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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?

Sharing the Muppet love in the lunch room

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Monday. The end of the month, but still a week until next salary.

This means a lunch room packed with people, aimlessly poking around in their boxes from the farthest corner of the freezer, throwing glances at each other to determine if they warranted some envy or not.

A snowstorm was raging outside of the window as the post weekend misery spread across the tables.

“I’m in a really bad mood”, said an administrator in her 50s and judging from her facial expression I’d give her right.

We stared down at our plates in silence. What comfort was there to give?

That’s when I remembered it. There was a cure! There was no need to feel sulky at all!

So I stepped up, first to my chair and then to the table and burst out in song:

“Everything is great
Everything is grand
I got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect
It’s falling into place
I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life’s a happy song, when there’s someone by my side to sing along”

Or rather: I could have done that, but I didn’t. Who do you think I am? Treat Williams?

But I did something that seemed to be just about as shocking as if I’d performed a musical number myself, following the reactions of the table party. I told her that I knew about a cure for the Monday Blues condition.

“Go and watch The Muppets and you’ll be as good as new!”

“The Muppets?”

“The Muppets!”

“Seriously?”

“You bet!”

And then I went into talking about fun and cheerful and sweet it was, full of colors and joy.

“It’s so great to see them all again! You know! The characters we grew up with!”

“They’re all there? Kermit? Miss Piggy? Those old guys? The Swedish Chef? They sing mana-mana?”

“Yes! All of that!” I smiled convincingly and added: “And they’re singing and dancing and once you see it all your misery and cynicism goes out of the window. This is the thing! Doctors should prescribe this to their patients!”

She gave me a long look and said: “I’ve never liked The Muppets. And I hate musicals. You know they sing and dance for no reason. It’s stupid.”

And then I didn’t know what to say anymore. I muttered an “oh” I think and then I went back to inspect the sad content of my lunch box. But inside myself I was still smiling. There was a muppet song for this situation too:

” I’m having a Me Party
A party by myself
A Me Party
I don’t need nobody else”

Honest and loving
I think what makes The Muppets to such a delightful movie is that the entire creation is vibrating with the love and enthusiasm that only a fan of the franchise is capable of. The story goes that this movie wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Jason Segel. And I buy it. This is more than a marketing device, more than just an effort to breathe some fresh air into the brand in order to sell some merchandise. It’s a dream coming true. It feels honest.

Does it work for a young audience? I don’t know. The fact that the movie had subtitles instead of dubbing suggests that the Swedish distributors don’t expect the toddlers to go and see it. On the other hand, the only screenings were in the afternoon in the weekend, which tells you that they expect families. Regardless of which intention they may have, there wasn’t a single child in the theatre when I watched it. Everyone who watched it with me was a grown-up, reconnecting with their childhood. I’m not sure if someone who never had heard of The Muppets would have quite as much fun with it.

Jack Black who?
The only minor complaint I have is an old one, a problem that isn’t new to me at all, since it often happened in the TV shows. It’s about the guests. Half of the times I had never heard of them.  For how famous they might have been in US, their fame hadn’t reached across the Atlantic and any references to their previous works were completely lost on me. Usually it was pretty OK anyway since they could sing and be somewhat funny. But I sensed that I was missing something and it was the same thing with this film.

You may laugh at me, but I had never heard of the celebrity guest, Jack Black. Perhaps that’s a horrible gap in my movie education considering how productive he appears to have been according to IMDb. But it must be the wrong kind of movies, because I’ve seen very few of them. I did see High Fidelity and I loved it, but to be honest I didn’t note him enough to remember his name.

However it’s not crucial that you know about Jack Black and there are several other celebrities around that even I could recognize, so it’s not a biggie.

The final question
One question remained as I lined up in front of the coffee machine to get finalize the lunch break with the mandatory cup to prevent the lunch coma:

“I reflect on my reflection
and I ask myself the question
What’s the right direction, to go
I don’t know

Am I a man or am I a muppet
(am I a muppet)
If I’m a muppet then im a very manly muppet
(a very manly muppet)”

I thought it over. Named Jessica and mother of two, I couldn’t possibly be a man, could I? That left me with one option. Muppet it was.

And I returned to my working place. On the outside I was a frustrated office worker with a Monday Blues. But hidden inside there was a singing and smiling muppet.

The Muppets (James Bobin, US, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

March 20, 2012 at 1:00 am