Sunday, 15 January 2012

ARTICLE: Top 10 of 2011

  2011 saw a lot of stinkers and was a rather slow starter, but it saw a lot of good ones, on which to dust off some superlatives. Here are a few that didn’t make the list:
  The King’s Speech was a great film about the relationship of a future King and his speech therapist, which works as a great comedy-drama and has some great performances. Matt Damon had a fantastic double-hitter with the surprisingly moving and insightful Hereafter and the ideas-driven, very clever and also emotionally charged The Adjustment Bureau. Wasteland was a rather entertaining documentary about turning rubbish into art, which managed to be entertaining as well as an informative polemic about the waste that we produce. Ken Loach took a change of pace with an unlikeable character in the flawed but still engrossing and angry Route Irish. Animal Kingdom was an exciting and surprising crime film that worked as both a thriller and a slower paced study of menace and corruption. Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams wasn’t the masterpiece that Grizzly Man was but it still proved to be full of his strange sense of humour and infectious in its awe and reverence. How I Ended This Summer was a brilliant little parable about miscommunication set in the Arctic Ocean that was exciting, beautiful and ultimately tragic. Source Code was a clever thriller with a lot of ideas behind it and a Hollywood blockbuster that wasn’t about the special effects. Rare as that may be, Super 8, a monster movie that had the temerity to be about people and not about big aliens, soon followed it. Palme D’Or winner The Tree of Life divided people and was only initially successful, but remains a film full of risk, sincerity and beauty. The Guard and Wake Wood proved to be very successful films that prove that the Irish film industry is maturing, delivering, respectfully, a comedy that is actually funny and a horror film that was actually scary. The Ides of March is almost comically cynical but remains a worthy reminder that politics and film can still be a riveting combination. Wuthering Heights was an atmospheric and arty rendering of the much-filmed novel that managed to be entirely original and exciting cinema. We Have A Pope, apart from a few difficult tonal shifts, proved to be a funny and zany look at the inner workings of the Vatican.

  10. The Deep Blue Sea. Terence Davies’ return to narrative cinema was a brilliantly shot film with a beautifully poetic, mostly silent opener where a rising camera matches a crescendo in some beautiful classical music. However, what really holds the interest are the performances with Rachel Weisz delivering what is most likely her best performance, and Simon Russell Beale giving a tear-inducing study of a proud but heart-broken man. A melancholy classic.
                                                
  9. Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen has been getting a lot of flak, mostly undeservingly. Yet another comeback, Midnight in Paris is a lovely little movie with a nice idea played straight and engagingly as well as being full of some great gags. The kind of film that has you leaving the cinema with a big, goofy smile on your face.
               
  8. 13 Assassins. A thrilling action film that also manages to be a disturbing horror film and a rather funny buddy comedy. Along the way, there are some moving moments, during which time the film becomes an involving drama. It all leads up to a big, long final battle sequence that may be among the best ever made.

  7. Tyrannosaur. It wasn’t the best Peter Mullen film of the year, but it was a tough and sincere drama about people caught in a violent world. It is a disturbing film, but it is also an important film that has a deep faith in humanity and matches the many scenes of cruelty and abuse with scenes of genuine warmth.

  6. Melancholia. Big and loud but certainly not dumb, Lars von Trier’s film is a fascinating insight into depression as well as a merciless examination of humanity coming to terms with an inescapable extinction. It is a powerful film that is so effective it may be one of those films that you never forget.

  5. Abel. A gentle little comedy about childhood and coping with life’s more awkward twists and turns. It is a whimsical film that is completely enjoyable and one that, refreshingly, never runs out of steam – even though you would bet it will as you watch it. Full of ideas and inventions, it is a fantastic debut from Diego Luna.

  4. Il Quattro Volte. A film about life and our unbreakable links with nature, it manages to say a lot without saying anything – it is practically a silent film. Around half an hour of the film is devoted to the life of a goat and it manages to be hilarious and heartbreaking. The story and the message are told entirely through the imagery – innovative and true filmmaking.

  3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One. The best of the series so far, it is full of great performances and one that is not afraid to be completely heartfelt and sincere. Not unlike Il Quattro Volte, a lot is said without dialogue and there are many near silent sequences. Entirely convincing, almost tear-inducing, romantic and riveting, this series (name another big Hollywood blockbuster franchise that is so devoted to a young woman trying to define who she is) is deeply moving and an important reminder that you don’t need fighting robots to have a hit.

  2. A Separation. Almost joint-first, Asghar Farhadi’s masterpiece was a disturbing study of a no-win situation and a call for more communication. The plot’s intricacies are only so tragic because they are so convincingly real. Packed with great performances, it was a deeply upsetting film and a riveting drama, one that everyone should see.

  1. Neds. It has been the film of the year since it’s release in early January and nothing managed to steal its spot. Peter Mullen’s terrifying and riveting film about gang culture in 1980s Glasgow is drama at its finest and is one of those films that is close to having no false notes. Socially conscious and sincere filmmaking matched with one of the best performances of the year from unknown Conor McCarron, it is also really very funny. For once, a film in which a very real talent is not wasted.

UPDATE: Due to a re-appraisal, The Tree of Life should be at No. 1.

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