So here's my list of the films I enjoyed the most this year. Despite the above photo, I saw them all at home; they all came in the mail.
- About Elly. This is an Iranian film that could well be a play, the script is so good. Set on Iran's Caspian Sea coast, it involves three young families, a single man in search of a wife, and a young woman, Elly, who have gone together for a weekend's getaway. It might well be called a psychological mystery. The characters are believable, the story-line tense but surprisingly realistic. Nominated for an Oscar. In Farsi.
- Belle. (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson) (U.K.) Mixed-race young woman is raised by her aristocratic relative in 18th century England.
- Far From the Madding Crowd. (Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen) (U.K.) Adaptation of Thomas Hardy's story of shrewd and clever Bathsheba Everdene in 19th century Dorset.
- Laila's Birthday. (Palestine.) The activities and frustrations of a judge--now a taxi driver--in Ramallah on his daughter's birthday. In Arabic.
- Leviathan. (Russia.) Wonderful setting, bleak but beautiful photography of the Barents Sea off the Russian arctic coast. A fisherman fights to keep his ancestral home on land a corrupt official wants to take over. Won a Golden Globe; nominated for an Oscar. In Russian.
- Mademoiselle Chambon. (France.) A refined school teacher and a family-man construction worker become attracted to each other (played by a former husband and wife). Gentle, slow, precise, very French, contemporary setting, winner of several awards. In French.
- Pride. (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton) (U.K.) Based on a true story of lesbian/gay activists helping raise money for Welsh families affected by a miners' strike in 1984.
- Siddharth. (Canada, India.) When his young son is abducted, a zipper-repairer father travels around India looking for him, trying to follow various leads. Based on the director's hearing an illiterate man in India asking if people knew where a particular city was.
- Tangerines. (Estonia, Georgia.) Set in 1992 in Abkazia during the war when it wanted to withdraw from Georgia. Rather than return to their native Estonia with their families, two Estonian settlers stay on in Abkazia in order to harvest their tangerines but become involved with soldiers on both sides--one fighting with the Georgians, one for Abkazia. Rather than ending in hatred, it ends with a coming together. In Russian, Estonian, Georgian.
- The Hundred-Foot Journey. (Helen Mirren, directed by Lasse Hallstrom) (U.S.) An Indian lad, who is a talented cook, and his family open an Indian restaurant in a French village to the objection of the proprietress of an acclaimed restaurant immediately across the street. In English.
- The Other Son. A French movie about two teen-age sons, an Israeli and a Palestinian, accidentally switched at birth and the trauma that produces for both families. In several languages.
- GMO OMG. The title says it all.
- Merchants of Doubt. An excellent documentary about what they call "the network of scientific 'experts' paid by major corporations to spread disinformation about looming environmental threats including chemical pollution and climate change." These "experts" don't think anything of lying, making up heart-felt stories, sending death threat emails, and purposefully confusing the public. Or they might be actors paid to purposefully disrupt a meeting. Or someone participating in a false flag event where "our side" actually prompts the event that they then blame "the other side" for. Sound familiar?
- Tim's Vermeer. An American engineer and inventor totally recreates the complete physical setting of Vermeer's The Music Lesson (now in the Queen's possession), being stunningly faithful to every detail. Though not an artist himself (and after mixing his own paints from materials available in the 17th century), he then proceeds to paint an exact copy by using what he concludes was Vermeer's technique of employing optical devices (rather than a free-hand style) to achieve what has always been considered Vermeer's extremely photographic-like rendering. Only an art historian would be able to detect the difference between Tim's copy and the original. As he paints, he comes across more and more confirmations that Vermeer did use, if not exactly Tim's technique, then something very similar. (Other artists of that day undoubtedly did as well.) Because of his attention for exactitude, the whole project takes Tim something like five years. I found it enthralling.