"45 Years", "A War", "Anomalisa", "Brooklyn", "Carol", "Embrace of the Serpent", "Mustang", "Only Yesterday", "RAMS", "Room", "Son of Saul", "Spotight", "The Big Short", "The Bridge of Spies", "The Club", "Trumbo", "Where to Invade Next", Best Foreign Film, Films, Movies, Oscars
So it’s the morning after the Oscars, and most of the expected results indeed occurred. I see no need to add my two cents, particularly as I have already had my say about many of these films.
However, I was pleased to note that we had seen four of the five Best Foreign Film nominees (Son of Saul, the winner, A War, Embrace of the Serpent, and Mustang), only missing Theeb, which I had tried to see but somehow missed. I’ve found that over the years we tend to see more foreign, documentary and small budget films than mainstream, big studio films, and thus I’ve focused, so to speak, MillersTime film reviews on these.
Anyway, I’ve had this post in the works for a number of days but was delightfully delayed in completing it by the early arrival of a lovely granddaughter (postings on that, no doubt, will be coming).
I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these very different films .
Embrace of the Serpent****1/2
A wonderful and unusual film about the Colombian Amazon, inspired by the journals of two early 20th century explorers. The story focuses on an Amazonian shaman, who may be the last survivor of his people.
The first part is the story of the young shaman (Karakate) and a very sick German scientist who needs a particular healing plant to stay alive. The second half of the film takes place 40 years later when Karakate (then an old man who is losing his memory) meets a second scientist who is looking for the same plant.
In what almost seems like a documentary (it is not), we see the Amazon largely through the eyes, mind, and life of Karakate. One of the beauties of this film is that it is colonialism as seen through the eyes of the indigenous population.
But it is the filming of Embrace of the Serpent, done largely in black and white, that leads to my high rating above. It felt as if we were in the Amazon a hundred years ago.
(About three-quarters of our film club thought the film was good or excellent and 80% would recommend it to a friend.)
Son of Saul****1/2
Another Holocaust film?
Someone said there are at least six million Holocaust stories.
What makes this one different from many of the others is that it is told through the perspective of one concentration camp prisoner. The camera rarely leaves the face or presence of this man Saul, a Sonderkommando, a Hungarian Jewish prisoner whose job it is to assist in the herding of prisoners into the gas chambers and disposing of their remains.
Saul seeks to find a rabbi to give a young boy, who may or may not be his son, a proper burial. This is an almost impossible task but one that Saul undertakes with a fierceness that is unrelenting. At the same time, other prisoners are trying to convince him to join a fruitless rebellion against their captors. He largely ignores their efforts to engage him in actions.
The usual scenes of the horrors of camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau (where this film takes place) are only barely visible in the background. But that somehow only seems to increase the horror. The film is shot in a square picture format and not in the usual wide screen format, and that too adds to the uniqueness of this film.
Directed by Laszlo Nemes, his first film, co-written with Clara Royes, and starring Geza Rohrig, the film is different from most other Holocaust films, and it is riveting.
Last night, it won the the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
The particular war in this film is one that takes place in Afghanistan, tho the title A War suggests a universal theme.
The particular story focuses on a Danish company commander, Claus Pederson, and his struggles to lead his men on a particularly difficult peace keeping mission. Meanwhile, his wife struggles to keep their family together at home as their three kids miss their father. The film flips back and forth between these two struggles.
When Claus makes a decision in the midst of battle that leads to the death of 11 civilians (eight of whom are children), their stories come together as Claus is sent home to face a courtroom trial.
This film is one that begs for discussion. And I’d love to talk about it with any of you who may have seen it or do see it.
(Our Sunday cinema club gave A War an excellent/good rating of 89.41% and the recommend rate was above 90%.)
** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
In addition to the three films above, I’ve noticed that many of the films we saw in our movie club, in the Philly Film Festival, and a few others we saw and rated last year are now out and in the theaters. (Those below in red italics are linked to mini-reviews I wrote in earlier posts.)
The Big Short ****