I like lists. And I like keeping a list of the things I’ve seen (at the cinema) and read in the last year. The ones that really make an impact tend to stay in my head anyway, but I have completist tendencies – and opinions…
I also find it fun, come BAFTA/Oscar nomination time to be able to rant about what didn’t get nominated and what did. It’s my own little not-quite version of the Kermode Awards. This year I am tickled pink that Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild have been nominated, baffled that Moonrise Kingdom only has a screenplay nom, and even more baffled by the Academy’s 10-slot list of Best Pictures ignoring such pieces as The Dark Knight and Skyfall. Admittedly I’ve not seen some of the films, but one of those two could easily be in slot number ten.
What you should see
* Moonrise Kingdom: aka, Scouting for Hipsters. Utterly delightful. I do like Wes Anderson (except for The Life Aquatic, really, where he seems to laugh at his characters, not with them). The young characters are perfectly awkward, pained and charmingly, and the adults are as gloriously eccentric as you would expect. Special mention to Ed Norton and his knee-high socks.
* Avengers (or, Avengers Assemble for those of us in the UK subject to stupid marketing): very possibly my favourite film of the year. A chunk of joyful, pop-cultural, highly quotable, entertainment. “His first name is Agent.” “He’s adopted?”
* The Muppets – “Are you a maaaaaan, or are you a muppet of a man?” I just loved The Muppets I loved the story, and the cameos, and the songs. Heck, I even enjoyed the Orange-Turn-Your-Phone-Off ads with the Muppets. That’s how good they are.
* Looper: Rian Johnson is rapidly becoming one of my favourite directors (after Brick and The Brothers Bloom). Looper is smart and brutal, and lets Time Travel be complicated.
* Beasts of the Southern Wild: with a nod to some of the criticism of the film’s approach to its submect matter (and remembering that the director, Benh Zeitlin, is barely 30), there’s a lot of magic going on in this film. If you’re not touched by Hushpuppy literally facing down her fears, then I think there’s something wrong with you. Or you’re too literal for magical realism.
* Amour: the first Michael Haneke film that has really spoken to me. Amour is rendingly painful and absolutely beautiful, and definitely about what it is to love someone fully and till death to us part. It won’t win the Oscar for Best Film, but it should.
What you might be surprised by
* Fast Girls – Better than it had any business being. Joyful Olympic accompaniment, and I wanted to jump up and cheer in the cinema.
* Haywire – Hugely fun kick-ass-woman led action movie. Pure entertainment, without being exploitative.
* Liberal Arts – So sincere it should have hurt, but in fact it was just utterly charming. Embrace classical music and growing up, acknowledge that Allison Janney is just phenomenal, and realise that maybe you don’t want to emulate David Foster Wallace’s life.
What you should avoid.
* War Horse – A lesser, more manipulative version of the play. Spielberg twangs every emotional string in the orchestra, and yet it’s not as affecting as the puppet horses on stage.
* Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Ugh. Maggie Smith’s a racist, but it’s ok, because she’s funny, and she gets better. I found this terribly painful.
* Bourne Legacy – Meh. The first three had a tension between the fact that Bourne had to go towards the people chasing him, while trying to escape them, in order to find out what was going on. Aaron Cross knows what’s going on, so it’s just running away. It’s not a franchise, it was one story that Paul Greengrass told really freakin’ well. Just stop now.
The List (with links to some of the stuff I’ve written this year)
Moonrise Kingdom – Snow White and the Huntsman – Avengers – Margin Call – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – The Artist – Carnage – The Muppets – Haywire – Coriolanus – The Descendants – Safe House – Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Cabin in the Woods – Fast Girls – The Amazing Spiderman – The Five-Year Engagement – Magic Mike – Friends with Kids – The Dark Knight Rises – Bourne Legacy – Brave – Looper – Premium Rush – Liberal Arts – Perks of Being a Wallflower – Skyfall – Argo – Beasts of the Southern Wild – Amour – Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – Lawrence of Arabia – Seven Psychopaths – The Hobbit