4: The Hunt
You might remember Mads Mikkelson from his portrayal of the lazy-eyed Bond villain in Casino Royal, and here he is winning the 2012 Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Best Actor’ award like a boss. He plays a lovable schoolteacher in this Dutch drama or psychological thriller that illustrates the pangs of persecution and ostracization. Apart from the well-crafted story, you get a glimpse of a part of the world you may not know, and realize — once again — that we’re not all that different. Writer/director Thomas Vinterberg starts the story in the orange and red-soaked fall, takes it to a bitter and cold winter, and leaves it in the spring as I found myself wishing it would never end. It’s one of those films that sticks with you. Dive in, you’ll like it.
3. A Separation
If you’re like me, you’re really into domestic dramas because they’re so hard to pull off and so easy to make terrible. Somehow writer/director Asghar Farhadi knows more about humans than anyone else on the planet because this domestic drama, set in modern-day Tehran, never feels the slightest bit false. Every conversation, reaction, and lie is so conflictingly reasonable and tension-building that you’d swear you’ve met these people before. This one won him the 2012 Academy Award for ‘Best Foreign Film’, and better yet, he made another critically-acclaimed domestic drama two years later called The Past…in French! Somebody stop this guy before he tells us all what happens after we die!
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
This was easily the best film of 2013; sorry, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and Her. It’s a three-hour coming-of-age story about a girl discovering she’s gay in Lille, France. Writer/director Abdel Kechiche creates some of the most beautiful shots I’ve ever seen in my life, and that’s not hyperbolizing; I cannot think of another film that made me literally pause and marvel at a landscape while giving me that tingly feeling you sometimes get when something good happens.
Adele Exarchopoulos gives a monumental performance, and I find it offensive and egregious she didn’t get nominated and win the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress’, although I do understand the Academy has to pick movies that’ll sell in America. Of course nothing could make me more egalitarian than picking a foreign film about homosexuality, but the context becomes irrelevant when you submit that this is a film about love, and it’s done so well you feel like you were a part of it.
1. Let the Right One In
I think this is my favorite film of all time, and that’s before the hindsight-bias of realizing this is the #9 Horror Film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. This Swedish adaptation relies on sparse dialogue and universally sympathetic themes to bring you a vampire story unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
It’s a story about bullied, introverted child finding friendship in a vampire, and as a scene of blood-sucking violence precedes one of heartless bullying, you have to ask yourself which is more evil.
It’s a slow-moving cinematic masterpiece. One of those films I could describe as ‘great’ with a thousand words, and even then it wouldn’t diminish your experience.