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Halfway through 2012 – here is my top list

with 44 comments

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?

Take Shelter – a descent into madness or a catastrophe thriller?

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I think it’s safe to say that a film is ambiguous if the audience can’t even agree about what the main theme is.

If you look up Take Shelter at IMDb you’ll see that it has two category tags: “drama” and “thriller” and if you read the forum, you’ll find people fiercely defending both of the interpretations.

What is undisputable is that Curtis, the young father and husband in the centre of the film, has nightmares about a storm of apocalyptical dimensions

[Warning: What follows might be considered mildly spoilerific]

Half of the lot think that those dreams point towards reality and that the man is a prophetic rather than insane. That’s the “thriller” team.

Personally I’m with the other team, the “drama” supporters, who think that Take Shelter all the way through is about a man – father and husband – who slowly realizes that he is suffering from a mental illness and how this affects himself as well as his family.

Intentional ambiguity?
Perhaps the writer and director Jeff Nichols made the film a bit ambiguous and open for interpretations on purpose.

According to an interview I’ve seen quoted, it seems as if he doesn’t think it’s  particularly important if the oily rain that is falling or the threatening tornadoes are for real or if they’re just products of Curtis imagination and something we see through his eyes only.

What is more important is how the relationship between Curtis and his wife develops over time, from the initial exclusion, secrecy and denial into a new level. The film isn’t about how you protect yourself from a storm, at least not a physical, weather related one. If there is a storm, it’s the one that is affecting the family.

To be honest I don’t think I’d like this film very much if I was in the thriller team. There are more thrilling films out there about people fighting desperately to survive against the raging elements.

As a drama theory supporter I loved it though and it’s the second film I watch in a theatre this year that will get a 5/5 rating from me. The first one was We Need to Talk about Kevin, and I think those two movies are connected in how they use powerful images with a surreal touch to help us to get access to chambers of a person’s mind on a very emotional, intuitive level. They use images rather than words to tell what’s happening on the inside.

We Need to Talk about Kevin had Tilda Swinton doing an amazing performance. In Take Shelter it’s Michael Shannon who shines. He’s not doing a stereotypical portray of a lunatic; he manages to give a very nuanced portray of someone who is paranoid and has delusions, but who also is a loving and caring father and husband, who tries to do what he thinks is best for the family, even if his actions sometimes are misguided.

Resonating with me
Take Shelter may be considered ambiguous by some, especially the ending. I’m not ambiguous in my appreciation for it though. I have the feeling that it’s going to stay with me for a long time.

It probably resonates a little bit more than it might have done otherwise since the daughter of a friend of mine has been diagnosed with mental illness and they’ve been going through a very rough time over the last couple of years handling this. It feels as if this film helps to bring me a bit closer to them.

It was a long wait for me from the launch in US until it finally reached my hometown this week, but I’m glad I finally got to see it. If you like movies that don’t write everything on your nose, but leave a bit of room for yourself to think and react, I recommend this one strongly.

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, US, 2011) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

June 8, 2012 at 1:30 am

Posted in Take Shelter