365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Elle (2016)

Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) Elle opens with a scene that even the most jaded person would find difficult to watch. Whenever we see a rape scene on the big screen, we are mortified. Rape is a crime we abhor and, next to murder, the one we find most unacceptable in society. To start a movie with a brutal rape sets the immediate somber tone of the movie and, ironically, a tone that we often get away from. There are so many genres in this French subtitled film. It can be classified as a drama, romance, suspense, thriller, revenge, mystery, and even comedy. I'd be lying if I said I understood every component of this movie without having to do some research for it afterward. Apparently, the older gentleman didn't have that problem as he began clapping as we rolled to credits. The reason I saw this film was because Isabelle Huppert (Things to Come, Amour) is a lock for a Best Actress Academy Award nomination after winning a Golden Globe. I think she has a solid chance to win. I think her only real competition are Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Emma Stone (La La Land) I'm uncertain, at the time of this writing, which way I would lean. I wasn't the biggest fan of Jackie, but Natalie Portman did nail the role perfectly. It was dark and dreary and I wasn't sure the movie was needed. Elle was fresh and original and while the content was dark, Huppert gives a career-defining performance as Michele, a woman who refuses to show any reactionary human emotion for the events she is put through. If someone forced me to make a pick today, I would say that my heart says Huppert, but my mind says Portman. It would not be unprecedented for an actress to win cinema's top prize. In fact, there have been two winners in the past decade (Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose and Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as well as a slew of other nominations, including two in the past four years. And Portman already has her Oscar for Lead Actress (2010's Black Swan). While Huppert might be an unknown commodity in the western hemisphere, she has been one of the most revered actresses in Europe for the past 40 years. With no Oscar nominations to her name yet, the one she receives this year may come with the trophy itself.


The Hunt (2013)

Mads Mikkelsen is most notably known as a villain. Whether you recognize him more as the man opposing James Bond in Casino Royale or as Hannibal Lecter on NBC's hit show Lecter, he's very adept at playing the bad guy. But, in the most poignant performance of his career and one that earned him praise across the globe, Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a kind and gentle daycare employee falsely accused of molesting one of his students in the Danish film and Academy Award nominated foreign language film The Hunt. I struggle with movies that are subtitled. My philosophy often is if I can view a good movie in English or one that is in another language that will force me to spend a couple hours reading while also trying to pay attention to the visuals on the screen, why wouldn't I pick the movie in my native language? Unless a movie (or one of its leads) is nominated for an Academy Award (Amour, Maria Full of Grace), is recommended by a friend (The Lunchbox), or doesn't have an English substitute (North Face), I'm probably not going to give it a chance. It's not because I think that those movies will be bad. Like everyone, I have a job and many other hobbies and, frankly, time is limited. However, when a foreign language film does breakthrough and it is one that I do think is well made, it is a film that I am likely to remember for a long, long time, if not for the rest of my life. This was certainly the case with The  Lunchbox and North Face and is also the case with The Hunt.


Two Days, One Night (2014)

While I am not the biggest fan of foreign language films, I am the first to admit that when a foreign movie is great, you get to the point where you don't even notice you are reading subtitles anymore. You become so gripped by the movie that it's not just a great foreign film you are watching...but rather it's a great film. However, on the flip side, when a foreign film is bad, it tends to drag and drag and drag. I think part of that reason is that you've tuned out the movie so much that you when you do glance back, you have no idea where you are in the movie. It becomes a dreadful movie experience. I feel that almost all of the foreign movies I watch are based on recommendations. Rarely will I be perusing Netflix and see a movie and add it to my queue because it's a "foreign movie". I am far more likely to eliminate a movie for being in subtitles than I am to entertain it. As a result, very rarely do I find a foreign movie to be mediocre. I usually end up either liking the movie a ton or feeling like I just wasted two hours of my life. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule and that is exactly what Two Days, One Night is. It is a movie that is mediocre in every sense. It had nothing to do with it being a foreign film. Had it not had subtitles, it would have been equally mediocre.


North Face (Nordwand) (2010)

If I could describe the Germany released movie North Face in just a single word, it would be horrific. Based upon the true story about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face of the Swiss Alps, the subtitled movie gets better and better with each passing frame. For those moviegoers who aren't into subtitled movies, I can sympathize. I tend to groan when I know I'm about to embark on one of those too. Subtitled movies are ones that you need to prepare for and, unfortunately, when a subtitled movie is bad, it almost becomes twice a dreadful to trudge through. But, at the same time, I have seen some absolutely fantastic foreign-language movies and North Face ranks right up there with them. And, as with any good subtitled movies, when you are truly engaged, you don't even notice you are reading the words anymore. I'm not sure how I came across this movie, other than the fact that I love a good adventure movie (I am one of those people that tends to separate the adventure genre from the action genre).


Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Joshua Marston's (The Forgiveness of Blood) Maria Full of Grace is one of the best foreign language films I've ever seen. I watched this movie on the heels of another foreign language film (A Girl Walks Home At Night) which, despite the 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought was a extremely boring film, and one that I had no interest in reviewing. So I was a little uncertain to watch another subtitled movie the next day, but I am happy I gave it a fair chance. It's a great movie that tells a heart-wrenching and believable story.