Tag Archives: The Academy Awards

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

I went into Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom knowing very little about the conflict it describes. Maybe that was a good thing, because today at lunch I got an earful from my conspiracy theorist cousin about what a bunch of propaganda the film is. I don’t know if that’s true, but regardless of the facts about the protests of 2013-2014, director Evgeny Afineevsky has crafted a powerful story about a people standing up to injustice and paying a steep price for change.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for FreedomThe film, nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary this year, is an insider’s view of the events that led to the forced resignation of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

In late 2013, as a deadline approached for Ukraine’s joining of the European Union, young people gathered in the city center of Kyiv to mark the moment and ensure that it actually took place. Yanukovych was well known for his desire to align with Russia, and as the deadline came and went without a signing of the paperwork, Yanukovych moved towards the feared partnership with Putin, triggering non-violent yet vocal protest that, over a 3 month period, escalated to the point of bloodshed, killing 125 protesters, injuring hundreds more and forcing Yanukovych to flee the country in the middle of the night to seek asylum in Russia.

Afineevsky’s footage takes us into the middle of the protester’s makeshift camp and acquaints us with many of the principal figures who marched and died during that momentous three month period.

The only talking head interviews are with the protestors themselves who recount their experiences and emotions as we see the images of what they describe. What started as primarily a movement of the young soon mushroomed and pulled in older generations – doctors, lawyers, bankers and even the military who were afraid of returning to the old Soviet ways.

Even after the government employed violent tactics that escalated over time, the movement only grew until it reached a point-of-no-return as the participants described the final bloody encounter with government forces.

Having sat through many documentaries covering unrest in decades past, it’s still strange for me to see images of people decked out in skinny jeans, hipster beards and contemporary clothing in a story as old as time itself. But as long as governments ignore the wishes of the people they represent, we’ll continue to see images like the ones captured in this powerful documentary.

It’s a one-sided telling of this story, for sure, that paints the protestors as freedom fighters, innocents and crusaders for a better tomorrow, and without knowing any of the opposing sides to this story, I walked away from this movie moved to the point of tears at the bravery and dedication of those who fought and died, as well as those who fought and have to carry on.

It’s Oscar season!

On a day that included the sad news of the passing of actor Alan Rickman (he died of cancer at 69, just three days after David Bowie died of cancer at 69), the Oscar season kicked off with the early morning announcement of this year’s nominees.

I’ve long said that the Oscars are my Super Bowl, and as much as I love football, I love the Oscars even more.

My plan for this year is to see all the movies in my favorite categories, write about them here and then make my picks for the big night, February 28, when Chris Rock will no doubt give Whitey a lot of shit for ignoring a lot of good work from African American artists.

That said, here’s my homework assignment for the coming weeks:

Best Picture
• The Big Short
• Bridge of Spies
• Brooklyn
• Mad Max: Fury Road
• The Martian
• The Revenant
• Room
• Spotlight

Best Director
• Lenny Abrahamson | Room
• Alejandro Iñàrritu | The Revenant
• Adam McKay | The Big Short
• Tom McCarthy | Spotlight
• George Miller | Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Actor in a Leading Role
• Bryan Cranston | Trumbo
• Matt Damon | The Martian
• Leonardo DiCaprio | The Revenant
• Michael Fassbender | Steve Jobs
• Eddie Redmayne | The Danish Girl

Best Actress in a Leading Role
• Cate Blanchett | Carol
• Brie Larson | Room
• Jennifer Lawrence | Joy
• Charlotte Rampling | 45 Years
• Saoirse Ronan | Brooklyn

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
• Christian Bale | The Big Short
• Tom Hardy | The Revenant
• Mark Ruffalo | Spotlight
• Mark Rylance | Bridge of Spies
• Sylvester Stallone | Creed

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
• Jennifer Jason Leigh | The Hateful Eight
• Rooney Mara | Carol
• Rachel McAdams | Spotlight
• Alicia Vikander | The Danish Girl
• Kate Winslet | Steve Jobs

Best Foreign Language Film
• Embrace of the Serpent | Colombia
• Mustang | France
• Son of Saul | Hungary
• Theeb | Jordan
• A War | Denmark

Best Documentary Feature
• Amy
• Cartel Land
• The Look of Silence
• What Happened, Miss Simone?
• Winter on Fire