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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?

Why I loved Prometheus

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Judging from the first reactions to Prometheus I think the PR people did their job a little too well.

There was no way this film was going to meet the expectations those cool trailers and gorgeous posters and viral campaign built up, and exceeding it was out of the question.

Even before I’d read a single review or watched the movie, I was certain a lot of people would react with disappointment. They demanded a new classic, something to immediately bring into the Pantheon of films to be admired, not to say worshipped by film lovers eternally.

What they got was a very good science fiction movie, it was hardly something you easily would label “masterpiece” or “groundbreaking”.

Let the haters feel miserable and cheated. Let them boil in their own stew. I went in with moderate expectations and an open mind and left with a feeling of satisfaction. But then I’m a science fiction fan, not to say geek. To be honest I think it helps quite a bit.

What I got
I don’t usually go into a science fiction movie expecting to penetrate the existential depths like in a Bergman movie, to enjoy smart conversations like in an Allen film or to ponder over socio-psychological dynamics as with Leigh. I don’t expect characters to be multidimensional or develop over time.

  • I went to Prometheus to explore some strange new worlds, which is as near as I’ll ever come my childhood dream of becoming a space traveler.
  • I went to face truly alien aliens, made with all the effort and skill that the special effects department of today can offer.
  • I went to see big things blow up in a big way because it gives perspective on the severity of my malfunctioning washing machine.
  • I went to tickle my imagination and get a reminder about all those questions I used to ask back in the days before my life was invaded by trivial adult issues: Why? From Where? Where to? Who else? and What if….?
  • Remembering my heroine from the previous Alien films, I also hoped to once again get to see a leading female character who wasn’t there to be a sexy and vulnerable piece of decoration, but who also was capable to take care of herself and other people.

I got all of that and more, including a couple of surprises. I particularly loved the performance of Michael Fassbender as an android and a bad-ass scene with Noomi Rapace which I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll know it when you see it and you won’t forget anytime soon.

It was every bit as spectacular to watch as I possibly could have hoped for. Big, boisterous and unapologetic.

The flaws
And now, before anyone else will bring up the flaws, I’ll do it myself. Because: yes, the film isn’t perfect.

For instance they have hired Guy Pearce, born 1967, for a role where he’s supposed to be about a hundred years old. So they have to put on a ton of make-up, but make-up only can take you so far. It looks like the mask it is and I just don’t understand why they casted him in the first place. Why not just hire an actor in the right age?

But the biggest problems have to do with the script or the cutting. All of a sudden a character appears out of nowhere. Last time you saw him he was as good as dead in an entire different place and you have no idea of how or why he moved. There are glitches, not to say big holes, which makes me suspect that they film was way too long and the rough cutting lead to that entire scenes were removed. Perhaps an extended future version can make it run a bit smoother.

On a few occasions I cringed when I heard people saying things that were unnatural and uncalled for, with the only purpose to inform us about things we already had figured out on our own. Very clumsy exposition.

But there were also examples of the opposite: some parts remained obscure to me. For instance I still don’t know the meaning of the visually gorgeous opening scene and how it fit together with the rest. (I’m pretty sure though that clever people will explain everything on blogs and forums in the months to come and whatever mystery that remains after that will be explained in the sequel.)

A choice
I won’t dwell further on the problems, because there are more than enough of people out there who can point them out. It’s the same with all movies: if you just look close enough, you’ll find plenty.

Eventually the choice is yours. Either you can go to Prometheus, expecting a new Alien classic and become disappointed when it doesn’t deliver that. Or you can go there with an open mind, suspending your disbelief and enjoy the ride of what I think eventually will be the best science fiction movie of 2012.

Finally the eternal question: should you watch it in 3D or 2D? Well, the 3D doesn’t add anything as far as I can tell, but it doesn’t take away anything either. Unlike in the case of John Carter I didn’t notice it and wasn’t annoyed. There is no ugly and distracting viewmaster effect and the characters didn’t look like paper dolls.

In my opinion what matters most is the size of the screen and sadly it seems as if the theatres are doing everything to favor 3D. Given the choice between 3D in a huge cinema and 2D in a shoe box sized cinema, I went for 3D in a big cinema and I recommend you do the same.

Big is beautiful.

Prometheus (Ridley Scott, US, 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Prometheus