Well its that time of year (again!) and that means more countdown lists and the inevitable debates/arguments which follow. Having figured out I have made around 20 trips to the cinema this year (I dread to think how much that amounts to financially) I thought I would look back on the last 12 months and give my top 5 favourite films as well as my top 5 disappointments. Maybe its a sign of my youthful ignorance but I cannot remember a previous year in which films featuring the elderly have made such an impact on me.
Films of the year:
1. Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood (in what he claims to be his last film) is superb as Walt Kowalski, the grumpy OAP who has to protect his home from local gangs as well as mentor the lost young Hmong neighbour. Themes of mortality, redemption and isolation are powerful throughout.
2. Up – Pixar’s latest offering is a surprisingly mature tale about another lonely old man searching for adventure. Possibly a candidate for ‘best Pixar film’ even surpassing both Toy Story and Finding Nemo
3. An Education: This period piece set in Twickenham in the early 60’s has a relatively simple narrative arc, yet shines with English charm and sophistication.
4. Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino makes a welcome return to form in this darkly comic “alternative” World-War 2 story. His ability to create tension purely through dialogue is perfectly captured in his latest effort. Special mention goes out to Christoph Waltz, possibly the most sinister Nazi since Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List.
5. Harry Brown – Described as a ‘British Gran Torino’, this emotionally raw tale of revenge never sugar coats the violence or patronises its audience. Michael Caine as the character of the title provides a suitably powerful performance.
1. 2012 – With a budget of around $260 million, 2012 is a big, bloated, boring mess of a film with massive special effects yet no sense of genuine danger or threat. Makes Independence Day look like a work of art in comparison.
2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen – Even more proof that massive special effects alone do not equal a good film. Where the original was a guilty pleasure, this sequel is just plain dull as well as immensely crude. Even the presence of Megan Fox could not save this stinker.
3. Watchmen – This adaptation of the 80’s graphic novel has an interesting concept yet feels far too long. Those unfamiliar with the novels are likely to find this a slog.
4. Fantastic Mr Fox – Wes Anderson’s version of Roahl Dahl’s childrens’ story would have been so much better had it had not been hijacked by a predominantly American cast. Ironically George Clooney is fitting as the fast talking, smart-aleck Mr Fox.
5. Terminator Salvation – This maybe stating the obvious but it is frankly not the same without good old Arnie. Christian Bale does another Batman impression as John Connor in a film with plenty of robots but little depth or heart. The franchise should have been left alone after the second instalment. Still, it is better than Transformers 2.