Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Advice to the Lovelorn: Review of 2011
Man of the Year. Time Magazine went for "The Protestor", but I don't remember him being quite so buff. And even The Protestor came out for Gosling - possibly in that way. All together now: "Five, six, seven, eight, Ryan Gosling's super great."
What a year it's been. The Arab Spring, someone or other winning X-Factor, a woman putting a cat in a bin (was that last year?) and possibly an election of some kind? But more importantly: films! I've seen 319 movies in 2011 (because I am cool), including 32 released this year. So amongst the usual tea-stained ruminations on motion pictures that came out in the 1930s, I've put together a Top 10 of the past 12 months, with a #1 that you won't see topping many lists - but which you must see. Unless you hate scallies. If you hate scallies, it's unlikely to win you round. It's not Arthur Christmas, incidentally, however much I enjoyed that. Aardman have yet to make a film with a scally as the hero.
Elsewhere, there's a round-up of the good, the bad and that time I rather unwisely watched Mamma Mia!, 15 truly great movies I hadn't seen before 2011 - stretching from 1926 to 2010 - and a short sentence about pizza. This post is also my annual concession to a load of boring stats, so please bear with me/humour me/don't injure me. If you want to see last year's somewhat briefer review of the year, it's available here. Now, first up, my top 10 of 2011...
TOP 10 OF 2011
1. Attack the Block
Director: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Alex Esmail and Nick Frost
We said: "A vital horror-comedy ... an incredibly assured debut, with unpredictable plotting, stylised dialogue and characters you really care about, once their frailties are laid bare ... a thrilling counterpoint to establishment fare like The King's Speech, with the best final five minutes of any film in recent memory."
Please also note: "The standout performance unquestionably comes from John Boyega as gang leader Moses, with his sullen expression, Adidas-three-stripe-style facial scar and burgeoning understanding of his growing responsibilities."
2. Never Let Me Go
Director: Mark Romanek
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield
What we said: "From eerie opening to gutting denouement, it’s the feel-bad film of the year."
Please also note: "Its world may be chilly but Never Let Me Go is anything but, thanks largely to a quietly electrifying performance from Carey Mulligan."
3. Blue Valentine
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams
What we said: "An intense, insightful, semi-improvised indie about the death of a relationship, starring perhaps the two best young actors in the world."
Please also note: "There are fragments of warmth and love, and even a couple of very Gosling-ish jokes ("That's a funny name"), but the overall effect is like being whacked in the face."
Director: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins
What we said: "What a refreshing, distinctive and arresting film this is: a hysterically funny portrait of teenage life in Britain as it's really lived and a film we've been waiting for, without really knowing it."
Please also note: "This is a brilliant debut: moving, original and dazzlingly cinematic, its singular feel augmented by dreamy Super 8 segments, eye-catching credits and a great song score from Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner. And I laughed almost constantly."
5. Bobby Fischer Against the World
Director: Liz Garbus
Starring: Bobby Fischer, David Edmonds and Anthony Saidy.
What we said: "Gripping, thrilling and ultimately gutting documentary about the US chess prodigy, who dropped out of the public arena at the peak of his powers and spiralled into insanity."
Please also note: "It’s an extraordinary story and this film does it justice: masterfully-constructed, with articulate eyewitness accounts, remarkable archive footage and a superb middle-section."
6. The King’s Speech
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter
What we said: "Brilliant stuff ... stirring, funny and riotously enjoyable, with super support from Bonham Carter, Rush and the ever-underrated Anthony Andrews."
Please also note: "As my girlfriend said: 'I thought Colin Firth would be Oscar-worthy, but I didn't know he'd be good as well'."
7. Kung Fu Panda 2
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Gary Oldman and Dustin Hoffman
What we said: "This is a beast every bit as rare as a panda that can do kung fu: a superior sequel. Fast, funny and fleshing out its story with emotional wallops, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a total triumph - and knocks even its predecessor into a conical hat."
Please also note: "The film looks incredible, packed with sumptuous landscapes dominated by vast mountains, dappling rivers and towering pagodas. Few modern movies have realised the possibilities of the big screen in such an assured, ambitious manner."
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Oscar Isaac
What we said: "It’s a near-classic, a potent fusion of actioner, crime flick and doomed romance that needed just a stronger script to nudge it into that top bracket."
Please also note: "With its neon credits, synth-led song score and obscenely hip lead performance from Ryan Gosling – another movie psychopath from whom we can all take fashion tips – Drive is an instantly iconic film ... another key credit for an actor who’s proving to be infallible."
9. Crazy, Stupid, Love
Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon
What we said: "This is probably the best mainstream romantic comedy since Just Like Heaven."
Please also note: "Funny, romantic, surprising and with a knockout performance by the mighty Ryan Gosling as a womanising slickster who decides to teach the cuckolded Steve Carell - also excellent - how to pick up girls. Is there anything Gosling can't do? Apparently not."
10. Source Code
Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga.
What we said: "A supremely entertaining sci-f movie that cuts Groundhog Day down to eight minutes and then shoves it into thriller territory."
Please also note: "Source Code is slick, imaginative and well-executed."
Also worth a mention: The Adjustment Bureau (Director: George Nolfi), The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick), Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (David Yates), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011), The Fighter (David O. Russell); Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky); Melancholia (Lars von Trier).
Did you enjoy that? Good. Next up, premieres...
TOP 15 PREMIERES
... being a ragtag collection of classics that had evaded my grasping clutches before 2011, but which weren't released this year, instead being released in years like 2007, 1926 and 1972 (I could go on, but I won't). 1945. (Sorry, I had to do one more.) This is out of 260 such movies, so only the best will doodle-do, as that annoying breakfast cereal ad used to say. To learn more about the film, just click on the name. They're in descending order of sublimity.
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
The Enchanted Cottage (John Cromwell, 1945)
My Childhood (Bill Douglas, 1972)
The Lookout (Scott Frank, 2007)
The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed, 1948)
King of the Hill (Steven Soderbergh, 1993)
For Heaven’s Sake (Sam Taylor, 1926)
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
The Shepherd of the Hills (George Cukor, 1941)
Ah, Wilderness! (Clarence Brown, 1935)
The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy, 2003, pic above)
The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy, 2007)
Män som hatar kvinnor (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009) (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009) aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; review of the Extended Edition here
The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010)
Along Came Jones (Stuart Heisler, 1945)
And now, because you've been very good this year, here's a quick rundown of the year's highlights (and bad bits). Mostly in terms of movies. I do some other stuff too, but it's not as interesting, so I've put that at the very foot of the post.
Crazes: Ryan Gosling, Harold Lloyd, Judy Holliday (pic above), Robert Rodriguez.
Continuing preoccupations: Fairuza Balk, John Cusack, Dorothy McGuire.
Revelations: That, in Carey Mulligan, Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence, there are three young actresses worth getting excited about. That DreamWorks can make mighty fine animated films: Kung Fu Panda 2 is not just a superior sequel, it's a veritable visual feast, with an involving and exciting story.
A few performances that stuck with me: Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, Noomi Rapace in the Millennium trilogy, Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go, Willard Robertson's unexpectedly uber-hip turn as a sardonic bounty hunter in Along Came Jones. And - yeah, why not? - Amy Adams in the lovely Enchanted.
Stuff I caught up on: The entire works of Robert Rodriguez, pretty much. The Harry Potter films. And a lot of TV shows.
Happiest surprises: Woody finding his mojo with Midnight in Paris, The Other Guys being so utterly hysterical when I bobbed it on Sky Player one Sunday afternoon; Harold Lloyd's For Heaven's Sake; Synecdoche, New York pushing the boundaries in a way I'd never seen before, whatever its flaws; being able to catch Les enfants du paradis at the cinema.
Biggest disappointments: In terms of this year's animated crop, Rango and Tangled were both a bit of a letdown. I'd heard that The Hangover was funny, but it was just obnoxious. Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars spent most of its time with a load of shit comedians, rather than awesome martial artists, which was an error. For all the majesty of its score, My Fair Lady is flawed beyond belief.
Worst films: The Aristocrats was hateful, Mamma Mia! was dreck, and Woody's Cassandra's Dream was just incredibly embarrassing.
Some favourite moments: Judy Holliday murmuring: "I know, s'alright" in Bells Are Ringing. It's slight, it's gone in an instant, but it's so real and affecting. The smile at the end of Attack the Block, Ken Marino pitching up - and getting chased away - in The Baxter, and the dancing in the train smoke in My Childhood. The plays within Les enfants are wonderful; watching them on the big screen made them doubly so.
Favourite jokes: "Tuna vs Lion" and the ballet/stripclub mix-up in The Other Guys were amazing, the Civil War "battle" in Harold Lloyd's Grandma's Boy was risky but pulled it out of the fire and the chase sequence in his For Heaven's Sake was just hilarious. Special mentions to the gag-heavy rickshaw set-piece in Kung Fu Panda 2 and the high-tech present-drop scene near the start of Arthur Christmas for the intensity of invention. A rewatch of The Apartment meant another chance to see the look on Jack Lemmon's face as it dawns on him just what his boss is asking him to do. I saw Buster Keaton's The Cameraman again, too - the bit where he hops on the side of the bus is inspired.
Best film I saw at the cinema: Les enfants du paradis. Then Attack the Block.
And for those who simply can't get enough stats (just me then?), here's my top 100 of the year, taking into account rewatches, first watches (shown in bold) and brand spanking new movies.
TOP 100 FEATURES(>40 mins)
1. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001, pic above) (4)
2. Les enfants du paradis (Marcel Carné, 1945)
3. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
4. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
5. Return to Oz (Walter Murch, 1985)
6. Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, 2006)
7. Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)
8. Thank Your Lucky Stars (David Butler, 1943)
9. The Enchanted Cottage (John Cromwell, 1945)
10. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
11. The Cameraman (Edward Sedgwick, 1928)
12. My Childhood (Bill Douglas, 1972)
13. The Lookout (Scott Frank, 2007)
14. The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed, 1948)
15. King of the Hill (Steven Soderbergh, 1993)
16. For Heaven’s Sake (Sam Taylor, 1926)
17. Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) (Cinema)
18. Barcelona (Whit Stillman, 1994)
19. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra, 1936)
20. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
21. Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010) (Cinema)
22. Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
23. The Shepherd of the Hills (George Cukor, 1941)
24. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
25. Ah, Wilderness! (Clarence Brown, 1935)
26. Three Men on a Horse (Mervyn LeRoy (uncredited), 1936)
27. The Talk of the Town (George Stevens, 1942)
28. The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy, 2003)
29. The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy, 2007)
30. Män som hatar kvinnor (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009): Extended Edition (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009) aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
31. Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999)
32. Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010) (Cinema)
33. I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1945)
34. The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010)
35. Along Came Jones (Stuart Heisler, 1945)
36. Spy Kids (Robert Rodriguez, 2001)
37. Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)
38. Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)
39. Thieves Like Us (Robert Altman, 1974)
40. Bobby Fischer Against the World (Liz Garbus, 2011)
41. Grandma’s Boy (Fred C. Newmeyer, 1922)
42. It Should Happen to You (George Cukor, 1954)
43. Enchanted (Kevin Lima, 2007)
44. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Robert Rodriguez, 2002)
45. The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) (Cinema)
46. It Happens Every Spring (Lloyd Bacon, 1949)
47. Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)
48. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
49. Inside Job (Charles H. Ferguson, 2010)
50. Shi di chu ma (Jackie Chan, 1980) aka The Young Master
51. The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman, 1998, pic above) (3.5)
52. Gas, Food Lodging (Allison Anders, 1992)
53. Kung Fu Panda 2 3D (Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 2011) (Cinema)
54. De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté (Jacques Audiard, 2005) aka The Beat That My Heart Skipped
55. Il Postino (Michael Radford, 1994)
56. Valmont (Milos Forman, 1987)
57. Boys Town (Norman Taurog, 1938)
58. Let Him Have It (Peter Medak, 1991)
59. The Hoax (Lasse Hallström, 2006)
60. The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
61. Invincible (Ericson Core, 2006)
62. Kicking and Screaming (Noah Baumbach, 1995)
63. The Americanisation of Emily (Arthur Hiller, 1964)
64. My Way Home (Bill Douglas, 1978)
65. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
66. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)
67. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
68. Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)
69. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
70. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 1992)
71. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
72. The Rainmaker (Francis Ford Coppola, 1997)
73. Phffft! (Mark Robson, 1954)
74. The Male Animal (Elliot Nugent, 1942)
75. Crazy, Stupid, Love (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, 2011) (Cinema)
76. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
77. La grande séduction (Jean-François Pouliot, 2003) aka Seducing Doctor Lewis
78. The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi, 2011) (Cinema)
79. Vozvrashchenie (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2003) aka The Return
80. Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984)
81. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2010)
82. My Ain Folk (Bill Douglas, 1973)
83. Quick Change (Howard Franklin and Bill Murray, 1990)
84. While You Were Sleeping (Jon Turteltaub, 1995)
85. Panique au village (Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, 2009) aka A Town Called Panic
86. Après Vous (Pierre Salvadori, 2003)
87. Dan in Real Life (Peter Hedges, 2007)
88. Le dîner de cons (Francis Veber, 1998)
89. A Lawless Street (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)
90. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000)
91. Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, 2010)
92. Manderlay (Lars von Trier, 2005)
93. 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, 2007)
94. Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010)
95. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)
96. Bells Are Ringing (Vincente Minnelli, 1960)
97. Paper Heart (Nicholas Jasenovec, 2009)
98. The Baxter (Michael Showalter, 2005)
99. Small Town Girl (László Kardos, 1953)
100. Two Guys from Milwaukee (David Butler, 1946)
TOP 5 SHORTS(> 40 mins)
1. The Goat (Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair, 1921, pic above) (4)
2. Cops (Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton, 1922)
3. The Boat (Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton, 1921) (3.5)
4. Orientation Day (Kyle Balda and Samuel Tourneux, 2010)
5. Banana (Kyle Balda and Samuel Tourneux, 2010)
*Lists correct as of December 20
I saw a heap of great series this year. Here are the 10 best:
1. Veronica Mars (2004-7, pic above)
2. My So-Called Life (1994-5)
3. Edge of Darkness (1985)
4. Party Down (2009-10)
5. Parks and Recreation (2009-)
6. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
7. Arrested Development (2003-6)
8. Millennium (2009)
9. Bored to Death (2009-)
10. Sherlock (2010-)
These people made me happy. And sometimes sad, but in a good way: Bob Peck, Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr and Noomi Rapace.
Best gigs: Suede doing the first two albums at the Brixton Academy (pic above).
Best day: When I got all engaged.
Best meal: Seafood pizza.
EDIT (03/01/12): These things came in too late for consideration, but Hugo and Win Win would have vied with Source Code for the #10 spot in the film list, with Pushing Daisies crashing in at #3 in the TV round-up. To read more about them, just click on the names.