Oscar-nominated foreign films: The chosen one

maxresdefaultSomething disconcerting about a Sunday matinee of Son of Saul in a packed house, mostly elderly Chosen People who then as one tribe shuffle out, jostled flesh to flesh, only to meet the “cleanup crew” in uniform holding implements like batons, blocking the way and herding them to the exits.

Powerful movie expertly done. And one that forced me to consider not just the drama onscreen but that around me. How it starts off deliberately and interminably out of focus and people start making plans to go talk with the projectionist in the booth. The guy next to me with his Ziploc bag of “snacks” (liverwurst? pickles?). The endless crinkling of wrappers, pungent peanut M&Ms. Food should be banned at Holocaust movies. Imagine eating nachos or Goobers at Schindler’s List, appalling. Then there was the woman behind complaining about the third-row seats her middle-aged son chose online (“Oh, dear, these are our seats? I thought we’d be in the back. I can’t sit here. You sure these are the right seats? I’ll get such a crick in my neck. Did you realize we’d be so close? [Finally surrendering] At least I won’t need my glasses.”) It’s like going to temple. Those intimate, rhythmic, interactive sounds: coughing, throat-clearing, tsk-tsks, moans, scolding grunts — even snores from the man on my other side, then his one-word review as the credits rolled: “Disappointing.”

Sir, you’re sure to be disappointed when Son of Saul sends the other foreign film nominees packing on Oscar night.

mustang-cannes-film-festival-2This is my prediction despite having seen only two foreign film contenders, Saul and Mustang, both of them today. In between, I squeezed in my final documentary feature, Amy. You might say it was an all-Jewish day, what with Mustang having vague Fiddler on the Roof overtones (five sisters in rural Turkey bucking the tradition of arranged marriage) — the French offering is my runaway favorite feminist movie of this Oscar season.

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First time sampling Bethesda Row’s plush cinemas with the most comfortable chairs anywhere, but no leeway to move through the aisle. Next time I’ll choose the front row, where no one tends to sit.

But I’ll hold off on committing to a pick for best foreign film until I’ve seen more nominees. Oscars aficionados understand how predictions and picks can be worlds apart. I enjoyed Mustang more than Son of Saul — who can enjoy a Holocaust movie? But Mustang had editing issues near the end, as if the filmmakers suddenly realized they had to trim its running time.

The operative phrase here is running outta time, with Oscar night just a week away, my marathoning score: 27/37+12/15 — or 75%.

A personal best? Only if I can pick up more of what I lack, alack! (Any local leads welcome.)

  • Trumbo On Demand
  • The Hateful Eight — hate to miss this one; screws up my Essential Eight categories. I might hafta do something crazy and drive to Norfolk, Va., to see it.
  • Anomalisa  Oh where oh where? This is the only animated feature that’s a thorn in Inside Out‘s side, so I must see it.
  • Boy and the World
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie On Demand
  • When Marnie Was There
  • Cinderella  — Only available for purchase. Stupid, greedy producers.
  • Theeb On Demand
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • A War At E Street Cinema; plan to see the first showing Thursday
  • Documentary shorts — three of them, anyway; two are on Netflix!