Making the Case for Susanne Bier

Danish director Susanne Bier allows her work to speak for itself...if you would just take the time to watch and listen.

Interconnected stories, family secrets, dead or absent parents, broken relationships, emotional distress, and people struggling to reconcile the stubbornness of their ideals with the harsh nature of their realities — these are the recurrent themes in the works of Susanne Bier.

Danish auteur Susanne Bier is the greatest female director working today.

There, I said it. And why do I have to qualify my statement by pointing out that she is a female director — why can’t she just be one of the greatest directors working today? Well, I would argue that she is. But female directors often don’t get a fair shake. Let’s be honest. It’s a man’s world out there, especially when it comes to directing and producing films. Also, while female directors are just as capable of honing their own unique styles as their male counterparts are, they often have a harder time expanding their horizons outside of the niche they build for themselves. Hence we have Sofia Coppola seemingly lost inside the dreamy world of privileged princesses, Nicole Holofcener quite pleased sticking to her astute dissections of bi-coastal bourgeois guilt, and glass-ceiling breaker Kathryn Bigelow hellbent on directing almost every film as if it was a personal f-you to her ex-husband James Cameron and all the big boys out there who think women can’t direct from a man’s point of view.

Meanwhile, male contemporaries of Bier’s like Lars Von Trier or Joe Wright create visuals just as experimental as Bier but have consistently applied their signature avant-garde styles to films across genres and outside of any niche (though one could make an argument that lately Von Trier has been trapped inside his own personal hell). Wright’s ability to put his stamp on films as seemingly disparate as Pride & Prejudice and Hanna is something no female director I know of has been able to do (which isn’t to say they can’t).

All that aside, I’ve never met a Bier film I didn’t like…a lot. In many ways she does for family melodramas what Christopher Nolan has done for crime thrillers. In fact, she seems to enjoy repeatedly killing husbands (see plotlines below) with as much relish as Nolan enjoys killing wives.
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The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2009:

Once upon a time…

…in 2008, while the world economy went into a tailspin, Hollywood delved into super-depressing, self-important mode and the Davies Awards asked sourly, “Why So Serious?”

But then the Brothers Coen and Quentin Tarantino looked around with their impish grins and wondered, “Why can’t we be a little serious but have fun, too?”  Meanwhile, The King of the World, James Cameron awoke from a decade long hibernation to deliver us into a fantastic world we had never seen and finally made a film where 3D technology rose above gimmick status.  All the while, his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow masterminded the ultimate coup-d’etat.  Will a woman director finally take home Oscar…for a war film?

But these golden days seemed so far far away back in January…

2009 began ominously. The multiplexes seemed a dark abyss. Continue reading

The Winter of our Discontent

Okay, so 2009 has been a fairly solid and entertaining year for films thus far…but is it just me, or is there very little to get excited about in these last few months?  Last year, 5 of the 10 films to make the top ten list for my annual Davies Awards were released in the final two months of the year.  This year, there’s nothing that has me as excited as I was last year about Doubt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon or Revolutionary Road — films with pedigree, class, all-star casts, interesting stories — you know, the type of stuff Oscar loves.  It seems every piece of Oscar bait was withheld until those last few weeks of December last year (let us not forget The Wrestler as well).    Hollywood spoiled us.  Yet…maybe there will be more of an element of surprise this year, and there will be that little film that comes out of nowhere  — and I’m sorry, folks, but you can’t tell me that films like last year’s Slumdog Millionaire or this year’s Precious came out of nowhere with all that highly manipulative prepackaged positive buzz and carefully platformed release schedules designed to maximize profit.  2009 has been full of surprises — who would’ve thought that Inglourious Basterds or District 9 would’ve been so good — so I’m holding out hope…and here’s my buzz on what films might become those diamonds in the rough.

Lest I remain discontent…here are my most anticipated films for the Winter Season 2009/2010. Continue reading