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Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove)

This adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel is one of my favorite films of the year. Written and directed by Hannes Holm it’s a Swedish curmudgeon finds his humanity story that could easily have been sappy and cliched, but balances the mean and the sweet just right for a totally enjoyable ride.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, which I thoroughly enjoyed, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a fun little Swedish flick about an old man who, just before his nursing home keepers can sing him happy 100th, climbs out the window and has a big adventure. It is in Swedish, feels kind of Forrest Gumpish, and it involves a biker gang and an elephant.

Force Majeure

There is a lot of buzz around Force Majeure, a Swedish relationship drama. They LOVED it at Cannes, it is Sweden’s Oscar entry, and the Foreign Press has just nominated it as best foreign language film. But the question to me is, does it appeal more to European audiences than Americans? I liked it and I think it is a well-done film with a compelling question at its center, but best film?

The Hunt (Jagten)

The Hunt is not a happy movie. And it is a story I feel like I have seen before, though it is all in the telling. The draw here is Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal), frequently cast as the cold Scandinavian killer. He took home the best actor award at last year’s Cannes for his portrayal of this film’s lead character, Lucas, a divorced father and kindergarten teacher who is trying to connect with his teenage son and adjust to single life. And it is going pretty well, that is until he suddenly finds himself accused of molesting a little girl.

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

Headhunters is one of those movies that grows on you. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when it was over, but then days after, I kept thinking about it. It is a twisty Norwegian crime thriller about an insecure though powerful headhunter (of the executive search variety) who has overextended himself financially in order to take care of his tall blond super-modelish wife, who he is sure would leave him except for the lavish lifestyle he provides. And so he supplements his income by stealing art. His decision to steal one particular piece puts him in the sites of a very dangerous man.

Melancholia

Danish director Lars von Trier is not known for happy movies (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) and with Melancholia he keeps true to form. The title clues you in to the mood of the film centered on two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is told in two chapters. The first is Justine’s story – the saga of her wedding reception at her sister’s mansion, in which she has a slow and painful meltdown, revealing herself to be a deeply disturbed, depressed woman, incapable of being in any relationship, much less married. The second part belongs to Claire. It concerns her growing terror that a planet called Melancholia that has been hiding behind the sun is soon going to crash into the earth.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

With all the hoopla about the penultimate Harry Potter and the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia, the end of the Steig Larson Millennium Trilogy may have slipped your notice. And that’s too bad since The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest may be the best of the trilogy. Whether you’ve seen the first two, this movie is an entertaining ride on its own.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The second installment of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, is really good, but unlike the first installment, I felt that there were lots of missing pieces that could only be filled in IF you read the book. Whether they make a difference to enjoying the ride is a different question altogether.