2014 Film, Documentary, Film, Oscars, Oscars14

The Salt of the Earth (What is grief? What is resilience?)


When events of uncaring disconnection (from fellow human beings, from history) happen—when people pull others into their pain, insecurities, and fear, as I believe is the case most of the time—the consequences turn into the greatest crises we see—terrorism, unjust laws and systematic practices, murder, genocide, everyday hatred, etc. It is hard for me to continue to believe in the “grieving process” or “human resilience.” And it makes me especially uncomfortable to hear people praise victims for their “dignity” and “grace” in handling injustice. People would not have to grieve or be resilient in these cases if we made our world better and did not waste our human potential—not our potential to build buildings or bridges or “win” a war—but our potential to treat each other humanely and with empathy and actually learn from history. But I guess a historian in a podcast I recently listened to was right—there is no such thing as learning from history. We learn the wrong things from history. But—still—I believe we can learn.

Sebastião Salgado spent decades depicting, in exquisite black-and-white photographs, horrific human events humans have perpetuated against other humans. He finally had to turn away from war, genocide, starvation, famine, and unspeakable horrors lived. After covering the Rwandan genocide, Salgado lost faith in humanity; his psyche was done. He says, “We are a ferocious animal. We humans are terrible animals. Our history is a history of wars. It’s an endless story, a tale of madness.” He’d reached the “maximum,” as he explains, because photography makes the photographer “part of the subject.” It was nature that rejuvenated him. He captures the beauty of the natural world (and how it does replenish itself) with the message that we must preserve it. This work became Genesis. In this interview with Benedikt Taschen, Taschen expresses that it is his hope that the book will “make a significant contribution to the awareness about the world we live in.”

The Salt of the Earth (2014 Academy Award® nominee, Best Documentary Feature, directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado) shows us that that—contributing “awareness about the world we live in”—is exactly what Sebastião Salgado has always done. With his remarkable spirit as an economist turned photographer, he shows us the land, the water, and the human condition in intimate ways that should bring us closer to one another. I know it made me feel more connected. This stunning documentary reflects Salgado’s stunning life’s work.


Sebastião Salgado | Click photo for Amazonas images

2014 Film, Film, Oscars, Oscars14

Favorite Films of 2014 (Ranked) – And Oscar Predictions

My Favorite Films of 2014

1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
2. Boyhood
3. Whiplash
4. Gone Girl
5. Selma
6. The Theory of Everything
7. The Immigrant
8. Obvious Child
The Case Against 8
Life Itself
9. LockeMy 2014 Top 10
10. A Most Violent Year
11. The Grand Budapest Hotel
12. Listen Up Philip
13. The One I Love
14. Wild
15. American Sniper
16. Ida
17. Bicycling with Molière
18. The Way He Looks
19. Into The Woods
20. My Old Lady
21. Two Days, One Night
22. Nightcrawler
23. Belle
24. Love is Strange
25. Get On Up
26. The Lunchbox
27. The Fault in Our Stars
28. The Imitation Game
29. Lilting
30. Foxcatcher
31. Interstellar
32. Annie
33. Black or White
34. The Lego Movie
35. Still Alice
36. The Homesman
37. Big Eyes
38. Enemy
39. Words and Pictures
40. The Face of Love
41. Endless Love
42. Rosewater
43. Unbroken
44. Frank vs. God
45. Before I Go to Sleep

Nominees are ranked by my preference.

Actress in a Leading Role

  1. Julianne Moore
  2. Rosamund Pike
  3. Marion Cotillard
  4. Felicity Jones
  5. Reese Witherspoon

Will Win: Julianne Moore
Should Win: Julianne Moore

Actor in a Leading Rule

  1. Michael Keaton
  2. Eddie Redmayne
  3. Bradley Cooper
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch
  5. Steve Carell

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (I have doubts!–I want to be wrong here!)
Should Win: Michael Keaton

Actor in a Supporting Role

1. J.K. Simmons
2. Edward Norton
3. Ethan Hawke
4. Mark Ruffalo

Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Actress in a Supporting Role

  1. Patricia Arquette
  2. Emma Stone
  3. Keira Knightley
  4. Meryl Streep
  5. Laura Dern

Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Should Win: Patricia Arquette

Best Picture of the Year 

  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (1)
  2. Boyhood (2)
  3. Whiplash (3)
  4. Selma (5)
  5. The Theory of Everything (6)
  6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (11)
  7. American Sniper (15)
  8. The Imitation Game (28)

Will Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Should Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Could Win: Boyhood