The best films I saw last year were the unscrupulous Alec Guinness-soaked Kind Hearts and Coronets, the irresistible Bringing Up Baby and Duck Soup. Alongside these vintage comedies, Senna bewitched, The White Ribbon unnerved in black and white, and, having finally got round to watching it, The Shining proved to be truly original. And you don’t need me to tell you that Seven, Memento and L’Avventura are all must-sees.
I enjoyed watching where Kubrick came from through his early films, while another favourite director, Malick, beguiled with Days of Heaven and the Palme D’Or winning Tree of Life. In contrast, Herzog began to seem small minded and unhinged, and Allen’s Vicky Cristina was an ugly cliché, a crude rip off of Almodovar.
Inevitably, as a dad, I witnessed countless children’s movies, half of them rubbish; it’s a shame that the Narnia and Harry Potter series don’t seem to fly. Coraline, on the other hand, is a sinister delight. The biggest surprise was Mr Bean’s Holiday and it’s good to know that Bugsy Malone has still got it.
So that’s another year gone. My Twitter reviews are below. Follow @gabrielsmy for more of the same in 2012, and let me know what films I shouldn’t miss.
Twitter film reviews 2011
First film of 2011 the delectable Royal Tenenbaums. Fast becoming a most-watched. New things each time, glorious pathos.
Despicable Me (Illumination 2010)**** Carell-voiced animation full of giggles. More for kids than adults but effortlessly amusing all round.
Mr Bean’s Holiday (Bendelack 2007)**** Strangely, taking Bean to the big screen produces a gem. Sweetly done and funny.
Broken Embraces (Almodovar 09)**** Relationships bolero around magnetic central tryst, as a friendship quietly holds it all together.
Stroszek (Herzog 77)**** Humble tragedy, as downtrodden Berliners go to Wisconsin to fade. Eccentric, downbeat; unforgettable final scene.
Duck Soup (Marx bros 1933)***** ‘Where is your husband?’ ‘Why he’s dead.’ ‘I bet he’s just using that as an excuse.’
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy 10)*** Quirky, palatable graffiti art documentary that sadly doesn’t reflect well on anybody in the end.
True Grit (Coens 2010)**** Straight-told Western, keen & out-loud funny from characters’ wooden delivery. Lead trio and scenery magnificent.
Rewatching ’Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ draws out the gritty performances and astonishing script. Genius. Choose love.
Encounters at the End of the World (Herzog 2007)** A documentary that stays in the literal shallows, and the human ones too. Disappointing.
The Order of the Phoenix (Yates 2007)*** A break in the darkening flow of Harry Potter films. Straightforward, satisfying; rewarding CGI.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Yates 2009)** The one with all the snogging.
Just watched Back to the Future with Mary and 3 engrossed little boys. The tension was remarkable. What a brilliant film.
Infidel (Appignanesi 2010)**** Brit comedy that mocks Muslim and Jewish religion from the inside, brilliantly carried by main actor.
Hellboy (del Toro 2004)** One for the fantasy horror fans. I liked the Indiana-Jonesy bits, less so the X-Men allusions. All a bit daft.
Also, boys have been watching Tales From Earthsea by Miyazaki’s son. Reviews were tepid, but looks good from the snippets I’ve seen.
Black Sheep (King 2006)*** Killer sheep on the rampage in this Kiwi horror mickey-take. Fond genre allusions and funny script. Good laugh.
Voyage of the Dawntreader (Apted 2010)** A better tale than Caspian but suffers from same identity crisis. Adventures but little soul.
Rewatched Barton Fink. Said to Mary: ‘as a writer this is so painful to watch.’ She said: ‘it’s painful to watch anyway.’
Rewatched Charlie’s Angels. Beginning to see the seams. Actually, it was mostly seam.
Senna (Kapadia, 2010)***** Emotional documentary, falling in love with Ayrton knowing that he’s going to die. Fast, triumphant, beautiful.
Brazil (Gilliam 1985)*** Excitable dystopian scifi satire w/ British comic cameos (& De Niro!) slams bureaucracy. Flash Gordon meets 1984.
Coffee & Cigarettes (Jarmusch 2003)**** Visually plush shorts of celeb self-parody. Waits, Coogan, Molina, Blanchett, Wutans & Murray best.
When Harry Met Sally (Reiner 1989)**** Sharp & witty comedy. That’s where Billy Crystal got his reputation! (Unlike Carrie Fisher).
Kind Hearts & Coronets (Hamer 1949)***** Pacy, wry, superbly delivered. Best Ealing comedy. Remarkable performance(s) from Alec Guinness.
Days of Heaven (Malick 1978)**** Uses acting instead of words – and place instead of scenes – to depict moving story about love & isolation.
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks 1938)***** Riotous romcom, pelts through the verbal & visual gags with charming characters & lots of shrieking.
Seven (Fincher 1995)**** Visceral thriller that deserves ‘modern classic’ for uniquely drawn characters, 90s styling and elaborate conceit.
L’Avventura (Antonioni 1960)**** Slow masterpiece about disaffected socialites who cannot love. While ingenious, hard to love itself.
Tree of Life (Malick 11)**** Theological narrative: creation to reconciliation (minus Christ) with 1 family’s grief as e.g. Yes, like Job.
Titus (Taymor 99)*** Bard’s most violent play suits the big screen. Cast is superb in anachronistic, freakshow style that emphasise REVENGE.
Coraline (Selick 09)**** Gothic kids animation. Visual treats, charming characters, buttons for eyes. With live actors it wd be terrifying.
Solaris (Soderbergh 2002)*** No doubt incomparable to original, yet this sci-fi is moody, stylish & disconcerting in good measure.
Meanwhile, Ace Ventura II prompts many questions among the kids, such as ‘what’s a virgin?’ and ‘what’s he doing under those covers?’
Curious Case Benjamin Button (Fincher 2008)**** Despite Gump-ish sentimentality, an affecting meditation on death, aging, love and dignity.
The Assassination of Jesse James (Dominik 2007)*** Cinematography and acting are stunning but long story loses its grip frequently.
The Shining (Kubrick 1980)***** Much emulated and hyperreal horror story still terrifying to watch. A masterpiece of film technique & drama.
The Killing (Kubrick 1956)*** Heist movie with Hitchcockian moments. A dated but satisfying romp.
Killer’s Kiss (Kubrick 1955)** A handful of remarkable scenes and moody shots in a noir that doesn’t quite hang together.
Watched The Darjeeling Limited again and loved it. Why did I not care the first time? Because I wasn’t a Wes Anderson fanboi back then.
I HATE to admit this, but the first Alvin and the Chipmunks was okay. Jason Lee carried it.
Black Swan (Aronofsky 2011)**** Intense, classical tragedy about drivenness & perfection with astonishing performances by Portman & cameras.
Harry Potter 1 (Columbus 2001)*** In light of later films, 1st is innocent, steady & charming. Still too scary in places for 8-y-old though.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Allen 09)** Ludicrous voiceover & characters’ Allen impressions kill any eroticism. A sketch for a better film.
The White Ribbon (Haneke 2009)***** Masterfully tense and exquisitely composed black & white period film teetering on horror’s edge.
Memento (Nolan 2000)**** Far easier to understand 2nd time. Still a gripping conceit & style, fulfilled by Pearce’s brilliant performance.
Mad Max (Miller 1979)**** Cartoonish, noisy, visceral, dystopian Aussie action. “Cult” – it appeals more out of its time. Hello Mel Gibson.
Once Upon a Time in America (Leone 1984)**** Leone’s swansong is NY gangster Ring-cycle. Masterfully, consummately, marvellously too long.
Rewatched Peter’s Friends. Overscripted and overacted but still enthusiastically delivered and moving. Made me cry, anyway.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman 1971)**** A frontier film all about atmosphere. Beautifully underwritten. Shame about rough production.
Tamara Drewe (Frears 2010)**** Sweet, funny, English. Possibly overrating this because I want a writers’ retreat in the country.
Bolt (Howard/Williams 2008)** Generic kids’ animation. We were all disappointed it wasn’t about a real superhero dog.
Rango (Verbinski 2011)*** Exquisite animation style and sound. Funny characters. But plot is basic
Bugsy Malone (Parker 1976)***** How to make magic: make a musical of kids as prohibition gangsters with custard guns. Simple.