Best Foreign Films, 2008
I have a simple formula for deciding the best films in a year. I see at least 100 films in a year, most of them in movie theaters, and at least 25 of them at the annual Toronto International Film Festival.
I make a note of films, and, as the end credit titles unfold, think of seeing them all over again, if possible, at the next screening. These films also prompt me to send mail to my friends announcing that I had indeed seen a fabulous film. Like many others who love the movies, my taste is also eclectic, as the list below shows. New York is a great city for seeing films from all over the world and the list reflects that advantage.
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My top 10 films this year come from three continents. The best film of the year, Slumdog Millionaire, which I saw for the first time at Toronto in September, was shot entirely in India. The movie has grossed over $20 millions in North America and is still going strong -- last week, it made over $7.5 million. It has endeared itself to critics across Canada and America, and has been declared the best film of the year, even by critics' associations in Phoenix and other cities.
The best-selling horror master Stephen King, who had his own 10 best films of the year written for Entertainment Weekly, named it the year's second best; the list was led by The Dark Knight, the enormously successful and expensive (over $185 million) film that has grossed worldwide nearly $1 billion.
The list is limited to films made in non-Indian languages.
For all the darkness and cruelty it portrays, the film is full of hope. Its final minutes including the rousing dance in a train station in Mumbai is a testimonial to its theme of love conquering it all.
Anil Kapoor as the sly quiz show host, Dev Patel as the contender who uses the show to look for his lost girlfriend, played by Freida Pinto, and Irfaan Khan as the police inspector, all deliver smart performances. But the best work comes from the three unschooled actors who play the slum kids forced into slavery.
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Moving, suspenseful, and romantic, this is an old-fashioned story directed with a modern sensibility by Danny Boyle from a script by Simon Beaufoy. Briskly edited and embellished by a pulsating score (most of it by A R Rahman), this film, in the final reckoning, is an uplifting piece of art that can touch sensitive moviegoers worldwide.
Boyle has been making films for over a decade. He was best known till now for his cult hit Trainspotting. Now that he is a genuine mainstream success -- the film is doing very good business in Italy and Australia as it awaits release worldwide -- he has a big monkey on his back. Now his next film needs to be really remarkable. The expectations after Slumdog Millionaire are very high indeed.
Text: Arthur J Pais
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