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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?

The victims of the gender sorting machine

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How do movies affect you in the long run? What traces do they leave in your being? Do they somehow change the way you see the world, do they leave a message you can’t completely disregard of?

In most cases I suppose they don’t. At the best movies make us laugh or cry a few times, offering a few hours of escape and entertainment. In worst case we’ll curse or scoff at them, feeling we could have spent the time in a better way. But we move on with our minds and values more or less unscratched and there’s nothing wrong about that.

However sometimes – on rare occasions – I come across a film that really leaves me thinking. A movie that puts a spotlight to a corner of life that I wasn’t aware of before. That kind of movie doesn’t make life easier; if anything it complicates things, adding nuances and perspectives. It provides questions rather than answers.

Tomboy is that kind of a movie.

Laure and Michael
It tells the story about the 10 year old Laure, who moving to a new neighborhood decides to present herself as the boy Michael. She/he spends the summer playing football, being “one of the guys”, while also spending time with the girl Lisa, who takes a fancy for Michael, who “isn’t like the other boys”. But the summer goes towards an end and the act will have come to an end, though not by the choice of Laure/Michael.

Roger Ebert claims that there isn’t any tragedy in this. “The world of these children is balanced at an age when identities are in constant formation. We’re not dealing with “Boys don’t cry””.

Now, I haven’t watched Boys don’t cry, so I can’t make that comparison. But my response to Tomboy was a bit different. The turn of events, while not completely without of hope of a better future, still left me devastated.

I cried over her parents, which are loving and kind, but a bit clueless about how to handle the situation. I cried because we live in a society that is like that toy where you put wooden pieces through holes into a box. There are only two sorts of pieces that will work – the accepted ones. And if you, like Laure/Michael, doesn’t fit into the hole, society takes the piece and cut it and tries to reshape it until it does.

This doesn’t just happen in extreme families and societies filled with crazy extreme religious bigots. This happens among normal people who consider themselves open-minded and liberal.  They don’t do it out of malice. But who is prepared to take the fight with the school to say that your daughter Laure wants to be a Michael, at least for a while? Would I do that? I frankly don’t know. This is how society is built. This is how we do it, how we’ve always done it. There are two genders – boys and girls. And don’t you dare try to go across the border.

I’ve always been opposed to generalizations and stereotyping about genders, either it comes from conservatives or ultra feminists. The idea that men are from Mars and women from Venus gives me rashes. What matters is that we’re human beings. Why do we necessarily have to do that sorting thing in the boxes? I think it hurts more than it helps.

Gender neutral pronoun
On the other hand I’ve never been a front line fighter, advocating complete gender neutralization.

In Sweden we’ve had a debate over the last year, where people have made serious efforts to launch a new, gender-neutral pronoun, “hen”, which is a mixture between “hon” (she) and “han” (he).

While the language obviously isn’t changing over one night, this idea seems to have had at least a little bit of success. For instance I’ve read articles about preschools, where the staff doesn’t say “he” or “she” anymore about the kids, but use this neutral word or other ways to describe them without making a statement about the gender.

To be honest, I’ve found the whole idea quite ridiculous. It seemed artificial and in worst case I thought it might give the kids ideas strange ideas about their sex being something shameful, “not-to-be-mentioned”.  It was like reducing the two holes in the box to one hole, when what we needed was a multitude of holes or even better – no bloody holes at all.

However now, with all those questions swirling in my head, I’m not so dead certain about this anymore. I’m still not convinced that gender-neutral pronouns is the way to go to help kids like Laure/Michael. But at least I won’t ridicule and completely dismiss the idea they way I used to.

Raising questions
Tomboy has given me a reminder about what pain and troubles the gender sorting machine causes in people’s lives, especially for kids.  While adults can face prejudices and difficulties too in some parts of the world, at least where I live, we grant them the right to dress as they want, to identify with the gender they want to, to go through surgery and name changes. But how do we grant kids the right to be who they are, to let their sense of belonging to a certain gender develop naturally from their inside rather than as a result of the pressure society puts on them? How do we give them space and freedom and prevent them from being locked into boxes solely depending on their name and the way they pee?

Those are questions that come into mind after watching this film. I don’t have any answers. But at least they have been raised. That’s a beginning.

Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, FR 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

April 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Tomboy, Uncategorized