When I was teaching in China many years ago, my rented apartment had a DVD player and TV thrown in for free. The hours were easy – you had to teach for a few hours, and then once supper was over at about 5 PM, you had the whole evening to yourself.
There were no TV programs in English. Perhaps, bigger cities like Shanghai or Beijing would have had more English programming, but I had just news on CCTV9. So, the DVD player would beckon. Chinese supermarkets usually had a whole aisle devoted to pirated DVDs. It was there that I picked up my love for movies. Barely would a movie release in the US than it would make its way to this obscure supermarket. What delighted me more was that unlike the Indian pirated movies of that time, these prints were not ‘camera’ prints. They were crystal clear knockoffs.
Hour after hour would be spent watching these movies. I think one year, I must have watched more than 200 movies. I hadn’t kept a log of the movies that I watched then, and I wish I had. But over the past five years, I have. Last year, I watched about 53 movies. As always, I like to watch movies from a variety of languages and cultures. Language is no barrier, the genre is. I usually shun popular movies, and go for the offbeat and eclectic. The result is that sometimes some of these critically acclaimed movies are yawn, boring. So, I yawned my way through a few movies, but I also discovered a few gems.
Last year, I rekindled my interest in Persian and Iranian movies. I didn’t go to the movies much but watched most of them on my laptop. Some of the movies that made it big last year – Big Sick, for instance, doesn’t make it to my list at all.
Here are the top movies of the year from me:
Summer Days With Coo (Japanese)
This movie was the most adorable one I watched, introducing me to the awww-inducing character of Coo. The movie was overly long, but was a beautiful reflection on the identity of home, and it is Japanese animated. What more can you ask for? I loved the movie more because of the personal reflections it gave me.
What a beautiful movie! The conflict and inanity of war is brought out beautifully in a desolate landscape. Gripping. An Estonian man Ivo has stayed behind to harvest his crops of tangerines. In a bloody conflict at his door, a wounded man is left behind, and Ivo is forced to take him in.
The White Balloon (Iranian)
Such a cute movie. So much of tension built up over so little. A little girl wants to buy goldfish and loses her money in a drain. How does she get it back? I can’t tell you how much I loved this movie. There was something absolutely endearing about the girl’s quest.
Thelma & Louise (English)
One of the best stories on friendship I have ever come across. This made me sob in the end. Such a joyride this movie was. This might be a classic and I might have been one of the last people to see this movie, but well, what can I say? Better late than never as the cliche goes.
The only Hindi movie to make this list, this tense, riveting thriller had me on the edge of my seat or futon. This is not mainstream Bollywood, but really I am rarely a fan of one-man kind of movies, but the acting was superb. You don’t feel bored for even an instant, and classic survival movies are always inspirational!