Thursday, 29 December 2011

My Top 30 Films of 2011

Well, it's that time of year again, and in my opinion, it's been a pretty decent year. We've seen everything from robots to apes, superheroes to bridesmaids and boy wizards to vampires. There are many 2011 films that I won't be seeing until early 2012, including The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, The Artist and The Descendants to name a few, so here are my top 30 picks for 2011 as of December 31st. (Note: I haven't included 2010 films that were released in Australia in 2011, such as Black Swan, True Grit, The Fighter and 127 Hours. 2011 films that will be released in 2012 will go on the 2011 list)

30. Wasted on the Young
A stylish and alarmingly relevant Australian film criminally ignored by audiences earlier this year. Wrong, people. Wrong.

29. Bridesmaids
The comedy that surprised everyone by not only becoming the year's smash hit comedy, but by also becoming the year's funniest film. Take that Hangover II.

28. Hanna
Joe Wright's kick-ass actioner was one of the year's best action film. Super stylish and inventively directed, as well as boasting a great cast lead by Saoirse Ronan, this is one of the year's most underrated films.

27. The Ides of March
One of the most well-acted films was part three of Ryan Gosling's 2011 triple threat combo. We'll see you later on, Ryan.

26. Contagion
Forget Paranormal Activity 3, THIS was the year's scariest film, simply because it seemed so realistic. You won't be touching anything for days after seeing this one.

25. The Help
Another smash hit, this crowd pleaser is sure to dominate the acting categories come Oscar time.

24. 13 Assassins
I watched this the day after I saw Seven Samurai for the first time, and compared to that, this looks like The Last Airbender. Which is a testament to how good that Kurosawa film is, because Takashi Miike's latest was bloody great.

23. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Hands down, the best straight up action film of the year, with undoubtedly some of the best action set-pieces ever put to film. Don't agree with me? Watch that Burj Khalifa scene again. Welcome back, Mr. Cruise.

22. X-Men: First Class
I (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) expected this prequel to suck balls. How wrong we were. This ended up being the best X-Men film ever.

21. Beginners
This was just a damn great film, put simply. And I swear, that dog is the cutest dog ever.

20. Rango
The animated film that wasn't for kids, Gore Verbinski's brilliant oddball film referenced everything from Chinatown to The Man With No Name. Awesome.

19. Red Dog
And now the little Aussie film that could. Did anyone think that this sweet and heartfelt tale would become one of the biggest Australian films of all time? I think once you saw it, everyone did. And it deserved every penny. If this didn't move you, then you are made of stone.

18. Moneyball
Or, what Aaron Sorkin did after The Social Network. Of course, this is much more than that. Capote director Bennett Miller deftly turned a movie based around baseball stats into an exciting and intelligent piece of entertainment, with a fantastic performance by Brad Pitt to boot.

17. Source Code
Let's face it, Duncan Jones' follow up to Moon was never gonna hit the heights of that masterpiece. But what Source Code did do, was confirm the fact that Jones is a force to be reckoned with, and shows that he can still make a smart piece of entertainment regardless of the budget size.

16. Snowtown
The most harrowing and chilling film of the year. Why? Because it's based on true events. Despite this, it's still an amazing debut by Justin Kurzel.

15. War Horse
This is Spielberg at his old-school movie making best. Miles away from his other 2011 film (which will be mentioned later), this was both emotionally satisfying and terrifically exciting and intense. Good to see you back in the directors chair, Spielberg.

14. Super 8
J.J. Abrams nostalgic monster mash was one of my most anticipated for this year, and it didn't disappoint, blending pitch perfect thrills with great characters and heart. Mint.

13. Submarine
One of the more quirkier films of the year is one of my favourites, as its a tale that we can probably all relate with. And with some of the most inventive direction of the year, Submarine was definitely worth a watch.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The film that everyone was waiting for (for better or worse) finally arrived, and brought the highest-grossing franchise of all time to a grand and satisfying close. The perfect end to a great franchise.

11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Another one of the films I was prepared to hate ended up being the year's biggest surprise, both critically and commercially. Directors take note, this is how to craft a blockbuster. And if Andy Serkis is not recognized at Oscar time, watch out Academy.

10. Attack the Block
The most ridiculously fun film of the year got everything right, and put Joe Cornish immediately on the map. Believe, bruv.


9. Incendies 
This brilliant Canadian film was as exciting and tense as it was emotionally involving and devastating. Poetic.

8. The Adventures of Tintin
I felt like such a big kid watching this film, and you will too, as Spielberg's mo-cap adaptation of Herge's legendary comics is the most exhilarating and fun film of the year. Forget Thor or X-Men, this is the best comic book film of the year.

7. Midnight In Paris
Finally! A light and bright rom-com that doesn't make you want to reach for the sick bag. This is Woody Allen's best film in years. A film lover's delight.

6. The Skin I Live In
This is one of those films that simply demands a second viewing, thanks to its jaw-dropping twist. Special thanks to Pedro Almodovar's masterful direction and Antonio Banderas' fantastic performance for making this one of the year's very best. Fantastico!

5. Drive
That opening scene. That score. That near-silent-yet-brilliant performance by Gosling. That blistering performance by Albert Brooks. That stylish, retro direction by Nicolas Winding Refn. Need I say more?

4. The Tree of Life
I can't think of a film that has divided audiences as much as this one. You either found it a piece of pretentious gobbledegook or a piece of breathtaking art. I found it the latter. Simply breathtaking.

3. Melancholia 
Before seeing this film, I saw Lars von Trier as nothing more than a pretentious hack. This near-masterpiece immediately changed my opinion on that. This absolutely took my breath away, and a film that I haven't stopped thinking about since I saw it.

2. We Need To Talk About Kevin
Other than Snowtown, this was the most haunting film of the year. I'm years away from being a parent, yet it was such an eye-opener on parenting. It's a film that every parent, nay, everyone should see.

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I was lucky enough to receive a free advance pass to this film that I had been anticipating all year, and I am so grateful I did, because this for me was undoubtedly the film of the year. The complex yet involving narrative, the pitch-perfect performances, the cinematography, the tense pacing of it and the final reveal to name a few, all combine to create a true cinematic miracle. It doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Evil children are a common occurrence throughout film. From The Omen’s Damien Thorn to The Exorcist’s Regan, creepy devil spawn have been scaring the living daylights (or not) out of audiences for decades. While they are a common occurrence in films, for the most part they all have some sort of supernatural connotation attached to them. Enter Kevin Khatchadourian, the titular character of We Need To Talk About Kevin. Unlike Damien Thorn and others before him, Kevin is as real a devil child as you’ll ever see. Perhaps that’s what makes him, and thus the film so goddamn terrifying, and what makes this film work so well. Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the most chilling and terrifying films that you’ll ever see, mostly because it is (sadly) so true and relevant to today’s society, which is why you need to see it, especially if you are a parent, or even a teenager. This is a film that will cause significant discussion within audiences, and so it should. It’s subject matter is something that is often overlooked or not given a full perspective (see Gus van Sant’s Elephant to see what I mean), but thankfully, Ramsay gives a whole new perspective of this subject, allowing us to see the full impact.

Despite the title, the film is actually focused around Eva (Tilda Swinton), a mother who, ever since the birth of Kevin (Jasper Newell as young Kevin and Ezra Miller as teenage Kevin), has had a poor relationship with him, with him to her being the devil on Earth. Unfortunately for Eva, she is the only one who can see the evil side of Kevin, with his father Franklin (John C. Reilly) having a solid relationship with him. We are shown through a series of flashbacks the events that lead up to the climax of Kevin’s evil nature, his massacre of high school students, allowing us to also see the relationship between Eva and Kevin.

The film is actually based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, which sees Eva recounting the events through letters, thus making a film adaptation extremely hard. Thankfully, Ramsay structures it in a complex yet effective and rewarding way, positioning the present at the point after Kevin’s massacre, making us go back in flashbacks to develop the plot and the characters. This structure is impressively executed, as it positions the audience to view Eva as the same person with two different sides. In the flashbacks, we see Eva as a bad mother and a heartless bitch, but cutting to the present, we see Eva as a victim, sympathizing with her for being treated so harshly by other people. The fact that we don’t fully know the events of the massacre until the very end creates so much palpable and dramatic tension, and this is where the film excels. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with this much tension, and the tension in here is so tight you could cut it with a Stanley knife. From the opening scene (and I’m talking the opening titles), the film locks you in its constricting grip and doesn’t let go until well after you’ve left the cinema. In fact, there weren’t individual scenes that were tense or hard to watch. The whole film is like that, and while that might sound off putting for some, it actually creates a more rewarding experience.

What drives WNTTAK, is the performances. While John C. Reilly is solid support and continues to prove himself as a serious actor as well as being a comedic actor, the real outstanding performances come from the two leads. Ezra Miller is a revelation as the monstrous Kevin. He perfectly portrays Kevin as a monster, never overplaying him as for him to delve into self-parody. While he does the evil thing fantastically, particularly through using his hypnotic eyes, he ensures that Kevin is as real a character as everyone else. The same can be said of Tilda Swinton, who might have hit her finest hour here. Through an effectively subtle performance, she helps us to view the two sides of Eva yet still allows us to view her as the same person. She paints a character who is real by never going over the top. No matter what side of her we see, she still remains human.

Technically, the film is brilliantly realised. Throughout the film, Ramsay has splashes of red, adding to the tension present throughout. It shows that the simplest things such as the colour of a tomato soup can be so effective and impactful. Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, who’s done excellent scores in the past for films like There Will Be Blood, again creates an atmospheric skin-crawling score, and certain music cues really get under the skin. Ramsay’s direction remains visceral throughout while not distracting from the rest of the film, something that is a large problem today in film. She also makes effective use of juxtaposition throughout to add to the tension.

Put simply, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a film that everyone should see. I can in no way, shape or form say that I enjoyed the film, as it is a very hard film to watch, and that’s saying something coming from me, as it takes a lot for a film to put me on edge. But it’s an undoubtedly rewarding and powerful experience that will stick with you for days. It will cause discussion, and may even offer you another perspective on parenting. It’s something that will be seared into my mind, and I’m years away from becoming a parent. If you only see one film this year that is not The Tree of Life, then make it We Need To Talk About Kevin. You will definitely be talking about him.

5 out of 5

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Movie Viewings of the Week: October 31st - November 6th

 Movie of the Week: The Social Network

It was a slow week this week with exams on for me at the moment. Nevertheless, I managed to squeeze in a few films for the first week of November. The beginning of the week was of course Halloween, so it was essential that I watch a horror film to follow up my healthy run of horror films from the past few weeks, and what better film to watch than one of the scariest films of all time: The Blair Witch Project. I followed that up with a film that gets better everytime I watch it: The Social Network! The week's solid run continued with the brilliant Tim Burton film Ed Wood which showed Burton and Johnny Depp at the top of their game. 

A film that really surprised me this week, was Bridesmaids, which is undoubtedly one of the funniest film's I've seen in a while, definitely up there with The Hangover. Filled with great performances from Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy, it was more than just a chick flick. Another great film that I saw this week was the absolutely demented but brilliant Australian horror film The Loved Ones which, and I know I keep saying this but if you haven't seen it, it is a must see. 

The one film which let the week down was Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Now many of you will disagree with me, I know. But I found this arthouse "horror" film to be tosh. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love arthouse films, but Antichrist did not do it for me, and there are many reasons for that. First off, I found it too pretentious and self-indulgent, and those are words I don't like using very often. I felt that the provocative aspects that von Trier added into it such as the clitoris snipping bit at the end were both unnecessary and frankly an immature attempt to provoke and shock the audience. It took for ever to go there, and von Trier seemed too concerned with trying to make a piece of art (which is what this wasn't) and fulfilling his own desires, with no concern on how it affected the audience in any other way than shock and disgust. It wasn't awful, there were somethings I liked about it. It was very visually striking, the performances were decent by Williem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and some of the ideas that were behind it were commendable. I sort of liked the way that he conveys the sense of grief, pain and despair, but on the whole, I really disliked it. I'm yet to be convinced that Lars von Trier is this genius auteur that everyone says he is. Maybe Melancholia will do it for me.

For my exam study, I decided to watch David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. It was the second time I've seen it, and I loved even more this time than I did the first. But of course, it still baffles the hell out of me, which is exactly why I love it.

Here are my ratings:

Mulholland Drive 4.5/5
Bridesmaids 4/5
Antichrist 2/5
The Loved Ones 4.5/5
The Social Network 5/5
The Blair Witch Project 4/5
Ed Wood 4.5/5

My Top 10 Films of far.

There are still a couple of months left, and there are heaps of potentially great films coming out, but here are my top 10 films of the year so far.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Pinecone: My Retarded Little Short Film

I've been using a video camera a lot lately, so I've been doing lots of little experiments with it. This is a short film that I came up with off the top of my head. Don't take it seriously or anything, but enjoy :)

Monday, 31 October 2011

October 2011 In Review

Best film of the month: Donnie Darko
Source Code - 4.5/5
Snowtown - 4/5       
Rashomon - 5/5
Seven Samurai - 5/5
Bicycle Thieves - 5/5
Elephant - 2.5/5
The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - 5/5
13 Assassins - 4/5
Full Metal Jacket - 5/5
Thor - 3.5/5
Casino Royale - 4.5/5
Donnie Darko - 5/5
Worst Film of the Month: Elephant
Psycho - 5/5
The Thing - 4.5/5
Dirty Harry - 4.5/5
Real Steel - 3/5
Dr Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb - 5/5
The Lion King - 5/5
The Lion King 3D - 4/5
Midnight In Paris - 4.5/5
Rio - 3/5
The Book of Revelation 4/5
Being John Malkovich 4.5/5
The Killing 4.5/5
Halloween 5/5       
Oldboy 3/5
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5/5
The Last House on the Left 4/5
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 5/5
X-Men: First Class 4.5/5
The Thin Red Line 5/5
Paranormal Activity 3.5/5
Paranormal Activity 2 3/5
Paranormal Activity 3 3.5/5
Contagion 4/5
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 4.5/5
Apocalypse Now 5/5
Let Me In 4.5/5
Animal Kingdom 5/5
A Tale of Two Sisters 4.5/5

Best Film Seen in the Cinema: Drive

Drive - 5/5
The Godfather Part II - 5/5
The Evil Dead - 5/5
Evil Dead II - 4.5/5
The Departed - 5/5
Million Dollar Baby - 5/5
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope - 5/5
The Social Network - 5/5
The Blair Witch Project - 4/5

Best film of the month: Donnie Darko
Worst film of the month: Elephant
Biggest surprise: The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
Biggest disappointment: Oldboy
Best film seen in the cinema: Drive 

Total number of films seen: 54

Movie Viewings of the Week: October 24th - 30th

Movie of the Week: The Thin Red Line

Continuing on from last week's horror movie marathon, this week was full of horror film viewings, as well as many other films, topping off a decent week. I began the week with a horror film, but not in the most literal sense. The film I watched was Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and although it wasn't scary, I can easily call it the most chilling film I've ever seen. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. In order to shake it off, I decided to watch Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, which absolutely blew me away, and shot straight to my top 20. I topped the day off with yet another horror film, this time it was A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was awesome. Freddy Krueger was such a fantastic and scary character. 

I continued on with one of the best horror films ever made: John Carpenter's Halloween. It was such a fantastic film, and is easily one of my new favourite horror films. With me writing this on Halloween, that chilling theme song is all I can think about. I then settled in for the week's biggest disappointment: Oldboy. I was expecting so much from it, and it had many positives. It started off really promisingly, it was very stylish and visually appealing, but by the end, I just lost interest in it by the end. I expected so much better. Not to worry, as I redeemed myself by watch the very strange but excellent A Tale of Two Sisters, which scared me shitless.

I took a break from the horror films for a few days, and continued the week with Matthew Vaughn's surprisingly excellent X-Men: First Class, which was just as good on the small screen as it was in the cinema. I headed off to the cinema again this week (only once this week) to see Drive, a film I had been anticipating for ages. And it didn't disappoint. In fact, it's one of the best films of the year. I was on a winner that day, with my first viewing of The Godfather Part II, which was amazing, another film for my top 20. 

I spent my Friday night watch what were probably the two craziest and most awesome films ever made: The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. They were both unlike anything I'd seen before. I have a whole new level of respect for Sam Raimi now. I forgive him for Spider-Man 3. I topped the week off with three classic films that couldn't be anymore different: Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning The Departed and George Lucas' landmark film Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope. All up, a fantastic week! Here are my ratings:

A Tale of Two Sisters 4.5/5
Drive 5/5
The Godfather Part II 5/5
The Evil Dead 5/5
Evil Dead II 4.5/5
The Departed 5/5
Million Dollar Baby 5/5
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope 5/5
Halloween 5/5       
Oldboy 3/5
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5/5
X-Men: First Class 4.5/5
The Thin Red Line 5/5
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 4.5/5