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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?

In need of a hug after watching Bullhead

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I killed a deer when I was in my 20s.

It was an accident that happened an early morning. I was driving to my job at a local newspaper one hour away when it ran into the side of my car. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard the thumping sound and as I stopped and watched in the mirror, I saw it lying on the ground. I saw there were twitches in the bodies and I opened my mouth and screamed.

I didn’t imagine anyone would hear me, or rather I didn’t even think about it. I was too shocked to think a single clear thought.

Fortunately there were other people around who hadn’t lost their minds and who didn’t hesitate to get involved and help out in the way they could. Before I knew it a trailer had stopped behind me. And in the mirror I saw the driver walk out from it with a jack in his hand. He hit the deer a few times in the head with it until it didn’t move anymore. Then he came up to me and brought me to his cab where I could sit and calm down while called the police. Arriving at the place, they decided that I was in too bad shape to safely drive the rest of the way to my job. So one of them did it for me with me as a passenger.

However I couldn’t let go of what just had happened. So I did the only thing I could to get it out of my system: I wrote about it. It was a personal piece titled something along the lines: “Me – a murderer”. (And yes, in case you wonder, it got into the paper. Nothing you write at a small newspaper is wasted; they can’t afford it. There’s a space to be filled, you know.)

The moment I was done with the text, I could feel how the deer episode lost its hold on me. Writing as therapy is pretty damned good, you know.

And that’s why I’m sitting here, writing about a movie I just have watched. Normally I would let the movie sink in for a day or two before even consider writing about it. I need to put a little bit of distance between the film and myself to really see it. If I’m too close, the picture gets blurry.

Putting Bullhead behind me
But after watching Bullhead tonight I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep unless I first write about it, so I can get it out of my head. I left the salon exhausted, nauseated and in desperate need of some kind of comfort. So here I am, writing to put it behind me.

Bullhead was nominated by Belgium for the best foreign movie category of the Academy awards this year, leaving out another Belgian film, The Kid With a Bike, from the competition. Now that I’ve seen both I’m not that surprised of the decision. While I really liked The Kid With a Bike, this is a film that really stuck with me.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say as much that it’s a crime drama taking place among cattle farmers who use illegal hormones on the animals to maximize their profit. In the center of the film is Jacky, who doesn’t just inject hormones in cows. He’s using illegal medications on himself as well, and apparently it hasn’t just caused his body to blow up to gigantic proportions, it also has a bad impact on his health and temperament. Most of the time he walks around resembling to the Hulk as he’s just gotten mad and turned into the green guy, but much creepier, since he’s not a goodhearted comic character. If someone comes in his way in the wrong moment you assume he will be beaten up or possibly killed. You wouldn’t want to meet him alone at a late hour in the city.

My dislike for Jacky was massive to begin with, until the movie suddenly took a jump 20 years back in time and we got to see some events taking place in his childhood, which changed the whole picture. It didn’t make him less scary or some of the action he takes less horrible. But it helped me understand him and even pity him.

And this of course makes the events that follow even worse to witness.

Fetal position
It’s hard to describe how “tough” a film is to watch, since it varies so much between us. All I can do is to compare it to other films I’ve seen recently and I think it’s safe to say that this was the toughest watch so far this year from a violence point of view, only challenged by Tyrannosaur. If I go back to last year we have Drive that is in this league, but the question is if this one isn’t worse. It made me take a fetal position in my seat and beg for hugs on Twitter after I left the cinema (which I sadly didn’t get.)

It’s dark, it’s tragic, it’s depressing and I can imagine that the organization for meat producers in Belgium wasn’t too happy seeing it launched internationally. While the movie never makes a huge deal of the cattle business, focusing on the human drama, it still evoked disgust and disbelief and a passing thought about that it might be about time that I went back to vegetarianism again.

The film does have a couple of weak points. I’m especially thinking of the part of two car mechanics, who serve as some kind of comic relief, as silly and stupid as the Thompson brothers. I guess they were supposed to brighten up things a bit, but all they achieve is to appear misplaced.

But that’s just a minor complaint that shouldn’t overshadow how good the movie is. It’s apparently the debut of the director, and what a debut! I also can’t talk about this film without mentioning the actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who gained 27 kilos for his role as Jacky. The story is that he did this without the use of hormones, though it’s hard to believe when you see him. This is the kind of performance where you just can’t get into your head that this actually is an actor playing a role and not a real person.

Final words
I’ve been talking and talking and talking tonight and I’m afraid your ears are bleeding at this point, after over 1000 words. I’m recovered now and I suddenly feel how sleepy I am. No wonder, considering it is 1 AM in the morning.

Thank you for staying with me! It’s time to let Bullhead go.

It remains to see weather I’ll order a steak next time I go to a restaurant. I’m afraid I can’t completely shake of the image I just got of Belgian food industry.

Bullhead (Rundskop, Michael R. Roskam, BE 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

May 30, 2012 at 1:05 am

Posted in Bullhead