Like most Oscar Seasons, the foreign language and documentary features I rarely get to see before the ceremony. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to catch a few of them before the Oscars. Here are some quick reviews of the ones I saw.
The Square - I liked the idea of this movie far more than I liked the execution. It's about an art curator who has an idea for a new exhibit, but it really ends up being about an hour too long. With its avant garde style filming, having this film at 2 and a half hours just wasn't a good choice. It left too much room for dragging. C
Last Men in Aleppo - This film was incredibly heavy and I was heartbroken while watching it. It follows a group of White Helmets who stay in Aleppo helping their fellow Syrians during the on going civil war. It's atrocious what's happening there and how normal it has become. There's literally a scene where they have just pulled a dead baby out of the rubble, and someone mentions he has to leave at 6:00 to attend a wedding. That's how frequent this is. It's devastating and I don't think this doc will be leaving me for a while. A
Strong Island - I think this may be the most intimate documentary I've ever watched. Yance Ford details the murder of his brother, William back in 1992. He was shot dead by a white auto shop worker after an argument, and it never even went to trial. But this doc isn't about getting the bottom of this case. William's murder isn't given any platform here. No photo, no interview, nothing. This is more of an examination of grief and racial discrimination. I keep thinking back to a conversation I had recently with someone who didn't understand why I was a supporter of Black Lives Matter (because like many, they were uneducated on what the movement was actually about and just believed the shit they hear on Fox News) This is why. You can't look at something like this (or any of the million other examples) and say that the police force doesn't discriminate against black people. You just can't. Strong Island really did something different here, and the visuals and camera work are stunning. A
Icarus - This was a very well researched documentary, but I simply don't care enough about doping in sports to be completely enthralled by this. I like to watch all kinds of documentaries, even ones that I don't suspect will interest me. I give them all an equal chance and for me this one just didn't capture my attention. Even if it's not for me, it's very thorough and you can tell the filmmakers put a lot of work into it. C+
On Body and Soul - Hungary's foreign language nominee follows two employees in a slaughter house who find out they share the same dreams. They dream that they are deer together in the forest, but with social anxieties in real life they have trouble connecting outside of their dreams. I liked this far better than the The Square. It too is a bit of a slow burn but it never once drags. I really enjoyed the two leads. I'd say this film wouldn't be for you if you're easily offended over meat consumption. While they're not overly graphic with animal death they do show them (off screen) putting down a cow before it is carved up. I also like how much anxiety played into this. I seem to gravitate towards movies were someone feels uncomfortable and I like how they addressed it head on instead of just making it a quirk. B