Posts Tagged ‘ Inception ’

#cinefile: 2011 in reflection

although it is fairly

clichéd, i still feel that there is value in using the start of a new year to reflect on the experience of the year that has passed.

i’ll understand if you have an aversion to reading yet another person’s rundown of the year; but for those gracious enough to humour me, here are my reflections on 2011 in film.

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2011 in film was, very much like Libya, a land of contrast. on one hand it saw the unceremonious dismantling of the UK Film Council, whereas on the other lots of critics thought it made sense to juxtapose that with the success of The King’s Peach, which made Harvey Weinstein pots of cash.

of course as anyone who stops to think about it will learn, we won’t realise the implications of the end of the Film Council era for some time, but it made a neat story to pretend otherwise.

i saw some wonderful films this year, at least two of which have already floated to near the top of my all-time favourites, and a couple more that would fare well in a list of my favourite films of this century. alas, as ever, looking at the list of the top ten grossing films of the year leaves my heart cold and full of dread.

here are the films that we in the UK patronised the most:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt II ..................... ($117m)
2. The King's Speech ......................................................... ($75m)
3. The Inbetweeners Movie ............................................... ($71m)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides .................. ($54m)
5. The Hangover Part II ..................................................... ($53m)
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt I ........................... ($46m)
7. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon .................................. ($45m)
8. Bridesmaids .................................................................. ($37m)
9. Tangled ........................................................................ ($33m)
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes ..................................... ($32m)

i don’t know about you, but i have to run my eye down to number eight before i find a film i even half enjoyed. these are not the sort of films that i want to be made, and yet that is precisely what the number$ indicate will happen.

i had the spirit-crushing experience of being at a New Year’s Eve party with a well-educated ‘chap’ in his late twenties who told me that The Inbetweeners Movie was his favourite film of the year, and that was at about 8 o’clock. #face as the kids say #palm.

beneath, i have listed, in reverse order, the ten films released last year that moved, challenged, amused, touched and/or entertained me most, with a short description of how or why. please feel free to take me to task in the comments section.

11. Source Code: not as captivating as Moon, but a solid and engaging, if more mainstream, follow-up from Duncan Jones. i like Jake Gyllenhaal.

10. Hanna: beautifully shot, intensely paced, impressively acted (esp. Eric Bana) and raising some interesting issues. ultimately a little overblown in places. warning: some girls will kill you dead.

9. The Adjustment Bureau: suffered from comparisons to Inception and its links with Mad Men, but still stands for me as a crisp, smart pulp-sci-fi-thriller. nice wardrobe. nice Anthony Mackie.

8. Rango: smart, funny and enjoyable across the age spectrum without being overly stratified and relying on the tired slapstick-for-the-kids-innuendo-for-the-adults formula. a cartoon film for film lovers. my family film of the year.

7. Super 8: an excellent movie slightly spoiled by something of a blown-out ending. when it’s good it’s sweet, full of the hopefulness of youth, superbly acted and soaked in the love of the film camera and what it makes possible. a movie made by the Spielberg that Dawson from Dawson’s Creek loved.

6. Friends With Benefits: a smart, well made, genuinely touching and fairly believable Hollywood rom-com is a very rare thing. this felt loose and self-deprecating enough to be amusing and uplifting when it wanted, but also packed a subtle emotional depth. it won’t change the world, but i left surprised and charmed.

5. The Skin I Live In: something of an homage to Eyes Without A Face, this is an intense and emotionally thick drama about repression, pride, revenge and damaged people. Almodovar if not at his very best then certainly close to it, in what stands as a successful and long-overdue reunification with Banderas.

4. Blue Valentine: simple in the best ways. aesthetically beautiful, technically near-flawless, emotionally devastating and fleshed out by brilliant performances from two wonderful actors. warning: some films cut deep.

3. Snowtown: based on the infamous ‘bodies in the barrels’ murders, committed in South Australia in the 90s, this is a hefty, hard-htting, gritty crime-pic (in the true sense of the word, like grit in your eye – and i don’t know if they grade grit, but if they do, coarse). dark and brutal, it shines harsh light on some uncomfortable truths about the shadow-side of community and the nature of the human condition. warning: intensely Australian throughout.

2. The Artist: while it’s not yet on general release in the UK, Michel Hazanavicius’ silent masterpiece was officially released last year, and besides, i saw a preview screening and this is my list, not yours. just a wonderful movie – uplifting cinema at its best. technically daring, crisply and intelligently shot and edited, superbly acted and joyful through and through. a real old-school treat with a dark, powerful truth at its heart.

1. Drive: masterfully shot and edited and thus shockingly contrasting in its tone, it’s both languidly ponderous and deliciously terse in just the right mix. the edgy, über-cool tone of the first 3/4s gives way to a brutal final section. the destructive internal logic of violence and vanity is laid absolutely bare and apparent passivity is re-cast as moral agency. the combination of an achingly good use of light and lens, a wonderfully taut script, pitch-perfect performances from golden Gosling and the utterly lovely Mulligan (with great support from Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman among others) and genuinely profound insight make this a neon-noir treat. the film Quentin Tarantino has been trying to make his whole career.

honourable mentions:
– Melancholia
– Biutiful
– Another Earth
– Senna
– Bridesmaids

*edit films i thought of too late
– Norwegian Wood (which i saw in 2010, but, as i was reminded today, actually came out in 2011 and is superb.)

some films that might have impacted this list if i’d got round to seeing them yet:
– Tree of Life
– Cave of Forgotten Dreams
– Neds

thanks for reading in 2011, please stay for a chat below and be assured that you are warmly invited to engage with all entries in the #cinefile that 2012 offers up.

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#cinefile: oscar rundown

so, friends, tonight is the night on which the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announce the winners of their annual awards for the 83rd time.

it wouldn’t be right to let the opportunity pass without joining the near-infinite throng of people who always offer their insignificant and largely uneducated opinion on which films should win, and (more importantly if real kudos is important to you) which films and people have been unbelievable overlooked by the boorish, lazy and out-of-touch Academy.

so here we go – what follows is my take on the films that 2010 built.

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Best Picture:

from the nominees, i would be fairly happy to see any of Inception, True Grit or Winter’s Bone win – with Inception being the choice that would probably leave me the most contented. of course, it will likely go to The Social Network or The King’s Speech, which i thought were both dullness warmed up. if Black Swan wins i will weep.

films that, in my opinion, were overlooked in this category include: Another Year, Made in Dagenham, Monsters, Perrier’s Bounty, Des Hommes et des Dieux and the brilliant Animal Kingdom (which qualifies by virtue of having opened in the States in August last year, even though it has already been released on DVD in Australia and has only just made it into UK cinemas this week).

Best Director:

i imagine this will have come down to a tight slug-fest between Fincherites and O. Russelaphiles on the panel, but, if you forced me, i’d have to bet on Fincher. while i wouldn’t be too displeased if the Coens won for what is a solid film (if some way off their best), i think it is little short of a scandal that Chris Nolan is absent from the list. i would give it to Nolan (for Inception), but would also have made mention of Mike Leigh (Another Year), Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone).

if Darren Aronofsky wins it will be overdue reward in absolutely the wrong year.

Actor In A Leading Role:

there is really no point in even talking about this one. Colin Firth very clearly has it all wrapped up with a bow and a label saying ‘For Colin Firth’. it was, however, nice to see Javier Bardem nominated for Biutiful – which (for the Academy) should probably go down as something of a left-field move.

although, as we’ve established, it would only ever have been a token gesture, it would have been nice to have seen nods for Tahar Rahim for Un Prophète and George Clooney for The American.

Actor In A Supporting Role:

while the smart money is on Christian you’re ruining the fucking shot you prick Bale, I’d love to see John Hawkes win for Winter’s Bone.

as for those who were overlooked, recognition for Brendan Gleeson’s turn in Perrier’s Bounty and Guy Pearce’s performance in Animal Kingdom would both have pleased me.

Actress In A Leading Role:

here, again, the gamblers are seeing little-to-no value with Natalie Portman standing as odds-on to grab the gold, after early favourite Annette Bening apparently refused to follow through with her campaign (known as ‘pulling a Finney’). having not yet seen Rabbit Hole, i can’t comment on Nicole Kidman’s nomination, but i what i can say is that i will dance and sing loudly if, by the intervention of Thor, Freyja or Loci the god of mischief himself, either Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) or Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) were to pip her to the post.

the former is a long-standing favourite of mine and a performer that has profoundly matured in the last six or seven years and is now a character actor of real polish. Lawrence, by contrast, wasn’t really on my radar until i was really struck by what is an astonishing contribution to an excellent thriller – strangely reminiscent of a toned-down Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers or Dusk Till Dawn.

if there were any justice in the world, Hailee Steinfeld would be nominated in this category rather than the next, for a brilliant performance in a role that stands as a lead by any measure. however, in truth, the fact she has been bumped down is probably testimony to the quality of her performance – assuming that the decision was essentially pragmatic. if, however, she does not win for best supporting female, then she will have been robbed of the significant and justified accolade of a Best Actress nomination at such a early stage.

Actress In A Supporting Role:

given that HBC’s performance in The King’s Speech is so inert that it is out-shone by at least two other females whose characters enjoy significantly less screen time when added together – Jennifer Ehle (as Myrtle Logue) and Ramona Marquez (as Princess Margaret) – it will be a travesty if she gets swept to victory by the film’s momentum, a la BAFTAs.

Amy Adams received a fairly worthy nod, but for me it really comes down to the wunderkind (Steinfeld) versus to two cold, hard, working-class mothers – Melissa Leo for The Fighter and Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom. I’d love it to be Steinfeld, it would be good if it were Weaver, but it will probably be Leo.

Animated Feature:

it’s difficult to oppose Toy Story 3’s nailed on win in this category too vehemently, especially considering that many critics have advocated for it winning the biggie (which just ain’t going to happen).

given that it’s a sparsely inhabited category this time round, it’s very sad that the Academy did not have the insight to nominate Chico y Rita, which is a really joyful and joy-making film, and was by far my favourite animation of the last year.

Documentary:

i haven’t seen many documentaries in the last year, but from what i have seen, Inside Job deserves to (and i think probably will) win. i’m so glad I’m Still Here was snubbed.

Foreign Language:

in line with the ignorance that allows this category to continue to carry such a colonialist title, the cohort this year is seriously lacking. Biutiful will no-doubt win, because it is the least foreign of all of them, but the real tragedy is not the transparency of the empty gesture that this category represents, but the absence of Un Prophète, Chico y Rita and Des Hommes et des Dieux.

i’m not going to waste time commenting on categories that no-one but the massivist nerds care about, but let’s just spare two good thoughts for Roger Deakins – a Brit, a gentleman and one of, if not the, greatest cinematographers of all time. if he wins for True Grit, it will ice yet another great year and yet another great collaboration with the Coens.

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right, well, with very little time left before the show tips off, i’m off to find a duvet and a pillow and to start creating a warm, comfy nest on the sofa.

happy oscaring.

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