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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.


Carnage

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.”


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

 

Hugo
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.”

Tomboy
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.

50/50
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?

A yummy Danish for fans of costume dramas

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Costume dramas. Love them or hate them.

I know some people run away screaming if you as much as mention them, arguing that

a) it’s just for chicks

b) they’re bad since all the effort is put into the customs and film sets and nothing to the storytelling and the characters

c) they’re all the same. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all.

I’m lucky enough not to suffer from costume crama intolerance. I rather enjoy them. Admittedly I don’t watch them every week or even every month, but I definitely want to include them in my film diet. One or two big costume movies a year keep me happy. While they often don’t pull me in as much emotionally as an intimate small piece of drama does, they offer something else – always eye candy, sometimes ear candy, and inspiration to dream away and imagine what it would have been like to live in a far distant time, at a far distant place.

If you’ve ever read and loved Edith Nesbit’s House of Arden, I think you know where I’m coming from.

Danish costume drama
I’ve come to associate costume dramas mostly with British cinema. There have been a few good dramas with other origins, such as Amadeus and Marie Antoinette, both from US, while taking place in Europe. But top on mind is Britain and I think you could blame the Janes for it – Jane Austen, the author and Jane Eyre, the novel. They just never seem to get out of fashion. There’s always room for another adaption. Not that I mind; they’re usually well crafted and enjoyable.

Considering this it came to me as a bit of a surprise when A Royal Affair recently came up in the Swedish cinemas. It wasn’t British at all. It was Danish, and considering how small budgets Scandinavian movies usually have to work with, I didn’t expect all that much of it.

I’m glad to say I was wrong. I’m not sure of how they made it; but I suspect it’s a pan-European production considering the names in the text credits. What I do know is that they’ve made a movie that isn’t short of the scope that a Hollywood production can provide.

A true story
This is the dramatization of a true story, a piece of Danish but also European history, taking place in the time of revolutions in the 18th century. It’s the story about the arranged marriage between the king of Denmark, Christian VII and Caroline Mathilde from England. She was a just a teenager when she arrived to her new country and it didn’t take long for her to realize that he was dysfunctional, not to say completely insane. The crazy king hires a personal doctor, Struensee, who secretly nourishes radical ideas about how to run the country, inspired by French thinkers such as Rosseau. The queen turns out to be on the same page and they start to influence the government of the country, manipulating the king while also having a love affair behind without his knowledge. The question is: can they get away with it?

If you’ve studied European history you might now the answer already, but perhaps you haven’t, so I’ll stop there. You can just watch the movie and find out for yourself. Or look it up at wikipedia if you’re too curious.

Good acting
From a costume drama you expect gorgeous dresses, believable historical settings, beautiful music and a breathtaking cinematography that makes you nod, saying to yourself: “what a good thing I watched it in a theatre on a big screen”. A Royal Affair has all of this.

It also has some really good acting performances. Alicia Vikander, who plays the queen, is Swedish, but performs in Danish. According to an interview she learned to speak it fluently within two months, a condition to get the role. I suppose she’s allowed a bit of slack and an accent since the queen is British to begin with. But it’s still impressive. She appears to have an international career going now. (Next up is a role in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina.)

Mads Mikkelsen is perhaps the most successful Danish actors and if you’re a fan like me, you’ll probably like him in the role as doctor Struensee.

But the big surprise, the shining star, is an actor named Mikkel Boe Følsgaard in the role of the borderline crazy king. One moment he seems perfectly sane, but under the surface, the craziness is luring and the next moment he’s acting out like a child. I can imagine that all those shifting moods and levels of insanity could be difficult to navigate between, but Følsgaard makes it seem easy and natural.

What’s so remarkable with this is that this guy is completely unknown. It’s his first feature film and he hasn’t even left theatre school (the graduation is this summer.) He won the award for best actor in the film festival in Berlin. That’s what I’d call a successful debut. You may only wonder where he’ll go from here. Did I just see the beginning of the career of the next generation’s Mads Mikkelsen?

A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære, Nikolaj Arcel, DK 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in A Royal Affair