The end of the year is nigh, and it’s very much the season for list making. Top Fives, Top Tens, any kind of list that allows us to distill a years worth of ideas, culture, and experiences into short, manageable, portions.
Whilst my ego wants to throw it’s own hat into the social media ring the rest of me remains suspicious. I’ve seen a lot of films this year, including most but not all of the ‘list regulars’ & ‘awards worthy’. With twelve months behind me, and a wide array of movies digested, I doubt I have the clarity of mind, or recall to judge fairly. How can one measure Senna against The Skin I Live In? Midnight In Paris against The Tree of life? Shame against Attack The Block?
But that said I do have vivid memories of my reaction to a handful of films, that have taken me to new places, blown me away, and renewed my vigour for cinema. Many of these were seen at film festivals before too much hype spoilt the taste, and interestingly almost all of them I saw in the cinema. A space I still find that can transport me to new emotional states, and realms of thought. For me, and many others it’s a quasi-religious event. A Church. A space for reflection. In light of shrinking US cinema attendance this should be a call to arms. We must find a way to keep people watching these great movies in the cinema. In part to support our industry, but more importantly to ensure we maintain this particular cultural space, amidst the onslaught of distraction, that our world today brings.
Without including the film I produced the seven films that swept me away in 2011, in no particular order, are:
Medianeras - I saw this at Berlinale, with zero expectations. I loved it. A world away from all the other work I saw there this year (not including Late Bloomers, which I co-produced), it’s the funniest, most well crafted rom com I’ve seen for a very long time.
Septien - My (and many others) surprise film of SXSW. Brave, unique, and artistic direction from Michael Tully. It’s different, and you should see it.
Senna - A poignant, beautiful, brilliantly told story. For me it’s probably my film of the year, and I genuinely think Asif Kapadia should be receiving Best Director nods come BAFTAs, and even the Academy Awards.
Take Shelter - After failing to see Martha Marcy May Marlene in Cannes I settled for another less talked about film. Michael Shannon, and some actress called Jessica Chastain. The film blew me away. Literally. I walked back out onto the Croisette expecting a storm to roll in off the sea. Confident, powerful film making, from a very talented young director.
The Tree Of Life - Love it or hate it (probably both) it’s impossible to deny that this film works into the mind, and stubbornly stays there. It was with me for days, even weeks. If for no other reason than announcing Jessica Chastain to the world this was one of my movie moments of 2011.
Super8 & Attack The Block - I’ve put these two together, because the feeling they conjured in me was very similar. A longing for more films that are fun, innocent, with decent scripts, and good performances. Is that so much to ask for?
The Skin I Live In - I went to see this in my local cinema, and could barely stand up afterwards. It’s a master class in directing. Almodovar’s absolute control of suspense, empathy, and dramatic irony astonished me. Film students should be forced to watch this on repeat for days. In fact we should all do that. It would be better than film school.
Now, what did I forget…