Monthly Archives: December 2014

Some comments on Foreign Language Films – Oscar/Golden Globe

So the Oscar people have short-listed 9 films up for nomination for Best Foreign Language Films, a category which I follow closely since this is my area of interest. Not that the Oscar people’s opinion is the gold standard, many times and often it is not, but they do have a sway on the general public and the films are generally worth watching.

As in the tradition of the year’s beginning, the Golden Globe Awards people also named their nominated films for Best Foreign Language.

Here they are:

Oscar short list:

1. IDA (Poland)

2. LEVIATHAN (Russia)

3. CORN ISLAND (Georgia)

4. WILD TALES (Argentina)

5. TANGERINES (Estonia)

6. TIMBUKTU (Mauritania)

7. ACCUSED (Netherlands)

8. FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden)

9. LIBERATOR (Venezuela)

Golden Globe Awards:

1. IDA (Poland)

2. FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden)

3. GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE ANSALEM (Israel)

4. TANGERINES (Estonia)

5. LEVIATHAN (Russia)

These two lists always overlap one another and for the past few years, the winner of the Golden Globes also wins the Oscar and since the Golden Globes comes first, it is a good indicator for the Oscar.

The strongest representation is IDA from Poland where pundits all over predicted the win. The other one with was also strongly predicted is LEVIATHAN from Russia. Here are my two cents on the films. MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.

IDA – no doubt a masterpiece standing on the shoulder of giants. The tonality of the films gives hints of past masters, Bergman comes to mind naturally. The cinematography is superb, framing subjects in ways that many will find unconventional. This Black and White film is a beautiful film to watch, literally. A personal story on the backdrop of a big event, this film is surely a winner and it won’t be a surprise that it will finally win.

LEVIATHAN – another beautifully shot movie amidst the barren landscape of a remote town in Russia. A not so subtle jab at the authoritarian state where corruption is rife and abuse of power is the norm, it is a wonder that Russia submitted this film. The story will be familiar to those who lives under oppressive regimes or has been oppressed before. But there is a story within a story where everybody wants to get a piece of you. The film’s ending may not be the cup of tea for Oscar voters but given the flow of current events, they might want to make a statement.

CORN ISLAND – I have not watched this film

WILD TALES – as its name depicts, truly wild tales. This dark comedy is an omnibus of 6 stories on the desire for human for revenge. From the first story on, it is a roller coaster ride which is both entertaining and engaging, yet also showing us the darker side of human nature and how a very small or insignificant event gives rise to events with disastrous consequences. But it also ends with how humans have the capacity to love and reconcile amidst all these craziness.

TANGERINES – An anti-war movie that may be cliché to some but is nevertheless very well executed. The lead character did a marvellous job of holding the plot together and the tension in the film is always present. The victim of all these wars are always inevitably the innocent, depicted by the guy who lost his farm and then his life through no action on his part besides just happening to be there. The reconciliation of the enemies is a little simplistic but also projects a good message. A really good film this is.

TIMBUKTU – When your country is being ruled by a bunch of extremists, your life is basically screwed. This is what happened in this movie which was based on the occupation of Timbuktu by an extremist group. The rule of law is iron fist and scenes such as the stoning scene, although not as terribly depicted as in THE STONING OF SORAYA M., still sends shivers up one’s spine.

ACCUSED – To be honest, when I saw this film being submitted, it did not even cross my mind that this film can make the short list. There are others which I felt more deserving, for instance the talkative WINTER SLEEP which I happen to like. But this Dutch movie based on a true story is engaging in its own way. It is not a bad film but I didn’t feel it belonged here but obviously others do not seem to agree with me.

FORCE MAJEURE – This is another dark comedy with a very interesting idea of challenging the manhood of husbands and will inevitably send many wives to giggle in a self reassuring way. It also depicts the fundamental difference between man and woman. The denial scene is precious and so very funny. Ultimately, this film is an investigation into this idea of manhood, the pride of manliness, whether at first it is a valid notion and if yes, how this come into the way of a relationship especially when a life-threatening event happens, and then how to regain it when lost. Production quality is top notch although the way the movie ends may not be to many people’s liking.

LIBERATOR – An ambitious film that tells the story of Simon Bolivar and his quest to liberate and unite South America, which did not finally happen. I was quite a bit perplexed on how this film got into the short list as for me personally, there is really nothing really exceptional about this film. The story is run-of-the-mill nationalistic types (turn your head to China) and although the production value is good, it does not jump out nor is it innovative in any ways. But again, it seems many others disagree with me.

GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE ANSALEM – I have not watched this film

Finally, my own prediction for the final nomination for the Oscar will be IDA, LEVIATHAN, FORCE MAJEURE, WILD TALES and TANGERINES. The nomination will be announced on January 15, 2015.

So which one will win? Most likely IDA or LEVIATHAN but I secretly hope that WILD TALES will get it.

Some other comments:

One thing that is really glaring is the absence of any East Asian films in this list. NIGHTINGALE from China is a nice movie but it is a rather common story although well told and filmed. I felt it lacked edge. Perhaps Zhang Yimou’s GOING HOME is a better choice but against the films above, it is not going to be easy.

Hong Kong’s THE GOLDEN ERA also did not get in although I was really hopeful about it. When was the last time a Hong Kong movie gets an Oscar nomination? THE GRANDMASTER made the short list last year but it is already a wonder it actually got to that stage. FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE and RAISE THE RED LANTERN were nominated before but this was in the early 90’s.

Iran’s TODAY is a good tale about a crazy day in a taxi driver’s life. The lead actor is superb and the story is well told where the sense of mystery is always present. But again, against the above, it is understandable that it did not get selected. Before the submission announcement, I thought TALES would have been submitted by Iran instead of TODAY. I really like TALES and I personally thought it is a better film.

I really like GHADI from Lebanon though. I find the film very well shot and the story is very interesting. It is sad that this film is not in the radar of many people. I thought this film deserves to be seen by more people.

Ok, that’s it for this post. Let’s see what happens in January.

Have fun watching movies. Movies are great!!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Unforgettable Seafood

Seafood is nice but really fresh seafood is something heavenly. There are food that one always crave for or think of. Sometimes, merely thinking of them will make the stomach growl and the saliva glands active. Man is not unlike other animals, and eating is a pleasure to behold. The “Live to eat or eat to live” argument for me us pure bullshit. You eat to live and also live to eat. It is not either/or.

Mankind always fall into this foolish idea of having to choose either one and cannot live with two or more choices. This is also the reason why the world is in the mess it is now because mankind cannot seem to be able to live together in plurality and must choose only one single way, and if there are opposing ways, the tolerance level is zero.

Imposing one’s worldview or way of life on others is the biggest crime in the history of mankind. For instance, because one eats only minimally, one condemns others for spending more money to eat something that do not conform to their view. Or if one is very thrifty condemning others who spends on food. And we are not even talking about religion or politics. Don’t even start. This “holier than thou” kind of mindset is really primitive.

Anyways, the purpose of this post is not to talk about these depressing stuffs but to celebrate some really good seafood that is unforgettable for me.

The first that comes to my mind is the Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Wonderful and superbly fresh! Of course there are others like Jiro’s but the combination of the freshness and deliciousness vs price cannot be matched. It is too sad that they intend to move the market next year for the Olympics. So before they do that, fly there now.

IMG_1603

The standard set costs about 3,500 yen and you get about 8 types of sushi. And then you can add a-la-carte. I have never tasted sushi this good and this fresh, at this price.

IMG_1599  IMG_1594

The wonderful chef who keeps on asking “oishi? oishi?” in the cramped shop and then the huge line waiting outside. If you want to go here, you really need to be there really early. I reached there at 4 something in the morning and ended up only waiting about one hour. If you reach later, say at 8am, the queue can get to about 3 hours. So wake up early or don’t sleep at all.

The second one that pops into my mind is the King Crabs at Kirkenes, Norway. These are crabs at the top of the world, the arctic and they are not only huge but extremely delicious. The meat is of course fresh, and all you need is to boil it in water and then eat it with white wine and enjoying the aurora borealis dancing overhead. It is hard to imagine anything more amazing.

DSC00729  DSC00731

We just eat the legs and they are huge with lots of meat. The freshness and natural sweetness is unbelievable.

Closer to home, of course there are some great seafood places, such as the prawns at Tg. Tualang or the various seafood places. But when I think of seafood, Tsukiji market and Kirkenes pops up invariably.

This post is actually a call to action. The call is that if you have not experienced the Tsukiji market, do so before it’s too late. The new place will never have the charms of the current place, at least not in the near future. It may be new and beautiful and organized and all but as in most things in life, real charms are not acquired through newness, nor logical organizations of things.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Seafood