Happy New Year!
Well, I'm back. My break has been good for the soul, although I must confess I've missed this only occasionally. So going forward the number of posts will be severely limited - I'm sticking to the weekly round-up of releases and my film reviews (I may also be tempted to write about running and auditions, but that's by the by). Saying that I feel it would be inappropriate to start 2012 without my top ten for 2011 and my most anticipated films for 2012.
Top Ten Films in 2011
Over the year I saw 60 movies, out of 495 releases (12.1%), which on one hand is pathetic but on the other shows now busy UK cinemas are. The majority of films released are American (45%) but there are also good showings from UK, India, France and Germany, personally I also saw films part funded from Canada, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Mexico, UAE, Sweden and New Zealand. A surprising number of the films I saw were really quite good, so making a top ten has been very tough. I really wanted to include The Ides of March, Margaret, The Skin I Live In, Hugo and Midnight in Paris, all of which are very well made movies but they ultimately failed to make enough of an impression on me.
1. Black Swan
Everything in Darren Aronofsky's balletic drama is cranked up to 11, but it's commitment to the themes of artistic sacrifice ensure there's substance under the style. See my review here.
2. The Messenger
I saw it in 2010, but it only got released in the UK this year. That's an incredible shame as Oren Moverman has crafted the definitive Iraq war movie, without actually visiting the front line. See my review here.
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I was late in the game getting interested in Tomas Alfredson's English language debut, but I was very glad to have succumbed. Leisurely paced and intensively intelligent TTSS was the perfect antidote to the over-stuffed holiday pictures. See my review here.
It was a great year for female protagonists, with Bridesmaids and The Help both making extraordinary box office takings, but it's Joe Wright's fairy tale actioner led by Saoirse Ronan's super-hero teenager and Cate Blanchett's wicked witch of the deep south which showed what can be done in feminist cinema. See my Review here.
5. Animal Kingdom
On one level David Michod's Aussie crime drama is an extended episode of "Neighbours", complete with Guy Pearce in dodgy moustache, but the creeping menace and almost Shakespearean levels of inter-family violence make this unforgettable, and has reminded the world of the quality filmmaking from down under. See my Review here.
No-one destroys the world quite like Lars von Trier, with a unique two act structure delving into the effects of depression and anxiety, a majestic opening and superb performances from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg you won't stare into the sky in the same way again. See my review here.
As a rule I don't watch comedies or animations, but this year I set myself a challenge of trying new things and I was very glad given that it gave me the opportunity to see this wonderfully funny pastiche, lampooning everything from Sergio leone to Chinatown and with outrageously creative design work. See my review here.
8. True Grit
I confess the Coen brother's glorious Western remake almost didn't make my list, but I rewatched it over the last week and remembered how detailed and evocative of a dying culture the movie was, indeed of this years top ten it is probably the one that I will return to more than any other. See my review here.
The only film that made the cut that has a good shot of getting an Oscar nomination for Best Picture this year, mind you I haven't seen many of the favourites. It's a sports movie that virtually excludes the actual sport and underlines the importance of commitment to an ideal over spectacular display. No review as it came out during my sabbatical.
There had to be one bad movie in the mix, and even I have to confess Gavin O'Conner Mixed Martial Arts family drama is a bad movie, but it worked so well for me that it fully deserves its place here in the top ten. I may have predicted every beat of the plot but I also winced in the fights scenes and wept like a baby at the conclusion. See my review here.
For those of you interested the top performances of the year are as follows:
Lead Actor: Ben Foster - The Messenger (runner up Hunter McCraken - The Tree of Life).
Lead Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan (runner up Saoirse Ronan - Hanna).
Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte - Warrior (runner up Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet - Princesse de Montpensier).
Supporting Actress: Evan Rachel Wood - Ides of March (runner up Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom).
Read on for the 20 films I'm most looking forward to seeing in 2012.
20 for 2012
Over the past couple of years I've had a countdown of the 20 films I'm most looking forward to in the year, but this year in keeping with the soft foot on the brakes I'm going to list them all in one go, without much commentary, and not even in order. Feel free to comment over what you're most looking forward to.
Anna Karenina - Joe Wright tackles Tolstoy and reunites with his muse Keira Knightley, might have us swooning over the tragedy of it all or just rushing to the nearest train station in agony.
Argo - Is Ben Affleck trying satire? With the same producing team as The Men who Stare at Goats and it's theme of CIA agents faking movie making it could certainly be a departure for the Bostonian.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Holdover from last year, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are looking lovely in the constant TV advertising on this side of the pond, expect a moderate hit.
Bourne Legacy - spies are all the rage this year, and Bourne without Bourne is only one of the two franchises I'll be queuing up for in the next 12 months.
Cogan's Trade - Andrew Dominik has proven himself a singular talent with just a couple of films, so reteaming with his Jesse James Brad Pitt is definitely a cause for celebration.
Company You Keep - There are a couple of franchise actors trying their hands at drama this year that I'd like to keep an eye on, first up is Shia LaBeouf who fits into an all-star oldie cast for Redford's stolen identity thriller.
Cosmopolis - meanwhile R.Pattz will be proving there's life after Twilight as he loses his fortune over one long torturous limo ride.
Dark Knight Rises - My only concession to comic book movies this year (the re-invented Spidey and superhero mash-up Avengers will need excellent reviews for me to change my mind) but Chris Nolan guarantees spectacle and social commentary. Worth the wait.
Dark Shadows / Frankenweenie A Tim Burton double bill, the later looks more fun, but both appear to be Burton doing what he likes rather than what the studios want him to do so should be worth catching up with.
Darling Companion - I'm a sucker for do movies, and the early pictures released of Diana Keaton and her perfectly groomed Border Collie look like this is one to still my heart - expect tears by the closing credits.
Flight - Denzel Washington hasn't enticed me into cinemas for several years, but hopefully his performance as a drug-addled pilot trying not to claim credit for crash landing his plane may be worth catching.
Gambit - Crime caper remake with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz working on a Coen brothers script, I'm confident even though the last time Joel and Ethan used British comedy as a template we had The Ladykillers.
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - When the trailer first appeared on the web a couple of weeks ago Peter Jackson managed to instantly bring us back to Middle Earth and boost up the anticipation for this simpler tale of a mythical quest.
Lincoln - It's going to be very late in the year so not to influence the US elections, however we will finally get a chance to see Spielberg's take on the iconic 16th President of the United States.
Nero Fiddled - Like a loyal puppy I keep returning to Woody Allen even when he lets me down, luckily Midnight in Paris was so delightful I actually look forward to his Rome project.
Prometheus - it's a year that looks to re-establish standalone sci-fi epics, and whilst Ridley Scott's sort of Alien prequel may not fit that template exactly there's little doubt it'll be one of the biggest hits of the summer.
Savages - stoners take on their shady underworld dealers in this kidnap revenge drama, could be worth a view.
Silver Linings Playbook / Nailed - OK, I don't believe for one minute that David O Russell's political satire will get released, but I am still looking forward to his relationship drama with Bradley Cooper coming out of prison and trying to reconnect with his family.
Skyfall - Bond is back in his starriest movie yet with Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem out to stop him expect Sam Mendes to bring a more refined look at the MI5 agent than we're used to seeing.
Summer of Monte Wildhorn - An unlikely trend for 2012 is writer's block with a number of films due to come out this year looking at the effects of such a slump, expect Rob Reiner's pairing with Morgan Freeman to be the most saccharine choice however it could well give him a chance to have fun with a irascible Western scribe role.
So those are the films I'd like to see. What about you? What movies are you most interested in catching, what would you pick for the best films of last year? Over to the comments.
Sunday, 1 January 2012
Happy New Year!