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My Best of 2011: Drive & Neon Noir…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Drive is number one. Check out my original review here.

If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive isn’t a revolutionary film. It isn’t bold or original or highly inventive. Instead, it’s just a wonderfully effective neo-noir with its vibrant colours and synth soundtrack calling back to crime films of the eighties, featuring a confident performance from Ryan Gosling as the archetypical male crime lead. Gosling is strong, stoic, silent, yet strangely sensitive as the eponymous stunt driver, who moonlights with various illegal extra curricular activities. Here, Refn manages to out-Mann Michael Mann, producing a film that seems more like the spiritual successor to Miami Vice than Mann’s own film of the same name. It’s a brutal, brilliant and stunning film. And, while it faced stiff competition from the second and third films on this list, it’s with some confidence that I recommend it as my favourite film of the past year.

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My Best of 2011: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy & the Upstanding Britishness of it all…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is number two. Check out my original review here.

I can understand why some people were a bit disappointed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. After all, the trailer did try to sell the film as a bit of a high-tension action movie with a deft touch of British class, sort of like Jason Bourne meets To The Manor Borne. It’s easy to see why some people might have got the wrong impression of a movie that sold itself as an “espionage thriller”, the type of film that typically features moments on incredible suspense, nice outfits, exotic locales and the fate of the entire world in the balance. Obviously, nobody was expecting anything quite as showy as James Bond, but perhaps they anticipated a more sophisticated version of that type of adventure – without the gadgets and the supervillains and outlandish stunts, of course. However, instead of the “sophisticated James Bond”, la Carré writes what might be best classified as the “anti-James Bond.”

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My Best of 2011: Midnight in Paris & “Diet” Woody Allen…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Midnight in Paris is number four. Check out my original review here.

I’ve been mulling this over since I had the chance to see the film back in August. I think that Midnight in Paris might (just might) be my own favourite Woody Allen film, without any of the usual qualifiers attached. It is my favourite Woody Allen film of the decade, and my favourite one set in Europe, but I’m growing increasingly comfortable just stating that as an absolute. I, personally, prefer it to Manhattan or Annie Hall. I can’t explain it. As I noted in my piece covering True Grit as my eighth favourite film of year, perhaps it’s just that my internal “quality Woody Allen film detector” is broken. After all, I liked – rather than lovedVicky Christina Barcelona, so what do I know of Woody Allen?

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My Best of 2011: Thor, Daddy Issues & The Triumph of Optimism…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Thor is number five. Check out my original review here.

This is perhaps one of my “what the…?” picks, one of my choices that will seem especially random, and a blockbuster highly unlikely to show up in any other critic or commentator’s “best of 2011” of “end of year” countdown lists. However, I think there’s a lot to like about Branagh’s adaptation of Marvel’s faux-Shakespearean hammer-wielding Norse God, and I think it works so well because Branagh seems to acknowledge the same sentiment that Stan Lee tapped into when creating The Mighty Thor: the idea that superheroes are a modern American mythology, a vehicle with which to explore the hopes and fears of the modern world through a fantastical prism, something that can be traced back to the pantheon of old. While the best superhero films explore this sense of relevance, I admired the way that Thor managed to embrace it in the most abstract manner, tracing it back to that earliest and most basic type of story: the story of fathers and sons.

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My Best of 2011: Black Swan & The Elevation of Schlock…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Black Swan is number six. Check out my original review here.

It’s interesting, how one can end up loving the same films, for very different reasons. I suspect that a great many critics and commentators lavish praise on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan for its elegance and sophistication, which I appreciate and admire. There’s a lot to love about the film. However, my own appreciation of the movie seems to be for a very different reason. I think that what makes Black Swan so utterly compelling is the fact that it’s essentially a classic horror movie elevated to the status of fine art.

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My Best of 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes & Hailing Caesar…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is number seven. Check out my original review here.

If you had told me last year that one of the best summer blockbusters would be a prequel to The Planet of the Apes, I would have laughed at you. Hell, I’m still chuckling a bit now, trying to get over how such a strange concept on paper managed to work so well. After all, a movie about a bunch of damn dirty CGI apes taking their share of the planet from us humans, led by a chimpanzee on Alzheimer’s medication, sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And yet, for some reason, it works incredibly well. I’ll concede that the plot is a bit ropey, and the human characters are quite underdeveloped, but I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed to grab its audience so well purely because it creates a fascinating and compelling three-dimensional lead character who we completely understand to and relate to.

Did I mention that the lead character is a CGI ape?

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My Best of 2011: True Grit & The Art of Modesty…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

True Grit is number eight. Check out my original review here.

Collective consensus is a funny thing. It pops up quite quickly and quietly, in the strangest sorts of places and the strangest sort of way. The Coen Brothers are respected filmmakers, to say the least. Even when a project of their doesn’t quite come off as smoothly as one might expect, it’s still compelling viewing. However, as with any other directors, there are greater films and there are lesser films. And there are those that sit in the middle. True Grit, for most critics, seems to sit firmly in the middle.

But not for me.

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