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Halfway through 2012 – here is my top list

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I woke up a morning and realized that we’re halfway through 2012. I know – it’s crazy! How did that happen? To me the year has all but started.

So what do you make of 2012 so far? I thought 2011 was a very good year for movies; the question is – will 2012 match it? Possibly. I made my personal top list of the year so far, covering my top 20 movies. I think there are quite a few gems here and there are a couple of movies in the pipeline that I have high hopes for.

But before we start I want to get one thing out of the way:

Yes, this list includes some movies that you might think belong on a 2011 list, depending on which country you live in. I’ve decided to make my top lists from my personal perspective, following when the movies became accessible in a theatre for me. Many films don’t open inSwedenuntil several months after their theatrical release in US orUK. This was the case with several of the Oscar nominees, which didn’t arrive here until late spring.

Also keep in mind that my appreciation for a movie usually changes over time. Some films that I didn’t immediately embrace have grown; other movies that I liked at first have turned pale as time has passed. When it’s time to make the full-year-list of 2012, some of those movies may very well have changed positions, depending on my mood of the day. I’m notoriously inconsistent.

And that’s the end of the disclaimer section. Let’s move on to the list!

1. We Need to Talk about Kevin
The events in this film have been dealt with before in movies, but not from this point of view, I’d dare say. Tilda Swinton was excellent as the mother of the troubled kid Kevin. The cinematography and particularly the usage of colours are etched into my memory.


2. Take Shelter
The storm is coming. Or is it? Do the things that take place on screen really happen or are they hallucinations of a mentally ill person? Some people had doubts about the interpretation. I didn’t. But what we can agree about is that it’s a fantastic little movie, with a brilliant performance by Michael Shannon.

3. Tyrannosaur
A man beats his own dog until it dies. Then he cries over losing his best friend – the dog. This is the start of Tyrannosaur and it’s almost unbearable to watch. From there it goes worse. But provided you can stand watching it, this is a remarkably well played and gripping piece of drama, providing at least some glimpses of hope in all the misery there is.

4.Moonrise Kingdom
After three rather depressing movies I wanted to break up this list with something more lighthearted, bringing a bit of hope and happiness into the world. I can’t think of a worthier candidate than Moonrise Kingdom.

5. Prometheus
Prometheus got a bit of a beating due to some ridiculously high set expectations after the successful marketing. It’s no Alien, but despite its flaws I enjoyed it immensely. I got to explore strange new worlds, I saw truly alien aliens, I watched big things blow up in a big way and I gave my imagination a good tickle. That’s all I the sci-fi geek inside me asks for.

6. The Artist
I watched The Artist several months after everyone else, so at the point where I got to it they hype and the backlash were both over with since long. It was a love letter to the world of movies, surprisingly fun and entertaining, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

7. Bullhead
This is another dark film that is tough to watch due to some very intense and violent heavy scenes, on par with Tyrannosaur. Take caution before you watch this if you’re the sensitive kind.

8. A Royal Affair
This Danish costume drama took me by surprise. It’s well acted, well designed, well plotted, high class craftsmanship in every aspect. Highly recommended unless you really can’t stand costume dramas.

9. Chronicle
Chronicle? A found footage movie about youngsters with superpowers? Are you kidding me; how can you put this over serious movies including several Oscar candidates? I can because this debut film out of nowhere charmed me completely with its fresh take on genre that I’m usually not overly excited about.

10. The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods breaking into the top 10 might have to do with that it’s one of the most recent films I watched, so I still have it fresh in memory. Regardless, I had fun watching this, and “fun” is nothing to sneer at. So I’ll bring it into my top 10 to inject yet a bit more of entertainment, giving a break to all the gloomy films I usually watch.

11-20 (Unranked, alphabetic order):

The Avengers
I could never have imagined I’d enjoy a superhero movie this much. I blame Joss Whedon.


People throwing up on the screen is rarely fun to watch, but seeing Kate Winslet doing it over a bunch of exclusive art catalogues was priceless. 

The Descendants
From my review: “There’s always something soothing about watching millionaires struggling with their lives, ending up eating comfort ice cream out of the box in front of the TV. Deep down we’re all the same – fragile, messed up and uncertain about where our journey will take us. It’s like hitchhiking. Life will take you into places you didn’t plan. You just need to learn to cope.”

Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.


Martin Scorsese lets his inner film geek out in full freedom. I can’t imagine anyone else who would have been allowed to make a film celebrating film restoration and Georges Méliès. But he could afford it and as the film lover I am I loved it.

The Kid with a Bike
This was my first encounter with the Dardenne brothers and I hope it won’t be the last.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sometimes when I go to a theatre all I want is a quick ride with a big budget action movie offering spectacular action and decent actors. This was exactly this and it served me well.

The Muppets
There wasn’t a single kid in the theatre when I watched The Muppets, and I’m not even sure of how funny it is for a child who didn’t grow up with those puppets. I did though and I had a blast. As I said in the review: “On the outside I was a frustrated office worker with a Monday Blues. But hidden inside there was a singing and smiling muppet.”

I wish this film didn’t need to be done. I wish everyone could be allowed to be themselves, using any kind of gender identity they wanted to without being questioned. Sadly enough we’re not there yet. And this film should be shown and talked about at school.

Cancer and humour doesn’t sound as if it mixes well. But in this film it did.

A couple of mentionings

There are several movies that didn’t make the cut this time, but which very well can end up somehwere on the top list by the end of the year. As I said initially: my ratings change from day to day. The current runner-ups are Warhorse, Elena, Wuthering Heights and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

I won’t talk much about bad movies, mostly because I’ve seen so few of them. So far this year there have only been two movies I’ve given a 1/5 star rating. Interesting enough they represent two extremes on a scale of artfulness. On one end we have Rock of Ages, which had an abundance of cheese but no soul. On the other end there’s Alps, which no doubt had higher artistic ambitions, but felt equally heartless, empty and boring.

So, which are your ups and downs so far this year? Which films are you pretty certain will remain on the list when it’s time to narrow down the top 10 of 2012?

Cancer with a smile

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On May 11 2001 my father died from cancer, exactly four months before 9/11. Those two events are tied together in my mind. For most of my life my father was Superman. He was like an encyclopedia on two legs. He appeared to have everything under control until the cancer came and it turned out that he didn’t. Besides he worked in a field that was related to fighting terrorists and illegal weapons.  I couldn’t let go of the weird idea that if he only had been alive, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. Or if it happened, he would have explained it, like he explained the periodical system or the concept of more than three dimensions.

But he had no solution for cancer so he died and 9/11 happened and as little as I could prevent it could I understand it or accept it.

They say there’s this mourning process you need to get through when someone dies but after ten years mine hasn’t even started. There is a locked door to my emotions that I reckon I should open but I can’t bring myself to do it. I tell myself that one day I will, only not today. Tomorrow maybe. When I’m strong and mature enough. I push it forward, one day at a time.

And I’m telling you all of this just to make you understand why I watch every movie about people dying or almost dying in cancer or losing their parents in cancer that comes in my way.

Sometimes those films trigger me to cry a little bit, letting out a little bit of whatever is hidden behind that mental door I have. Sometimes they don’t.

The cancer humor
The last one I watched was 50/50 and it only made me cry properly once (a scene between the guy with the cancer disease and his mother, which really messed me up.) On the other hand I laughed or at least giggled quite a bit. For how weird as it sounds, this story about a young man who all of a sudden gets a severe form of cancer with 50 percents chance of survival is more of a lighthearted romantic comedy than it is a gripping close-to-death drama.

It’s actually not all that strange. Cancer is dark and scary and horrible, yes, of course it is, but it also puts you in situations you hadn’t imagined, makes you do things you never thought you would do and you can’t but smile at it in all its absurdity. This disease gives you a quite twisted sense of humor, which I think 50/50 reflects very well.

There are for instance some funny scenes where the cancer patients eat marijuana cookies as a pain killer and this immediately tossed me eleven years back in time, thinking of my own experiences of this.

My parents used to live in Netherlands, where the view on such things is vastly different from in Sweden. When my father was in his terminal stage and there was nothing to do but to wait and try to keep the pain as low as possible, a nurse recommended us to bake him some cookies with marijuana. To her it was as natural as if she had recommended us to give him vitamins. It’s sold openly in coffee shops where anyone over 18 is allowed.

For me and my mother the thought of entering one of those shops was shocking. She could as well have told us to buy heroine by a drug dealer in a backyard. But again: cancer makes you do things you didn’t think you’d do. While my husband stayed outside with our kids, mom and I entered on trembling legs, cleared our throats and did our purchase. And then we went home and made cookies. I can still remember the nauseating smell. The stench filled the apartment. And my father didn’t like them particularly much so most of them ended up in the trash. But thinking about how lost we were in that coffee shop still makes me smile wryly.

What I thought
But I’m losing myself in memories here. Let’s head back to 50/50.  What did I make of it? Well, admittedly there were elements I didn’t like all that much. Did the girl friend need to be THAT shallow? Did the psychiatrist need to look like a young cheerleader? How believable was that? Did his friend have to be completely obsessed with getting chicks and getting laid? It got a bit tiresome. On the whole I liked it well enough, but it didn’t break into my top 10 list of 2011, which I kind of had expected it to do considering the topic. I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to love it. Perhaps I could have done with a few more cries.

My 17 year old daughter on the other hand was super enthusiastic, but from a slightly different perspective. She told me that she had watched it vanilla, so the whole thing about the cancer theme came as a complete surprise to her. All she knew, all she even cared about, was that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the leading actor in it, the same guy who had made her watch 500 Days of Summer at least four times, if not more.

“He’s so CUTE!” “Did you see his dimples?” “I want to watch this movie again. Three times is a minimum!” she exclaimed as we walked towards the car.

I gave her a hug and asked her if she’d push me away the way Joseph’s character did to his mother if she got cancer.

“No way!” she said, smiling at me. “I’d use it! You would get me ANYTHING, wouldn’t you?”

I nodded. Indeed I would. Anything.

50/50 (Jonathan Levine, US, 2011)  My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 31, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in 50/50