1. My Week With Marilyn (B-)
2. Fantasia 2000 (B+)
3. Blade Runner (B)
4. The Hidden Fortress (A-)
5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (B+)
6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (A+)
7. The Descendants (A-)
8. Monsieur Lazhar (A)
Canada has recently become a powerhouse in the Foreign Language Film category, collecting four nominations in the last eight years (one win). Monsieur Lazhar
, adapted by director Philippe Falardeau from a fifty-minute one-man stage show, has some slight subject similarities with last year's bracing Incendies
- namely, featuring Arab refugees in Quebec - but is otherwise a very different picture. Where the earlier film was a brutal exploration of religious violence and a Sophoclean family drama, this is an expert mix of light comedy and the aftereffects of tragedy. Our title character (played by Mohamed Fellag, dignified and handling both the serious and the playful elements of the story equally well) is an Algerian asylum-seeker who gets a job as an elementary school teacher (by lying about his permanent residency, and also that he used to teach in Algeria). He's replacing a teacher who hung herself (in the classroom), so it's obviously a delicate situation. The whole film feels very much like real life. And it features a whole classroom of very good child actors, which is often a problem for movies; none of the kid characters feels like a type. The standout is Sophie Nelisse (who reminds me a bit of a Quebecois Kiernan Shipka) as Alice, one of the two kids to actually see the dead teacher's body. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Genies this year, and she'd deserve to win.
The odds of this beating A Separation
would have to be considered pretty long, but (not having seen that film) I think it would be a worthy winner if it did.
Home Video: 4