It's been a funny old year at the flicks. While nobody could label it a vintage one - granted, there have been some gems from seasoned professionals (Malick, Aronofsky, The Coens) and some newer names (Roeg, Alfredsson, Romanek) have attracted interest – it's been more noteworthy for the unexpected and the feather ruffling.
Among the many strange cinematic occurrences 2011 offered were: the first Martin Scorsese kids' film, a decent Planet of the Apes remake and that kind young chap from The Notebook being lauded for stamping on a man's head until it went all squishy. So without further ado, here's ten of the best of the year, some honourable mentions and some I still haven't had the chance to see.
10) Black Swan
As far as feather rufflers went, Black Swan was top bird. Madder than a bag of hammers and twice as blunt, Black Swan didn't give tu-tu shits whether or not people found it over the top. Embracing Nina's descent into craziness with open arms, Portman won and deserved every little statue lobbed at her. Works as a great - if slightly mood-killing - double combo with The Wrestler.
Memorable Line: “Touch yourself.”
Much more than just “a fiwum made by girly worlies that is funny wunny” Bridesmaids was the universal comedy of the year. Featuring some of the best set-pieces since Mary got spunk in her hair, Kristen Wiig nails it as the 'never the bride' stuck in a rut as everyone around her gets on with their lives. In Wiig and Maya Rudolph the film also finds the best duo of the year.
Memorable Line: “Sometimes, I just want to watch The Daily Show without him entering me.”
8) Blue Valentine
Nobody can compete with Ryan Gosling for Movie Man of the Year but his performance is only half of the reason Blue Valentine deserves to make it into the list. The other half is the equally brilliant Michelle Williams. Rather than being simply a bleak, depressing misery-fest the film is more of a warning of what-not-to-do when it comes to relationships. And The Daily Mail hated it for no discernible reason. Which instantly makes it worth seeking out.
Memorable Line: “So If I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all.”
7) The Guard
A blended Irish whisker away from matching his brother's classic In Bruges, John Michael McDonagh's debut brings to life this year's greatest character in Sergeant Gerry Boyle. If there was any justice in the world Brendan Glesson would be wearing a tuxedo exclusively during Awards Season.
Memorable Line: “I'd like to have a family someday but I'm too busy whoring around and getting fucked up at the moment.”
6) Animal Kingdom
Neighbours, everybody needs them apparently. Well, good ones anyway. But if bad ones like the Cody family moved in next door it's probably time to up sticks and move elsewhere. The Aussie thriller Animal Kingdom thrives on its unpredictability, a rare feat in the movie world of gangsters usually riddled with clichés. For anyone following Boardwalk Empire recently, you may want to add Jacki Weaver's 'Smurf' Cody onto your list of very, very, very, bad mothers.
Memorable Line: “It's a crazy fucking world.”
5) The Tree of Life
The most divisive thing since Captain Separator and his Scissors of Secession, Terrence Malick's Palme D'Or winner had everything including the kitchen sink. It was breathtakingly beautiful in its design, and knowing that the film was mostly autobiographical helped prevent it being too clinical. When a film provokes cinemas to warn stupid people they need their horizons opening, you know you're onto a winner.
Memorable Line: “I see my brother. True. Kind. He died when he was 19.”
4) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
An absolute smorgasbord of the greatest acting talent in the world make Thomas Alfredson's follow-up to Let The Right One In as worthy of inclusion in any Top Ten as his debut. Accusations of cold-heartedness couldn't be further from the truth. There is passion behind the eyes and suits of the "circus", it's just a passion for a country and a cause that has slowly ebbed away through time, until no-one, bar George Smiley - in a perhaps career best performance from the always incredible Gary Oldman - really knows what they're fighting for.
Memorable Line: “I don't know about you George, but I'm feeling seriously under-fucked.”
3) Never Let Me Go
A beautiful, touching film that will stay with you long after the popcorn has been swept away and the tissues binned. That it failed to find much of an audience may make some people doubt the success of the finished product. They shouldn’t doubt, they should instead seek the film out, view it for themselves and bask in an under-appreciated triumph. If history does indeed deem Never Let Me Go a failure, then may all future failures be this good.
Memorable Line: “We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time.”
2) Win Win
The dictionary definition of a gem. Thomas 'Scott Templeton from The Wire' McCarthy is now batting 3 for 3 in terms of writing/directing success. That the script and lead won't get any love come Awards Season is an indication of everything that is wrong with the world. Or maybe it's an indication that nobody saw it. A problem I suggest you rectify when it's out on DVD in the new year.
Memorable Line: “I just don't think beating the crap out of everybody is the best solution.”
Cultier than Jeffery Cult hanging out with Tom Cruise at a crap clothing store, Drive rounds off a year of movies that divided audiences like never before. Some saw it as a boring, arty, wank-fest, others chose instead to tick off its positives. Standout performances? Check. Gripping storyline? Check. Beautifully-shot? Check. Addictive soundtrack? Check. All the other myriad things that go to make an enjoyable and memorable movie experience. Check. Check. Check. And Check.
Memorable Line: “I don't sit in while you're running it down. I don't carry a gun. I drive.”
Honourable Mentions: Hugo, Source Code, Super 8, Page One: Inside the New York Times, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Project Nim, 50/50, The King's Speech, True Grit, Submarine.
Still To See: Snowtown, Senna, Melancholia, Kill List, Weekend, The Artist, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Please feel free to put in your two pennies but first a warning: I know Santa personally and anyone who writes “Where's BLANK?” and/or “You've forgotten SO-AND-SO” won't get any presents this year. Those that comment, “Personally, I really enjoyed BLANK” and/or “I would have included SO-AND-SO” gets one free Christmas Cookie. For me, the difference is astounding. So if you can find me before Dec 25th, I'll honour it.