Look for these international movies in the best picture race
Somewhere around the 20-minute mark of “Titane”, Julia Ducournau’s amazing horror film (and I don’t use that word lightly), winner of a Palme d’Or, I saw all the times my colleague Justin Chang and I mourned the loss of cinema last year.
I was at the Landmark in West LA, and the woman sitting behind me had spent pretty much every minute of the movie freaking out (oh no, she didn’t just do that, TELL ME she didn’t just do that!) or ask the guy sitting next to her to explain what just happened. (And he was only too happy to oblige.)
By the end of the movie, the couple sitting next to me had climbed up three rows of seats, trying to get out of earshot. Me? I was paralyzed, half thrilled by the energy of the theater (my neighbor wasn’t the only one having a visceral reaction to Ducournau’s provocations and the ferocity of lead actress Agathe Rousselle) and half annoyed at not not having fled to a calmer section myself.
A few days later, I saw Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s 2 hour and 59 minute drama “Drive My Car” in a crowded screening room, no one speaks, no one moves, no one dares to make noise for the whole duration. That’s how completely transfixed we were with the mysteries of the film. It’s almost comical to say that a movie in which the opening credits drop to 40 minutes is too short, but everyone I know who’s seen “Drive My Car” is gone, if they don’t want it. no more, so they intend to see him again.
But when it comes to international offerings this year, who has time to see a movie more than once? Members of the Academy’s International Feature Films Committee face an annual viewing crisis, and any voter who has tried to be diligent and browse through some of the nearly one hundred films available for viewing on the screening platform of the academy knows the limits of time all too well.
With the best Oscar run back in a fixed group of 10 nominees, academy members should look further, starting with Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers,” which Spain bypassed as an entry for the International Oscar because A) he can’t name every Almodóvar film (I guess) and B) because the film he submitted, “The Good Boss”, is an enjoyable corporate satire (so slick ) which features Javier Bardem in the lead role.
The loss to Spain should be the best gain on the slate. “Parallel Mothers” is a twisty, tender drama starring Penélope Cruz as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown after she makes a shocking discovery shortly after giving birth. Once again, Almodóvar explores her fascination with maternal instinct within the confines of melodrama, but ‘Parallel Mothers’ also delves into the pain of her country’s past. Anchored by a raw, radiant turn of a never-better Cruz (voters in the acting branch should take note), “Parallel Mothers” checks all the best picture boxes you can name.
Cruz isn’t the only Oscar-worthy woman leading a formidable candidate. Renate Reinsve won the lead actress award at Cannes for Joachim Trier’s ‘The Worst Person in the World’, Norway’s Oscar entry. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen dealing with the confusion and excitement of being young and not knowing what to do with your life. It’s also a bittersweet rom-com possessing lucid honesty about love and the struggle to find identity, with a weird, wonderful, and very observant Reinsve at its center.
Scandinavia hasn’t been represented in the lead actress category since the days of Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman in the ’70s. A Norwegian hasn’t been nominated since Ullman. Beklager, good people of Norway. We promise to work on this, starting with Reinsve.
Look in every corner of the world, and there’s something interesting, including Iranian author Asghar Farhadi’s latest nuanced social drama, “A Hero,” and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s dreamy tale “Memoria.” on Colombia’s past, with Tilda Swinton. There’s also Tatiana Huezo’s harrowing coming-of-age story “Prayers for the Stolen” (the entrance to Mexico) and Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s poetic animated film “Flee,” a story of refugees which is both an international and an international force. documentary categories, and maybe even animated feature films.
These are all films that will spark conversations – hopefully conducted after the film, not during – and the kind of contemplation that great art produces. Their memory lives on. When I spoke to filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson about my “Titanium” experience, he offered a reaction that mirrored the kind of fervent chatter I heard as I left the Landmark that night.
“I walked out not knowing what I had just seen or whether I enjoyed it or not, and then a few days later, ‘Yeah, no, I think I loved that,'” Anderson said with a smile. . “It’s a great movie.”