*Starting with one of the outstanding ones. "The Invisible Guest" (2016) was copied for "Badla" (see below). It starts with a crime that seems very straight forward, A legal expert for the accused appears and assures that if they know the truth the murder can be gotten away with. There are many layers to the truth and we gradually get to know about an extra marital affair and a blackmail attempt. Interesting scenery from the Catalonia region of Spain. The end is one of the biggest twists, set up beautifully. Directed and written by Oriol Paulo. Both movies are worth watching, so for a comparison (with almost no spoilers) see
"Roma" (2018) Based on childhood memories of Alfonso Cuaron in Mexico. Lifestyle, not much of a plot excellent cinematography. Won best foreign film Oscar and went on to win other awards.
"Amador" t(2010) touching story well put together. A woman in great need of money and pregnant takes a job caring for a man expected to die, but unfortunately dies quicker than expected thereby cutting off her income. With the help of a hooker she hid the fact. Before he died there developed a bit of a relationship (with a few secrets) which after his death held some meaning.
"Everybody Knows" (2018) had three of my favorite actors, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin. Plus done by a respected director, Asgher Farhadi. Secrets are meant to be revealed.
"1991" (2018) Quebec writer/Director recalls his pivotal year when he was 21 and decided to pursue "the woman of his life" to Italy. Charming how he deals with life's disappointments. Part of a series.
"Pannique " (1946) was an excellent film. Re-done Based on novel of George Simenon It focused on a victim in this case a false suspect and the harm suffered.
I watched a special feature on subtitles which was very illuminating. The need for subtitles only started with talking pictures prior to which a panel would replace the regular scenes and could mislead as to foreign origin. Two tendencies were to leave out dialogue or try every word. The goal became conciseness that allowed some of the other film elements to have their impact. Learn about some of the history http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/02/the-evolution-and-art-of-film-subtitles.html
"Les Miserables" (1958) is an older version of the popular story. A Victor Hugo quote suggests a necessary role of films: "As long as ignorance and misery exist in the world stories such as this will not be in vain." This version with Jean Gabin aid to be the closest to the book.
"Eternity's Gate" (2018) is as much English as French with the main character played by Willem Dafoe portraying Vincent Van Gog speaking mostly English . The main complaints were about a hand held camera, a strident piano score and seemingly pointless walking which are all distracting, but are underscoring Van Gogh's fragile sanity. Now considered a genius, but lived a life of rejection fighting against current social views particularly within art. One statement stuck--Jesus was not significant in his life and not until decades after his death was he appreciated by larger masses.
*"Loveless" (2017) a very sad story. A bitterly arguing couple, already with other lovers and planning a divorce upset their 12 year old son and he disappears. The movie focuses on a search for him--at first bureaucratic and manpower shortages get off to a slow start, but does become fairly thorough. We also view the parents as they try to make a new life. At one point we are shown there is a housing crisis. I watched during the Trump impeachment hearings--a television interlude contained a lot of Russian propaganda regarding Ukrainian corruption. Directed and co-written by Andrey Zvyagintsev. read more of him and other Russian film makers.
"Luisa Spagnoli" (2016) was a made for tv movie. An uneducated woman buys a confection business that eventually makes the famous Baci chocolates. Along the way she proved herself more intelligent than many males who put her down. She loved and was loved by two men.
Two movies from Ingmar Bergman. "Shame" (1968)--an anti-war movie demonstrating how third parties are impacted with stronger powers collide. Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow are excellent under direction and writing of Ingmar Bergman. "Sawdust and Tinsel" (1953) by Ingmar Bergman
See an earlier blog on Swedish cinema with much more on Ingmar Bergman http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/06/swedish-movies.html
"Good Evening Mr Wallenberg" (1990) was about a Swedish business man who helped smuggle Hungarian Jews during WWII. Stellan Skarsgard plays Raoul Wallenberg.
"The Captain" (2017) set at the tail end of World War II. It begins with deserters of which there were many. One man desperate to survive comes upon a captain's uniform and decides to impersonate. He became megalomaniacal killing traitors- like himself just trying to survive. The director/writer wanted to show that it was more than just one man that caused the cultural disaster of Nazism
"Home from Home"(2013) filmed in black and white which emphasizes the gloominess as family struggles to survive with the hope of emigrating to Brazil where relatives had gone.
"What will People say" (2017) Combining resources of Norway with Bollywood. The key was the adjustment of immigrant children. Personally I encountered quite a bit as a newspaper circulation manager. Immigrant children wanted to be accepted by their friends and naturally wanted to enjoy the fun. Parents were often oblivious to these feelings and would be restricting which only caused more resentment. In this film the teenage daughter has adapted to her Norwegian friends. A boyfriend sneaks into her bedroom (with her help) and before they can do anything her father appears and is shocked as is the rest of the family. Adil Husain ( who had key role in "EnglishVinglish" as a mild mannered husband) plays the strict father who takes his daughter back to Pakistan to stay with his sister. More problems ensue. and she ends up back in Norway. The Children Welfare tries to intervene, but she is scared to tell the real story. The Pakistan setting is actually in India as the producer felt it would be safer.
"In order of Disappearance" (2014) provides violence with lots of black humor. Swede, Stellan Skargard plays the main role, but is portrayed as an immigrant to account for language. Stellan appeared in a number of Norwegian films as the languages are similar but distinguishable. Americans might recognize him from "Mama Mia."
Guilty" (2018) was mostly a one man show with support by telephone voices and
brief appearances of other actors. Jakob Cedergren was superb playing
an emergency police telephone operator dealing with a kidnapping that
turned out differently than expected. His own personal dilemma was
gradually revealed as it intertwined with his tough case. Very tense and
gripping. Some very big twists with some psychological impact. Directed and co-written by Gustav Moller.
"Time of My life" (2012) shows some youthful exuberance or political activites, but the real point of the movie is about euthanasia.
"Working Woman" (20180 explores the difficulties encountered by women at work. A man quits his job to start a restaurant and finds it more financially draining than anticipated. His wife with three kids manages to get a job with her old army commander and does very well. Unfortunately her boss uses his authority to make sexual advances to her which she keeps from her husband. Eventually the boss goes too far and her experience comes out to her husband. While she feels she is dealing with an intolerable situation in order to support her family he feels betrayed. I had vowed not to support Israel because of their treatment of Palestinians, allowing myself some leeway to watch movies with a Palestinian perspective. This movie had zero Palestinian perspective, but nonetheless I felt it had a message that needed to be shown and was done very professionally. I borrowed it from the library after reading something interesting about it. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/the-bds-movement.html
"Foxtrot" (2017)is political and critical of Israeli bureaucracy and military. Lior Ashkenazi, one of my favorite actors plays the father who is told his son died which leads to a grieving process and then after learns it was a mistake and their son is alive. This leads to anger. Palestinians play a small role as some are killed through an over reaction at a car stop.
*"Capernaum," (2018) an Oscar nomination tells a story from the viewpoint of a young boy caught in Mid East turmoil. He sues his parents and from there we are taken to his background. along the way we learn of illegal immigrants, one key character surprisingly from Ethiopia. Directed and co-written by Nadine Labaki.
**"The Sky is Pink"(2019) seen in December, after a few months of anticipation was my most enjoyable movie of the year. It is a true story that is well told and will make you both cry and laugh. Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wisim were all exceptional. Another satisfying movie from director/writer Shonali Bose. Based on a true story that came to Shonali's attention by the grieving mother who was impressed with an earlier movie. You follow a couple through 25 years and their marriage survives the trials of a dying daughter (who tells the story in a humorous manner). Top overall movie of the year.
"Gully Boy" (2019) was supposed to be about rapping, but it was so much more. Poverty forces difficult choices on people, opportunities can be dazzling, but lead one down a bad path. Ranveer Singh, Kalki Koeklin and especially Alia Bhatt (who was perhaps the most outstanding one from last year's blog) were very good. Rap music was presented in a fascinating manner. Produced by Farhan Akhtar. Read more http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/05/three-bollywood-films-that-got-my.html
Read more about Farhan, a very versatile film maker: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html
"Sanju" (2018) I thought would be junk but it earned its high praise. Really good writing and acting. A biography of Sanjay Dutt who led a most interesting life--big movie star, drug addict, branded a terrorist and womanizer. Don't know the truth but very well told. One of the very funniest movies I saw was "Lago d Munnai Bhai" where Sanjay plays a humorous gangster who wants to impress a radio dj and ends up a disciple of Gandhi's ghost. It is very funny, but also philosophical. Paresh Rawal, Anushka Sharma, Vicky Kaushal and especially Ranbir Kapoor --one joke do you have a boyfiend? Yes. He's a lucky guy. Why, because I am beautiful and smart? No cause I am going to prison." In the end the real Sanjay Dutt does a dance routine with Ranbir. Most entertaining
"Badhaai Ho" (2018) with Ayushmann Khurrana in a family drama with a lots of laughter. About a family where the parents were in their fifties got pregnant. Everyone had difficulty accepting it including Ayushmann's girl friend's mother.
*"Article 15" (2019)was one of the most relevant movies from Bollywood. Ayushman Khurrana proves his versatility. A policeman runs up against caste prejudice. Directed and co-written by Anubhav Sinha.
"Badla" (2019) a mystery with lots of twists and great acting--Amitabh Bachanchan set in Edinburgh. read more at the link for "The Invisible Guest.
"Uri: The Surgical Strike" (2019) retells a recent military operation of a strike against terrorists.. Vicky Kaushal and Yami Gautam head an excellent cast.
"Kabir Singh " (2019) was a Bollywood remake of a Telegu movie, "Argun Reddy" (see below) In some ways not a very nice person, but tragic. His arrogance is overwhelming. For a comparison between the two blockbusters: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html
"Zero"(2018) had a tremendous buildup. Shah Rukh Khan was going to be portrayed as a dwarf and there were going to be lots of celebrities. The first reports was that the film was a flop, both artistically and at the box office. Part of the problem was its length when I finally got to see it. Nonetheless it does have moments. Marvellous how Shah Ruk Khan was depicted as a dwarf. Really good performances from Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan himself. Many goofy scenes, but also a few memorable ones. Background music was enjoyable and cinematography impressive. Other celebrities were in cameo roles. Pleased to see Juhi Chawla--plus last film appearance of Sridevi whose obituary I wrote in my year end blog for 2018
"Chopsticks" (2019) a quirky plot enjoyable. Abhay Deol.
"October (2018) is not a love story (exactly). A flukey accident leading to a serious injury leads another to feel an involvement that changes his life.
"Soorma" (2018) was about a famous cricket player makes comeback after near death accident including a major spinal injury.
"Period. End of Sentence" (2018) was a short. About sanitary pads being more accessible and providing jobs.
"Ujda Chaman" (2019) was seen at the last minute. Another movie about the superficiality of appearance. The lead is prematurely bald and seems to be striking out with women. This was well done and caught me a bit off guard. As it happens I have been looking for Ayushmann Khurrana "Bala" on a similar theme. I am sure it will be good, but this makes a good message.
*"Uyare"(2019) is one of the most satisfying movies. It starts off with a dramatic plane crisis and then we are taken to the back story. After the crisis is resolved we move onto the heart of the movie which concerns a serious problem for India. This Malayalam film is directed by Manu Ashokan and written by Bobby and Sanjay. Excellent acting from Parvathy Thiruvothu and Tovino Thomas. Well edited for maximum impact The second best overall.
Ready to wrap up this post when on Boxing Day learned of "Virus" (2019) another Malayalam film with the two stars from "Uyare" as well as Revathy. It was based on a viral infection spreading around the city of Kerala, about two years ago. Very well done and realistic.
"Aalorukkam" (2018) was a very slow paced movie until the protagonist and the viewer were given a shock. It happens about half way through the movie so it is a bit of a necessary spoiler to explain that the shock was meeting his son after 16 years and finding a daughter. He does not accept it although many people try to help him accept, including a small girl. At the very end is a bit of ambiguity and one hopes he does accept. Spoilers are a difficult decision, as the shock is part of the value of this film, but in the long run perhaps the adjustment is also an important part of the value. Malayalam.
"Njan Prakashan" (2018) starts off with a self centered man anxious to take advantage of others. A qualified male nurse he has no desire to work in India. Towards the end of the movie gradually shifts as does his attitude. Malayalam.
Shonar Paher' (2018) Bengali film was writen, directed by Parambrata Chattopadhyay who also had a supporting role. Best known for his role in "Kahaani"
"Rainbow Jelly" (2018) focuses on a young boy of low IQ and exploited by an uncle. A woman appears like a fairy godmother to help him overcome his circumstances. It is crudely believable, but also inspiring. Bengali
"Awe" (2018) was the most interesting film in a technical sense. It has a very complicated plot combining genres--comedy, fantasy, science fiction, horror. At the end a simple resolution. Held attention, with enjoyable music and cinematography Telegu
"Arjun Reddy" (2017) was a blockbuster movie in Telegu and since remade into a Bollywood blockbuster, "Kabir Singh" At first we are subjected to a lot of boorish behavior, some of which were new items for me, but towards the second half he becomes more sympathetic as he becomes more desperate. see the link for Kabir Singh. A comparison of both http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html
"Oh Baby" (2019) was a remake of a Korean movie I enjoyed. The Telegu version is a little longer and well done. It reminded me of my wife's grandmother, known as Nanny. See a comparison http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/comparing-two-grannies.html
"Evvarikee Cheppoddu," (2019) a Telegu film takes on a very serious topic, intercaste marriage, but with humor. Despite the law equalizing castes there is still a prejudice against intercaste marriages and many Bollywood movies have used that to create tension in many romances. Comedies also use tension as a tool and this movie is very slick, with deception helping to uncover family relationship problems and attitudes. We never learn what castes are involved in the romance making it a bit more universal.
"Power Paandi" (2017) a Tamil film. I am noticing Revathy as have seen her in two movies as mother and this one as grandmother. Dhanush plays the young version of her lover. The story is of an older man remembering his first love and going back to find her. It does have a happy ending
"Taramani" (2017) another Tamil film, but not a typical comedy romance. There is abusive behavior. Lead woman Andrea Jeremiah was very appealing. Nice music.
"Villai Pokool (2019) is primarily Tamil speaking, but with some English. I had trouble watching, but a very interesting format. You follow a retired southern Indian policeman in Seattle Washington to visit relatives. His creative thinking is often visualized talking with absent people including victims, witnesses, etc.--an interesting twist at the end with a moral thought.
"Radiopetti" (2017) first struck me as a science fiction movie, but really it did use perhaps a science fiction tool to make a point. It was about an old man, disrespected by his son who enjoy very simple things like listening to an old radio. His adult son smashed the old radio and the father sort of accepted it. The movie seems to drag on with the everyday boring activities of the old man. After someone gifts him a transistor radio he becomes upset that it wasn't just a radio, but one that he associated with his father. Soon he is jolted (2017) and he begins to hear a radio in his ear, mostly just static, but from time to time he hears a play that brings him to tears and sometimes music that sets him gently dancing. He is ridiculed and finally shamed into seeking treatment. The point (I think) is that we should let people enjoy themselves. Exceptionally nice background music. Tamil.
"Oththa Seruppu Size 7" (Single Slipper Size-7 2019) seen with two days to do is perhaps the most unique Tamil movie of the year. An IMDB quote states that this film is one of only 13 in the world with solo act. (The Guilty above is another). In this case Parthiban is not only the solo actor, but also the director, writer and producer. You hear other voices, that are mostly trying to make sense of what he is saying which seems like a series of confessions, most of which are not accepted. It is deliberately confusing as you try to figure out if he is made, maybe really guilty of something or just possibly very clever.
"Bogda" (2018) is a Marathi film that is slow moving, but with a message that needs time to appreciate.
"Nathicharami" (2018) a Kannada movie took on the inequality in the sexual sphere. A widow, loyal to her dead husband has sexual desires and finds it very difficult. One man is told no kissing, or hugging or emotional attachment and he rejects her as he said nothing can survive in a vacuum. She cultivates another man, not totally satisfed with his wife who rebels about his sexual expectations. Still he initially rejects her bold requests. As she points out it is much easier for men.
"Onaatah: Of the Earth" (2016) was an enjoyable low key movie about a gang rape victim's ordeal after she received some legal justice, but not social acceptance. Living in a big city with a responsible job she finally found relief visiting an uncle and his wife in a rural area. This movie was unique in that it is in a language Khasi that only has about 1 1/2 million speakers in the world. That would seem a handicap in attracting a professional cast and crew, but it was very well done.
"III Smoking Barrels" (2017) was unique in location and languages Hindi, Bengali, Assamese and Manipuri as well as English. Songs in four languages. 4 separate stories with some links. Many Westerners think Indian is basically one language when in fact the diversity of languages is a strength and a challenge.
*"Shoplifters" (2018) was a typical film for director/writer Hirokazu Kore-Eda who likes to focus on families. This is a family of marginalized people who live together as a 3 generation family. They certainly don't seem normal, but the viewer learns little bits gradually. Very well done as usual
The Third Murder" (2017) also by director, Hirokazu Kore-Eda. A little off his usual topics, but a reasonable murder mystery. Interesting music I have been trying to track down by Ludovico Einaudi.
"The Sun (2005)" illustrates a problem in classifying the nationality of more and more films. In this case the language is mostly Japanese with some English dialogue, but the production crew was mostly Russian. The focus was on the Japanese transition after their surrender in WWII. Another movie, Lore" had been produced by Australia while the dialogue was mostly German. Part of the confusion comes from finance which is not only which nationalities are willing to contribute, but also which nationalities are able and willing to contribute the necessary creative artistic skills.
"Champion" (2018) received a low IMDB score, but I found it to be very effective. The hero is almost brutish in his looks, but the actor, Dong-seok Ma plays a subtle range of emotions that you can't help feeling for him. Arm wrestling might not seem all that exciting, but it is stretched into as powerful a sport film as any. The hero is surrounded by crooked gamblers while he searches for his birth mother and is disillusioned when lied to about family connections. In the end it is heart warming (maybe not such a big surprise) and along the way it develops a lot of emotions. Remake of movie with Sylvester Stallone
"Burning (2018) was a very big international award winner.
"A Werewolf Boy"(2012) with a title that put me off, but took a closer look. It really is about a feral boy (no human contact until his teen years), perhaps resulting from the over 20,000 Korean orphans created by war. There is much misunderstanding and at one point some fantasy. Very touching.
"Tune in for Love" (2019) came out in the middle of the year and was a romance. Boy meets girl, then disappears, then shows up and then disappears, then he shows up again and they get together. His past comes back and they part again. At the end they get back together. The two leads are very likable but beset with obstacles with very unfortunate timing. Very well done
"Shadow" (2018) is a remarkable film. It is a Wuxia film meaning there are exaggerated martial arts action and in this case very cleverly done. The cinematography is unique and also very well done. Most of the background is black and white while the color is shown with humans. The plot is complicated with twists The acting is very good. Directed by Yimou Zhang ("The House of the Flying daggers ). Very realistic gruesome violence, somewhat tempered by the realization it is a fantasy.
*"The Farewell" is in many ways American, but a good part of the dialogue is in Chinese and most of the setting is in China. More importantly it offers Chinese culture including philosophy. The story is about a woman diagnosed to die while she is kept uninformed. This saddens her American grand daughter who is told not to visit as she can't control her emotions, but of course she goes anyway. Her cousin whose supposed wedding to a Japanese girl has great difficulty. The strength of the movie is how the family supports each other. Some surprising music adds to enjoyment--apparently singing is very popular at Chinese weddings. Directed and written by Lulu Wang.
"The Wild Pear Tree" (2018) had an uninspiring story summary and a time of over three hours. What made it engaging was the dialogue. A graduated student returns home with the ambition of getting a book published. In his efforts he has a lot of conversations. His father, an educated man has a gambling addiction.
"Touch" (2011) is really an American movie with a little Vietnamese dialogue and crew and cast. I would say not much insight into Vietnamese culture, but an interesting story line about a manicurist who gets involved with a married mechanic having problems with his wife. There was a little modern Vietnamese music that got my attention.
"Journey from The Fall" (2006) is another American production, but is almost totally in Vietnamese and is mostly set in Vietnam. Brutally realistic focusing on the aftermath of the American departure. Re-education and attempts to escape. Family ties are broken through killings, but other relationships are formed and strengthened. Carries over to America.
*"Starting Over Again" (2014) encouraged by "You're My Boss" this is very well done--my father used to say he hated movies when there weren't enough women to go around, but it also works when there are not enough men to go around. This movie is about a breakup and the aftermath and boils down to a love triangle. As we untangle the events we become more concerned about all three. It is resolved in a realistic way and we realize that the situation is not all that uncommon in different degrees. Directed and co-written by Olivia M. Lawason. More on this movie and other Filipino movies at: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/10/four-filipino-movies.html One of the top movies of the year for me.
"Everything About Her" (2016) also made a strong impression. The two women leads, Vilma Santos and Angel Locsin were excellent and the male lead was perhaps a little above average. The background music was enjoyable and I decided to buy the song played over the end credits which was in English.
To check on my favorite movies of 2018: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/2018-movies.html