2011 Re-Reviewed: Top Ten Films
So, that was 2012! What a year it’s been: a truly fantastic time of my life filled with countless events to look back on fondly. We had fun, the London Olympic Games were inspiring and heartening, and best of all, the world wasn’t decimated.
But before getting around to my Best-of-2012 lists (coming soon), I’d like to take a leaf out of the Joker’s book and turn the clocks back a year. It’s not really something commonly done, but at the end of each year, I’d also like to reassess the previous year of film and music as well. The reasons are quite simple: as I’ve said before, I’m only human, and an immature, procrastination-fond human in my second year of university at that. As a result, I can’t catch every album or film which I’d like to by the end of each respective year of release. So, with an extra year to dwell on my favourites, catch up the gems which passed me by, and let thoughts settle further, I’m going to run down my top tens from 2011 in the worlds of music and film. I’d like to do this every year, if possible, and even though these amended lists still probably won’t turn out to be definitive, I think a year is about enough time to more-or-less confirm what I did / didn’t enjoy.
So, without further ado, let’s start with the films!
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2011
Note: I realise that several of these films are officially films of 2010, having been rolled out and premiered prior to the confines of this list. But I’ve judged these films in accordance with their British release dates: if I can’t see a film until 2011, it’ll count as a 2011 film (e.g.: Django Unchained is a 2012 film, but since it’s only out in the UK from January 18th 2013, it’s part of next year’s batch).
The King’s Speech (Dir: Tom Hooper)
Even though it did result in one of the most boring BAFTA ceremonies in recent memory, The King’s Speech still has the power to please with its legitimately heartwarming tale. Screenwriter David Seidler did an admirable job of looking past all the big issues to focus instead on the integral friendship between Colin Firth’s Duke of York and Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue, and the tone is kept light without ever shedding its credibility. Jolly good.
Kill List (Dir: Ben Wheatley)
Special thank you to Josh Glenn for putting me onto this one. And also, a curse upon Josh Glenn for giving me horrible hammer-based nightmares via this one. Kill List begins with a simple enough premise – two scarred hitmen assigned to a three-tiered job of assassinations – but gradually shape-shifts into something much more distressing. Chillingly off-kilter, the less you know the better before viewing Kill List: it packs in more than a few curveballs into its modest runtime.
Warrior (Dir: Gavin O’Connor)
Gavin O’Connor’s tale of two estranged brothers separately fighting for the top prize in an MMA tournament pulls huge levels of audience involvement. We want both brothers to win, for different reasons, and while the final battle arrives in quite an inevitable fashion, it’s such a heart-in-mouth, intimate journey that Warrior grips from start to finish. The dedication and prowess of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are thoroughly admirable, but top marks go to Nick Nolte, whose performance as the father of the two brothers packs a gutsy emotional wallop.
Melancholia (Dir: Lars von Trier)
No other ending in film has left me reeling quite like Melancholia’s. I can remember the lights coming up in the student cinema and feeling completely emotionally drained. While it might be a little too indulgent at times, Melancholia’s final impact is – quite literally – astronomical, with a potency that has haunted me ever since the first viewing. And say what you like about Lars von Trier, but you can’t deny that the guy’s got some planet-sized cojones on him to deliver something this audacious.
Black Swan (Dir: Darren Aronofsky)
I’m still not sure if Aronofsky’s latest is a horror or not. It doesn’t seem so on the surface, but amid all of the theatricalities and tropes of tragedy, the end result is a disturbing, claustrophobic and terrifying treatise on madness and the nature of performativity. Surreal, stunningly crafted and brilliantly realised.
Blue Valentine (Dir: Derek Cianfrance)
With Grizzly Bear on the soundtrack and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams towering as a couple examined in two timeframes, Derek Cianfrance’s twelve-year labour of love was certainly worth the wait. Achingly sad and sympathetic, it’s a remarkably human portrayal of love and frailty, with an effect which lingers long after the climax. The highs and lows of couple relationships have been explored many-a-time in cinema, but this particular film demonstrates that such a well-covered topic can still prove to be vital viewing with the right players on board.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir: Tomas Alfredson)
On first viewing, I was unsure about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or as me and my friend Jamie christened it, ‘Tinker Tailor Turkey Twizzler’. (I still find the latter a catchier label.) I definitely respected the film, and couldn’t argue that it was a very well-crafted, tense piece, but it didn’t entirely gel with me at the time. I didn’t love it.
To be completely honest, I don’t exactly love the film now, because it’s not really a film that lets itself be loved. It’s a film to be respected, and after viewing it a second time with a clearer head and removed from the shrouds of hype, I found myself totally convinced, and entirely gobsmacked at the level of authority this film commands. With such rich attention to detail, the world created is claustrophobic and all-encompassing, with the whole film perched on a knife-blade which isn’t pulled back until the climax.
It also deserves a mention for possibly the strongest ensemble cast in any film I’ve yet to see. Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, John Hurt… Watch out, Expendables!
Tyrannosaur (Dir: Paddy Considine)
The most recent addition to my top ten, I only saw Tyrannosaur a few days before typing up this very list: testament to its direct, raw power. For a few years now, I have held Paddy Considine in high regard as an actor, despite the fact that I probably couldn’t have named more than five of his films off the top of my head. However, after catching his feature-length directorial debut, he’s cemented a place in my own list of British heroes. Tyrannosaur is brutal, beautiful, and breath-taking: a simple story which is so well-constructed. The central cast are all magnificent, but I have to give special commendation to Olivia Colman, whose masterful turn as the damaged Hannah is heart-wrenchingly poignant. This is an incredibly powerful work of cinema, which shows that Considine (and Colman) wield much, much more talent than I originally anticipated.
The Artist (Dir: Michel Hazanavicius)
I don’t care if it probably did win most of those awards on the basis of the Academy being made up of misty-eyed nostalgia-junkies. The truth is that The Artist has two things in spades: charm and pizzazz, and it deploys them bloody well. It’s so effortlessly effervescent that it positively glows with gold-dust, even through that black-and-white filter. So much more than a love letter to silent cinema, The Artist is just an honest, refreshing and touching crowdpleaser.
Drive (Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn)
There are many reasons that I love Drive, among them the way it pulls off an exquisite marriage of a trashy concept and art-house sensibilities; its super-stylish visual palette; Ryan Gosling’s stoic, iconic performance; the bone-crunching, unpredictable violence; the awesome soundtrack, and so on. But the bottom line is that out of everything on this list, it’s the most striking of the bunch, and not just aesthetically. Shocking, influential and ridiculously cool, Drive just about has it all, including Albert Brooks stabbing someone in the eye with a fork. A worthy winner, methinks.