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The Best and the Rest

Submitted by Commandrea on December 23, 2024 – 12:29 pmOne Comment

Honing down a list of the year’s best films usually requires balancing a slate of movies from the obscure art films that I spend my life in the dark watching to more mainstream fare that you my dear reader are more likely to encounter at the local multiplex. For every person I’ve talked to who thinks Black Swan is brilliant I’ve also met those who hated the experience. I can relate. Whenever I tell whoever wants to listen that I think The Hangover is an unfunny comedy they just look at me with arched eyebrows. For the record, Hangover 2 opens this summer, but if you’re talking director Todd Phillips I prefer his recent Due Date.

The Oscar voters have a list of 248 American films alone that are eligible this year for honors and when you add in foreign films to the mix a top ten list doesn’t even add up to ten percent of the product that could be seen over 12 months.

There’s a perception of foreign films, mainly perpetuated by the very people who make films, that most people don’t really see foreign films (or documentaries for that matter) so much as the film du jour, the action thriller starring the hot star of the moment. Foreign films, on the other hand are usually difficult to understand, and hard to fathom. In short, the perfect recipe for a cinematic flashflood.

In the current film The Fighter the protag Mark Wahlberg takes Amy Adams to a foreign film on their first date. Not because it’s some awesome film but because of exactly the fact that it’s a foreign film and nobody he knows will be there. He’s embarrassed for having lost a championship fight and rightly knows it’s a lonely place to go in a working class suburb of Lowell, Massachusetts.
The film they’re seeing, since The Fighter is set in the early 90s, is Belle Epoque.
This particular film played in Houston at the Worldfest Houston Film Festival with the director, Fernando Trueba, in attendance the same month he picked up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film for the film. At first Wahlberg pronounces the film “belly ep-i-cou” while Adams incorrectly corrects him with “bell epic.” Perhaps not oddly, The Fighter’s director David O. Russell has previously made fringe movies and art films like I Heart Huckabees or Spanking the Monkey. A typical Russell mainstream movie would be Three Kings.

This whole foreign film ethic is something Russell is commenting on since he then shows Wahlberg asleep during Belle Epoque while Adams looks visible pissed at having to watch the movie awake. Note that Belle Epoque was one of the first films to play domestically that featured then unknowns Penelope Cruz, Arianda Gil and Maribel Verdu.

Coming out of the film Adams comments in her thick Massachusetts accent: “That’s the movie you wanted me to see? There wasn’t even any good sex in it. I had to read the whole fuckin’ movie. Some guy from a road crew recommended it to you – a fuckin’ subtitled movie?” That pretty much sums up the attitude of most people towards foreign films.

With that in mind here are some of my favorite films from the last year divided into categories.

Major studios, minor studios and studio subsidiaries: Inception, Easy A, The Ghost Writer, Fair Game, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Kick Ass, The King’s Speech, Another Year, Greenberg, Four Lions, The Kids are All Right, Stone, Buried, Never Let Me Go, Animal Kingdom and The Social Network.

Foreign Films: Enter the Void, Carlos, Dogtooth, Mother, Biutiful, the two Mesrine films, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Un Prophet, Micmacs, Farewell, The Good the Bad the Weird, Lebanon, and Soul Kitchen.

Documentary: The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector, Client Nine, The Tillman Story, Countdown to Zero, The Inside Job, American Grindhouse, and Exit Through the Gift Shop.

- Michael Bergeron

One Comment »

  • Patrick says:

    It’s a damn shame. Learning to read at the movies is one of the best things I ever did. Changed my life. Subtitled film comprehension ought to be taught in schools. But I guess then we wouldn’t need books anymore. Huh?

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