Although Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 threatens to ruin it for everybody, I’d like to declare 2011 as a glorious year for film. We laughed, we cried, and we were touched by the depictions of vulnerable humanity we saw onscreen And that was just Hangover Part 2. Britain continued to produce films to entertain both the critics and the masses, proving that even for a small island with no notable industries, we still got game when it comes to cinema. And Ryan Gosling firmly established himself as the new “James Franco” when it comes to making us question our sexuality.
I’ve decided to write up my top 5 films of 2011. Obviously it’s subjective. I didn’t see everything this year. But I did go to Cannes Film Festival, so I probably do know more about film than you. I hope this inspires you to check out any you may have missed. So, in no particluar order:
1. The Tree Of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick)
The film that was 25 years in the making. I was lucky enough to see this in Cannes, and it genuinely felt like I was witnessing something unique and significant. It’s a film that at times is defeated by it’s own ambition, with the first twenty minutes proving too much for a lot of viewers, including my parents who walked out. But at it’s core it remains a mesmerising, beautiful, poignant and abstract exploration of human nature set to a wonderful score. Bold and true, there’s more life in this film than most of the rest of year’s releases put together and for that everyone should at least try to sit through it at least once.
2. Submarine (Dir. Richard Ayoyade)
A British comedy that took itself seriously. Beautifully shot, and set to a perfect soundtrack by Alex Turner, Submarine is a film that I’d love to have made if Richard Ayoyade hadn’t got in their first and done such a good job. Ironic, self-aware, but with an innocent, emotional heart, it’s the story of schoolboy Oliver Tate who is both trying to lose his virginity and save his parent’s marriage. I have a feeling that not many people got to see this a the cinema, but you should really track it down on DVD to see how unique and uplifting British film can be (even if it is heavily influenced by the French).
3. Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)
While all the cool kids climbed over themselves to “like” the stylish but emotionally void Drive on facebook, my favourite Ryan Gosling film of the year was Blue Valentine. A heartbreaking but life-affirming depiction of the breakdown of a relationship, it was a film that captured that human tendency to plunge headlong into a romance that is destined to end in heartbreak. Riveting perfomances from Gosling and Michelle Williams, I came out of the cinema with a feeling of intense sadness. Director Derek Cianfrance also introduced the world to Penny & The Quarters, and their beautiful song “You & Me” which summed up everything I loved about this film.
4. Tyrranosaur (Dir. Paddy Considine)
Deservedly a winner at this year’s Sundance, and directed by British Paddy Considine, this was a brutal but sensitive portrayal of a violent man on the edge. Fantastic acting from Peter Mullan and Olivia Coleman, the film unfolds against a bleak, uncompromising backdrop yet explores the uplifting potential for redemption in all of us. Peter Mullan’s Joseph also takes the 2011 award for character you’d least like to meet down a dark alley. You’ll never look at a pit bull the same way again.
5. Midnight In Paris (Dir. Woody Allen)
Hats off to Woody Allen. At 76 he’s still making personal movies full of intelligent, challenging and comic ideas. His latest one was incredibly close to my heart, with Owen Wilson playing a frustrated writer in Paris who may as well have been called Greg Ash. He finds inspiration by traveling back in time to the 20s, and meeting a parade of literary greats in the process. As is often the case with Allen his female characters here were a little flat and the ideas, at times, a bit laboured, but it was a hugely enjoyable flight of fancy set in one of my favourite cities in the world.
So this year really has been 2000 ‘n heaven for cinema goers. It’s inspirational to have so many unique and original films being produced despite Hollywood’s belief that we only like sequels. This was also the year where 3D was done intelligently, with Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten dreams and Scorcese’s Hugo proving the 3rd dimension is more than just a gimmick. Honourable mentions for Bridesmaids, The Fighter, Melancholia, and Emilio Estevez’s The Way. And also one of my favourites of last year, Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, which only got released in December 2010 so may have escaped under people’s radars.
It wouldn’t be a blog without talking about my own work. I’ve completed 2 short films this year “Mr. Mzuza” and “Fired!”, with a third one only a few weeks away. I’m happy to have been able to continue developing and learning as a director and telling stories that people seem to enjoy. I look forward to getting the chance to show them at festivals over the next year and maybe even producing something you’ll get to see at your local cinema.