And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing the "Foreign" category.

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.

Review: Wood and Water

Not a lot “happens” in this character study film, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It’s the story of Anke (played by Anke Bak, the director’s mother), a German woman of a certain age who has just retired and is looking forward to a trip to the beach with all her children. But her son doesn’t make it home for the gathering. He lives in Hong Kong and the pro-democracy protests there interfere with his flight. (Or so he says.) So she decides to go there to see him. Only he’s away, and so she spends her time alone wandering the city and coming to terms with her life.

Review: Huda’s Salon

This riveting “based on true events” thriller from two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) is set in the West Bank. Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) is a young Palestinian mother married to a very jealous man. One day she visits her hairdresser, Huda (Manal Awad), and tells her all about her struggles with him as her little daughter sleeps just beside her chair. The two women clearly enjoy their gossiping and kvetching. After the new do, Huda offers Reem a coffee, only it’s no friendly act, but a life altering event.

Review: Fabian

In this adaptation of “Fabian: Going to the Dogs”, a German novel first published in 1931 but later banned and burned by the National Socialist Party, Jakob Fabian (Tom Schilling) is a young man in Berlin in the years between the two wars, trying to become a writer but struggling to keep his head above water. By day he works as a copywriter for a cigarette company, and by night he fills books with his observations as he accompanies his wealthy friend Labude (Albrecht Schuch) through the hedonistic world of brothels and bars while Germany slides slowly towards fascism. But Fabian’s detachment is shaken one night when he meets the beautiful Cornelia (Saskia Rosendahl), a film law trainee who dreams of being an actress, and their love story forms the spine of this thoroughly engaging film. Be warned, it clocks in at just minutes under three hours running time, but fortunately it never feels long thanks to great direction (Dominik Graf), a superb cast, and a thoughtful, beautifully crafted script.

Review: Drive My Car

Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murikami, one of my favorite authors, Drive My Car is a haunting drama about love and grief and reckoning. It centers on two main characters. Actor turned theater director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is two years removed from his wife’s sudden death and still grappling with the meaning of their relationship when he comes to Hiroshima to direct Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” for a theater festival. The organizers insist for legal reasons that he use their driver for the duration of his stay. She’s a taciturn young woman named Misaki (Toko Miura) who ended up in Hiroshima after her own personal tragedy. And as she shuttles him back and forth to the theater in his beautiful red Saab 900, they slowly bond over the unresolved sadness in their lives. And I say slowly because the movie clocks in at just about three hours, though it doesn’t feel long at all.

Review: The Hand of God

This coming of age drama from Academy Award-winning writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) tells the story of Fabietto (Filippo Scotti). Set in Naples in the 1980s, it’s clearly a nostalgic look back for the director to a time that was filled with adolescent awakening, family joys and tragedies, and the beginnings of his love affair with cinema. It’s bursting with big characters seen through a many-years-removed lens. Told in a series of vignettes,  it’s by turns hilarious and warm and sad and violent, and serves as a love letter to the Naples of a certain time.

Review: Speer Goes to Hollywood

This documentary which won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar is one of those unknown but true stories that was begging to be told.  Following the publication of his bestselling memoir “Inside the Third Reich” in 1969, Nazi architect Albert Speer was courted by Hollywood who wanted to make his book into a feature. Paramount won the bidding war and Speer sat down with writer Andrew Birkin (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) for a month in Los Angeles to come up with a screenplay. It never made it to the screen, but the process of its writing is a window into the mindset that allowed the Nazis to rise and flourish for a time, and a maddening portrait of a seductive sociopath.

Review: Lamb

Strange doesn’t even come close to describing this folk horror flick.  Set in a remote valley somewhere in Iceland, Maria (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) go about their lives in relative silence running their sheep farm. But one day as the sheep are lambing, it all changes. Maria brings one super adorable lamb into their house and treats it as you would an infant. Soon Ingvar is moving a crib into their room and they’re both parenting the little one. And lest you think they’re total weirdos, it turns out that little Ada is in fact half-human. And suddenly their sad existence turns sunny.

Nashville Film Festival Rundown

This was my first time (virtually) attending the Nashville Film Festival.  It is close enough for me to drive over, but that was not possible this time around. They had a great slate of films spread over a week. But sadly a lot of the films I’d have loved to see were only available in person, mostly the big prestige flicks. Nevertheless, I did get to see quite a few worthy films from the comfort of my couch. Below is my rundown.

The films are: Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road; Fanny: The Right to Rock; Everybody is Looking for some Light; Poser; Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival; 7 Days; Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine; Potato Dreams; Porcupine; The Good Traitor; Huda’s Salon; Green Sea; Ayar; Luzzu.