…in 2008, while the world economy went into a tailspin, Hollywood delved into super-depressing, self-important mode and the Davies Awards asked sourly, “Why So Serious?”
But then the Brothers Coen and Quentin Tarantino looked around with their impish grins and wondered, “Why can’t we be a little serious but have fun, too?” Meanwhile, The King of the World, James Cameron awoke from a decade long hibernation to deliver us into a fantastic world we had never seen and finally made a film where 3D technology rose above gimmick status. All the while, his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow masterminded the ultimate coup-d’etat. Will a woman director finally take home Oscar…for a war film?
But these golden days seemed so far far away back in January…
I believe it was Chaim Potok who once said something to the effect of “all great literature is about the clashing of cultures.” In his novel, The Chosen, his insular idea of culture clash was an Orthodox Jewish boy befriending an Hasidic Jewish boy. I think the same can be said of great cinema, though independent filmmakers often take a more volatile approach.
Below are four films that have passed through my Netflix queue this year that I believe deserve to be singled-out, praised, buzzed about…chosen. All four are in a way about the clashing or melding of cultures and the effects that has on individuals, and three of the four are from directors with immigrant heritages. Three of them have a good chance of making my top ten list for 2009, while another (from 2008) is in the running for my top 25 of the decade. As is often found in independent films, with lower budgets and tighter focus on achieving a personal dream, filmmakers hone in on story and character with often startling results. Low profile or lost in the shuffle either due to foreign origin or lack of widened stateside distribution, they deserve a larger audience, and those selective cinephiles who routinely uncover them have a duty to pass on the word. Queue these up, post haste. Continue reading →