Films of the Year – 2011

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but one year ago, in a fit of madness, I started a blog. In deciding to name that blog popcornaddiction, I hoped to convey not only a truth about my unrecommendable diet, but also aspects of my palette that were decidedly more cinematic.

I like my movies big, brash and full of the kind of high-octane emotion that leaves women crying incoherently on the floor and men spitting loudly into telephones. Although I like so savour masterpieces and worship at the feet of the auteur as much as the next person, my tastes are predominantly more mainstream. Having worked in a seven screened multiplex for most of my university career, I love nothing more than to have my blocks busted and popcon flicked by the latest tent-pole release.

I realise that this probably makes me less of a critic, and more of a drooling fanboy, but this is my blog and while I do pride myself on relatively broad horizons I have no intention of pandering to some ideal that dismisses 3D and thinks children’s movies are just for kids. As such, my favourite films of the year are unlikely to be representative of other bloggers, critics and journos, and for that I do not apologise. Other opinions are available, but in my own personal opinion they are wrong; X-Men: First Class was fine, Drive was perfectly alright and True Grit was, well, a bit rubbish actually For me it was a year notable for the welcome return of Scream, a surprisingly decent Footloose remake and – don’t judge me too harshly – the ludicrously entertaining Fast Five. In that vein, my pick of the year’s best are as follows:

10. The King’s Speech

I know The King’s Speech has undergone a bit of a kicking since its January release, but still, it won an Oscar didn’t it?  Tom Hooper’s film, which starred a stutteringly brilliant Colin Firth and a surprisingly sane Helena Bonham Carter, proved as profoundly moving as it did achingly funny. Aided ably by Geoffrey Rush’s elocutionist, the filmmakers managed to tell a grand story against a grandiose backdrop while maintaining a humour and humanity which managed to charm even the Fuck Police. A compelling script, subtle direction and triad of exceptional performances conspire to create one truly unforgettable movie with magisterial presence and timeless elegance.

9. Life in a Day

Life in a Day – the cinematic experiment executive produced by both Ridley and Tony Scott – is an extraordinary and ambitious insight into a day in the life of the human race. Compiling and consolidating over 4,500 hours of amateur footage, from 80,000 submissions and 140 nations, director Kevin MacDonald has created a coherent, compelling and delightfully accomplished snapshot in time, an invaluable time-capsule to chronicle the YouTube generation. Babies are born, deaths are mourned, teeth are brushed, animals are slaughtered, rituals are practised and crimes are committed. Thrilling, you might easily scoff. But it is.

8. Midnight in Paris

Having come to terms with the fact that I might never ‘get’ Owen Wilson, it certainly came as a surprise when a collaboration with Woody Allen had me drawn swiftly to my senses. Leaving the cinema at midnight, in Nice, I was utterly enchanted by this tale of nostalgia for some ever-changing Golden Age. Midnight in Paris tells its story with a verve and emotionality that handles the rampant nostalgia with expert precision, boasting enough wit, charm and cameos to keep even the stubbornest Francophile entertained, quickly atoning for the bloated pictorial prologue that precedes it.

7. Thor

The first of two fledgeling Avengers to receive the big screen treatment this year, Thor was always a much more intriguing prospect than July’s Captain America movie. Trapped in development Hell for years, it was always going to be a difficult endeavour breathing cinematic life into one of Marvel’s most outlandish properties, made ever more unfashionable with Christopher Nolan’s recent reign of darkness. With director Kenneth Branagh (an inspired decision on Marvel’s behalf) refusing to shy away from the goofier aspects of the character’s mythology, Thor is a very different – a very necessarily different – superhero movie. And it is all the better for it.

6. The Troll Hunter

Following a slight case of found-footage fatigue – hot off the tails as we are of REC and Cloverfield – you could be forgiven for thinking the genre overcrowded and the format flagging. Rather than feeling tired or derivative, however, The Troll Hunter is an engaging and innovative return to form for a technique caught up in an endless cycle of American remakes and Paranormal Activity sequels. Thrilling, funny and absolutely breathtaking, The Troll Hunter is an unmissable piece of stand-out cinema from director André Øvredal’s. Even if I’m still not entirely sure what it’s called (The Troll Hunter? TrollHunter?).

5. Melancholia

How many times has the world ended now? Ball-point figure? While we have seen it attacked by aliens, riddled with comets, conquered by apes, ravaged by virus and infested with zombies, I for one can’t say I have ever seen the end of the world through recognisably human eyes. Or through the eyes of anyone eighteen or over. While it is undoubtedly not for everyone, Melancholia is a masterpiece in mood and menace, building to a sense of completely hopeless acceptance as Dunst, Gainsbourg and Sutherland’s characters deal with the inevitable apocalypse in different and yet wholly realistic ways.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

To say I cried at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II would be an understatement of Grawp-like proportions. The biggest compliment I can bestow on this final chapter is that it hit me like a bat-bogey hex. It is testament to not only the work of Yates and his team of filmmakers – Alexandre Desplat, I love you – but the underestimated talents of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint that a story so high on Pumpkin Juice should ever deliver an emotional punch of such ruthless affect. As we leave Hogwarts for the last time – awash with rubble and barely recognisable – it is with the utmost closure on what really has been the motion picture event of a generation. I’m welling up again just thinking about it.

3. The Guard

I don’t really like comedies. I tend to find studio offerings like Tower Heist and Just Go With It too broad to make anything approaching an impact, while this year’s Bridesmaids embodied everything that isn’t funny about genre maestro Judd Apatow’s sense of humour (except the bit where they all shat themselves, LOL). John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, as with his brother’s sister movie In Bruges, however, managed to deliver solid, hearty laughs without ever resorting to the ruinously try-hard schtick that plagues most contemporary comedy. Lampooning cop shows, subverting comedy conventions and gently poking fun of Irish culture, The Guard was unarguably the most fun you were likely to have in the cinema this year.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

Something has happened. Something bad. Lynne Ramsay’s Kevin is – almost from birth – a truly terrifying creation. Ezra Miller’s performance is cold, calculating and counter-intuitively compelling; he is perfectly horrifying without once raising his voice, jumping out of the shadows or making that petrifying clicking noise attributed to cursed Japanese children. From its matter-of-fact title to Ramsay’s bi-linear adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s epistolary novel, this is no-frills masterpiece-making at its most devastating. There is no period dress, no operatic over-emotionality and no delusions of grandeur, just an exquisitely unrelenting build-up of tension that deserves – heck, demands – your recognition. All of it.

1. Super 8

Super 8 has it all: production values, solid stakes and performances that more often than not leave you utterly speechless. The film – both within the film and the feature itself – is as fun to watch as it looked to make, the nostalgia and unreserved love that has gone into each frame making it onto the big screen. In a sea of superheroes and sex-comedies, Super 8 is a breath of old air; compelling, heart-stopping and packing some seriously impressive performances, J. J. Abrams’ latest is the best Spielberg movie Spielberg never made. And then some.

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Life in a Day (2011)

On July 24, 2010, the denizens of planet earth were set a challenge. Asked to pepper YouTube with short films from a day in their lives, a melting pot of over 80,000 submissions was soon simmering online. Tasked with taking the footage and retooling it into a movie, Kevin MacDonald – with Ridley and Tony Scott on board as executive producers – set about crafting a movie designed to best showcase life in a day on our planet. From sunrise to sunset then, we witness all of the things that ultimately make us human, from the fulfilment of our base needs, to discussion of our loves and fears, to the miracles and tragedies that pervade every second of human existence.

As alarms ring out and weary feet meet the cold morning floor, all worries that a plotless, special-effects-less, melee of amateur home movies might struggle to compete with the usual barrage of summer juggernauts instantly subside. Life in a Day is anything but unstructured, with the careful selection and considered editing that has gone into the finished product lending it a pace and form all of its own. The film is bursting with characters too, with a number of individuals cropping up more than once in order to lend procedings a sense of continuity and consistency: a young shoe-shiner prepares for a day’s work; a man attempts to unite a divided Korea by circumventing the globe on his trusty bycicle – careless motorists permitting; and a mother convinces her son to partake in a family project in the hope of making the most of the little time she has left with those she loves.

The closest MacDonald comes to manipulating his charges is in the intermittent posing of questions – inciting confessions of a society’s greatest loves and fears, as well as the contents of each individual’s pockets – the answers ranging from the keys to a Lamborghini, a young girl’s “anti-evil eye protector” and an ageing farmer’s humbling declaration of nothing. For the most part, however, Life in a Day is a beautifully honest, uncontrived, relatively uncompromising depiction of our world, and all the worlds that ultimately comprise it. Babies are born, deaths are mourned, teeth are brushed. Animals are slaughtered, rituals are practised and crimes are committed. A man comes out to his grandmother, an adolescent experiences his first shave and a woman contacts her husband abroad. Thrilling, you might easily scoff. But it is.

While a few well placed prompts and some careful editing might sate the eyes, it is still difficult to imagine how MacDonald might hope to craft a fully fledged and duly satisfying cinema experience out of a few grainy YouTube clips and a gimmicky cause. The truth is he doesn’t. Luckily, however, Harry Gregson-Williams, Matthew Herbert and the film’s astonishing sound mixing department are on hand to compliment the selected footage with a compelling and delightfully eclectic soundtrack, successfully providing the momentum the visual content cannot. Initially sung by Ellie Goulding, the film’s original song – re-recorded and repeated throughout the feature – helps guide the overarching mood propagated by the filmmakers without ever intruding on what amounts to a surprisingly personal experience.

Ambitious by it’s very nature, Life in a Day is as memorably extraordinary and as fleetingly mundane as any average day in the life. While there will be those who criticise the film on behalf of its positive skew, the filmmakers do an admirable job of portraying humanity at its best and at its very worst, commendably free of a political, social or religious agenda. At times joyous, cringe-worthy, gruesome, funny, harrowing and – as one young man chronicles his romantic rejection – heartbreaking, Life in a Day achieves its goal beautifully, encapsulating 24 hours of human history and creating a unique time capsule for the future.

If this sounds like the movie for you, and you are likely to see it anyway, you can purchase tickets for Life in a Day here. Having partnered with YouTube and Vue cinemas, 25% of every ticket sold online will go to Cancer Research. So far I have raised £5.34, but let’s be honest – that wouldn’t cure meat. Let Kevin MacDonald make your day safe in the knowledge that you’ve made someone else’s in the process.

 

 

FILM NEWS: Help fund Cancer Research with VUE CINEMAS and Life In A Day.

Not a big fan of cancer? Like going to the cinema? Then do Vue have the film for you!

Vue Entertainment – in partnership with Ridley Scott and YouTube – are donating 25% of each ticket price to charity when you book to see Life In A Day: a depiction of life on July 24, 2010 which will act as a cinematic time-capsule for the future.

Due for release on June 17, 2011 – and directed by Kevin MacDonald from a staggering 80,000 submissions – Life In A Day tells the story of one day on Earth, and everything that might entail.

Book through my profile – which will redirect to the Vue website when you click “Buy Tickets Now”, allowing you to select a performance and subsequently pay as normal – and 25% of the money you spend will be donated to Cancer Research – my charity of choice.

It is a great opportunity to help save the world even as you watch its mysteries unfold on screen, making a difference by doing something you would be doing anyway without any extra cost to you. And, perhaps best of all, this way you don’t have to run a single inch.

Book now to donate: http://www.lifeinadayuk.me/popcornaddict