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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?

I had more in common with those people than I want to admit

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Is it funny to see someone throwing up on a screen? Many people think so. I usually don’t.

I’m more into verbal humor than physical. Surely I can laugh at puking when it reaches an absurd level. Monty Python’s restaurant scene in The Meaning of Life remains one of my favorites. But on the whole I fail to see the fun in pee, poo or penis jokes. On the other hand, give me a quick and witty conversation, dialogues dripping with self loathing irony or poisonous sarcasm and you’ve got me.

Roman Polanski’s Carnage actually has both of it, which surprised me quite a bit. Who thought of Polanski as a comedy maker? I may have missed out something, but I certainly didn’t.

The wordsmith humor in this film consists of the battle between two couples, the parents to two boys who have been into a fight, one beating the other. The entire film is about how they seemingly try to settle the issue, while they in reality get into a rapidly escalating verbal fight in various constellations, not only between the two families, but also within them. Alliances come and go throughout the film.

But it’s not the fighting that I’m going to take with me from this film. It’s the puking. There was something immensely satisfying about watching Kate Winslet, as this annoying upper class woman, all of a sudden empty her stomach over a bunch of precious art books belonging to the “enemy” couple. It was as if it released a lot of my own reactions to all the unconstructive, passive-aggressive blame-gaming bullshit that had been going on in the conversations for a while. Sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need to throw up. It made me laugh out loud.

A small film
This is by no means a great film. In fact it’s very small, in several ways. The cast is small, consisting of four actors with a few telephone voices and statists giving a picture of how the fight went. The location is small; it all takes place within the walls of an apartment and in the few meters between the entrance door and the elevator. And the format is very small with a running time of 80 minutes, which probably includes the text credits.

I would actually say that the smallness of the film is one the best things about it Sometimes you don’t have time to spend your entire night watching a 2,5 hour long mega sized movie. Carnage is a movie for those occasions. And I’ve never had anything against movies that only take place in one room, movies that are based on a play and don’t make a secret of it. On the contrary, I tend to like them.

Perhaps it was expected that I got to think of another movie about two couples in a fight: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In comparison Carnage comes out as pale, lightweight and forgettable. There are no ideas that stick with me; the performances are fine but not unforgettable like the Taylor/Burton combo. Frankly I see no reason to revisit this film anytime soon.

But you know what? I’m fine with that. Not all movies need to be future classics to be worth our time and money. Sometimes it’s enough to get a few good laughs as you watch someone mercilessly mocking people you have more in common with than you want to admit.

Carnage was to me like a piece of dark chocolate with added sea salt: it’s not a full meal, but it’s a piece of snack that is interesting enough to be enjoyable even in small quantities.

Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Carnage