**+ El Gusto (The Good Feeling) (w/ France)
An Algerian version of Buena Vista Social Club, where musicians who haven’t seen each other since the Algerian Civil War reunite to tell tales of the time when their music was king for a day or thousand in the Casbah of Algiers.
A documentary in odd pieces, putting a magnifying lens to the culture of beach resort towns. Abandoned most of the year, they briefly flare to life in an odd, annual ritual of indulgence that seems almost a necessary return to the sea for mankind even in the modern age.
**+ El Bonaerense
A locksmith gets mixed up in a missing person case and can thank his relatives for getting him out... and into the provincial police force of Buenos Aires. There he struggles to make sense of a job that ill suits him, fortunately finding a benefactor in the force to mitigate the shenanigans of his fellow officers.
**+ Caballos Salvajes (Wild Horses)
Something of a buddy movie gaucho style, park Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy, as one man effectively coerces a banking employee into being his accomplice. Throw in a girl and a countryside happy to help them out against The Man, and you have the makings of an extended chase. And why not succumb, if only to the broader brushstrokes and not the misplaced or unearned sentimentality?
** Cenizas del Paraiso (Ashes of Paradise)
Three brothers and a father fall to the charms of a young woman - one whose father seems to be implicated in extra-legal affairs. A close-knit family of Greek descendants in Argentina buckles under the strain in a whodunnit that has everyone confessing to the young woman’s murder.
**+ La Ciénaga (The Swamp)
An Argentine family retreats to their country home under the most sweltering of conditions. They're a bourgeois mess, and their servants have to put up with them both at the house and in the nearby town. It's not pretty, everyone's sweating buckets, yet it's rather compelling in its odd lack of drama nonetheless.
** El Lado Oscuro del Corazon (The Dark Side of the Heart)
**+ El Hijo De La Novia (The Son of the Bride)
The ever-present Ricardo Darín is the protagonist, a restaurateur who is everly stressed and needs to get his shit together. Is the restaurant more important than his family, friends, and girlfriend? Billed as a comedy, it mostly is more serious than that.
This one follows the apparent formula of Argentine quality cinema using the ever-present (and fortunately talented) Ricardo Darín and concerning the "Dirty War". It's of the second such wave of films, less focused on the horrors of the torture and the killing and instead delving into the impact on a family living under the stress of waiting for that ominous knocking down of the door.
** Medianeras (Sidewalls)
A young man and woman are suffering through their twenties looking for love in all the wrong ways while essentially being made for each other and just living across the way. Pleasant.
*** The Motorcycle Diaries
** La Niña Santa (The Holy Girl)
A girl entering puberty quickly realizes her growing power when a visiting academic turns out to be a pervert who makes the mistake (ultimately) of briefly fixating on her.
*** Nueve Reinas
Two con artists work a grand scam - or each other. Pieces keep falling in and out of place, so it's hard to keep the eye on the prize - which is to actually understand the exact scam being run.
*** Wild Tales/Relatos Salvajes - Argentina,Spain
Six shorts that fully intend to grab your attention, and do, one not necessarily more or less shocking than the previous or the next, but all worth an eyeball and generally graphic to boot.
**+ El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes)
Past and present combine to help solve an old murder mystery in Buenos Aires. Good intrigue and a twist or two.
** El Tiempo de la Venganza (Time of Vengeance)
A precocious boy tries to make his way in the world, raised by his melodramatic grandmother while trying to understand his generally absent father. You can’t help but be in the little guy’s corner.
**+ Whisky Romeo Zulu
A modest fictionalization of the events that led to the crash of a LAPA airline flight. The real life whistle blower is both the lead actor and director of the film, I imagine a first.
** The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
**+ 'Breaker' Morant
**+ The Castle
** Crocodile Dundee
**+ Lion - dir. Garth Davis
A dramatization of the amazing story of a little Indian boy who falls asleep on a train - to next find himself in the massive city of Kolkata/Calcutta some 16 hours away. Ultimately adopted into a new home in Australia, he never forgets the family he unwittingly left behind. So he makes an effort to find them all too many years later.
* Look Both Ways
**+ Mad Max
** Mad Max - Beyond the Thunderdome
** The Man From Snowy River
**+ Muriel's Wedding
** Ned Kelly
**+ Oscar and Luscinda
**+ Picnic At Hanging Rock
**+ Rabbit-Proof Fence
*** Samson And Delilah
Unquestionably bleak, but touching as well. The focus here is on Samson, a petrol sniffing boy in the aboriginal homelands of Australia. He's a member of this relatively unseen but significant fringe of Australian society often purposely ignored as incorrigible or unreachable.
** Strictly Ballroom
** Two Hands
** We Of The Never Never
** The Year My Voice Broke
**+ The Year of Living Dangerously
**+ Black Orpheus (w/ French)
*** City Of God
** About A Boy
* African Queen
** Bend It Like Beckham
** Billy Elliot
** Brassed Off
** Bridget Jones' Diary
**** A Clockwork Orange - dir. Stanley Kubrick
Hoo-ey! What do you get when you mix some huge-name British actors - Sir John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren - with porn? Well, this! Meet Caligula, one of the last big time Roman emperors, knee, fist, and everything else deep into his special world of debauchery.
**+ Casino Royale
***+ A Clockwork Orange - dir. Stanley Kubrick
*** Chariots of Fire
** Chicken Run
***+ Crying Game
The heydey of the IRA conflict in the UK is taken to a very human level, where love, gender, and duty intertwine and allow for no easy escape.
** Die Another Day
*** Diamonds Are Forever
One of the better flicks trotting out "Bond, James Bond." From an actual Ian Fleming novel.
**+ Dirty Pretty Things
*** Doctor Stranglelove - dir. Stanley Kubrick
**+ Dr. No
*** The Elephant Man
*** The Emerald Forest - dir. John Boorman
*** The English Patient
**** Excalibur - dir. John Boorman
A gorgeous retelling of the King Arthur legend, from a wisecracking Merlin to a devilish Morgana (and her incestuous child) to some beautiful uses of Mozart's Requiem and Carmina Burana. Beautiful.
**+ Eyes Wide Shut - dir. Stanley Kubrick
**+ A Fish Called Wanda
Essentially an addendum to the Monty Python films, there's plenty of cute in this comedy crime caper with Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis and some of the MP troupe. But it's no Brian, Grail, or Meaning of Life.
**** The Following - dir. Christopher Nolan
This bank heist flick is Nolan's first time out trying the short term memory condition made much more famous in Memento. I think this is the better stab at it.
** For Your Eyes Only
** From Russia With Love
**+ Four Weddings And A Funeral
***+ Full Metal Jacket - dir. Stanley Kubrick
*+ The Full Monty
*** The Gangs Of New York
** Gladiator (2000)
**+ Gosford Park
** The Great Train Robbery
***+ Hamlet (1996)
** Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
**+ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
**+ Heavenly Creatures
*** Hi Fidelity
**+ Hilary and Jackie
** The Hotel New Hampshire
**+ Howard's End
**+ An Ideal Husband
*** In The Name Of The Father
*** The Killing Fields
**+ The King's Speech
Unexpectedly gaining the British throne with the abdication of his brother, King George VI really needs to get over his stuttering speech impediment to project calm to the nation. Fortunately an unconventional Aussie is there to help out.
** Kinky Boots
* The Lair Of The White Worm
***+ The Last Emperor
**+ The Last King of Scotland
**+ Lawrence of Arabia
***+ The Life of Brian - dir. Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Brian's story parallels that of Jesus, which isn't a fun way to end up on a cross. But it is plenty of fun for the viewer to take chapter and verse of the new testament apart for dissection in a decidedly wrong way.
**+ The Limey
** Live And Let Die
** The Living Daylights
** Local Hero
**+ Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels - dir. Guy Ritchie
A very London heist movie, dancing on different sides of the underworld as some novices try to edge their way in.
**+ Lolita - dir. Stanley Kubrick
**+ Love and Death on Long Island
**+ The Madness Of King George
** The Man In The Iron Mask (1996)
**+ Mansfield Park
*+ Maybe Baby
***+ The Meaning of Life - dir. Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
My favorite of the Monty Python offerings, with the most quotable moments and, frankly, the most philosophical take the troupe has on offer. It is, indeed, the meaning of life.
***+ Midnight Express
***+ Monty Python and the Holy Grail - dir. Terry Gilliam
King Arthur's tale as told by Monty Python with scads of quotable scenes. Ridiculous in the right way.
** Moulin Rouge!
*+ Mr. Turner
A s-low burn about the real-life painter J.M.W. Turner, who suffered Victorian society while being simultaneously very passionate about painting. Something of an eccentric in the grand British tradition, he was both very much part of society while roaming far from it.
** Notting Hill
**+ Philomena - dir. Stephen Frears
The true story of an Irish woman who had her son forcefully adopted from beneath her while living under supposed sanctuary at a convent workhouse. She wonders for the rest of her life what happened to him until she decides to actually find out.
***+ The Pianist
*+ The Pillow Book
** The Pink Panther
** The Pink Panther Strikes Again
** The Portrait Of A Lady
**+ Remains of the Day
**+ Rocknrolla - dir. Guy Ritchie
The final serving of urban Brittania's underworld shenanigans, as per Guy Ritchie, in this weaker of the three (the others: LockStock, Snatch).
***+ The Rocky Horror Picture Show
***+ Romeo Is Bleeding
**+ A Room With a View
** Salmon Fishing In Yemen
A mild romantic comedy with a somewhat larger vision of humanity, this one literally is about a fish out of water... or, precisely, salmon, carried over to the dry country of Yemen, where hopefully they'll begin a new fish run and lend some hope to a war-torn area.
*** Secrets and Lies
**+ Sense And Sensibility
**+ Sexy Beast
***+ Shakespeare in Love
** Shaun of the Dead
*** The Shining
** Sleepy Hollow - dir. Tim Burton
**+ Snatch - dir. Guy Ritchie
A second dose of crime capers, with a new batch of kingpins, stooges, and newbies, to upstage LockStock's first round.
Another Bond film, the last with the brusque/brawny Daniel Craig. In theory this one is the be-all end-all because it deals with a mastermind behind the masterminds. But no one for a moment would believe that Bond would end here. Nevertheless entertaining and sufficiently appealing in its stylish, brainless way.
** The Spy Who Loved Me
** Stealing Beauty
An awkward coming-of-age story, Brit-style.
*** The Tango Lesson
**+ The Theory Of Everything
Stephen Hawking was/is a brilliant physicist, but Lou Gehrig's disease in his slowly-advancing version of it has proven a difficult foe. The ups and downs of his career and struggle with the disease are brought into focus here, with his wife's determination and sacrifice at the forefront.
** Time Bandits - dir. Terry Gilliam
Nowhere near the quality of its Monty Python predecessors, this one tries to get by on cuteness more than anything else - and it doesn't really work. All things come to an end.
***+ To Die For
** Tomorrow Never Dies
*** 2001: A Space Odyssey - dir. Stanley Kubrick
** A View To A Kill
** Wings of the Dove
** The World Is Not Enough
**+ The Young Poisoner's Handbook
**+ Zorba the Greek
*** Nostalgia de la Luz
Focusing on the Atacama desert of Northern Chile, the two very different worlds of astronomy - Atacama hosts some of the most advanced observatories in the world - and loss - as in the victims of General Pinochet who were encarcerated, killed, and dumped in the desert - are brought together. Interestingly, this works to bring forward a discussion about the "Disappeareds" that Chilean society (at least up to 2012) chooses all too often to ignore as inconveniently ugly and distasteful.
** 2046 (Hong Kong)
**+ China Blue
In this documentary, the bleak life of the Chinese factory worker pumping out product for Western markets is explored. While seemingly a boon to peasants eager to leave the countryside and earn some money but at a huge price, what we really see are bosses squeezing every bit of profit from this poor, practically enslaved population.
*** Chun King Express (Hong Kong)
*** Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
*** The Emperor and the Assassin
**+ God of Cookery
**+ House of Flying Daggers
*** In the Mood For Love (Hong Kong)
**+ Iron Monkey
**+ Ju Dou
**+ King of Masks
**+ Kung Fu Hustle
** Not One Less
** The One
*** Raise the Red Lantern
** Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker
**+ Shaolin Soccer
***+ The Story of Qui Ju
** Temptress Moon
** Two Thieves And A Half
Busing it, South America style - this is the fare circa early 2000s. Jackie Chan doing his thing in Hong Kong, a better venue for him in general. At least the jokes become funnier when knowing that they are intentionally for the HK audience. Oh yeah - a baby is stolen and hijinx ensue with some hapless thieves caught in the middle of something bigger.
** The Warrior's Way
Yet another of those more modern day Chinese martial flicks where the colors are vivid and everyone is flying around in dramatic fashion. This one, however, has a sense of humor, where a bizarro circus inexplicably inhabits a Wild West town under siege of an outlaw gang.
**+ Xiu Xiu (the Sent Down Girl)
**+ YiYi (Taiwan)
**+ The Colors Of The Mountain
Guerrilla war descends in earnest on a small town in Colombia, where the local peasantry are forced to take a side or risk the consequences. As seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy, whose birthday soccer ball wastes no time in being held hostage to a suddenly-discovered minefield.
**+ From The Heart Of The World
The Kogi people allow a reporter into their homeland in the Sierra Nevada of Northern Colombia, giving a dire warning about the future of mankind if we don't change our ways. No doubt they're correct, but mostly this serves as a rare insight into this, perhaps the only culture to survive intact since the invasion of the Conquistadores.
**+ Maria Full of Grace
** Our Lady of the Assassins
**+ Rosario Tijeras
Based on narco events in Medellin, a girl from the tough side of the barrios and a presence that oozes sex makes her way. In the meantime, both on her account and the drug trade, bodies start dropping bloodily to the wayside.
**+ Before Night Falls
**+ Fresa y chocolate
** Divided We Fall
**+ I Served The King Of England
** Kráva (Cow)
*** After the Wedding
*** Breaking the Waves - dir. Lars von Trier
*+ Dancer In the Dark - dir. Lars von Trier
*** Festin (The Celebration) - dir. Thomas Vinterberg
**+ In China They Eat Dogs
**+ Italian For Beginners
*** The Square - dir. Ruben Östlund
A short slice in time concerning the job of a man running a modern art museum in Scandanavia, royally taking the piss out of the entire scene in using the exact language and content one finds in that world.
**+ Innocent Voices (made elsewhere)
**+ The Cuckoo
** The Man Without A Past
*+ The Match Factory Girl
** Après Vous
*** The Artist
There's no subterfuge involved in this homage to old Hollywood and the day of the silent movie. But that doesn't make it the less entertaining as the baton is passed to the "talkie" movies via the biggest actor from the silent age and an ingenue.
**+ l'Auberge Espagnole
**+ Band of Outsiders - dir. Jean-Luc Godard
** Beauty and the Beast - dir. Jean Cocteau
** Belle de Jour
**+ Buffet Froid
** Chocolat (American version)
**+ City of Lost Children
*** The Class
A teacher struggles with students that seem vastly more concerned with challenging than learning from him. Inner city Paris or the nearby banliues form the milieu.
** Coco Chanel And Igor Stravinsky
For a period of time after the disaster of the initial reception to The Rite Of Spring, Stravinsky stayed with Chanel and worked while having a rumored affair with Chanel under the nose of his family.
**+ Cyrano de Bergerac
**+ Day For Night - dir. François Truffaut
The madness involved in making a film, with all of the personalities, egos, and competition involved.
** Diary of a Chambermaid - dir. Luis Buñuel
**+ The Dinner Game
** District B13
** The Dreamlife of Angels
*** La Femme Nikita
** French Twist
** The Hairdresser's Husband
*** A Heart In Winter (Un Coeur en Hiver)
*** Jean de Florette
** Jules and Jim
* Kings & Queen
*** Latcho Drum
**+ Man Bites Dog
** Man On The Train
**+ Manon of the Spring
** Une Femme Mariée/A Married Woman - dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Stylish and intriguing, romantic and beguiling, here's a love triangle that's somehow elusive to fully understand. The drama is written on her face.
*** Ma Vie en Rose
** Paris, Je T'aime
** The Piano Teacher
** The Plot Against Harry
** A Single Girl
** Small Change
**+ Swimming Pool
** À Tout de Suite
* Tout Va B!en
** The Triplets Of Belleville
** The Vanishing
** Va Savoir
**+ La Vie En Rose
** A Very Long Engagement
**+ With A Friend Like Harry
**** Das Boot
**+ Go For Zucker (Alles Auf Zucker)
**+ Good Bye, Lenin
**+ The Lives of Others
*** Nasty Girl
** The Bitter Tears of Petra van Kant
*** Europa, Europa
*** Nasty Girl
In this documentary, young woman confronts her small town's participation during WWII. They'd rather it all just be forgotten, for the most part...
** The Princess and the Warrior
**+ Run, Lola, Run
** Schultze Gets the Blues
***+ The Tin Drum
** Triumph of the Will
Reisenstadt's (essentially documentary) propaganda film for the Nazis during their rise in power, both a bizarre work and one with a certain amount of genius in its stylings.
** The Tunnel
** The White Ribbon
**+ Monsoon Wedding
** Slumdog Millionaire
**+ Tickling Giants - dir. Sara Taksler
In Egypt, Bassem Yousseff took notes on what The Daily Show under Jon Stewart was doing in the U.S. to take on the doublespeak of the news and the political class. In Egypt, however, democracy is a much more fragile and dangerous thing.
** The White Balloon
**+ The Butcher Boy
*** The Commitments
**+ Waking Ned Devine
*** The Secret of Roan Inish - dir. John Sayles
*** My Left Foot
** The Band's Visit
*** Amarcord - dir. Fellini
** The Bicycle Thief
*** Cinema Paradiso
**+ Divorce Italian Style
*** La Dolce Vita - dir. Fellini
***+ 8 1/2 - dir. Fellini
**+ Facing Windows
***+ Life Is Beautiful
** Nights Of Cabiria - dir. Fellini
**+ Open City
**+ Il Postino (The Postman)
** Roma - dir. Fellini
** Swept Away
** Two Women
** Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (Minbo No Onna) - dir. Juzo Itami
The staff of a hotel take on local gangsters who try to force them into a blackmail situation for dependable revenue. Fortunately, there's an anti-crime detective who knows how to beat them at their game. More interesting as a look into Japanese culture than a movie with any suspense to its credit.
** Shall We Dance?
**+ Tampopo - dir. Juzo Itami
*+ A Taxing Woman - dir. Juzo Itami
A number-crunching tax auditor rises through the ranks in trying to catch a slippery tax dodger who's made a career of keeping one step in front of the law. More interesting as a look into Japanese culture than a movie with any suspense to its credit.
**+ 21 Grams - dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
***+ Amores Perros - dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
*** Babel - dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
**+ The City (w/ U.S.)
**+ Like Water For Chocolate
**+ Los Olvidados - dir. Luis Buñuel
Streetlife in the big city of Mexico, Mexico City, where kids with no future make do any way they can to "make" a peso and survive. This one's a classic for all the right reasons.
**+ Romántico (w/ U.S.)
**+ Santa Sangre
**+ Y Tu Mama Tambien
**+ Close To Eden
** Le Grand Voyage (w/ France)
**+ Once Were Warriors
*** The Piano
A crime thriller with no shortage of twists and gruesome imagery, but not so much suspension of belief is required to roll with it as the viewer gets a slice of somewhere not often available in the movies, Norway.
** Pantaleón y las Visitadoras
A generally faithful, if omissive version of the eponymous book by Mario Vargas Loosa. The straightest arrow of the Peruvian Army is asked to create a prostitution service for the out-of-control troops rampaging women in the Amazon region. He does so only too well.
**+ La Teta Asustada (The Frightened Tit)
An uncommon look at contemporary life in Peru through the eyes of an indigenous woman who has just lost her mother. That she is a child born of rape under political auspices makes the story more bitter, and leads to her curious condition. This is a tale of a different sort altogether, where two societies still clash and misunderstand each other.
*** Knife in the Water
*** My Life As a Dog
RUSSIA/FORMER SOVIET UNION
**+ Alexander Nevsky
**+ Battleship Potemkin
**+ Come and See
Bleak, cold, and tragic already come with the territory, this being Russia. A man tries to stop the local official with all the power from seizing his home illegally in his fishing town somewhere on the coast in Kamchatka, an outpost far from anywhere and where corruption reigns supreme.
*** Prisoner of the Mountains
** Red Army
The focus here is primarily on a star member of the Red Army hockey team, primarily during the later days of the Soviet Union. Play the game our way - which entailed a very restricted life in a bleak training camp in exchange for the honor to play on the best team in the world and its attending glory mostly only within Russia - or don't play the game at all.
** The Return
**+ The Thief
*** The Gods Must Be Crazy
** The Gods Must Be Crazy 2
**+ All About My Mother - dir. Pedro Almodovar
*** Amantes (Lovers)
**+ Ay, Carmela!
**+ Boca a Boca (Mouth To Mouth)
** Cabeza de Vaca
A visual retelling of a Spaniard's decade-long journey through modern-day Texas and Mexico to rejoin his fellow conquistadors after a shipwreck near today's Galveston. The general facts stand up, actually, as fantastic as they may seem, and in some cases are almost the only notes on contemporary culture among long-disappeared/annihilated tribes of the upper isthmus.
** Un Chien Andalou - dir. Luis Buñuel
Buñuel and Salvador Dalí are the culprits or geniuses behind this bizarre, ground-breaking sub-20-minute film. I won't pretend to understand it in the least, and they claim it has no meaning, so all's fair. Spoiler alert: When you see the razor being sharpened, get ready...
** El Color De Los Nubes
Something of a who's who of Spanish cinema appear in this one, which was done in one massive take where one actor hands off to the next with lots of street drama. It felt more like a play, actually, and one can't escape what passes for street life and culture in Madrid.
**+ Jamón, Jamón
** Kika - dir. Pedro Almodovar
**+ Lovers of the Arctic Circle
** El Mariachi
** Una Mala Educación - dir. Pedro Almodovar
**+ Pan's Labyrinth
**+ The Red Squirrel
**+ Sex and Lucia
** Talk To Her
**+ Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - dir. Pedro Almodovar
** Tristana - dir. Luis Buñuel
It's tough to be a pretty woman without a protector in old Italy, as this film aptly shows. But it doesn't mean you're entirely helpless or beyond revenge, as Catherine Deneuve makes an impressive case.
**+ Volver - dir. Pedro Almodovar
**+ Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown - dir. Pedro Almodovar
*** The Seventh Seal - dir. Bergman
**+ Wild Strawberries - dir. Bergman
** Head-On - dir. Fatih Akin (w/Germany)
This flick perfectly captures the struggle between the Islamic and modern worlds, where women are essentially treated not much better than marriageable chattel far too often. Five young sisters find their world suddenly constricted in a massive way when a neighbor deems them too free and easy in their relationships with their local male schoolmates.
A lumbering security guard falls for one of the big box retailer personnel whom he keeps an eye on. Things build a bit as he confronts his desire with the inescapable fact of his shyness around women, or at least one in which he's interested.
** Mal Día Para Pescar (Bad Day To Go Fishing)
** Mr. Kaplan - dir. Aálvaro Brechner
A man in his twilight years tries to find some meaning and perhaps some closure to his origins as an orphan of the Holocaust who has ended up in a comfortable life in Uruguay. Finding an old Nazi still on the run ought to do the trick, he surmises, after reading about a recent such discovery in a neighboring country piques his interest.
**+ The Scent of Green Papaya
**+ Three Seasons
**+ Beautiful People
*** No Man's Land
*** Time of the Gypsies
** Tito And Me
** When Dad Was Away On Business
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