Asghar Farhadi shook the world with his instant classic A Separation in 2011. It was a nerve wracking film about the events that would confirm that two lives were pushed too far apart and that sacrifices had to be made. It was more than just about divorce, however. So is The Past, as Farhadi approaches relationship issues in France this time around. His signature attention to the most precise amount of synchronicity, both literary and visually, shine through as usual. Every event passes off one another like a football being tossed right before a player gets hit. Even little Fouad using his new pencil crayons for a split second on screen is a huge representation of character and plot development. Unlike A Separation which goes full force, The Past takes its time. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t a film about moving forward as much as it is about fixing history. With incredible performances from the four leading actors (Bejo, Mosaffa, Rahim and Burlet) and a very hard hitting story, you will be left with one of the most moving final shots of the year; One that reminds us for the finale time in the movie that the past still is a part of the present.
This true story could have been overly dramatic. It could have painted Oscar as a flawless hero. It could have easily fit as a tv movie or as a subplot in a movie full of intertwining stories like Crash or Traffic. Instead, newcomer Ryan Coogler turned Fruitvale Station into a time capsule of not just that one day in Oscar’s life, but his life as a whole. He’s had trouble with the law. He’s had strained relationships between his tired mother and his tried girlfriend. He’s tried to fight his demons and start a new life. A life that deep is hard to dig out of, and Oscar is a hero not just because he was innocent on new years day 2009, but because he was a changed man for the better that refused to give up. Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz give hyper realistic performances that punctuate each and every emotion the movie offers. We rarely get shown what they are thinking but we always know at all times what is going through their heads. Wanda wants the best for her child. Sophina wishes for her daughter to grow up in a healthy environment. Oscar wants to escape his past. As we sadly witness his final stop, figuratively and literally, we get more than a movie about a sad event. We get a movie about growing up.
It’s a Disney movie. It’s cute, fun for everyone, and it’s reliable on being uplifting. However, the kind of Disney movies many of us from my generation remember the most were the ones we grew up on as kids; Back when the Disney Renaissance, as it is called, was rounding up to a close. With a number of duds since and the odd good film here and there (Tangled, The Princess and the Frog), Disney’s animation studio (and, hell, their live action work as well) was seen as inferior for the most part when compared to the work that Pixar was pumping out. On a bittersweet note (good for Disney’s animation studio, bad for Pixar), it’s as if the tables have turned. With Frozen, Disney’s animation studio have not only taken back the throne. Disney have gone back to being simple yet deep with this highly relatable tale. Everything is cold and frozen now, yes? Does it not reflect the financial crises the world has suffered, too? With pretty visuals and likable characters, Frozen will have you happy and ready to face your own fairy tale story in the real world; Something Disney have finally remembered how to do again.
17. Jagten [The Hunt]
It’d be difficult to make a story similar to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible set in modern times, but Thomas Vinterberg does a great job, whether that was his goal or not, with The Hunt. Here we see the “wonders” of mass hysteria at work. What was the spell supposedly witnessed this time? A sexual obscenity. Why did the lie happen? Innocent jealousy and confusion from a child. What was the witchcraft? Apparently destroying a child’s innocence, when that very child has only a remote idea of what her fallacy even means. You can, and will, get furious with the movie and its events because of how unfair they are, but it is hard to get angry with the people. Can you blame anyone involved (even Klara)? What went from childhood mischief became a thirst for Lucas’s blood despite him being not just innocent, but caring and humble. The Hunt shows the evils in the world even, and especially, from those who are trying to teach the guilty (or wrongfully accused) a lesson. It is sometimes frightening and always thrilling. The Hunt will leave you on a bitter sweet note that severity will always be permanent no matter how matters end up.
Frances Ha is not quite a movie. It seems to be more of a representation of how quickly life works. Frances Halladay, whose name is too long to fit on a label for a buzzer, essentially feels out of place in life. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had our car break down and pulled off on the side of the highway as we see our loved ones zip past. We’ve all made fools of ourselves in the smaller moments in life and have noticed the lack of time to save the larger problems from happening. Because of Noah Baumbach’s passion for French New Wave, Greta Gerwig’s love for self expressionism, and their combined script full of silliness and realities, Frances Ha is both as awkward and as bold as the title of the film is. The entirety of the movie runs on catching its audience off guard, whether it is through uncomfortable sexual jokes or unfortunate life events. The final cherry on top is that Frances keeps at it and never skips a beat, and this short and sweet film follows her choreography perfectly.