Film one contender in a deep Best Foreign Language category that the homegrown Best Picture category could learn from
So let's begin this week's review with the requisite reaction to the Oscar nominations, shall we? Here's how I feel about the Oscars, basically every year.
Of the eight Best Picture nominees, I had exactly two in my Top 10 (“Roma” and “The Favourite,” at #2 and #3 respectively). I only had one more in my honorable mentions (“BlacKkKlansman”). So those films are what I'll be rooting for that night.
My top movie of the past year (“Eighth Grade”) was nominated for … nothing. My picks for Best Actor (Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed”) and Best Documentary (“Won't You Be My Neighbor?”) were not even nominated.
Hell, my favorite crowd-pleaser in a year when the Academy briefly considered a Best Popular Film category was also shut out (“Crazy Rich Asians”).
Here's where I will remind you of something I promise I never lose sight of as a film critic: Tastes are subjective.
I only get so curmudgeonly over the Oscar nominations because they often give a boost to underseen movies, and I usually have a lengthy list of movies that could use more of a boost than me screaming blindly into the pages of Alive.
This brings me to one really, really deserving movie that is worth the boost.
Writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda's “Shoplifters” is the Japanese nominee in the Best Foreign Language category, and it's so goddamn good that I actually consider that category stronger than Best Picture, as it joins Alfonso Cuaron's “Roma” and Pawel Pawlikowski's “Cold War.”
In some ways, “Shoplifters” is a fine paring with “Roma,” a tale of the everyday lives of working-class people getting by amid ups and downs. It's a deeply human tale, with humor and pathos and twists.
And it's one of the best movies of the past year, so, y'know, you should probably see it so people make more movies like this instead of “Bird Box” or whatever.
It's the story of an unlikely family that we first meet as patriarch Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) is, well, shoplifting with his young son, Shota (Jyo Kairi).
The setup suggests a family of criminals and grifters, but low-level theft is only one aspect of the otherwise legitimate grind the multigenerational unit living in a tiny apartment goes through to get by.
“Shoplifters” is complex, funny, joyful, sad and enthralling. Like “Roma,” it feels like a slice of life that's both deeply ingrained in a certain culture and also somehow universal.
And after an initial run at the Wexner Center, it's opening at the Gateway Film Center … in a week. If you want to see a movie that helps explain why I love movies, please don't forget about “Shoplifters.” Even if it's only to complete your Oscar ballot.