this year’s Best Picture nominees: a horror film about race and white privilege in America, an ecological fable about the love between a mute woman and a sea creature, a sensual gay romance in the Italian countryside, the coming of age story of a good-hearted teenage girl written and directed by a woman, a pitch-black romantic comedy about a perverse relationship between a dressmaker and his muse, a fight by newspaper management for a free press against a repressive government, and one woman’s crusade against bigotry and incompetence in law enforcement in her attempt to solve her daughter’s murder.

The awards ceremonies have recently turned into opportunities for celebrities to grandstand for the rights of women, people of color, and for gays. The injustices are voiced as coming from the political right, traditionalists, sexual predators, and Donald Trump. And yet the message they preach can only go so deep. These Hollywood elites are deeply compromised by their willing participation in the corporate propaganda manufactured by the studios. And so the continued protests by privileged celebrities can at times seem shrill and hypocritical – especially among such opulent displays of fashion and jewelry.

Here at the Naro we have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the Oscars. On the one hand the award nominations and media hoopla make for good box-office during the cold winter. Moviegoers who don’t have any interest in movies at any other time of the year, are compelled to go see all of the films nominated for Best Picture.

But all the attention given the major Oscar nominees can suck the air out of the promotion of so many other deserving films. That’s why the Naro chooses to highlight the smaller mostly ignored categories: Best Foreign Language Films, Best Documentary Films, and Best Short Films in three categories. These Oscar nominees will receive a showing at the Naro over the next two months, many in our mid-week series ‘New Non-Fiction Film’ on Wednesdays, ‘World Cinema’ on alternate Wednesdays, ‘Exhibition On Screen’ on Tuesdays, and the Oscar Short Films on Thursdays. Happy moviegoing!

Upcoming Film Events at the Naro (through March 15)

Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation
All five Oscar nominees  in the category of Best Animated Short.

Dear Basketball On the eve of his retirement from basketball, NBA legend Kobe Bryant describes his love for the game over his 20-year career. His inspiring poem, ‘Dear Basketball’ is stunningly drawn to life by veteran animation director Glen Keane and set to the music of ‘Star Wars’ composer John Williams. Country of Origin: U.S.

Garden Party A luxurious villa and its grounds have become home to amorous, hungry and accident-prone frogs and toads. While they enjoy the bounties on offer, including caviar and macaroons, the amphibians uncover the whereabouts of the villa’s owner. Country of Origin: France

Lou The guardian of the lost and found box at an elementary school is Lou, and he tries to teach young bully J.J. that giving to the other kids will make him feel better than stealing from them. Country of Origin: United States

Negative Space Even though Sam’s father is often away from home on business trips, he is able to connect with his son by teaching him how to pack a suitcase. Country of Origin: France

Revolting Rhymes The Wolf from the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” reveals the true and twisted story of his adventures and those of Snow White, Cinderella and Jack, the climber of beanstalks. The film is based on the writings of Roald Dahl. Country of Origin: United Kingdom

The total program runs 83 mins. Shows Thursday, Feb 15 thru Monday, Feb 19.

Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action
All five Oscar nominees  in the category of Best Live Action Short.

Dekalb Elementary Steven, a mentally unstable twenty something, enters an elementary school with a semi-automatic rifle and takes the school receptionist as hostage. Country of Origin: U.S.

The Eleven O’Clock A psychiatrist attempts to help his delusional patient are complicated by the fact that the patient believes himself to be the doctor. With each trying to out-analyze the other, their session spirals out of control. Country of Origin: Australia

My Nephew Emmett In 1955 in Mississippi, two white men invade the home of Mose Wright, an African-American preacher, to abduct his 14-year-old nephew, Emmett Till, who is visiting from Chicago. He has been accused of whistling at a white woman, and Mose knows that his fate will be sealed if the men succeed in taking him. Country of Origin: U.S.

The Silent Child A profoundly deaf four-year-old, is the youngest child in a British family who are all hearing. Unable to communicate but about to start school, she is assigned a social worker who teaches her sign language. But her skeptical parents are reluctant to be involved. Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Watu Wote/All of Us A Christian living in Kenya, boards a chartered bus to visit a relative and is surrounded by Muslim passengers. The bus is stopped by the violent terrorist group Al-Shabaab, whose members demand that the Muslims identify all of the Christian passengers. Country of Origin: Germany, Kenya

The total program runs 99 mins. Shows Thursday, Feb 22

Oscar Nominated Short Films: Documentary
All five Oscar nominees  in the category of Best Documentary Short. All selected films were produced in the U.S.

Traffic Stop A 26-year-old African-American elementary school teacher named Breaion King was pulled over by a white police officer for a routine traffic stop. The incident escalated into a violent arrest, but also resulted in a necessary conversation about race in America.

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 Artist Mindy Alper has spent most of her life combating severe depression and anxiety. Drawing and sculpture have given her a creative outlet for her fears and mental battles.

Edith & Eddie 96-year-old Edith Hill and 95-year-old Eddie Harrison are newlyweds, unconcerned that one is African American and the other is white. The couple is torn apart, however, when Edith is forced by her family to leave her Virginia home and move to Florida.

Heroin(e) Huntington, West Virginia is known as the overdose capital of America. Three women — a fire chief, a drug court judge and the head of an outreach ministry — are attempting to take back their community by using compassion to break the cycle of despair and addiction.

Knife Skills The Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland is considered one of the best French restaurants in America. The restaurant staff are men and women recently released from prison – and they have only six weeks to learn their culinary skills.

The total program runs three hours and is divided into two parts with an intermission. Shows Thursday, March 1.

The fifth season of ‘Exhibition On Screen’ opens with an immersive journey into the life and art of Venice’s famous 18th century view-painter, Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. The film offers the chance to see the artist’s works throughout Venice as well as his collections in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Along the way, the viewer is treated to the beauty of the canals and architecture of Venice. Presented with Chrysler Museum. Shows Tues, Feb 20.

Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film from Lebanon. In today’s Beirut, a civil dispute blown out of proportion finds Tony, a Lebanese Christian nationalist and an auto mechanic, and Yasser, a Palestinian refugee and building foreman, facing off in court. The growing media circus surrounding the case reopens deep historical and political wounds of a deeply divided Lebanon. Toni and Yasser are compelled to reconsider their lives and prejudices. In English and Arabic with subtitles. Shows Wed, Feb 21.

The film follows young Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, one of architecture’s biggest stars, during the course of five years, while he struggles to finish his biggest project so far. We are let into Bjarke’s creative processes as well as the endless compromises that his work entails, and we are on the side when his personal life starts putting pressure on him, too. Bjarke Ingels’ company Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been given the task of designing and building one of the skyscrapers that will replace the Twin Towers in Manhattan. Presented with AIA of Hampton Roads. Shows Tues, Feb 27.

The new Michael Haneke film, whose last film Amour was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, is set in northern France, where the Laurents are a clan to be reckoned with. The international ensemble cast includes Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant. In French with subtitles. Shows Wed, Feb 28.

Oscar nominee for Best Documentary. One of the leading filmmakers of the French New Wave, 89-year old Agnes Varda, and acclaimed 33 year-old French photographer and muralist JR teamed up to co-direct this enchanting documentary/road movie. They travel around the villages of France in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories and producing epic-size portraits of them, that they post on the side of barns, warehouses,and trains. Shows Tues, March 6.

The gruesome murders of a wealthy Virginia couple, Nancy and Derek Haysom created a media sensation in 1985. The murder conviction of their daughter Elizabeth and her German boyfriend Jens Soering resulted in their having spent over 30 years behind bars. Even though new forensic evidence has now cast doubt on Soering’s conviction, he’s been denied parole over the years more than a dozen times. Shows Wed, March 7.
Bill Sizemore, retired Va Pilot journalist and author of the new book  ‘A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?’ will introduce the film and answer questions in a post-film discussion.

Golden Globe Winner for Best Foreign Film. Out of nowhere, Katja’s (Diane Kruger who won Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival) life falls apart when her husband Nuri and little son Rocco are killed in a bomb attack. Her friends and family try to give her the support she needs, and Katja somehow manages to make it through the funeral. But the mind numbing search for the perpetrators and reasons behind the senseless killing complicate Katja’s painful mourning, opening wounds and doubts. Directed by Faith Akin. In German with subtitles. Shows Wed, March 14.

Based on his own published memoir, this is the story of Andrea Bocelli from his early life growing up in Tuscany, Italy. He loses his sight by the age of twelve due to glaucoma but overcomes adversity to become the world-renowned opera singer. Directed by Academy Award nominee Michael Radford (Il Postino), the film stars Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones), Luisa Ranieri, Jordi Mollà, and the acclaimed Antonio Banderas as Bocelli’s maestro. With a film appearance by the real Andrea Bocelli. In English and Italian with subtitles. Playdate to be announced.