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Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful (1997, rated PG-13) is just that, a beautiful movie about a father who will do anything in his power to keep the horrors of WWII away from his son. I love how Roberto Benigni invents the whole game scenario for his boy and humorously wings it with every turn for the worse in their prison camp.

The ending is nothing short of brilliant, loving, and courageous. For those movie fans who shy away from foreign films because of the subtitles, I encourage you to watch this wonderful movie that proves how love will always be victorious in the end.

Watch three-time Oscar winner (actor, foreign film, original score) Life is Beautiful on Hoopla today. In Italian with English subtitles. Roberto Benigni wrote, directed, and acted in this excellent movie.


Crime Scene Cleaner

This TV show is classified as a comedy, but it's much, much more than that. Heiko Schotte works with, but not for, the police, cleaning up blood and gore at the scenes of violent crimes. While he works, he becomes involved with homeowners and people visiting the places he's cleaning. Schotty, as he calls himself, doesn't get much cleaning done. Most of the episodes are Schotty and someone else just talking. It's philosophical with really thought-provoking observations on humanity and life—all with some laugh out loud moments.

There are ten 25-minute episodes in season 1. Crime Scene Cleaner (2011-2018) has some adult situations and is not for children.This series is worth a look. Start with season 1 on Hoopla. So far, Hoopla has the first two seasons of this interesting sophisticated seriesIn German with English subtitles.


Promare

Combine part mecha anime, part social commentary on equality and justice, and add sharp visuals and vibrant colors to get Promare (2019, PG-13). The Burnish are a group of people that control fire and are seen as a terrorist group of people by the public. They are opposed by the freeze force and rescue squad who use ice to cool them down when they cause fires. The two sides collide ideologically throughout the film with a multitude of actions scenes throughout.

For better or worse, it follows the similar Trigger/Gainax studio style show/movie where its characters are somewhat one dimensional, but it makes up for it with its action scenes and outstanding visuals.

Watch Promare on Hoopla today. In Japanese with English subtitles.


Amelie

This quirky French comedy very loosely parallels the plot of Jane Austen's Emma. The title character is a cute young waitress with a vivid imagination who comes to realize her joy at helping others. There is no end to the outlandish stratagems that Amelie (Audrey Tautou) is plotting, but will she be able to find love for herself ?

Amelie (2001, rated R) is a fun film with plenty of computer-generated visuals, giving it a unique and farcical feel. Watch the film on Hoopla today. In French with English subtitles.


Parasite

Where do you start with Parasite?  The experience of watching it is so many things at once: funny, tragic, bold, engaging, unsettling, upsetting, shocking.  Somehow, director, Bong Joon Ho, has made the film's stomach-dropping shifts in tone and twists in plot feel seamless, and the result is one of the most memorable movie experiences I've had this year.

Parasite (2019, rated R), the first-ever South Korean film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, tells the story of a struggling Korean family.  The Kim family lives in a roach-infested, semi-underground apartment, surviving on odd jobs and borrowed wi-fi.  But when an old classmate of Ki-Woo, one of the Kim children, visits their luck changes.  The classmate works as a tutor for the wealthy Park family and wants Ki-Woo to replace him while he studies abroad.

Ki-Woo seizes the opportunity, not only for himself but for his struggling family.  As he is leaving his first tutoring lesson, Mrs. Park laments that her younger son has never been able to find a good art teacher.  It so happens that Ki-Woo knows an art student that may be interested.  She went to America to study, he explains, but is probably back in Korea by now.  The next day Ki-Woo's sister, Ki-Jung, accompanies him, introducing herself as "Jessica," the art therapist.  She diagnoses Mrs. Park's son with early signs of severe mental illness and prescribes several therapy sessions a week.  Ki-Woo's parents soon follow.  One by one, posing as distant acquaintances or professional contacts, each member of the Kim family claws their way into the household.  In their efforts to secure full-time employment, they can be crueleven ruthlessbut it's difficult not to root for them anyway.  The Kims do not play nice, but they are smart, resourceful, and determined.  With the few resources they have, they succeed in beating their competition and pulling the household's stringsuntil one fateful night, things go very, very wrong.

Many movies explore the ugly realities of class divide and inequality, but few are as vivid and clever as Parasite.  Watch it for free with a Hulu subscription (or one-month free trial), by placing a hold on one of the library's Rokus preloaded with Hulu, or placing a hold on a dvd or blu-ray.

Millennium Actress

This Japanese anime movie is centered on the life of Chiyoko Fujiwara, a retired actress who is being interviewed about her career.  Chiyoko recounts the story of a man she tried to find throughout her life without knowing his name or face.  The story flows from the past and present when Chiyoko is telling the story, and it transitions beautifully from one scene to the next.

Millennium Actress (2019, rated PG) was directed by the award winning director, Kon Satoshi, who also directed Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers.

Watch Millennium Actress  on Hoopla today. In Japanese with English subtitles.



The Interpreter

This Slovakian film garnered 13 nominations and 9 wins from all over the world.  The Interpreter (2018) tells the story of 80-year-old Ali Ungar finding a book written by a former SS officer describing his wartime activities in Slovakia.  Ali discovers this person was responsible for murdering his parents.  He tries to take revenge, but instead finds the officer's 70-year-old son, Georg.  The son hires Ali, the interpreter, to travel with him to find out more about his father, with whom he never had a close relationship. These opposites travel together to interview eyewitnesses to the slayings, but along the way the very different men find out that they are not so different at all.

This movie was superb, with believable characters that will wrench at your heart.  Watch The Interpreter on Hoopla today.

In Slovak, German, and Russian with English subtitles.

Perfect Blue (1997)

Follow the life of Mima, a singer in a popular group who leaves to pursue a life of acting in this Japanese anime movie. Her managers and handlers are continually murdered as she makes the transition though, leading to increased paranoia. Even worse, she begins to believe that she has a stalker as her paranoia and stress begin to change how she sees reality. The movie is a great look at the negative aspects of being famous and the physiological toll it can have on someone.

If you like psychological thrillers, this is one not to miss. Watch Perfect Blue (rated R) on Hoopla today.

In Japanese with English subtitles.

In the Aisles

In the Aisles (2018) tells the story of Christian, a new worker at a big box store in former East Germany.  Taken under the wing by his coworker Bruno, Christian becomes enamored of a fellow employee, Marion.  Check out this quiet leisurely-paced film full of charm and complex emotion.

In German with English subtitles.

Honeyland

Hatidze lives with her mother outside of Skopje, Macedonia, the only residents for miles.  She makes her living selling her honey in the city and practicing sustainable beekeeping according to old traditions.  Hatidze's life is forever changed when a Turkish family nearby decides to take up beekeeping, without any regard of her teachings.  With beautiful scenery, Honeyland (2019) is a documentary about how a simpler way of life still exists in today's society, even in the face of modern pressures.

Honeyland has been nominated for both Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film of the Year for this year's Oscars.

In Turkish with English subtitles.

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.

The Intouchables (2011) R

intouchablesMary P. recommended this very good movie to me. I was a little wary since The Intouchables is in French with English subtitles, but it was enjoyable and easy to relate to. Not extremely serious or comedic, this film is a great choice for many.
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Rififi (1955)

rififiAmerican born director Jules Dassin made the French thriller Rififi after being blacklisted in Hollywood. In this masterfully suspenseful heist movie, four jewel thieves plan the perfect crime. They gather the team. They plan. They rehearse. Then they execute the perfectly choreographed theft and getaway--all in perfect silence. But one mistake draws the unwanted attention of a local crime boss and all plans go astray.

In French with English subtitles.

The Flowers of War (2011) R

flowersofwarSet in 1937 Nanjing, China, as the Japanese invade and pillage the city during the Sino-Japanese War, The Flowers of War is a heart wrenching but very emotional story of the evils and atrocities of war. Thrown together as a means of survival, Christian Bale, an American mortician, a group of young Chinese school girls, and a band of courtesans hide in an old Nanjing church. With nothing in common, the three groups learn to pull together as death and destruction surrounds them.

Bravery, romance, and wonderful acting from the entire cast make this Golden Globe nominated movie one not to miss.

Even though this movie is listed as a foreign film, it is primarily in English, with small portions in Mandarin.
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Love Is All You Need (2012) R

Here’s a perfect movie to watch when you feel like you need a “romantic comedy.”  This sleeper-of-a-movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a wealthy but grumpy widower who travels to Italy for his son’s marriage to a young Danish girl. As the two very different families meet to prepare for and celebrate their children’s wedding, love and hope for a wonderful future materialize. Quirky but warm and funny, Love Is All You Need just might fit the bill.