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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 resonance of Tyrannosaur

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It’s been over a week since I watched Tyrannosaur and it’s resonating in me, as mighty as the parent bell in the cathedral in my city, lingering in the air long after the ringing has stopped. It’s as if a dinosaur just had passed by, the ground still trembling with fear.

Let me be clear on this point though: giant lizards isn’t the topic of this film. It’s not a Jurassic Park wannabe. If you want to sort your movies into boxes, think rather in the terms of gritty British misery, like Mike Leigh in his darker moments. It hits some of the tones of Naked, but with a slightly brighter lining.

And I can’t stop thinking about it. The images are too strong, to vivid, impossible to watch, impossible to look away from.

If there’s anything I can’t stand watching on a movie screen, it would be cruelty towards animals and sexual and physical abuse of women. Tyrannosaur has both, in abundance.

Joseph and Hannah
Joseph is a working class man who drinks too much and is full of unspeakable rage. The only language he seems to know is violence. In one of the first scenes we see him beating up a dog until it dies. Then we see him mourning. It turns out that it was his own dog – and about the only friend he had in the world.

Hannah is on the surface better off, living a middleclass life in a nice house with a nice car, spending her days in a Christian charity second hand shop where he offers prayers to those who seem to need it. And that’s how she gets to know Joseph, as he one day stumbles into her shop, taking shelter from the world and from his miserable life.

But it doesn’t take long before it’s clear that for all her prayers and good heart, Hannah’s life is no better than Josephs. We realize this as we get our first glimpse of her husband, who on his late arrival at home one night walks up to the couch where Hannah is pretending to sleep and pees on her. It marks the beginning of a row of cruelties and acts of unspeakable humiliation that he puts her through. And like Joseph, she has no one to turn to ask for help.

Needless to say, Tyrannosaur is a tough watch. It’s also dealing with an old topic, domestic violence against women. Is it still worth watching? Yes, definitely, if you ask me. It would have a 5/5 rating for me, if it wasn’t for the last 10 minutes, which felt a little rushed, as if they’d suddenly run out of budget and wanted to put an end to it as quickly as possible.

Amazing acting
The quality of the movie isn’t as much about the story as it is about the amazing acting by Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman in the leading roles. They are multidimensional and go far beyond the cliché of the hateful, violent brute or the spineless, submissive victim. In the fear and weakness there’s also strength. In the aggression there are strokes of tenderness and love. I could swear that Joseph and Hannah exist for real, and that’s about as good as acting can get I guess.

Tyrannosaur made me go into places, getting to know people and environments that I usually would make big extra rounds to avoid at any costs.

And the bells keep ringing. Mostly in minor, but if I pay attention I can hear the major, hopeful and soothing.

Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine, UK, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

January 30, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Tyrannosaur