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Best and worst expat movies of all time
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:14 am    Post subject: Best and worst expat movies of all time Reply with quote

Best and worst expat movies of all time
By Barry Neild, CNN | Originally published February 2011, updated July 2014
Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/20/travel/best-and-worst-expat-movies/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

(CNN) -- What's the best source of information for anyone planning a move overseas -- the Internet, the bookstore or those carefully worded government travel warnings?

Duh! It's the movies, of course.

Why would anyone do any research when everything they need to know about their new lives has been laid bare on the silver screen? When cinema gets it right, it does a pretty good job of taking a hatchet to the expat dream of lounging around in exotic bars dressed in linen suits and Panama hats. Just as often, however, Hollywood's overseas adventures run into so much trouble it's a wonder it isn't now languishing in the bowels of a dank foreign prison hoping that someone at the embassy might be able to put in a few calls.

To help navigate the celluloid jungle, here's our purely subjective list of the best and worst expat movies.

BEST EXPAT MOVIES

5) 'The Wages of Fear' (1953)
This brutal piece of black and white French cinema reeks of unwashed vests, but its depiction of nasty expat truck drivers worthlessly risking their grubby lives in the South American jungle is as explosive as the deadly nitroglycerine cargoes they're paid to deliver. Everyone is detestable, everyone dies and not even the dogs care. That's how expat life should be.

Enlightening expat dialog:
Dick: "When I was a kid, I used to see men go off on these kinds of jobs ... and not come back."

4) 'Straw Dogs' (1971)
"Wild Bunch" director Sam Peckinpah takes a double-barrel shotgun to all those smug, honey-hued films about rural expat life in this tale about repressed American mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) relocating to his wife's Cornish village. There are no hilarious misunderstandings with local plumbers, just thugs on tricycles. There's no sun-kissed romance, just a marriage disintegrating into domestic violence. And there are no life-affirming friendships, just a cat getting throttled. The film's brutality is a bit hard to stomach. The apparent need for a 2011 remake starring Kate Bosworth was also somewhat hard to stomach.

Enlightening expat dialog:
Henry Niles: "I don't know my way home."
David Sumner: "That's OK. I don't either."

3) 'The Third Man' (1949)
Expats don't come colder than Orson Welles' elusive Harry Lime, whose classic cuckoo clock speech justifying his racketeering in bombed-to-bits Vienna sounds suspiciously like the kind of cruel logic deployed by corporate stooges when plundering developing world countries in return for a fat salary. ("Free of income tax, old man.") If only real life saw these amoral exploiters hounded down, like Lime, in a subterranean sewer. If only real life was soundtracked by zithers.

Enlightening expat dialog:
Harry Lime: "Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we?"

2) 'The Year of Living Dangerously' (1982)
With its eclectic if somewhat dated soundtrack and expansive mysticism of Linda Hunt's diminutive paparazzo, "Dangerously" emerges as an anti-expat classic, contrasting the seedy and sequestered lives of foreign hacks and diplomats in Sukarno-era Indonesia against the poverty and chaos of a country on the brink. All that plus a pre-rant Mel Gibson.

Enlightening expat dialog:
Billy Kwan: "Jillian is like a wavering flame that needs care to burn high. Without such care she could lapse into the promiscuity and bitterness of the failed romantic."

1) 'Casablanca' (1942)
The closing scenes may not have the tear-jerking impact they once did, but if there's a film in existence responsible for dampening as much Kleenex as "Casablanca," it's probably XXX-rated. This film portrays expat life as it should be: outwitting mendacious cops and ruthless Nazis in the smoky haze of a North African piano bar while risking everything in the name of unrequitable love. Not playing golf for pity's sake. Who hasn't imagined themselves plunged into Casablanca's wartime plot of double-dealing and heartbreak? Perhaps as Humphrey Bogart, at his craggy best as jaded saloon owner Rick; Ingrid Bergman's impossibly lovely Isla Lund; or even Claude Rains' complicated French police chief Captain Renault. Sure the dialog has been quoted to death, and if Sam or anyone else plays "As Time Goes By" again, they're going to get the piano lid slammed on their fingers, but every fresh screening of Casablanca is still like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Oh dear. We said it.

Enlightening expat dialog:
Ilsa (on the verge of tears): "I didn't count the days."
Rick: "Well, I did. Every one of 'em. Mostly I remember the last one. The wild finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain with a comical look in his face because his insides have been kicked out."


WORST EXPAT MOVIES

5) 'The Beach' (2000)
With its gorgeous Thai scenery and rumbling undercurrents of violence, jealousy and death, "The Beach" aims to deliver a serious message about the illusory nature of paradise, but doesn't. It's hard to say which is less credible, a bunch of backpacking muppets building a community on a hidden beach without an Internet cafe or Leonardo DiCaprio (as Richard) joining them and failing to get the French girl.

Excruciating expat dialog:
Richard: "I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing."

4) 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (2003)
Unlucky-in-love American writer Diane Lane (as Frances) happens upon the only villa in Tuscany that isn't being rented out by middle class vacationers from London and buys it on a whim. In restoring the villa, she restores her own ... blah, blah, blah, whatever. So what's the message here? Don't worry if your marriage collapses, just buy a house in Italy, spend a bundle renovating it, then someone else will come along. There's a life lesson we can all relate to.

Excruciating expat dialog:
Frances: "I'll hire the muscular descendants of Roman gods to do the heavy lifting."

3) 'Eat Pray Love' (2010)
Unlucky-in-love American writer Julia Roberts ... no, stick with us, this one's slightly different. Granted, Roberts as Liz Gilbert goes to Italy, but there's no villa, just the start of a year swanning around the world with no apparent worries about cash. In Italy, Roberts' character learns to eat Italian food (without gaining weight). She then moves to India to explore spirituality before traveling to Bali for love.
Not love with some vacationing sleazeball. Love with Javier Bardem. Like that happens in real life.

Excruciating expat dialog:
Liz: "It won't last forever. Nothing does." (Except this film -- 140 minutes long!)

2) 'Mr. Baseball' (1992)
Who needs jokes in your script when you've got foreigners? Simply send grumpy aging baseball star Jack Elliott (Tom Selleck) to Japan, where hilarity ensues as he grapples with their crazy cultural traditions -- and toilets! What should be a feelgood film about a fading star's last dash for glory winds up being a feel-queasy trot through every Japanese cliche known to Hollywood. Unsurprisingly, Universal Studios' new Japanese owners were unhappy at the time. The film does have some good performances, but not from Selleck, who was upstaged by his mustache, and not for the last time.

Excruciating expat dialog:
Jack: "Different language, same attitude! Let's go!"

1) 'Farewell to the King' (1989)
Expats, eh? Always acting so damn entitled. But if you think they're annoying where you live, spare a thought for the tribe in Borneo, which winds up with Learoyd (Nick Nolte) in the midst of World War II.
Not content to loudly drink his own body weight in alcohol every Friday like normal, decent expats, Nolte becomes their king -- a role that involves going topless and sporting Dog the Bounty Hunter's blond bouffant. Nolte cranks the ham dial up to 11 in this poor man's "Apocalypse Now," taking on Japanese invaders to protect his tribe which, despite being peopled with fearless headhunters, would apparently have been lost without a middle aged white guy there to save the day.

Excruciating expat dialogue:
Learoyd: "I have a special relationship with the spirits. I died once. I had to. I had to give up everything, even the will to live."

(End of article)
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nomad soul



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They left out 'Midnight Express' (1978) as one of the best for that authentic Turkish prison experience.
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scot47



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Said movie has been instrumental in scaring off thousands of might-be visitors to Turkey.
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fat_chris



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always get the movies Midnight Express and Midnight Cowboy confused.

I shouldn't though. Those two movies really are quite different.

Haha! Maybe Midnight Cowboy could be considered an expat movie: Texan heads to New York City. The City is a different world and many consider it "a different country" compared to the rest of the country. There's a reason why Manhattan is on an island.

Warm regards,
fat_chris
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likwid_777



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah yes, that's where "overseas" comes into play, haha. Indeed Midnight Cowboy and Midnight Express are totally different. Midnight Cowboy was probably in the top five most original and well written films of the 20th Century IMO. The scene where ole Voight finally realises he is stranded, with no cash and has to squat with Ratso, is a poignant (did I just say that?) scene. 'Twas a scene which many naive expats could relate to, if they've ever ended up high and dry abroad.

I didn't enjoy Midnight Express as much as I perhaps should have. The reason for that, is that I had already seen the Banged up Abroad episode and its "real" version of the events. The chap involved (can't recall his name) was talking about his story, and it was very different to the film. You can get the episode if you're in the right place on Youtube.

Another, which I haven't actually seen but know of, is Wake in Fright. It's a story about a British teacher who comes to Australia and ends up in the outback drinking with some Aussie louts. You know, the type of Aussies that many people across the ESL and other forums like to complain about (nyuk nyuk). But these are worse, for these characters can't even figure out how to get out of their little outback town. It's an expat tale from the British perspective, and an artist's rendition of ridgy didge Aussie roughnecks, in their own environment.

Full film- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dsfk302kbt8
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nomad soul



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wouldn't some of the Star Trek films qualify as expat movies? Laughing
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likwid_777



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps, but once they use the replicator for their food and drink, the "more genuine" expats will give them a hard time. Cool
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steki47



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about "Lost in Translation" with Bill Murray?

That movie is set in Japan, but is not really about Japan per se. The focus is on the man's midlife crisis. Still, funny to expats in Japan.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Surprised the 2002 remake of The Quiet American hasn't been mentioned. And what about Hostel?! (Only kidding!).

Of the films mentioned I've seen and enjoyed The Year of Living Dangerously and Lost in Translation. Farewell to the King might be worth a re-watch, if only for a laugh. And I really must get round to watching Casablanca (but it isn't quite on the bucket list, few movies are). I didn't think The Beach was that bad, but I'd agree that stuff like Mr Baseball, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat Pray Love are probably best avoided.

It's been ages since I last saw Iron and Silk, so I can't remember how good (or if you prefer, bad) it is, but at least it's about an English teacher in China (who takes up wushu). It stars Mark Salzman, the writer of the (decent) book on which the movie's based. It also features Pan Qingfu, his kung fu teacher and IIRC the baddie from Jet Li's The Shaolin Temple. It's available at the mo on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOIbalP7dj8
.


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Thu Aug 07, 2014 2:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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VietCanada



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I saw this thread I immediately thought of 'Lost in Translation'. Hostel was pretty good too. Hostel 2 had quite the memorable ending.

The worst IMHO is 'Only God Forgives'.

Best and worst lists always bite. The authors are either 90 something years old and haven't seen a movie they've liked since the 80's or they're 20 something and have never seen a movie made before 2010.
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likwid_777



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
I didn't think The Beach was that bad


I really liked The Beach when I saw it, I was 14 or 15, and it sang to me. The spirit of adventure in the film was really appealing. I later travelled to experience foreign cultures on a "shoe string" salary (duh). By the way, I watched Wake in Fright the other day. It's old school, 1970s, and probably not so shocking if you already have read the back cover, not to mention if you've already been drunk with (fellow?) idiots before.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only God Forgives, nice one, VietCanada! The critics raved about it, but it wasn't a patch on the director's and star's previous partnership, Drive. I actually laughed out loud when Ryan screamed at his Thai girlfriend to take off the dress following the (cringe-inducing script of the) dinner out with his demented mom. About the only good thing on the DVD are the extras (Gosling should stick to comedy, I think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqoPXC60l_s#t=49 ).

Hi Likwid. There's certainly lots to "enjoy" in The Beach. The bits I particularly remember are when Leo hisses like a snake at the fleeing "intruder" girl (causing her to stop in her tracks and get shot), and the guy with the gammy shark-bitten leg that he has to smother and mercy kill. A cautionary and dark adventure tale. =P'''

How about the American remake of Ju-on i.e. The Grudge? LOL
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MuscatGary



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It wasn't a film but the British TV series 'Auf wiedersein pet' must deserve a mention...
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Cool Teacher



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

steki47 wrote:
How about "Lost in Translation" with Bill Murray?

That movie is set in Japan, but is not really about Japan per se. The focus is on the man's midlife crisis. Still, funny to expats in Japan.


I watched this in the ciema in Japana and I was so embarrassed. Nobody laughed at the racist jokes against the Japanese except me and I soon stopped and it was completely silent in the movie theatre. Oh God! Shocked

Cool
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Cool Teacher



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 5:24 am    Post subject: Re: Best and worst expat movies of all time Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
2) 'Mr. Baseball' (1992)
Who needs jokes in your script when you've got foreigners? Simply send grumpy aging baseball star Jack Elliott (Tom Selleck) to Japan, where hilarity ensues as he grapples with their crazy cultural traditions -- and toilets! What should be a feelgood film about a fading star's last dash for glory winds up being a feel-queasy trot through every Japanese cliche known to Hollywood. Unsurprisingly, Universal Studios' new Japanese owners were unhappy at the time. The film does have some good performances, but not from Selleck, who was upstaged by his mustache, and not for the last time.

Excruciating expat dialog:
Jack: "Different language, same attitude! Let's go!"


I liked this movie actually and I thought it was funny especially when Tom Selleck made his jokes. Laughing

Mr Roger Ebert even thought it was good so I am not wrong:

Quote:
The movie stars Tom Selleck, convincing as a heavy-hitting first baseman who is traded to Japan by the New York Yankees. He's not a paragon of virtue. He drinks, chews, smokes cigars, womanizes, and has a bad attitude and a bum knee. Faced with calisthenics on his first day in Japan, he grumbles, “Athletes? We aren't athletes. We're baseball players.” He's the property of the Nagoya Dragons. The team is coached by Uchiyama Ken (Takakura, from "Black Rain") a crusty old-timer who insists Selleck has a hole in his swing. Selleck is not prepared to take advice on this or any other baseball subject from a Japanese, and before long he's in hot water for disobeying orders, losing his temper, getting into fights and insulting the management.

There is, of course, a women. There always is in this formula. Her name is Hiroko (Aya Takanashi), and for once she is not a clone of the stereotyped quasi-geisha; she's an advertising professional who runs the club's enforcements, and makes Selleck appear in commercials he would rather not think about. They fall in love, but because of his ignorance of Japanese ways he is forever committing grave offenses against proper behavior, and she is for ever vowing never to speak to him again.


http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mr-baseball-1992

Don't you thnik that sounds like comedy gold? Shocked


Cool
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