Bryan Singer-Tom Cruise collaboration ‘Valkyrie’ receives ‘muted praise’ from German critics
Directed by Bryan Singer and starring Tom Cruise, the World War II drama Valkyrie is scheduled to open in the U.S. on Christmas Day 2008. The Singer-Cruise collaboration, however, has already had its New York City premiere, and apparently has been seen by at least some German critics.
Below is a snippet from the article “Muted Praise for Valkyrie from German Critics” found in Der Spiegel:
“How could [Tom] Cruise, the all-American action hero, play Germany’s only hero of the 20th century, Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the man who came close to killing Hitler and ending World War II on July 20, 1944? Cruise’s membership in the Church of Scientology, seen by German authorities as little more than a money-making operation, fuelled doubts about his suitability.
“Now Valkyrie, named after the plot by German military officers to overthrow the Nazi leadership, has had its world premiere in New York, and German film critics are less damning than might have been expected.”
‘Logistical cinematographic effort’
One Valkyrie review quoted in the article is from the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung:
“Measured in terms of all the things the film was accused of, measured in terms of all that could have gone wrong, one can almost call it a triumph. It’s definitely the most exciting, realistic and complex feature film about July 20, even if the benchmark – three German attempts between 1955 and 2004 – wasn’t unattainably high.
“One can also say that Hollywood has never taken such a thoroughly German issue as seriously as it has with this opulent, logistical cinematographic effort.”
Der Spiegel‘s report adds that even though Tom Cruise’s performance was criticized for being “wooden and low-key,” the supporting cast, including Kenneth Branagh and Tom Wilkinson, was generally praised.
The three aforementioned Valkyrie cast members have all been Oscar nominees in the last two decades:
- Tom Cruise: as Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Jerry Maguire (1996); as Best Supporting Actor, Magnolia (1999).
- Kenneth Branagh: as Best Actor and Best Director, Henry V (1989); as director of the nominated Live Action Short Swan Song (1992); in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Hamlet (1996).
- Tom Wilkinson: as Best Actor, In the Bedroom (2001); as Best Supporting Actor, Michael Clayton (2007).
Also in the Valkyrie cast:
Bill Nighy. Carice van Houten. Thomas Kretschmann. Eddie Izzard. Kevin McNally. Jamie Parker.
Christian Berkel. Tom Hollander. David Schofield. David Bamber (as Adolf Hitler). Matthias Schweighöfer.
The screenplay is credited to Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and tyro Nathan Alexander.
The man who wanted to kill Hitler: Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg movies
 As found on the IMDb, Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg has been seen on the big screen six times prior to Tom Cruise and Valkyrie:
- Eduard Franz in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951).
- Bernhard Wicki’s It Happened on July 20th / Es geschah am 20. Juli (1955).
- Wolfgang Preiss in The Plot to Assassinate Hitler / Der 20. Juli (1955).
- William Sargent in Hitler (1962).
- Gérard Buhr in The Night of the Generals (1967).
- Stephan Jacobs in Rommel and the Plot to Kill Hitler (2006).
On television, notable Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg portrayers include Brad Davis in The Plot to Kill Hitler (1990) and Sebastian Koch in Operation Valkyrie (2004).
And finally, Walter Pidgeon played a fictional (British) would-be Hitler assassin in Fritz Lang’s 1941 Hollywood thriller Man Hunt, released during World War II (prior to the U.S. entry into the war).
Dubai Film Festival winners
The Best Film at the 2008 Dubai Film Festival, held Dec. 11–18, was Lyès Salem’s Algerian/French comedy Masquerades / Mascarades, in which an arrogant man (played by Salem) living with his family in an Algerian village has one dream: to be respected by those around him. The problem is that he has a narcoleptic sister whom everyone believes will end up a spinster.
To resolve the issue, the man tells everyone that he has found a rich suitor for his sister so that preparations for the marriage can begin. But now there’s another problem: where’s the bridegroom?
Written by Salem and Nathalie Saugeon, Masquerades is Algeria’s submission for the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
See below the list of 2008 Dubai Film Festival winners.
Muhr Arabic Features
Masquerades, dir.: Lyès Salem, Algeria / France.
Special Jury Prize
Adhen Dernier Maquis, dir.: Rabah Ameur-zaimeche, Algeria / France.
Anas Elbaz & Omar Lotfi for Casanegra, Morocco.
Hifsia Herzi for Française, France / Morocco.
Annemarie Jacir for Salt of This Sea, Palestine.
Luca Coassin for Casanegra.
Nicolas Bancilhon for Adhen Dernier Maquis.
Sylvain Rifflet for Adhen Dernier Maquis.
FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) Award
Masquerades, dir.: Lyès Salem.
Memory of the Cactus: A Story of Three Palestinian Villages, dir.: Hanna Musleh, Palestine.
Special Jury Prize
The One Man Village / Samaan Bidiyaa, dir.: Simon El Habre, Lebanon.
Marina of the Zabbaleen, dir.: Engi Wassef, Egypt / USA.
The North Road / La Route du nord, dir.: Carlos Chahine, Lebanon / France.
Special Jury Prize
Bint Mariam, dir.: Saeed Salmeen Al-murry, United Arab Emirates.
At Day’s End / Sa’et Asary, dir.: Sherif El Bendary, Egypt.
Muhr Asia-Africa Features
Treeless Mountain, dir.: So Yong Kim, USA / South Korea.
Special Jury Prize
Vacation / Kyuka, dir.: Hajime Kadoi, Japan.
Askhat Kuchinchirekov for Tulpan.
Anh Hong for Moon at the Bottom of the Well / Trang Noi Day Gieng, Vietnam.
Deepa Mehta for Heaven on Earth, Canada.
Reza Teymouri for Be Calm and Count to Seven, Iran.
Jorja Mesafin, Vigay Iyer for Teza, Ethiopia / Germany / France.
Sreekar Prasad for Firaaq, India.
Mental, dir.: Kazuhiro Soda, Japan / USA.
Special Jury Prize
Survival Song, dir.: Guangyi Yu, China.
Black Business / Une Affaire de negres, dir.: Osvalde Lewat, Cameroon.
Young Blood, dir.: Haolun Shu, China.
Shorts Special Jury Prize
Expectations, dir.: Mahamat-saleh Haroun, Chad / Korea.
Everything Is OK / Kam Sanabanyz, dir.: Akjoltoy Bekbolotov, Kyrgyzstan.
Best Emirati Talent
Best UAE talent: Haydar Mohammed.
Most promising UAE female filmmaker: Nujoom Al Ghanem.
Most promising UAE male filmmaker: Saeed Salmeen Al-Murry.
Slamdance Film Festival: What Utah boycott?
The 2009 Slamdance Film Festival will take place in Park City, Utah, between Jan. 15–23.
Utah?? The Prop. 8 Mormon State??
As far as we can tell, Slamdancers haven’t been attacked by those who have been going for the throat of Sundance Film Festival organizers. Perhaps the fact that calls for a Slamdance boycott would have attracted considerably less media coverage has something to do with it.
In any case, Slamdance 2009 will screen approximately 100 films, with 20 of those in the narrative and documentary feature competition categories, which are supposed to showcase movies without domestic theatrical distribution, with budgets under $1 million, and from first-time feature film directors.
Unusual corpses in place of the usual Hollywood stars
Slamdance 2009’s Opening Night Film is writer-director Glenn McQuaid’s horror/black comedy I Sell the Dead, toplining Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Angus Scrimm, and Larry Fessenden (who also produced it). Set in the late 1800s, I Sell the Dead follows a couple of grave robbers who begin to unearth some unusual corpses.
Slamdance 2009 programming
In addition to the five programming sections – Narrative Features, Documentaries, Special Screenings, Twilight Screenings, and Shorts – Slamdance 2009 will also present the following:
- Four writing competitions: feature screenplay, teleplay, horror screenplay, and short screenplay.
- The Anarchy Online Short Film Competition.
- Fireside Chats.
- A $99 Special short film production project.
- And, for the first time, music videos.
Slamdance 2009 and its box office will be headquartered at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main Street, the festival’s base since 1998.
For more information and for a complete listing of screenings, visit the Slamdance Film Festival website or call 323/466-1786. Festival passes are now on sale on their website; individual tickets go on sale online Dec. 16.
Below is the list of Slamdance 2009 films with gay themes, and further down are the Documentary Feature Competition entries. Synopses via the Slamdance website.
2009 Slamdance Film Festival gay-themed movies
City Rats (Feature Narrative Competition).
Steve M. Kelly (Director), Simon Fantauzzo (Writer) World Premiere, Drama, 2008, UK, 96 minutes. Cast: Susan Lynch, Kenny Doughty, Tamer Hassan. A modern day Dickensian tale of eight haunted people who meet and fall apart while searching for redemption in each other.
Mississippi Damned (Feature Narrative Competition).
Tina Mabry (Director/Writer). World Premiere, Drama, 2009, USA , 120 minutes. Cast: DB Woodside, Malcolm David Kelly, Malcolm Goodwin, Tessa Thompson, Michael Hyatt. Three poor Black kids in rural Mississippi reap the consequences of their family’s cycle of abuse, addiction, and violence.
Drool (Special Screening).
Nancy Kissam (Director/Writer). World Premiere, Drama, 2008, USA , 88 minutes. Cast: Laura Harring, Jill Marie Jones, Oded Fehr. An abused wife’s plan to escape her husband goes awry when she accidentally kills him, causing her to split on a cross-country drive with her best friend and his corpse in tow.
Dish (Short Film Competition).
Brian H. Krinksy, Writer/Director World Premiere / 2008 / USA / 15 minutes. High school buddies dish about their sex lives, classmates and hair.
Vapid Lovelies (Short Film Competition).
Frank Feldman, Writer/Director; David Luna and Chris Lemon, Writers World Premiere / 2008 / USA / 22 minutes. Two Middle-American gay fashionistas set out to create the perfect outfit Rock Pockets.
Slamdance Documentary Feature Competition
Graphic Sexual Horror
Barbara Bell & Anna Lorentzon (Directors/Writers).
World Premiere, 2009, USA , 85 minutes. A look behind the terrifying façade of insex.com, the most notorious of the ‘violent porn’ websites, while exploring the dark mind of its artistic creator and asking hard questions about personal responsibility.
Hard to Be an Indian
Beth Toni Kruvant (Director), Jonah Kruvant (Writer).
World Premiere, 2007, USA , 84 minutes. The trials and tribulations of an inner city school and the principal, Jewish alumni and gang members who return it to safety and restore its former glory.
Chris Billing (Director/Writer).
World Premiere, 2009, USA , 78 minutes. Filmmaker Chris Billing probes at his family history while investigating the tragic 1978 deaths of his adopted Crow Indian brothers.
Oh My God, It’s Harrod Blank
David Silverberg (Director/Writer).
World Premiere, 2008, USA , 75 minutes. A portrait of the eccentric art-car artist Harrod Blank, following him from his youth in the woods to his current multi-faceted career as creator and head of a nationwide art-car movement. With appearances by his father, filmmaker Les Blank.
The Road to Fallujah
Mark Manning (Director/Writer).
World Premiere, 2009, USA , 85 minutes. Exploring Mark Manning’s unique access as the only westerner to live with the people of Fallujah immediately following the November 2004 battle that destroyed their ancient and holy city, offering an in-depth and humanizing look at current issues in Iraq.
Alison McAlpine (Director/Writer).
US Premiere, 2008, Scotland / Canada, 51 minutes. A cinematic, non-fiction ghost story featuring the last generation of Gaelic storytellers on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.
Smile Til It Hurts
Lee Storey (Director/Writer).
North American Premiere, 2009, USA , 81 minutes. The amazing true story of Up With People, the singing group that represented an establishment-friendly alternative to the counter-culture.
Zachary Levy (Director/Writer).
World Premiere, 2008, USA , 113 minutes. A man strong enough to bend a penny with just his fingers, Stanless Steel reaches middle age, career disappointments and difficult personal relationships that begin to test his strengths and force him to struggle with the weaknesses around him – including his own.
Juan José Lozano (Director/Writer).
US Premiere, 2008, Switzerland / France, 87 minutes. In the middle of Colombia’s humanitarian tragedy, a journalist fights to report and disclose the barbarity of the conflict.
Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck (Directors/Writers).
Utah Premiere, 2008, USA , 91 minutes. An inside look at the two years that it took 12-year-old Emily Hagins to write and direct her feature-length zombie movie, Pathogen.
Valkyrie movie cast info via the IMDb.
Tom Cruise Valkyrie image: United Artists / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Lyès Salem, Mohamed Bouchaïb, and Sarah Reguieg Masquerades image: Dharamsala.
Kenny Doughty City Rats image: Face Films / Urban Way Productions.
Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden I Sell the Dead image: Glass Eye Pix.
“Valkyrie: Tom Cruise Film Receives ‘Muted Praise’ in Germany + Gay Slamdance Entries & Dubai Winners” last updated in March 2018.