Thursday Movie Picks: Non-English Language Movies – Middle Eastern Language Movies

I mentioned this the last time a Non-English category was featured in the Thursday Movie Picks (during my first week of participation), I’m not good at watching Non-English movies. And when I saw this topic, I was a bit nervous at first, but after I realized I’ve seen two that I loved, I knew I could do it, by recommending just two.

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# 265 – Golden Globes 2012 Winners (Extra special)

The Descendants wins the Best Motion Picture and George Clooney gets the Best Actor (Drama)

So it is over, another year of movies has sort of passed (since the awards usually reflect the end) and the Globes are given to the best of the best. Like I said, George Clooney had a great year and it is proven by the fact that he took home the Best Motion Picture for the Descendants and the Best Actor! I had a feeling about that or was it just my respect for Clooney that created that feeling, but either way I am thrilled for him. The same non-surprise moment was The Artist winning the Best Motion Picture and Best Actor in the Musical or Comedy category and it is on its way to the Oscars for sure. Best Actress awards in the ladies category went to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (Drama) and Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (Comedy). Last was probably the best choice out of all but since I have not seen all the movies yet I can not really tell. Just heard that it was good from various sources. The Best Director went to no other than Martin Scorsese for Hugo – I sort of mentioned that as well as you can remember but it is interesting that although the Best Director went to Scorsese The Descendants is probably better. Honestly, for me it looks like politics – I mean, all the great names got something, even Woody Allen got his Best Screenplay with the Midnight in Paris. I have to look up how many Best Motion Pictures get the Best Director, there should be some great statistics there – but it is probably a way to give all the great movies at least one great award in case there are big names and big movies –  I am rambling now so I will stop.

Best Foreign Film - A Separation

I am very happy that I have seen the Best Foreign Film Golden Globe winner which of course is A Separation. There was probably no doubt, it had very amazing reviews and people have been talking about it a lot so it was just a matter of documenting it with an award. There was also the Best Score category where the winner was The Artist – which is logical cause a great movie without any talking will have a soundtrack that holds it together.

But since Golden Globes also are a lot about the TV-shows I want to focus on them as well. (Personally I think I know this category the best cause I have seen more and am more likely to comment.) Best Television Series is Homeland – ironically I have not seen it and I was certain that American Horror Story would win for its innovative  approach but I guess war is a subject which can not be over turned at award shows. Interesting enough, IMDb reflects the result by giving Homeland 8,7 and AHS 8,5 but in that case Game of Thrones should have won by a long shot – a score over 9 is something out of this world! Just proves that not all can be brought down to numbers.  Anyhow, Best Television Series (Comedy) is Modern Family which I have to admit, I am not a big fan of – I guess I am not as mainstream as I thought but no big deal. Best Mini-Series is Downton Abbey which I like very much indeed. Interesting enough, Claire Danes takes the Globe for Best Performance in Homeland and Matt LeBlanc does the same in the Comedy category. Last is by far the biggest surprise for me cause I was putting my money on Galecki or Baldwin but I guess LeBlanc finally got what he deserved back when he was portraying Joey (in Friends and in Joey) – I bet he can look in the mirror and answer to his own question “How you doin’?” with a great big smile! My big smile goes to Idris Elba for Best Performance in a Mini-Series/Motion Picture for TV category as well as the same for Kate Winslet for Mildred Pierce – both amazing characters and no doubt worthy of the Globe. And to end with a happy note, American Horror Story did get an award and it went for Best Performance in a Supporting Role and Jessica Lange took that out of everybody’s hand – well done! Hope we see her the next season as well!

So, although my favorites did not manage to take home some gold, for instance New Girl – I am still pretty content with the winners. Most happy about Clooney of course and a little thrilled about The Artist now cause it will probably make history with the Oscars winning it for a silent film after 70 years – and that will be a political statement for sure! So, while hoping that the Academy Award will show that simplicity is sometimes the best choice, I look forward to the next BIG award show next month while I meantime try to watch all the winners – thank god for my long school-brake!

# 255 – A Separation (foreign special)

As I took part in PÖFF (which I posted a lot about and will continue to do so) I started to think about the content of this blog. Difficult statements were made in my mind and a final decision was that I will start to focus on foreign movies (that meaning movies that are not American). For me, this is probably a bit funny, cause I am Estonian and American movies are foreign for me as well but since I am basically writing this blog from the point of view of US cinema I made this distinction. So long story short, I am probably gonna post a lot of foreign movie reviews and trailers in addition to the long list of classics that are still waiting patiently for me to devour through them.

Back to business, A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) was  the last movie I saw at PÖFF (in Tallinn, together with people from workshop – awesome movie experts) and it was a bittersweet experience which left a good impression to the entire festival. There has been a lot of hype around this Iranian movie which tackles one of the most universal issues – separation of a marriage and I thought it would be a nice beginning for this new category.

Written, directed and produced by Asghar Farhadi A Separation is the best Iranian movie so far, winning the Golden Bear for best film and two Silver Bears for the actors/actresses at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, among the long list of other awards. Before getting deeper into the story-line I just want to mention the success through numbers. With a budget of half a million, A Separation has earned it all back and much-much more – just over $3 million in Iran itself and almost $15 million abroad!

The plot is simple, Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Harami) having separated, are now living with those consequences. In the very beginning it is shown that Simin wants a divorce, although she still has respect and love for her husband, because Nader is not willing to change his mind about moving abroad. The story follows them after Simin moves to her mother’s, where the emphasis of the plot is on Nader and his hired help – Razieh (Sareh Bayat). While separation is the problem on the surface, it is clear that the movie can not function without religion. The question of morals and what is acceptable or not, is especially strong within the character of Razieh. She is hired to help out with Nader’s father who is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, while bringing along her young daughter: various stories emerge from that point on. In the end, it is almost a story of two marriages where one ends with not apparent reason and the other continues through the difficulties thrust upon them.

Nader and Simin end up staying apart, due to reasons that seem more complicated than just fighting or cheating (which is actually refreshing to see on the screen), and their daughter has to make a choice which parent she want’s to live with. This is the final chapter, the final scene of the movie that leaves a strong mark – the end credits roll between Nader and Simin sitting in a hallway, symbolizing their brake-up and their daughter is making a choice in front of the judge. Her decision is not shown, we are left to guess even though the actions of the father in the middle of the movie, where the conflict between Razieh arises, would lead us to presume the choice of the mother. Written and delivered with such strength, the child’s option, despite the conflict between the daughter and the father, is still hovering in the air days after seeing the movie.

Concluding with a compliment towards Farhadi: A Separation has a strong script, solid verbal contradiction and a powerful narrative with twists and turns. Together with Farhadi’s directing and the believable acting (from everyone, even the little kid) it is a must-see film with a sad, enjoyable and realistic story of how everybody makes mistakes.