by Robert J. Avrech
Zero Motivation, (2014) Israel. Zohar (Dana Ivgy) and Daffi (Nelly Tagar) are two young Israeli soldiers serving on a remote army base. Stuck in the Human Resources Division, the girls are bored pencil-pushers who spend their days playing video games, singing pop songs, flirting with handsome male soldiers, and dreaming of escape to Tel Aviv. An Israeli version of MASH (1970), or Stripes (1981), it was a huge hit in Israel. Simultaneously hilarious and touching, Zero Motivation is, ultimately, a military coming-of-age movie that offers a unique glimpse into Israeli society. Netflix.
Ragnarok, (2013) Norway. An archaeologist who is a widow with his two children in tow uncovers mysterious runes describing Ragnarok, the Viking legend of the end of the world. As the genre demands, he accidentally awakens a giant, slimy monster. Ordinarily, yours truly stays away from monster movies because, well, they scare me. But Ragnarok is a touchingly emotional movie that pays as much attention to the dynamics of family as to CGI. Netflix.
Queen and Country, (2014) England. It is 1952. Bill Rohan (Callum Turner), is doing national service. He lives downstream from Shepparton studios, thus movies animate his consciousness. He meets a beautiful, suicidal woman, Tamsin Egerton, and glimpses the vanishing British aristocracy in tragic close-up. In an incredibly powerful scene, they go see Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon. Bill loves it. She is upset, saying: “The one constant in all three versions of the story is that the woman is raped.” This film is a worthy sequel to director John Boorman’s delightful Hope and Glory (1987) where the young Bill Rohan thanks Hitler for bombing his school. All but ignoring the predictable gears of plot, Queen and Country is a beautiful coming-of-age tale that charts the love a young man feels for a woman—and for the movies. The last shot of this masterful film brought tears to my eyes. Amazon Prime.