10 non-English language romance films to watch on Valentine’s Weekend

Happy Valentine Weekend, everyone!

February is unofficially a romantic month given everywhere you look you’ll see pink/red flowers/hearts of some kind to remind people that Valentine’s Day is upon us. When it comes to movies, perhaps some of you might watch more romantic movies this month.

Love is universal, so why not watch some romantic movies in a language other than English?

Since I’ve been watching some French shows recently, I thought I’d highlight 10 romantic films from various parts of the world.

Now, not every single one of these are happy love stories… just like real life, love is complex and things don’t always work out the way we want to. But the best love stories are those that not only sweep you off your feet, but also make you think deeply about life and the people who mean most to you.

So here are my film recommendations in alphabetical order:

A Copy Of My Mind (2015)

A cheap salon worker and a pirated DVDs subtitle maker fall in love during the turbulent presidential election in Indonesia.

This was the first Indonesian film I saw in the theater here in the US, as part of a local film festival. It takes place in my hometown Jakarta and explores the gritty, unglamorous side of the overpopulated (and over-polluted) Indonesian capital. It’s a love story between Sari (Tara Braso) who works at a cheap salon and spends her nights watching pirated movies (which are everywhere in Indo). She meets her match in Alek (Chicco Jerikho), a guy who actually works providing subtitles for illegal dvds, including porn, ahah.

Joko Anwar is a pretty renowned Indo director and he’s definitely a talented filmmaker. He’s got a gift in creating a genuine sense of intimacy and realism in his romances as the characters relationship feels natural and their journey emotionally involving. The film turns into a political thriller as Sari accidentally gets a hold of a DVD that connects a politician and the mafia. No, it doesn’t suddenly turn into a Bourne movie, but there are some scenes that are tough to watch. The open-ended ending was quite frustrating, but doesn’t negate all the positive aspects of this thought-provoking film.

Amelie (2001)

Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

When one hears the term joie de vivre that is, the joy of living, I often think of Amélie, the quirky, vivacious protagonist in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s French rom-com. Jeunet takes us along on a journey through Paris, a world full of misfits and outcasts, where she delights in the simplest things in life.

One day she meets Nino who likes to collect and reconstruct rejected photos under photo booths. Love sometimes hits you when you least expect it and this is a romantic journey you wouldn’t want to miss. Audrey Tautou is simply mesmerizing in the title role and the cinematography, ambience and music will make you fall in love with the City of Light.

Anna Karenina: Vronsky’s Story (2017)

During Russian-Japanese War, the head of the hospital Sergey Karenin learns that the wounded officer Count Vronsky is the person who ruined his mother Anna Karenina.

There have been SO many adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s tragic romance, but this one is actually a Russian adaptation and told from the perspective of Anna’s lover, Count Vronsky. I actually reviewed this one a few years ago and though I wasn’t overly fond of it, I’d still recommend this one for fans of period dramas for the gorgeous set pieces, costumes, music, etc. It’s meticulously crafted and perhaps because the characters speak Russian and it was shot in Russia, it feels authentic.

The beautiful actors, Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Anna and Maksim Matveev as Vronsky depict their tumultuous love story with intense passion, as their story is told in flashback 30 years later after Anna’s doomed end. It’s quite interesting to imagine Anna’s son, who’s now the head of the hospital where Vronsky is being treated. The film tends to be on the melodramatic side, but I’d still recommend this one for those who love Tolstoy’s work and are fans of historical dramas.

Bombay Rose (2019)

A romance set on the streets of Bombay we witness Kamala and Salim’s quest for love in this chaotic and beautiful city.

I wanted to include an animated film on this list and immediately thought of this one I watched last year. It’s quite rare to see an animated romantic dramas (now I wouldn’t count the more fantastical Disney Princess movies in the same category as this one) and this beautiful hand-painted animation was created by animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao. It’s quite impressive given this is her debut feature–every frame is strikingly beautiful but also laden with passion and humanity.

It’s a tale of forbidden love between a Hindu and a Muslim, and a subplot involving an English language teacher who pines for a long lost love. While the story gets overly complicated at times, there’s still a magnetic quality that keeps you engaged. I also like that there’s a film-within-a-film in its storytelling, as well as an intriguing mix of realism, life on the streets of Bombay, with surrealistic elements such as a character turning into an eagle. While it’s not perfect narratively, it’s still well worth a watch for its exquisite visuals and unique storytelling style.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema’s projectionist.

I’ve blogged about Cinema Paradiso quite a few times and it remains one of the foreign-language movies I recommend to people. Written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, it’s more than just a romance between two people (Toto and Elena), it’s also a beautiful love letter to cinema, as well as a heartfelt tribute to life-altering friendship (Alfredo and Toto).

There are plenty of romantic moments between the handsome Italian boy Toto and the subject of his affection is Elena, including an iconic kissing scene in the rain. But it’s the final scene of the older Toto who’s now a successful filmmaker… alone in an empty cinema watching something Alfredo made specially for him. I won’t spoil it for you… but let’s just say it’s one of cinema’s greatest scenes.

Cold War (2019)

In the 1950s, a music director falls in love with a singer and tries to persuade her to flee communist Poland for France.

This Polish black/white film by Pawel Pawlikowski is a beautiful and emotionally-haunting film. It’s not exactly a ‘joyful’ movie, nor is it a fantastical, dreamy look at love. Joanna Kulig  and Tomasz Kot have that Bogie/Bacall vibe, a strong chemistry and a passionate intensity that burns through the screen.

Billed as an impossible love story in impossible times, their romance is dark, thorny and even tragic. I remember watching this on the big screen in a nearly empty theater and I almost couldn’t move when it ended. The minimalist filmmaking style packs an emotional punch, definitely one of the best love stories that speaks about the complexity of human emotion living in difficult times.

For A Woman (2016)

After their mother’s death, a filmmaker and her sister discover a cache of old photos and letters that lead them to unravel their parents’ tangled relationship with a mysterious uncle.

I saw this as part of Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival. The post-WWII story is based on French director Diane Kurys’ own family history. The lovely Mélanie Thierry plays a young mother Lena whose husband Michel (Benoît Magimel) had rescued her when they both were in a concentration camp. The new life they’ve built together in Paris takes an unexpected turn when her husband’s long-lost brother Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle) suddenly shows up in their apartment.

I enjoy love stories with a bit of mystery thrown in, and the political aspect of this film certainly makes this one even more beguiling. The film moves between two periods, late 1940s and in the 80s where Lena’s daughter Anne (Sylvie Testud) is now a filmmaker who’s inspired to write a screenplay based on her parents’ story.

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

During the reign of the Tang Dinasty, two captains of the government army, plot a scheme against the rebels using the blind dancer Mei to approach their leaders, but their love for Mei leads them to a tragedy.

I barely watch any Kung Fu movies, but I remember enjoying this Kung Fu romance drama by Zhang Yimou. Known for his beautifully-shot epic movies such as Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower, this one also features spectacular action sequences that take your breath away. The one in the bamboo forest is one that’ll make you go ‘how did they do that?’ But what I remember most is the chemistry between Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhang Ziyi who are both phenomenally gorgeous actors. Ziyi plays a beautiful blind dancer who get entangled with two men (the other one played by Andy Lau) who happen to work together.

It’s one of those impossible love stories where the odds are always against them and there are larger forces at work that prevent them from ever being together. I remember thinking that despite all the stunning landscapes (shot in China and Ukraine) and unbelievable, physics-defying Kung Fu, there is still a tender love story at the center.

Photograph (2019)

A struggling street photographer in Mumbai, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces a shy stranger to pose as his fiancée. The pair develop a connection that transforms them in ways they could not expect.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a long time and I finally did earlier this week so I could include it on this list. I had heard of Ritesh Batra’s The Lunch Box starring the late Irrfan Khan, where Nawazuddin Siddiqui has a supporting role. This one is also set in Mumbai and this time Siddiqui plays a street photographer Rafi, who asks a woman named Miloni he took a picture of to pretend to be his fiancée. He does it to appease his grandmother (Dadi) who, unsurprisingly in that culture, has been pestering him to choose a wife. Farrukh Jaffar is quite a hoot in the role of Dadi, providing some of the lighter, comic moments.

There is such a quiet grace about this film, even amidst the chaotic Mumbai streets and in a cramped living quarter where Rafi shares with his work buddies. The story touches upon themes of social class given that Miloni comes from a more affluent background. Yet it doesn’t stop their chance encounter to blossom albeit ever so tentatively, which might seem unusual in the age of instant gratification. There’s a pretty bizarre scene involving a ghost that seems a bit out of character, yet somehow delivered in a nonchalant manner that you just go with it. I’m really impressed by Batra’s work here and will definitely be checking out his other work.

In The Mood for Love (2001)

Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

This movie is one of my cinematic blind spots but I finally rectified it this week when I saw it for the first time on HBO Max. I’m not too familiar with Wong Kar-wai’s work, the only other film of his I saw was The Grandmaster which is a visually-ravishing film. Now, the same could be said about this one, which also stars Tony Chiu-Wai Leung. He and Maggie Cheung have such an exquisite chemistry… even as they steal glances every time they pass through a narrow corridor to get to their cramped home, you can cut their repressed tension with a knife.

Set in Hong Kong in the 1960s, Mr. Chow is a newspaper editor and Mrs. Chan a secretary. Both of their respective spouses are barely shown or not at all, allowing them to spend time together as they suspect their spouses’ infidelity. It’s one of the most beautiful films about love and loss… stylishly-directed by Kar-wai and shot by his longtime collaborator Christopher Doyle. A poignant and heart-wrenching drama for the ages. In fact, reading IMDb trivia, this was the film that made Alejandro González Iñárritu want to be a filmmaker, wow!


Which of these films have you seen? If you have foreign romance films to recommend, please leave them in the comments!

Thursday Movie Picks: Romance Tropes Edition – Friends to Lovers

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Romance Tropes Edition: Friends to Lovers.

It’s no surprise there’s a ROMANCE theme this month given Valentine’s Day falls in February. I didn’t participate last time as I don’t really care for movies about fake relationships, but I do love movies about friends-turned-lovers as that’s how my hubby and I started out. We were good friends for a year in college and we’ve been married for 18 years now [I guess I just dated myself, ha!]

In any case, here are my picks:

EMMA (1996)

This is the first film I thought of right away and though I’m actually not a huge fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, I still like this version better than the one with Anya Taylor-Joy as the title role. I certainly prefer Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley than Johnny Flynn who looks more like a rock star than a refined gentleman.

As with many friends-to-lovers relationships, there’s usually one who is more besotted than the other. The gentle and wise Knightley has always known his feelings for Emma while she remains clueless while she keeps on meddling in other people’s affairs. There’s a 16-year age difference in the book which is reflected pretty accurately in this film.

 

 

Fun Trivia:
Rachel Portman became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score. The following year, Anne Dudley won the same award for The Full Monty (1997), followed by Hildur Gudnadottir for Joker. As of 2020, the three remain the only women to win an Oscar in that category.


Mansfield Park (1999)

Yes I have another Jane Austen movie, well la dee da! I know that many Austen purists dislike this movie as it doesn’t portray the protagonist Fanny Price accurately. But I actually like the more spirited version of Patricia Rozema, played beautifully by Frances O’Connor.

Fanny’s friendship with Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller) started when they’re just kids and they’ve always had deep mutual respect for each other. Somehow it takes a set of new neighbors for them to realize (well, mostly Edmund) how much they actually love one another. I LOVE Edmund’s confession to Fanny at the end, it was so overdue, yet the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Fun Trivia:
Mansfield Park was Jane Austen’s most successful novel in her lifetime, earning her in excess of £300.


Somekind of Wonderful

80s teen rom-coms are practically defined by John Hughes. He wrote this one and the movie was directed by Howard Deutsch and it’s one of the few 80s rom-coms I actually still remember and love to this day.

Keith (Eric Stoltz) and tomboy drummer Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) are besties but Watts is secretly in love with him. Keith somehow got a chance to go on a date with the girl of his dreams, Amanda (Lea Thompson), while her ex tries to get her back.

Ahhh… the agony & ecstasy of unrequited love… who can’t relate to someone like Watts? We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

I always remember the Keith-Watts kissing scene that Watts framed as ‘practice’ before his date. This article written to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary calls it the ‘kiss that kills’ scene and it’s truly wonderful and practically iconic.

Fun Trivia:
Howard Deutsch and Lea Thompson fell in love during filming and they’re still married to this day.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

I know everyone is all about that Keanu Reeves’ cameo but the story between childhood friends Sasha and Marcus are so awesome. Ali Wong and Randall Park make for such a dynamic duo that’s so delightful to watch.

Despite being separated for 15 years and their careers gone on opposite directions, sparks still fly when they meet. I love the hilarious scene when they first meet after being apart for so many years, with Marcus’ dad (James Saito) candidly recalling their old times together.

Fun Trivia:
Ali Wong and Randall Park said that Keanu Reeves was their first choice for the film. The script was sent to him, but Wong and Park never thought they would get him. Reeves had watched Wong’s Netflix special ‘Baby Cobra’ and read the script to ‘Always Be My Maybe’ and said yes. Wong said he wrote “I would be honored to be part of your love story.” Park said that Reeves was quoting lines from Wong’s special.


So who are YOUR favorite movies about Friends turned Lovers?

FlixChatter Review: THE LIFE AHEAD (2020)


Tales of unlikely friendships often make for great drama. Renowned Italian actress Sophia Loren made a come back to cinema nearly a decade since her last acting role, which marks the third time she collaborates with her own son, Edoardo Ponti.

Here she plays Madame Rosa, an elderly woman living in a seaside town of Bari in Southern Italy who now runs a daycare business. It’s not just any daycare however, but Rosa takes care of kids who’s been abandoned by their mothers as they work as sex workers. Soon we find out that Madame Rosa herself used to be in that line of work, and she’s also a Holocaust survivor, evident in her number tattoos on her arm. Enter Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), short for Mohammad, a precocious Senegalese boy who robs Rosa at a busy market one afternoon. As it turns out, Momo and Madame Rosa have a mutual connection in Dr. Coen (Renato Carpentieri), her doctor and Momo’s temporary guardian, who asks Rosa to look after the boy until he could secure him a permanent home.

As is typical in stories of unlikely friendships, the two don’t immediately get along. Despite her initial reluctance, Momo ends up staying at the day care and has to learn to share the space with another boy Iosif (Iosif Diego Pirvu) while he continues his regular job selling drugs on the streets. Director Edoardo Ponti, who also shares screenwriting credit with Ugo Chiti and Fabio Natale, paints a pretty dynamic yet not-so-glamorous picture of life in the seaside town. It’s as if I could breathe and even taste the seaside air as I watch the characters navigate through the towns and through its narrow streets. The score by Gabriel Yared is both upbeat and introspective, which perfectly complements the tone and atmosphere of the film.

There are plenty of memorable scenes even as the characters go their day-to-day life. I love the moments where Rosa visits her merchant friend Hamil (Babak Karimi) to help her with Momo, thinking that as a fellow Muslim the two would understand each other. He asked Momo to help him fix a rug with a lion embroidered on it, saying it’s a powerful symbol of faith in the Qur’an. That image seems to impact Momo deeply that he often dreams a lioness would come and visit him. Despite the cheap-looking CGI, it’s a sweet surrealistic moment in the film. Other memorable supporting characters are Spacciatore (Massimiliano Rossi), Momo’s drug dealing boss, and Lola, Rosa’s neighbor who’s a former wrestler, played wonderfully by trans actor Abril Zamora.

Sophia Loren is quite magnetic as Madame Rosa–she’s tough and stern, but with a huge heart. There’s such an elegance about her and a palpable sense of sadness that’s intriguing. Even more impressive is Ibrahima Gueye who has never acted in a feature before, but able to match Loren’s intensity. There’s such a confidence in in his performance, even a quiet grace about him that’s rare in someone so young. For this film to work, we must believe that Madame Rosa and Momo develop a connection, and I’m glad to say the two have a remarkable chemistry. The bond they eventually share is truly the heartbeat of the film.

As it turns out, this is the second film adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel called The Life Before Us, the first one is a French film called Madame Rosa. Instead of setting in Paris, Ponti set the film in Italy but I think the story is essentially the same. When you watch this, be sure to pack tissues. There are some truly jear-jerker moments, especially when Iosif’s mom come and pick him up and Momo realizes that would never be the case for him. Despite the heart-wrenching moments, this isn’t a morose film filled with dread. In fact, visually the film is drenched with light and there’s a hopeful tone despite sorrowful circumstances. There’s also a bit of mystery in regards to Madame Rosa’s past that’s played out beautifully.

At times this film reminds me of the French film The Intouchables, which is also based on a true story about an unlikely friendship between people of different backgrounds. This one has less humor but just as much heart. There’s a lot of emotions packed in a relatively breezy 1-hour-34-minutes running time, which is always nice as the film never overstays its welcome.

Have you seen THE LIFE AHEAD? Well, what did you think?

New Netflix Movies/Miniseries To Watch in February – Malcolm and Marie | I Care A lot | Red Dot | The Last Paradiso | Layla Majnun | Behind Her Eyes

There are SO many things to watch on Netflix that I always struggle to figure just WHAT to watch. Now, this is not a comprehensive list of ALL that’s coming to Netflix which includes older movies that’s been released before, i.e. The Bank Job, Inception, The Patriot, War Dogs, Captain Fantastic, etc. but these are NEW stuff from the streaming service, part of the 70 new original content Netflix promised to release in 2021. There’s an extra dose of romantic-themed content released in February because of Valentine’s Day, but there’s a comedy + thriller thrown in.

In any case, so here are 5 new movies + 1 limited series coming to Netflix this month:

Malcolm & Marie

Releases February 5 – read my review

A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics’ responses.

One of the best things about TENET is John David Washington and I like Zendaya based on the two things I saw her in, The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man Far From Home. I haven’t seen her in Euphoria yet, which is created by the director of this film, Sam Levinson (who happens to be the son of Barry Levinson who won an Oscar directing Rain Man).

Some of you might have seen this by now as it was released last Friday. Let me know what you think if you have seen it!


The Last Paradiso (L’ultimo paradiso)

Releases February 5, 2021

In 1950s Italy, a passionate free spirit dreams of love, justice and a better life till a forbidden affair threatens everything. Based on real events.

Of course seeing the title reminds me right away of Cinema Paradiso, one of my all-time favorite non-English language films. This one is also a love story, a forbidden affair no less, that’s based on a true story. I recognized the lead actor Riccardo Scamarcio from John Wick 2, he’s got such an intense stare that’s hard to forget. I’m down to be swept away to the South Italy’s countryside for a couple of hours. Love, passion, rebellion… hopefully would make a memorable drama.


Red Dot

Releases February 11, 2021

When Nadja becomes pregnant, they make an attempt to rekindle their relationship by traveling to the north of Sweden for a hiking trip but soon their romantic trip turns into a nightmare.

I’ve enjoyed quite a few Nordic thrillers, such as The Hunt, Headhunters, though I should watch more. Scandinavian filmmakers sure know how to make effective noirs. This one comes from Swedish filmmaker Alain Darborg, and it has that ominous, atmospheric vibe to it.


Layla Majnun

Releases February 11, 2021

While in Azerbaijan, Layla, an Indonesian scholar, falls for Samir, an admirer of her work — but her arranged marriage stands in the way.

I rarely blog about Indonesian movies (despite the fact that my late dad used to work in the Indo film industry), but this one caught my eye. I’m not familiar w/ any of the cast but the setting in Azerbaijan and the familiar-yet-still-enticing forbidden love story sounds like a perfect one to watch around V-day.

I Care A Lot

Releases February 19, 2021

A shady legal guardian lands in hot water when she tries to bilk a woman who has ties to a powerful gangster.

I’m intrigued just reading the description and the cast: Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage.I love Rosamund Pike and it’s nice to see her in a dark comedy, playing a shady character no less. This film premiered at TIFF and currently has a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating, praising Pike’s a wicked performance. Can’t wait!


Behind Her Eyes (miniseries)

Releases February 17, 2021

A single mom becomes entangled in a twisted mind game when she begins an affair with her psychiatrist boss while bonding with his mysterious wife.

Want a bit of twist with your Valentine romance? How about a psycho-sexual thriller with a good looking UK cast? I’m a huge fan of Tom Bateman who’s the epitome of tall, dark & handsome and also super talented. I’ve just seen Eve Hewson in Tesla and really like her, looking forward to seeing the love triangle between these two and Simona Brown.

The miniseries is produced by Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind the prestigious drama The Crown.


What do you think of these two movies?

FlixChatter Review: Malcolm and Marie (2021)

I’ve always been fascinated by two-hander type films which relies on the performances of only two actors for the entire duration of the film. It’s quite tricky to pull off, but perhaps Malcolm & Marie‘s filmmaking style could just be the norm for the next year or two, given the restrictions of the pandemic. Apparently this is one of the first movies to be developed and completed entirely since Covid-19 spread into the US.

The film takes place primarily in a single evening, when filmmaker Malcolm (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) returns home following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits reviews of his new film. From Malcolm’s chipper mood, it’s safe to assume the film is poised to be a critical and financial success. As Malcolm keeps rattling off about all kinds of things, Marie’s mood is rather somber, which is a telltale sign that their relationship isn’t as rosy as the movie posters have us believe. 

I know from experience of living with the same person for nearly two decades that one of the main reasons couple argue is presumption. Malcolm presumes that even though he had left her out of his thank-you speech that she’s cool with everything. He also presumes that when Marie says ‘she’s fine’ that she is in fact, fine. Malcolm’s presumption extends beyond what’s transpired that evening, but also throughout his relationship with Marie… as we learn from their constant bickering that last through the night. It doesn’t take long for me to form my opinion about each character. Though initially I find Malcolm to be a cool guy at first, soon I became irritated by his arrogance and condescending manner. I find myself shaking my head quite a bit at his serious lack of empathy, which turns bad situation to worse. Marie is a bit harder to read at first as she’s pretty quiet in the first act, but later she lets her feelings known and we start to see the crux of the problem.

Writer/director Sam Levinson has cast two of the brightest young actors working today in top form, which is crucial in making this talky film work. Zendaya in particular is mesmerizing in the most dramatic performance I’ve seen her in. She and Levinson had worked together in Euphoria (where she won a Best-Actress Emmy award), and you could sense there’s a mutual trust between them as she’s really confident in the role he’s crafted for her. It’s an emotionally-authentic performance where she’s not afraid to appear unglamorous and even unhinged at times. Props to John David his willingness to play an unlikable character, constantly putting his girlfriend down if she doesn’t get some of the film/filmmaker references he incessantly spewing. Marie calls him a narcissist and she is not wrong in her assessment. As I’ve only seen John David in two films prior to this, this affirms his chops as a dramatic actor as there are moments where he truly let ‘er rip as more and more revelations about their relationship bubble to the surface.

Hollywood always likes to make films about themselves and this film falls in that category, but framed from the perspectives of a couple who works in the industry. It’s interesting that the director and male lead are connected with Hollywood veterans – Sam Levinson is the son of Barry Levinson, the Oscar-winning director of Rain Man, and John David (JD) Washington is Denzel Washington’s son. I watched a Q&A via Zoom (thanks to Film Independent) where the filmmaker talked about how the script was fluid enough to allow for improvisation during filming. It also allows for the actors to inject their personal experiences into the story.

Now, I applaud the innovative approach to writing and filmmaking though it isn’t always effective. Their conversations is is a bit all over the place as the pair just keep rambling on and on. Long monologues seem intriguing at first, but after a while it lost its luster and it feels over-indulgent and showy. Some of the topics are fascinating (to me anyways, though I don’t know how many people care so much about how Malcolm feels about William Wyler), but some get too repetitive and perhaps over-indulgent. Malcolm’s constant lashing out at his critics feels like a not-so-subtle jab at film criticism, is that Levinson’s way of telling off his own critics? Interesting that even though Malcolm may act like he wasn’t affected by the negative reviews, his bitter reaction proves otherwise. The part about how filmmakers of color are perceived is one that stood out to me, definitely a commentary of a current hot button issue.

Stylistically speaking, this is a beautiful film to look at and everything is well-lit. The house itself is architecturally amazing to look at. Marcell Rév‘s cinematography work illuminates the beauty of the two actors, yet it feels emotionally distant somehow, perhaps a commentary of the couple? Despite their beauty (and perhaps because of it), the film also feels bit claustrophobic and suffocating as it’s just the two of them on screen. The black/white visual also adds to the monotony of being confined to a single location. I do enjoy the music by Labrinth which has a cool vibe and something I expect a popular yuppie like Malcolm would listen to.

It’s been a few weeks since I watched this movie, and I’m wondering just what does Levinson want to say with this story. It’s an ambitious and inventive filmmaking showcasing a pair of charismatic performers, but in the end it’s neither a profound nor riveting character study it wants to be. I can’t help comparing it to Marriage Story where the characters’ situation are similar but there is a much clearer and more satisfying story arc. Honestly, I don’t really know how I feel about Malcolm & Marie’s relationship at the end, and frankly I don’t give a damn that much one way or the other.

Have you seen Malcolm + Marie? Well, what did you think?

Musings on 2021 Golden Globes nominations – Snubs + Surprises

Well, whaddayaknow. Award season is officially here, folks… though I doubt anyone is rolling out the red carpet just yet given Covid-19 (and its myriad of strains) are far from being contained.

Well, here are the full nominations below and my commentary in each category + some of my winner pick/prediction highlighted in bold magenta:

Best Motion Picture – Drama 

  • “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Mank” (Netflix)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) 
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

I’ve only seen two on this list so I guess I should catch up on the rest, but I really want Promising Young Woman to get recognized. It’s such a bold, provocative film that makes a strong statement of a timely topic. Perhaps one of the few films that really stayed with me long after the end credits rolled.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy 

  • “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Hamilton” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “Palm Springs” (Neon)
  • “Music” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • “The Prom” (Netflix)

I actually haven’t seen any of these yet. The only one I want to see is Palm Springs and Hamilton, so my prediction here is pure gut instinct.

Best Director – Motion Picture

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • David Fincher, “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Glad to see three female filmmakers being recognized here, perhaps the first time women outshone men in this category!! I think Fennell did an outstanding job making Promising Young Woman, and it’s her directorial debut, which is all the more amazing. But Chloè Zhao’s done some extraordinary work and Nomadland is a phenomenal film in its own right, so I’d be happy if any of those women win this year.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
  • Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)
  • Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
  • Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
  • Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)

I think it’s safe to say I’m cheering for Promising Young Woman this year! It’s such inspired casting to have Carey Mulligan in such a provocative role and she absolutely nailed it. I do have a feeling Viola Davis and Vanessa Kirby might run away with the award.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
  • Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
  • Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
  • Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
  • Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”)

Oh man!! I’m thrilled to see Riz Ahmed and Tahar Rahim both nominated and having seen both films recently, they’re the beating heart of their respective films! I can’t choose between the two so I’m just going to make a random prediction. I have a feeling the HFPA would give a post-humous award to the late Chadwick Boseman.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy 

  • Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
  • Kate Hudson (“Music”)
  • Michelle Pfeiffer (“French Exit”)
  • Rosamund Pike (“I Care a Lot”)
  • Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma”)

Since I’ve only seen one of these (I Care A Lot hasn’t even been released yet!), I can’t pick anyone in this category either. I like Taylor-Joy but I don’t think she was all that extraordinary in Emma, she’s far more memorable in The Queen’s Gambit. I have a feeling Le Pfeiffer might walk away with the award here.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
  • James Corden (“The Prom”)
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”)
  • Dev Patel (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)
  • Andy Samberg (“Palm Springs”)

I know we’re not supposed to pick the only one performance we’ve seen, but oh well, it’s my blog, I make the rules, ha! I LOVE Dev Patel and he’s terrific in The Personal History of David Copperfield so I hope he wins!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture 

  • Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
  • Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
  • Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”)
  • Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
  • Helena Zengel (“News of the World”)

Whoa!! Nice for Helena Zengel to get nominated here, as I mentioned in my review of News Of The World, the 12-year-old German actress held her own against Tom Hanks! She’s got tough competition here, though having seen The Mauritanian, I don’t think Jodie Foster’s performance was anything special. Given the recent buzz around Minari, I thought Youn Yuh-jung would nab a nomination in this category.

Tom Hanks + Helena Zengel in News of The World

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

  • Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
  • Jared Leto (“The Little Things”)
  • Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”)
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)

Ok, I’m definitely going to see One Night in Miami this weekend!! I’ve only seen On The Rocks, and no I don’t think Bill Murray deserved a nomination, let alone win. My gut says Daniel Kaluuya will run away with the award, and he seems to be a shoo-in for an Oscar as well.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture 

  • Emerald Fennell – “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Jack Fincher – “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Aaron Sorkin – “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton – “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Chloe Zhao – “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Thrilled to see Emerald Fennell getting recognized for her bold + witty writing in the dark comedy. She wrote several episodes for Killing Eve, one of the edgiest, most entertaining thrillers of recent memory. To go against Aaron Sorkin in her first feature screenplay is quite a feat. Oh and is this the first time a father and son get nominated for the same film? Kudos to Jack and David Fincher!!

Best Original Score – Motion Picture 

  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Alexandre Desplat
  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros.) – Ludwig Göransson
  • “News of the World” (Universal Pictures) – James Newton Howard
  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
  • “Soul” (Pixar) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

So many double nominees this year… but Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross are one of the best composers working today. Talk about range… Mank + Soul are two very different movies. I think they’d walk away with one of them.

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language 

  • “Another Round” (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
  • “La Llorona” (Shudder)
  • “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
  • “Minari” (A24)
  • “Two of Us” (Magnolia Pictures)

Can’t believe I’ve only seen The Life Ahead on this list, which is a lovely movie. I really want to see Minari but it’s not available on streaming yet. Another Round also looks really good based on my fellow bloggers’ reviews, another fruitful collaboration between Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen.

Best Motion Picture – Animated 

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (Universal Pictures)
  • “Onward” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Cartoon Saloon)

Yay! Two of my fave animated movies of 2020 are nominated!! Hard to choose between the two, but if I must, I’d vote for Wolfwalkers.


Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

  • “Emily in Paris” (Netflix)
  • “The Flight Attendant” (HBO Max)
  • “The Great” (Hulu)
  • “Schitt’s Creek” (CBC)
  • “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus)

The only one I’ve seen here is Emily in Paris but only for a single episode because it was practically unwatchable! I definitely don’t think it deserves any kudos, it’s just so silly and shallow… I mean if they must nominate a French comedy, why not Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent) which is head and shoulders above the Darren Star creation, ugh.

Best Television Series – Drama 

  • “The Crown” (Netflix)
  • “Lovecraft Country” (HBO Max)
  • “The Mandalorian” (Disney Plus)
  • “Ozark” (Netflix)
  • “Ratched” (Netflix)

Yay for The Crown and The Mandalorian!! They couldn’t be more different in style and tone but both are excellently-crafted. I really need to see Lovecraft Country!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama 

  • Olivia Colman (“The Crown”)
  • Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”)
  • Emma Corrin (“The Crown”)
  • Laura Linney (“Ozark”)
  • Sarah Paulson (“Ratched”)

I’m confused how Olivia Colman and Emma Corrin are both considered lead in The Crown. Colman is always excellent but Corrin as Princess Diana is no doubt the breakout star of the latest season. I also love Jodie Comer in Killing Eve but I haven’t been caught up in the latest season yet.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

  • Jason Bateman (“Ozark”)
  • Josh O’Connor (“The Crown”)
  • Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
  • Al Pacino (“Hunters”)
  • Matthew Rhys (“Perry Mason”)

I adore Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in The Crown but man, Matthew Rhys is outstanding in Perry Mason and he has been so grossly underrated in everything that I want him so badly to win this thing!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy 

  • Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”)
  • Kaley Cuoco (“The Flight Attendant”)
  • Elle Fanning (“The Great”)
  • Jane Levy (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”)
  • Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Seriously, Lily Collins??! I could see the show getting a nod for Best-but-Most-Impractical-Clothes category, but that dumb show shouldn’t even be nominated in any category, come on!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy 

  • Don Cheadle (“Black Monday”)
  • Nicholas Hoult (“The Great”)
  • Eugene Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)
  • Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”)
  • Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”)

I’m so behind on so many shows, but just based on the buzz on Schitt’s Creek, I think one of the Levys would probably nab an award.

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television 

  • “Normal People” (Hulu/BBC)
  • “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix)
  • “Small Axe” (Amazon Studios/BBC)
  • “The Undoing” (HBO)
  • “Unorthodox” (Netflix)

I really want to see Small Axe, man too many shows too little time! But The Queen’s Gambit was simply amazing, one of the best miniseries I’ve seen ever. So yeah I’m rooting for that!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television 

  • Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”)
  • Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Normal People”)
  • Shira Haas (“Unorthodox”)
  • Nicole Kidman (“The Undoing”)
  • Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”)

Ok so I said earlier that I don’t think Anya Taylor-Joy was all that great in Emma, but she was phenomenal in The Queen’s Gambit!! She’s in nearly every single scene and carried the show so effortlessly in a breathtaking performance.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television 

  • John Boyega (“Small Axe”)
  • Brendan Gleeson (“The Comey Rule”)
  • Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)
  • Jim Parsons (“Hollywood”)
  • Donald Sutherland (“The Undoing”)

So many shows to catch up on!! I’ve heard great things about Small Axe though, that’s one I’m most looking forward to seeing.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television 

  • Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown”)
  • Julia Garner (“Ozark”)
  • Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”)
  • Cynthia Nixon (“Ratched”)

When I was watching the latest season of The Crown, somehow I knew Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter as the two Margarets would be vying for awards. The latter has portrayed Princess Margaret brilliantly in the previous season, but Anderson underwent such a transformation, down to her distinct voice, to play Margaret Thatcher, so my money is on her this year.


Biggest Surprises

Let’s start with the good surprises first…

  • Helena Zengel as one of the youngest nominee in News Of the World
  • Three female directors in the Best Director category, woo hoo!!
  • Emerald Fennell getting a Best Director AND Best Screenplay nods!! Yes, she deserved it!!

… now the wtf bad surprises

  • James Corden in the Best Actor category in Prom??! Wait what? I thought the buzz has been that it was the worst casting ever and that he’s the worst thing about the show.
  • Lily Collins in Emily in Paris, oh geez! Nothing against Lily but come on, that show is just plain silly, more froth than the latte she sips on those Parisian cafè!

I think the biggest head-scratcher that’s neither good or bad is… MUSIC in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Kate Hudson in Best Actress category. Ummm, what in the world is that movie?? Never even heard about it before until today. I had to look it up on IMDb. Apparently it’s directed by Australian singer Sia and it’s about music and autism. O-kay.

Most egregious snubs

  • Based on what I’ve read so far, I’m stunned that Spike Lee wasn’t nominated for Da 5 Blood, which many, including my friend/contributor Ted deemed as his best work.
  • No Steven Yeun for Minari??
  • I’ve written my review for The Life Ahead that I’ll post later this month. I thought Sophia Loren was wonderful in a comeback role, so I was surprised she wasn’t nominated and neither was the film.
  • I was also impressed by Zendaya in Malcolm and Marie (review coming later this week!). I really thought she’d be nominated here.
  • Tom Hanks already took home a bazillion awards in his illustrious but still I’m surprised he didn’t get a nomination this year.
  • I’m still shaking my head that HFPA thought the fluffy Emily In Paris was somehow better than the edgy, funny and downright entertaining Bridgerton! I just cant…🙄

Note to self: Gotta check out I May Destroy You.

Thanks to Buzzfeed for recommending 16 other shows better than Emily in Paris – heck I’m sure there are even more shows than that! Even the writer of Emily in Paris agreed that I May Destroy You should have been nominated!! (I don’t subscribe to The Guardian but even the title of the article says it all.

Oh well, I guess every year the HFPA gives us plenty of reasons to talk about. We’ll see what other shenanigans are in store come February 28. The broadcast will be bicoastal this year with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting from NYC and LA.. Fey will host her segments from Rockefeller Center, while Poehler will do hers from the Beverly Hilton. These are interesting times indeed!


So what are your thoughts on the Golden Globes nominees? Who do you think are snubbed and who are you rooting for?

Guest Post: The Little Things (2021)

Set in the early 1990s, The Little Things centers around Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington), a deputy sheriff in Bakersfield, California. One day he is suddenly called to Los Angeles to retrieve a piece of evidence. It quickly becomes clear he has a deep and troubled past with the LAPD. When the evidence is withheld due to the bureaucratic process Deke is forced to stay longer than intended.

He crosses paths with his successor detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) who is working a new set of serial killer cases eerily similar to one Deke had previously been assigned. They initially butt heads but Baxter warms to the idea of working together when Deke finds some important clues. The two men eventually come to the conclusion repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is their most likely suspect. As the film progresses, Deke becomes increasingly obsessed with catching the killer, while Jimmy follows his lead.

It was difficult for me to get through this film. Although I know noir films are known for ‘overcooked’ performances, in this case it didn’t work well. The film is a very classic take on noir. All three actors are successful, Oscar-winning talents, but whether it was the script or the stylized performances, the characters fell flat and seemed dated.

This is a huge divergence from the style of films John Lee Hancock is known for. He typically makes bright, upbeat films about hard work and success such as The Rookie, The Blindside, and The Founder. In those films the characters are well-developed and we are given a clear structured tale. The Little Things on the other hand, lacks information and boundaries that would have been paramount to grounding us in any sense of reality.

While his films typically make use of bright natural light, this film makes good use of darkness and filters in light from flashlights and headlights creating an ominous look. I could see how much respect the director has for the genre. It is clear he wanted to make an homage to classics but it ended up getting lost along the way. This could easily be attributed to the nearly 30 years this film was left to gestate. I think the mistake was trying to emulate the classics instead of draw inspiration while creating something new. For me recent comedy/ thrillers that draw inspiration from noir, such as Promising Young Woman and Parasite were much more successful than Motherless Brooklyn or this film.

Ultimately, I think this project should have been left on the shelf as it brings nothing new to the table.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen THE LITTLE THINGS? Well, what did you think?