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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?

My first 5/5 rated movie of 2012

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My firstborn daughter didn’t seem to want to be in this world for her first four months of her life. She had colic and she cried constantly – loud and heartbreaking. The only time she didn’t cry was when we put her in a car and went for a ride. It didn’t take two seconds before she was sound asleep and she kept sleeping until we stopped, when she woke up abruptly, ready for more hours of screaming and crying.

When Eva, the mother of Kevin in We Need to Talk about Kevin, stops by a jackhammer, seemingly getting a relief hearing the sound of the drill over the sound of her yelling son, I know exactly where she’s coming from.

In our case the problems were temporary. One morning our daughter’s stomach was back to normal, she stopped screaming and began to sleep, at least as much as other babies sleep. In a snap those horrendous months became just a far distant memory.

For Eva however, her problems have only begun.

She and Kevin just can’t connect, no matter how hard she tries. And Kevin certainly isn’t an easy child to love. He seems to have a dark passenger, but unlike Dexter he appears to lack a code of conduct keeping it under control.

Eventually something will happen that makes Eva’s life go from bad to worse. She’s going through events that are the worst a parent could imagine and she’s torn by guilt as well as the uncovered contempt and hatred of the people in the neighbourhood.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is the first movie I’ve watched in a theatre this year to get a 5/5 rating. It was an amazing movie experience and I’m pretty sure it will be in my top 10 list of 2012. And as so often happens to me when I really, really love a movie, I find myself in a tough spot to explain why. True love is wordless. But I’ll make a five list to at least give you a few ideas.

Five reasons to love We Need to Talk about Kevin:

1. Because of Tilda Swinton
I can’t imagine Eva in any other way than how Tilda Swinton played her. It’s an amazing performance, on par with for instance Michael Fassbender in Shame. It’s beyond my comprehension why she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

2. Because it’s beautifully cinematic
We Need to Talk about Kevin is the opposite of “filmed theatre”, which I talked about in a post a few days ago. It uses the film medium to its full potential, showing rather than telling. It’s a movie that speaks to all of your senses. Even if it isn’t a “4d” movie, it was so sensual that I almost could feel the smell of tomatoes and paint and jam in my nostrils. It’s a mosaic of impressions and fragments of memory, forming a picture that isn’t complete until the final shot. The cinematography is breathtaking. While the topic is serious, it’s a joy for the eye.

3. Because it offers a new approach to an old topic
The story about what Kevin eventually does is one that has been told several times before in movies. But this isn’t yet another movie in that genre. We Need to Talk about Kevin is more than anything else a movie about Eva. It’s about what has led her to the point where she is now; it’s about what’s going on inside her – her depression, her guilt and her frustration. And it’s about how other people react to Eva and how she reacts to them. This is a perspective that I hadn’t given much thought before, but which I think is necessary to talk about. It’s thought provoking. Many people hold for true that evil deeds is something that doesn’t come out of nowhere, that it’s something that is caused by a crappy childhood. But how true is that?

4. Because the artfulness never is allowed to overshadow the storytelling
While the movie is very artistically made, it isn’t cryptic, hard to follow, overly subtle, slow or ambiguous to the point that you don’t know what the movie was about, which unfortunately sometimes happen with small arthouse movies. We’re jumping back and forward on the timeline, but it’s never hard to figure out where you are. And there is an underlying tension that made me feel fully awake, alert and eager to see what would happen next. It offers the perfect balance between being artful and engaging.

5. Because it haunts me
Some movies are just for the moment. Others stay with you, haunting you for days, months or even years to come. I have no doubt that We Need to talk about Kevin is one of those that will stay with me. It’s not only the stunning images or the creeping personality of Kevin that lingers in my mind. It’s also the perspective. The entire movie is done from the perspective of Eva, just like Martha Marcy May Marlene took Martha’s perspective. This is her recollections, her way of watching reality. But if you asked someone else, you would probably get a different story and how would that look? How much of this is real and how much is just going on in her head? I’m still wrestling with the thoughts over it and if you split the ticket fee on all the hours I will think about it, it certainly gives good value for your money.

And I’ll leave it there for now but if you want to hear more about my love for this film, you can listen to an upcoming episode of The Matineecast where Ryan McNeil and I gush over it. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsey, UK, 2011) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

February 21, 2012 at 1:00 am