They hand out the Oscars on Sunday. For the 50th straight year or so I will forego the pleasure of watching the telecast. I didn’t bother watching most of the movies either.
However I did recently see Toni Erdmann, which has been nominated for Best Foreign Film. It’s the only nominee in that category that I have seen, I think. I must confess I didn’t look at the list of nominees.
Supposedly it is a favourite to win, but so was Hillary Clinton. We all know how that turned out. Maybe it really is a shoe-in, and I just have a poor opinion of the people who vote for the Academy Awards.
It was billed as a comedy, but I found Toni Erdmann to be more a tragedy with some leavening comedic moments. Okay, a lot of comedic moments. I liked it when I saw it (the day after I saw Silence) and upon reflection I still think it is an excellent movie, one I’d like to see again. I’m sure I missed some things the first time.
What makes this film work is the unpredictability. I can usually see what is coming in a movie, but more often than not this one took me by surprise. That’s usually a good thing.
The performances were also excellent. To me the actors were unknowns, but I gather some are quite famous – I know little to nothing about German cinema. To me the characters felt real. Toni himself may be a bit larger than life, but I have known people like him. You probably have too.
At its heart, Toni Erdmann explores relationships, primarily those between a father and daughter. Yet it is more than that. It is a look at cultural differences, at aging, at the morality of modern business and dating. It’s an honest look, and not very pretty. The movie would probably be pretty depressing if it wasn’t so funny.
You don’t need to know all the plot details. That summary is enough. I should tell you though that the film contains the funniest nude scene you are ever likely to see. And note, I said nude scene, there is no sex involved. And it is funny.
What is sad though is that Hollywood is already planning the remake. I guess it was inevitable: most people won’t go to see a subtitled movie, no matter how good. I don’t know if that is because they can’t read or they won’t read.
I’m sure the Hollywood filmmakers will do their best, but they will also adapt things for American audiences. I suspect the movie will lose its bite. I’ve heard Jack Nicholson is coming out of retirement to take on the title role. He’s a great actor, one I have always respected, but I am assuming he retired for a reason. Twenty years ago he would have been brilliant; now I’m not sure.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Especially if Toni Erdmann wins the Oscar.