Arts & Entertainment

Which Best International Feature nominees are worth watching

Are you not sure which nominees are worth watching? This article has you covered.

The lineup for the Best International category at the Oscars may not have been quite as strong as the year prior, but included among them are some magnificent gems. Here are the nominees for Best International Feature… 


Title: “The Man Who Sold His Skin” 

Star Rating: 2.5/5

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” is a film that tried to do and say a lot, but did and said almost nothing. The concept was to ask, “What if you could turn a person into an art piece?” In the film, this is accomplished by tattooing a ‘passport’ onto a refugee’s back. It’s unfortunately clear that “The Man Who Sold His Skin” was based on a single interesting idea with no regard for how to turn it into a compelling film.

The writing is awful, with inconsistent characters, confused politics, and a strange and (more importantly) failed attempt at critiquing the art world. There are a couple of nice shots, and the tattoo itself is cool, but its production is pretty unremarkable.

Plus, the ending is absolutely terrible. Any thin semblance of quality that might have existed prior was wiped away with a conclusion that proves the filmmakers had no idea what they wanted to say, or where they wanted the story to go. It is so contrived and incongruent with the rest of the film and its (already flimsy) characters that it almost feels like it’s own separate monster.

[Available at time of writing to stream on: Kanopy (FREE), Hoopla (FREE), Hulu]


Title: “Better Days” 

Star Rating: 3/5

“Better Days” (much like the order in which I watched the International nominees) started off quite strong, yet couldn’t keep up. 

After a peer is bullied to death, a high school student befriends a social outcast who protects her from the same tormentors. From the get go, I was intrigued, with a directorial and visual style that managed to be quiet and piercing, even in the shadow of a big-studio presence. I was prepared to love it, and instead it fell through.

Specifically, it was the plot that collapsed, with propaganda-esque messages taking a bigger presence, and a lack of character arc to keep things compelling. In fact, despite the strong performances of the film (of which there are several), all the crying scenes in the world cannot make a film that opts for directionless sappiness the great film it wants to be.

At several points I found myself wondering how long was left, with no ending in sight. The longer it went on, the longer each span of time was un-artistically drawn out. By the time the ‘How did we get here?’ exposition is used to conclude, all emotional value had already evaporated, replaced by the type of saccharin filmmaking that feels as though it were made for governmental powers to pat themselves on the back for their handling of epistemic bullying.

In general, I would describe “Better Days” as an okay film that fell way short of its potential. It is not worth the slog of the run-time.

[Available at time of writing to stream on: Hulu]


Title: “Another Round” 

Star Rating: 4.5/5

The first of the ‘greats’ of the past year’s International category, “Another Round” is a buzzing film with the streamlined feel of Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 roots.

About a group of teacher friends who experiment with alcohol in-class to reinvigorate their lives, the film is a tribute to youth and youthfulness, but more than that questions of life and how to live it meaningfully.

Mads Mikkelsen gives a standout performance, as does the entire cast to be fair (one that is composed of great Vinterberg veterans), in a film that can best be described as solid. It’s clean, it has a good arc, it feels fresh (inoffensively), and the script is very well written.

Was it truly the best film up for the Best International nomination? I would argue not, but that should not take away from what is both a masterwork, and a very easy watch for dealing with heavy and complex topics of alcoholism and (at its core) existentialism.

[Available at time of writing to stream on: Kanopy (FREE), Hoopla (FREE), Hulu]


Title: “Quo Vadis, Aida?” 

Star Rating: 4.5/5

While “Another Round” drew all of the (albeit rare) coverage to the International category, I would argue that awards dark horse “Quo Vadis, Aida?” contends to outdo the eventual victor.

An extremely potent thriller, “QVA?” perfectly captures the uneasy, tensile energy of the humanitarian crisis of the Yugoslavian implosion. The lead (Jasna Djuricic) is fantastic in her role as a UN translator scrambling to use what little influence she has to protect her family and the displaced population fleeing an imminent military assault. From dysfunctional politics to crowd unpredictability, the bureaucratic chaos will keep you captivated the entire time.

Probably the main factor in the success of the film, though, is the cinematography. It is simultaneously artful and documentarian, with the ability to make you feel as though you are trapped alongside the characters, and that says something for a period piece. This is one I definitely recommend.

[Available at time of writing to stream on: Kanopy (FREE), Hulu]


Title: “Colectiv” 

Star Rating: 5/5

“Colectiv” is one of the best films of 2020, and easily the best documentary. 

In October 2015, a fire broke out at Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. 146 were injured, and 64 died. Many did not have to. 

What begins as a journalistic investigation into the hospital unit where many burn victims became infected and died, quickly devolves into a terrifying conspiracy spanning the entire country, and even Europe.

The documentary is a somber testament to the importance of journalism in the democratic process, and the crucial role activists play in defending the world from authoritarian collapse. Sound brutal? Well it is. 

The documentary is frustrating, devastating, and depressingly honest, but it’s also beautifully made. Most of all it is important, captivating, a force of good against the very real evils of right-wing populism and  the things that we force ourselves to ignore, a scrutiny of the institutional powers upon which we all depend on ceding our trust, lest we never sleep. There is nothing more you could want in a documentary, nothing more in a thriller. 

[Available at time of writing to stream on: Hulu]