Films are equal in the sense that you have mainstream releases that have nothing to do with indie films, that have nothing to do with foreign films, which have nothing to do with documentaries.
Although, as coincidences go, this year saw more than one documentary that was also a foreign film. From Turkey, the film Kedi focuses on stray cats that inhabit the ancient city of Istanbul.
On a level playing field regular narrative features compete with docs, foreign films and cartoons. On said field Dunkirk would be side by side with 78/52 and The Square.
Spreading a list of the year’s best films across a sea of genres only increases the awareness of cinema. With that in mind, here are some prime choices for the year’s most honored movies.
As far as animated films are concerned there’s a hard boundary that makes a kid’s flick appealing to adults. And then there are animated films that are actually geared towards adults.
Best Animated Film
In This Corner of the World
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent took years to hand paint each frame in a style reminiscent of the film’s subject Vincent Van Gogh.
In This Corner of the World, from Japan, is set among the everyday rural life of a family about to experience the world’s first atomic bombing. The action feels very realistic despite the animated landscape.
The LEGO Batman Movie offers one hilarious joke after another grounded in a semi-subversive dissection of the Batman mythos, including references to every Batman television show or film.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
A handful of documentaries went beyond the pale to achieve accolades only reserved for the best movies in any given year. 78/52 literally breaks down the shower scene in Psycho shot-by-shot while at the same time deconstructing fifty-years of cinematic Hitchcockian memes.
Kedi tracks cats of different stripes through the streets of an ancient city. In the end you realize these scavengers know the best restaurants and the best place to observe the sunset.
Jane matches accomplished doc filmmaker Brett Morgen (Chicago 10, The Kid Stays in the Picture) with Jane Goodall, with footage culled from over a hundred hours of recently discovered 16mm film related to her research in Africa in the 1960s. Score by Philip Glass elevates the already grand material to a higher realm.
Best Foreign Film
The Square is a film that demands to be shown in a museum setting. The entire film lampoons fine art institutions. Janitors sweep up parts of an important exhibit that consists of mounds of dirt and sand. A benefactor dinner comes undone when a simian-styled performance artist goes ape among the patrons. Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes look at opening a major exhibit becomes a public relations nightmare. Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund giudes an international cast — Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West — in this delicious farce.
French director Bertrand Tavernier’s My Journey Through French Cinema takes a trip through the rich culture of French films. Rene Clair, Jacques Becker, Marcel Carne, Jean Renoir are mentioned, but it’s Jean Gabin who commands an extended segment and then we still have more than half the film to go. Before all is said and done, you come to the conclusion that the evolution of French cinema ranks equally to any similar country and their filmed output.