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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?

Ugly running and other musings somewhat related to The Descendants

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This will be a long, dwindling train of thoughts that might bring you to a few words about The Descendants. Join for the ride if you’re up for it. If you’re looking for a proper, clear, quick-to-the-point review, you’re probably better off somewhere else.

The hitchhiking
So where to start? I think we’ll begin with a thumb by the roadside just outside of Christchurch.

Do you remember when there were hitchhikers on the roads? Maybe you don’t; I have the feeling that some of you were born just around the time when they started to disappear for some reason. It’s like with the dinosaurs – we can’t be too sure about what happened, but we can have our theories.

Perhaps there was a change in the equation. The airplane tickets got cheaper at the same rate as the dangers lurking on the roads grew. The money you could save didn’t match the risk anymore. Or maybe it was the drivers who were to blame. They stopped picking up people for the same reason: the dangers overshadowed the benefits of getting company and the pleasant feeling of being helpful.

Regardless of what happened you’ll have to trust me: once upon a time there were hitchhikers, for real and not just in the movies, and I was one of them. For two months I hitchhiked around New Zeeland and this meant that I came to spend a good many hours standing by a roadside with my husband. Not because the New Zealanders didn’t want to pick you up, because they did – they were the most generous and friendly people I’ve ever met. But it was in the countryside and sometimes you had to wait for quite a while before someone came that way.

Twenty questions
So what do you do with all that time at hands? Well, I know what we did. We played “twenty questions”, you know the game where one of you think about a person and the other one asks questions that only can be answered with “yes” or “no” until you’ve figured out who it is.

Over time we had worked out our own rules about this. For instance we sorted the persons into a few classes. There were the fictive persons – characters from films, comics and books. Then there the people who existed for real, who could be either celebrities such as actors, writers or politicians, or people we knew: family and friends. Finally there was one last option which we called “Sune Mangs”. Sune Mangs was a Swedish actor who we and some friends of ours that also were into this game unanimously had decided was one of his kind. He had a special aura that made him into something in between a real or a fictive person. He was in a class of his own.

Our trip to New Zeeland took place in 1987. At this point George Clooney was already an established actor, but we hadn’t heard of him yet. This was years before his appearance as Dr Ross in ER. At this point he had just finished the recording of Return of the Killer Tomatoes and I don’t think that’s something that makes you into “top of mind” for twenty questions.

But if this had taken place today, I think George Clooney might have been the one to get a category of his own. There is something iconic about him, something that makes him feel like a cartoon rather than like a normal actor. He is The George Clooney.

A strong brand
For most jobs a strong brand is only an advantage, but not in the case of acting. It’s harder to get immersed and forget that there’s an actor involved, if the actor has a very strong personality of his own.

Some actors are neutral and anonymous. They’re as neutral as cream that you add to a sauce: they can carry just about any taste, any type of personality. Their own personal will never take over and dominate over the character they’re supposed to be. They become one with their role.

In the case of George Clooney it’s the opposite. It’s hard to forget that it’s George Clooney I’m watching on the screen. I always make a mental note: “Oh, there is George Clooney! He certainly looks like himself!” I don’t even remember the name of his president candidate in The Ides of March or the landowner and father in The Descendants. He’s always just “George Clooney” to me.

I can imagine how challenging it must be. How can you possibly break lose, how can you make people forget that you’re George Clooney?

Ugly running
In the case of The Descendants, George Clooney is once again casted as a successful and wealthy businessman. As the film evolves, it turns out that his life isn’t quite as happy and enviable as you would imagine, just as Hawaii isn’t just the paradise we see in the tourist ads, but also a pretty grey and average place. The facade of Clooney’s character’s life crackles as his wife gets into a serious accident, ending up in coma at a hospital and it turns out that she’s been cheating on him. The movie is about Clooney’s following journey where he searches for the truth about his wife while at the same time reconnecting to his teenage daughters, who suddenly have become his responsibility, a situation he apparently isn’t used to.

So how did it work? Did I get immersed and touched enough to feel the pain of Clooney’s character under my own skin? Could I stop thinking about “George Clooney is on the screen” and start just caring about the character?

Yes, most of the time I could, with one exception: whenever they had Clooney go running. It happens a couple of time in the film and I don’t know what the idea is. Perhaps it’s an effort to get away from the Cloonian image of perfection and success. But did they really fool anyone? Not me at least. All I could think of was: “Oh, there is George Clooney. Why is he running so ugly? He must be trying to prove something. Is ugly running what they give you Oscars for?”

The verdict
And this will finally bring us to the verdict. Is George Clooney worth an Oscar award for best actor? Yes and no. Of course I’d rather have seen it given to Michael Fassbender for Shame. But as the nominations look now, Clooney could as well have it as anyone else.

Did I like The Descendants? Oh yes. 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.

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, US 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

February 14, 2012 at 1:19 am

Posted in The Descendants