Foreign Film is one of the Academy’s most dependable categories. You can argue about the winner (though this year I think they got it right), you can argue about the selections, you can even argue about the process and the criteria. But inevitably, the nominees are always very much worth seeing, and this year is no exception!
Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar”
A lovely little film about a very big subject. A class of young students and their new teacher deal with their own experiences of loss and death, and in some beautiful but very subtle ways, help each other through it. This movie is everything Hollywood blockbusters are not – quiet, charming and meaningful – but it’s still very entertaining. Opens in LA April 13th.
Iran, “A Separation” (Oscar winner)
There are so many reasons to see and appreciate this film, especially because it humanizes people we’ve been led to believe are somehow different from us. But forget all that if you want because it’s just a great movie…a compelling family drama inside a police procedural of a sort all wrapped in the veil of the social and religious norms of modern day Iran. It’s stars are fantastic (and easy to look at), the story’s as taught as a high wire and the whole thing is incredibly insightful about how bullheaded we all can be. In theaters now.
A film with a clever, light feel but more serious overtones about a father and son, both scholars – one loved and respected, the other, not so much. Both study the Talmud, the Jewish books of biblical commentary, so it makes sense that the conflicts at the center of the film are ethical ones. Best appreciated by Jews, academics and anyone with a father they care about but kinda can’t stand. In theaters now.
Belgium, “Bullhead“ Owen Gleiberman, EW: “This overheated yet bizarrely opaque criminal character study from Belgium is set among the hormone mafia – i.e., Flemish cattle farmers who fatten their cows with illegal drugs. Jacky (Matthias Schoenaerts), the tormented central goon, is a steroid addict himself, but even when we learn why, we don’t feel any more connected to him or to the turgidly convoluted plot.” I would say that there are good reasons to see this movie, particularly the (literally and figuratively) powerful performance of Schoenaerts. In theaters now.
I have no doubt that this film, directed by Agnieszka Holland and based on a true story, is terrific. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to see another Holocaust movie. I know. I’m sorry. In theaters now.