LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Fast Scans, October 15, 2011: Top Foreign & Indie Picks

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. color & b/w. 90+ min. Strand Releasing. 2010. DVD UPC 71226730142-3. $24.99; Blu-ray UPC 712267301430. $34.99.
Lauded British cinematographer Cardiff (1914‚ 2009) built his reputation with an innovative approach to shooting in color on A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, and his greatest achievement, The Red Shoes, before enjoying success as a director ( Sons and Lovers). Interviews with actors, directors, and other industry peers, dozens of film clips, and extras, including a primer on three-strip Technicolor, document the life’s work of a master. Director Craig McCall offers a tribute for more than film devotees.

Life During Wartime. color. 97+ min. Criterion Collection. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781604654547. $29.95; Blu-ray 9781604654530. $39.95.
In this sort-of-sequel to Happiness (1998), slyly subversive writer-director Todd Solondz ( Welcome to the Dollhouse) revisits his oddly sympathetic characters now played by a new cast (Allison Janney, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson, and Ally Sheedy). Whether dealing with serious psychological issues or merely neuroses, these damaged characters provide a surprising source of deadpan humor and pathos in their search for forgiveness. Given its eccentric tone, this typical Solondz outing is not for mainstream tastes. [See Trailers, LJ 6/1/11]

Lou. color. 86 min. Monarch Home Entertainment. 2010. DVD UPC 723952078544. $24.95.
Still hurting from abandonment by her dad, 11-year-old Lou initially rebels when her estranged grandfather (John Hurt) is forced to live with her family. They form an eventual bond despite his early-stage dementia, though it starts as a way for Lou to get back at her mom (Emily Barclay) before morphing into a relationship based on genuine feelings. Writer-director Belinda Chayko’s little-seen Aussie family drama, featuring an impressive lead performance by Lily Bell-Tindley, deserves a wider audience for its refreshingly naturalistic vibe.

Me Too (Yo, tambien). color. 103 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Olive Films. 2009. DVD UPC 887090027601. $29.95.
Just out of college despite being born with Down syndrome, Daniel (Pablo Pineda) quickly finds himself infatuated with Laura (Lola Dueñas), a normal coworker at his new social-agency office job. A bleach blonde troubled by an estranged family, Laura loses herself in partying and one-night stands even as she closely befriends, if not falls for, Daniel. Avoiding the pitfalls of a pity-fest, codirectors Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro explore atypical unrequited love without getting gooey. Not only for love story aficionados.

Poetry. color. 139+ min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Kino Intl. 2010. DVD UPC 738329071028. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329076122. $34.95.
Secret Sunshine. color. 142 min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2007. DVD ISBN 9781604654622. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604654615. $39.95. [See Trailers, LJ 7/11]
South Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong eschews the melodramatic and maudlin for restrained yet persuasive sentiment in Poetry, where a woman (Yun Jung-hee) diagnosed with dementia finds poetic inspiration after learning her grandson was involved in a gang rape that resulted in a girl’s suicide. In Chang-dong’s Secret, a mother (Jeon Do-yeon, The Housemaid) turns to religion for false consolation after the murder of her young son. Understated emotional payoffs are worth the wait in this double feature.