Daily Film Thoughts: The Foreign Feature Nominees

Yes, yes… I finally got to Departures. After much worry that American critics and people on here put into my head by calling it “dry”, “boring” and other negative things; or ‘aspects I don’t appreciate’, it took me a good while to watch it.

I’m glad to say it isn’t at all as bad as I imagined. So anyways, here’s them ranked:

BEST FOREIGN FEATURE, 2008!

05. The Baader Meinhof Complex [Uli Edel, Germany]

Alright, so this wasn’t exactly a good movie. For a film that relies on politics more than anything else, they threw together the whole point of the revolution very shoddily. One broke-out riot and maybe two sentences about what was the conflict was over. It was also obsessively one-sided, not examining the government’s side of the matter for any other reason to demonize them. Poorly structured; plain bad court scenes; but entertaining when it got to the thrilling scenes – primarily the prison scenes; and a solid cast. Unfortunate, because I thought if anyone would like this movie it’d be me. [3/10]

04. Revanche [Götz Spielmann, Austria]

A solid film and a decent choice, though it wouldn’t personally make any top ten of mine. It’s got an interesting structure; the opening 30 minutes are brooding and foreboding, with an unexpected turn. The following 90 minutes are typical filmmaking, but still a notch above average. With tedious symbolism (chopping wood = angry… three times throughout the course) and unflinchingly simple characters, it has it’s heavy flaws. Fortunately, it has a solid lead performance by Johannes Krisch, a delightful supporting performance by Irina Potapenko and naturally beautiful cinematography that helps the film drudge along without much resistance from this viewer. [7/10]

03. Departures [Yôjirô Takita, Japan]

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Lovely. A traditional Japanese film with a pinch more sincerity and humanity than others. It has a typical plot outline, but the scripting, character development & entire story grows far beyond that. A wonderful ensemble, brisk pacing, wonderful cinematography + score are cause for some of the most memorable moments of film in 2008 for earnest reasons, rather than outgoing ones. Masahiro Motoki was wonderful in the lead and will certainly be an actor I will watch more of in the future. It is also carefully sentimental, which is something very few directors have the sense to do, which is maintain the sentimentality. It worked wonderfully here and resonated throughout the course of the film beautifully. A worthy winner. [9/10]

02. Waltz With Bashir [Ari Folman, Israel]

A film about genuine amnesia without an actual accident will always spark interest in me. The way this story was handled was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, which gives it a little boost over other films. It’s a rotoscoped, semi-documentary about a story which could’ve easily been live action and without as much flare. The animation plays a key role in the story because the footage Folman needed to thoroughly explain his forgotten memory couldn’t be found in any archive locker and are much more haunting in sepia colors anyway. Richter’s score infused with the animation made for some top-form cinema at times. Parallel to the majestic atmosphere, the ending snaps the viewer into perspective, reiterating that war isn’t as it seems – and in doing so creates the most harrowing and somber ending of this decade. [9/10]

01. The Class [Laurent Cantet, France]

The total package – one of the finest films I’ve ever seen. Mainly focusing on one class throughout the course of one year with dashes of administrative work in school (including the hilarious opening sequence) the film doesn’t seem all that grand. However, this film defines pure cinema; honest and gritty without sugarcoating facts and without over-blowing the way people are and how they go about their daily routine. Dialogue driven and not one for the aesthetics, this film will and has been seen as one without the ‘total’ package because it doesn’t maintain everything a ‘flawless’ film would have. But for me, a film that can create a wide variety of characters and make them all perfectly believable is a success strong enough to carry a film; especially when the amateur cast dominates the roles they step into. Complete with being most relatable high school film for anyone living in this generation, it’ll live on as a moment in history with future viewers, as inconsistent as it may be with future times. [10/10]

So all in all, it was a decent lineup by the Academy; three worthy winners, and two not all that worthy nominees. If I had to compile a Best Foreign Feature list for last year’s Academy Awards [with their restrictions – only one per country and it has to be released before October] I would’ve gone with:

01. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
02. The Silence of Lorna (Jean-Pierre + Luc Dardenne, Belgium)
03. The Rest is Silence (Nae Caranfil, Romania)
04. Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, Chile)
05. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel)

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