We are more than half way through 2012, and it is time to take a look at what the first six months have offered film lovers? Have we seen any master works yet? Anything that in twenty years will be deemed a cultural milestone?
There has been some great pictures released this year, and below, you can view my personal top ten.
Released earlier in the year to several good notices, “House of Tolerance” (2011), didn’t make much of a splash, but Bertrand Bonello’s drama feels at times like a documentary. It focuses on the days and nights of Parisian prostitutes at the dawn of the 20th century. It is not a film about sex acts, it is more about the business, daily activities, and regimes. The visuals were stunning without ever glamourising the nature of the material, in fact, they were used symbolically to highlight the hypocrisy and coldness of this world. The style and warmth is deceptive.
I first saw Adam Wingard’s superb “A Horrible Way To Die” (2010) at FrightFest (last year), but it didn’t get a released until March 2012. And even then, only on DVD. It stars the fabulous Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen. A few critics clearly didn’t get the vibe of this picture, and yet that is exactly what makes it so unique. A brilliant film!
“Damsels in Distress” (2011) is definitely an audience and critic splitter. It is Whit Stillman’s glorious comeback after a 13 year absence. And he and actress Greta Gerwig are a match made in heaven! The film is about campus life, packed with silliness, the odd musical number and plenty of hilarious dialogue. How can you not love a film, in which, the central character aims to start a new international dance craze? Do the Sambola!
Matthew McConaughey is sensational in William Friedkin’s strongest movie in years. “Killer Joe” (2011) is a comic tale of a complete and utter doofus hiring an assassin (played by McConaughey) to kill his mother, so that he can collect $50,000 of insurance money. Joe Cooper (McConaughey) is an incredibly complicated character, and yet somehow turns from villain to antihero in the space of one hour and forty minutes. This is without a doubt McConaughey’s best performance ever, and a reminder that when he wants to be, the guy can bloody act. This film also proves “Bug” (2006) wasn’t a fluke, and that William Friedkin has returned to form.
I’ve heard the director of “Storage 24” (2012) doesn’t rate Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s wonderful movie. Which is a bit rich coming from the director of “Storage 24.” Goddard and Whedon dissect the American horror genre for all its worth, delivering a film that will make you laugh hard and jump. Fans waited three years to see this flick, and many predicted it would be no great shakes. Turns out “The Cabin in the Woods” (2012) could well be a classic in the making, and the most outrageously postmodern film ever. It is a shame there were no “sexy witches”… Can’t have it all.
Released in the cold month of January, George Clooney and Alexander Payne’s charming Hawaii-set picture was packed with beautiful performances and excellent comedy. Some sneered that it was just another tale about a rich white dude having a trauma, but look beyond the materialistic nonsense. It is actually a story about loss and facing responsibility. Clooney was on fire as Matt King, a closed off sort that is forced to connect with his two daughters after the death of his wife. Payne also cleverly utilised Haiwaiian cliches and then ditched them for an autumnal vibe which made “The Descendants” a post-Christmas cracker.
Released by New Wave Films back in February, this Bruno Dumont feature has been around since 2009, and many British film-goers assumed it would remain unreleased over here. “Hadewijch” is the story of a young radical girl whose religious strife and spiritual torment begins to take increasingly sinister turns. Shot in 4:3 (which is unusual for Dumont) by Yves Cape (an excellent DOP), and featuring a super lead performance. It is an exquisite piece of cinema that lingers long in one’s mind. “Hors Satan” is also due at some point this year.
In 2011, I saw “Shame” at the Stockholm Film Festival (in the lovely Skandia theatre on Drottinggatan). After the walk back to the hotel, through chilly medieval streets, I thought to myself “That is the work of a filmmaker, whereas ‘Hunger’ was the work of an artist taking fine steps into directing.” Yes, I just quoted myself. Michael Fassbender is on fire as a lonely tosser named Brandon (often literally because he likes wanking), and he is faced with the disturbance of his suicidal sister who pitches up at his doorstep. “Shame” is a movie that everybody agrees is fantastic. Michael Fassbender is German-Irish and not British (yes, I’m looking at you “Best British Actor” award).
People will probably think “What the fuck?” But I loved “Prometheus” (2012). Yes, the script was a bit shoddy and people jumped on plot holes like hyenas tearing up a rotting carcass—but cinema is primarily a visual medium, and boy were the visuals grand! Arthur Max’s production design was aces and the general plot was captivating. This is Ridley Scott’s return to science-fiction after 30 years, and it is fantastic and offered cinemagoers more than just an “Alien” re-run. He replaced the fear factor with a sense of wonderment, while still delivering a horror element to things. Instead of “Alien” part 2, we got a movie set in the same world and focusing on the space jockey race and its story. Humans, it seems come from neither God nor ape, but celestial visitors who also want to wipe us out for some reason. Michael Fassbender was brilliant once again. In ten years time, this will sit proudly alongside “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”
“Haywire” (2011) is a good example of taking B movie material and injecting some grade A move star steroids. Gina Carano could be the best ass-kicker since Cynthia Rocked The Roth. I mean Cynthia Rothrock. But there’s something smarter and hotter about Carano than her fore … mothers in action? She can do glamorous and get down with the rough stuff. I would recommend she stops the MMA fighting because she might end up looking like Ricky Hatton, and who’d want that? She kicked the shit out of Michael Fassbender’s shady spy Paul, in one of the film’s best scenes, and proved that Carano could become a new Hollywood hero. Let’s face it, she hasn’t got much competition. Plus “Haywire” had a kick-ass giallioesque score courtesy of David Holmes and Soderbergh whom brought some whip-smart style to a tired genre. Some consider it no great shakes, but I’m a big fan of “Haywire.” Plus the posters were cool and the tagline, too: “They gave her no choice.” Plus Antonio Banderas rocked it with a great big bushy beard.
Let’s see where these ten movies stand in six months time…
Credits: Film stills © respective owners Article republished from Cinemart.