We present our top movie picks this year from France’s “The Death of Stalin”, to “Out of the Dark” of Israel to Germany’s “Der Untergang.”
Top 10: Rock My Heart (Germany)
Rock My Heart is a middle of the road film with a storyline that does not venture too far off track. The ensemble cast delivers on screen but the material could use more original beats. The soundtrack features several saccharine drenched English language songs that are distracting taking away from the moment. The production has some useful themes that will resonate with the intended audience but will likely not garner wide appeal.
Top 9: Ang Larawan (Philippines)
There is observable wit and humor in how the film itself shares the same stubbornness its characters have for their undying affection for the past.
Ang Larawan is persistent in withstanding changing its source, retaining the themes, and keeping the form and spectacle intact. The film’s pleasures are enough to surpass its indulgences. Its direct linkage to timeless artistry is sublime. Sure, the film doesn’t see it as worthwhile to translate Nick Joaquin for more current sensibilities, but there is definitely a lot here to admire.
Top 8: Tutto per una ragazza (Italy)
What really makes this labeled something positive is that it doesn’t feel generic. For after seeing enough coming of age films, it is like if you have seen one you have seen them all. However, little things like the guy not being some ultimate lover and the girl accepting that, a strong focus on trying to not repeat your parents’ mistakes, and using skateboard culture, and icon Tony Hawk, to support the narrative was notably different. Different enough for this movie to rise above the rest and definitely be worth checking out.
Top 7: Coco (United States)
Pixar strikes again. In Coco we found ourselves reminiscing the days of Toy Story, back on our childhood days. But this is different. This is like watching our own story, not some story of a white kid in a far away country with his talking toys. This is our story, Miguel is us! From the brown face which looked like a glazed donut when wet, to the celebration of the Day of the Dead, it’s like watching ourselves and our family on the big screen.
Top 6: Darkest Hour (United States)
Like “Dunkirk,” “Darkest Hour” was not made to record the day-to-day battles which occurred during the war, a bummer for history fans. But in the end, they will find it satisfying that an important moment like this one was given light, and in a superb fashion.
“Darkest Hour” might be another one of those films about a piece in our history, but its depth, the way it tried to portray this important moment in our history, is worth watching.
Top 5: The Post (United States)
The film focused on a single event during 1971, the event which determined the existence of the free press as we know it today. Jam-packed in just one day, the movie tells the story of how the struggle to publish the so-called “Pentagon Papers” of the Vietnam War evolved within the newspaper organizations, focusing briefly on its characters, and ending in a triumph of human’s freedom to express himself, as much as it ended in journalistic triumph.
If this film feels familiar today, it’s because it’s happening again.
Top 4: Call Me By Your Name (United States)
The great thing the movie did was to explain in clear details why Elio and Oliver did not commit to each other while the book, surprisingly, was somehow vague in it. (I could easily have thrust myself on him years ago, married or unmarried—unless it was I who, despite all appearances, had all along been unreal and spectral myself.)
One last thing the movie did: it made the story seemed to be more real, unlike that from the book which, for me, was so unreal, bordering on dreaming. Maybe perhaps because I can’t fathom a life like Elio’s?
“Elio,” I repeated, to say it was I speaking but also to spark our old game and show I’d forgotten nothing.
“It’s Oliver,” he said. He had forgotten.
Bronze Award: The Death of Stalin (France)
The thing about this movie is that there was comedy in it but you could still feel the horror within the Kremlin, the darkness that shrouded Moscow during Stalin’s reign of terror and which continued even after he died. By poking fun at the antics of the top level leaders of the Committee, the movie showed the pure evilness of these people and the effect that their actions caused on Russia and its satellite countries during the Cold War.
Silver Award: Out in the Dark (Israel)
Director Michael Mayer made sure that Out in the Dark is not your conventional love story. The raw emotions exuded by the actors, and the artistic shots, combined to present a thrilling climax. The ending was clear as day but on closer look, it was really vague because it gives the audience hope for a different ending, even though it might not exist at all.
Top Movie Pick Gold Award: Der Untergang (Germany)
The movie presents in length how Hitler raved about sending his non-existent armies to counter the Russian attack and his disillusions which greatly torn his last supporters apart. There are also Joseph Goebbels and his wife and children, their gruesome choice of death given justice in this movie. The events outside Berlin were not included in this movie so we did not see how Hermann Göring was killed which is a bummer. But we saw Hermann Fegelein’s death which is sad because he was one of our favorite Nazis who had some soul remaining on him.
Without stroking any wound (or violating any anti-Nazi German laws), the movie managed to present some heroes in this story like that of Reichsphysician SS Ernst-Robert Grawitz. In the end, the characters were not redeemed from their evil acts on this movie but just present us the events in detail about what transpired to them in hopes that we could glimpse some reason behind the insanity that they created.