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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.


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.”

Ralph Fiennes breathes new life into a less popular Shakespeare play. The original lines and the modern setting mix unexpectedly well.


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.”

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.

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?

Finding someone who will love you all the way down to hell

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“If I’ll ever find someone who will love me all the way down to hell, I’ll stay there”.

This was the tagline of a Swedish movie, Love Me! This film from 1986 is mostly remembered because it was one of the biggest failures in Swedish film history after being delayed for several years and exceeding the budget with 50 percent. The director wasn’t let anywhere near a film production for 17 years since the industry had lost confidence in him.
Anyway – as far as I recall the film was OK, but that’s about all I remember. It opened the same night as the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot in an open street, so I guess our attention was somewhere else at that time.

One thing stuck with me though after all those years, and I remember it as clearly as if I had watched it yesterday: the tagline that was quoted in trailers and ads for the film.

 “If I’ll ever find someone who will love me all the way down to hell, I’ll stay there”.

The words come from a troublesome teenage girl who has lived her entire life in foster homes. She’s provocative and demanding and frankly pretty annoying and I wouldn’t blame the foster parent who gave up on her. She asks for unconditional love, no less. And how do you know that the love is unconditional? You pull it to its furthest edge, making yourself impossible to love. In hell can you see what kind of love it is.

I hadn’t thought of this movie for a good many years, but the tagline came back to my mind as I watched The Kid with a Bike by the Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

11 year old Cyril is only at his first foster home, but he certainly doesn’t make it easy to love him. If it wasn’t for Samantha, who steps into his life, takes him under her wings on the weekends and him a break from the orphanage where his father has put him, I would expect him to end up in a bad place.

“It’s him or me”, exclaims Samantha’s frustrated boyfriend, who isn’t an angel but a normal person.

“Him”, says Samantha without a moment of hesitation, thus making me tear up. It’s a standpoint she’ll get the chance to rethink this quite a few times as Cyril continues to make worse and worse choices.

I’ve often heard it said about movies that in most cases you could easily cut it down 20 minutes and it would only get better. But The Kid with a Bike has already gone through that process and it’s only 1,5 hours long. This means that we stick to the essentials. No time is wasted on irrelevant side plots or lengthy explanations about where those people are coming from. I get as much as that Cyril is in a crappy spot but I don’t get to know why Cyril’s father can’t take care of him. Is he just an egotistical asshole or is there something more to it? Has he done something criminal? And what happened to his mother? Not a clue. What’s life like at the orphanage? We only get a glimpse if even that. And who is this Samantha? An angel trying out the life as a mortal? Is she real? It’s like a fairytale; there are very few details. Not that I miss them. This movie is like a nice port – it’s concentrated so you only need a little of it.

In spite of the format The Kid with a Bike deals with big issues: love, loss, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. I’ve seen some critics claiming it’s biblical. Perhaps they can’t imagine any unconditional love existing without divine inspiration.

If you ask me it’s just deeply human. There are a lot of shitty parents out there, but that doesn’t mean that their kids need to grow up without ever experiencing unconditional love. The Kid with a Bike is a good reminder of that. We may need to follow the kids and love them down to hell. But we don’t need to let them stay there.

The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, BE 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 26, 2012 at 1:00 am