Best of 2011: Film
Here are the YKTS films of 2011:
The most refreshing aspect of Farhadi’s A Separation is the way it details everyday Iranian life, without resorting to the commonly courted media stereotype of a pariah, sinister state. Although religion and politics do bubble quietly beneath the surface, subtly influencing the narrative; the film sucessfully maintains focus upon the simplistic strength of family and human emotions despite the complex, often conflicting framework.
After 14 years of marriage, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) want to split. Thier reasons for doing so lie with conflicting family loyalties rather than an absence of love. Simin wishes to move abroad in order to give thier intelligent 11 yeor old duaghter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) the best possible oppourtunity to fulfil her potential. Nader holds the same ambitions, yet finds himself constricted by his elderly father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is in need of constant care. As tensions boil over, fuelled by the aformentioned religious undercurrents, we are presented with a modern family, facing modern problems in a juxtaposing culture. Thanks to wonderful, emotive performances and a fantastic script we are led to understand the rationale behind the different characters’ actions, whilst remaining frustrated at the comparatively irrational consequences.
A Separation is unashamedly challenging and intense, woven together by some close, claustrophobic camerawork that adds to the sense of realism. Farhadi has managed to mould the most accurate picture of Iran in recent years by presenting honest life, not nuclear bombs and radicalism.
A wonderfully naturalistic film, Weekend presents the delicacy of whirlwind romance perfectly. After a night of drinking Russell (Tom Cullen) meets Glen (Chris New) and over the course of the next 48 hours the pair find thier perspectives changing, about themselves as much as toward one another. The script is deceptively simple but becomes incredibly multi-layered thanks to the intensely dynamic, character driven performances.
Weekend was the best romantic comedy-drama of 2011 and can resonate with audiences straight or otherwise. This is how is should be because, ultimately, the themes explored are universal.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Simply, the installment that finally got the balance right and did the Harry Potter saga justice: respecting the darker, philosophical nature of the storyline.
Still, read the books first!
Eccentric, small-town Irish police officer, Gerry Boyle, is a character who fits Brendan Gleeson like a second skin. The dry humour that pervades the film is something you feel comes naturally to him; it is the embodiment of what you would expect from a man of his appearance. Yet, as much as the film generates laughs by playing up to stereotypes, it is the contrasts, specifically between Boyle and F.B.I agent, Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), which offer the most satisfying moments. The pair are brought together to tackle an impending drug trade, larger in scope to the usual petty crime. Boyle tells us all we need to know about his unconventional approach during the opening scene which sees him witness a high speed crash, rather than try to save the teenage victim, Boyle searches him for drugs he can steal. Therefore, even if the good-cop/bad-cop routine may be well-worn territory, The Guard positions itself as Lethal Weapon with the shackles off, at least concerning dialogue. After all, you would not find this comment in your mainstream comedy.
Thankfully, the comedy also doubles as an engaging drama. Boyle is a man of realistic moralism, a good heart submerged under the brashness. His mother, Eileen Boyle (Fionnula Flanagan), is dying in a retirement home, but acts as a great verbal sparring partner for Gerry during his frequent visits. Indeed, their relationship sums up the film: never judge a book by its cover.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Based on the novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a brilliantly executed psychological thriller. The plot revolves around the acrimonious relationship between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her first born son, Kevin (Ezra Miller). The depth of malevolence only grows, eventually suffocating the wider family unit, especially since Kevin fosters a much stronger bond with his father, Franklin (John Reilly). As the title suggests, the couple always fail to talk about Kevin: Eva accuses, Franklin defends. The situation worsens following the birth of their second child, Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich) who Eva feels is the child she has always wanted. Whether this connection was only made possible through Kevin’s existence is up to interpretation, regardless, it serves to fuel his sense of isolation; the outcome of which reveals itself in the most heinous terms.
Director, Lynne Ramsey handles the complexity of the perspective detailed in the book very well, switching between Eva’s desolate, broken present and the fractured memories of her past with consummate style. Throughout, the colour red acts as a motif for the foreboding violence, angst, guilt. The success of such ambitious project hinges on Swinton’s performance and fortunately, she is more than up to the task, also bringing the best out of Ezra.
A potent analysis of every parent’s worst nightmare, looked upon in a creative terms, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a triumph.
The King’s Speech
Outstanding individual performances define this biopic of George IV from British director Tom Hooper. Nonetheless, many of the factors behind the phenomenal worldwide success of The King’s Speech, such as its pandering to nostalgic views of the British and its monarchy, are perfunctory to what really makes the film stand out: a true story of a man with a stammer gaining control over his affliction. The fact that this man happens to be King, at a time when he is explicitly required to lead his country through war by offering words of courage and defiance, adds undoubted melodrama. However, The King’s Speech never forgets it’s fundamental narrative; thanks to Colin Firth’s excellent portrayal it is all the better for it.
Perhaps the true genius lies in the fact that the film transforms what is an otherwise intensely personal demon into something everybody can relate to.
E.T was shown on TV over Christmas and, whilst it remains the benchmark for family sci-fi movies, 2011′s Super 8 runs it close. Given the similarity in subject matter: an alien, burgeoning adolescence, young love, family breakdown and the failure of adult emotionalism, such comparisons are to be expected; especially since Spielberg holds executive production credits. In some ways it is true, the film is as retro as its influences, reliant on the magic of the human relationships rather than brainless explosions attempting to stupefy the audience (yes, Michael Bay I am looking at you). This is not to say Spielberg shies away from the CGI set-piece, far from it, an awe inspiring train crash sets the plot into motion. The difference is, Spielberg and J.J. Abrams ensure the storyline holds primacy – a group of creative kids caught up in their own imagination.
In summary, Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) school breaks up for summer 1979. His friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths), a budding film-maker, convinces Alice, the unassuming local heart-throb (Elle Fanning) to be the protagonist’s wife in his low-budget zombie movie to be shot on Super 8 film which he wants to enter into a local film festival. Alice appropriates her father’s car and takes Joe, Charles, Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), and Cary (Ryan Lee) to an old train depot where the group plans to film a scene. Due to a bizarre turn of events they become the kids “who know too much”.
The ingredients all come together to form a medley of tropes from Spielberg’s prime in the late 70′s. This is one nostalgia trip worth going on.
It’s as funny as you’d expect it to be awful. Bridesmaids is what Sex And The City could have been if it were British, or to put it another way, an intelligent Essex girl with standards.
A kooky coming of age comedy which offers as much substance as it does style. Think elements of Holden Caulfield placed in a context akin to Gregory’s Girl. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) holds two objectives, saving his parents marriage and losing his virginity before his next birthday, preferably to Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige). In between times he faces up to the unsettling conflict between his own self perception and the way the world sees him. Funny, engaging and timeless, Submarine is a must see. You’ll instantly recognise either yourself, or someone you know.
Ryan Gosling’s powerful yet ice cool demeanour works perfectly in this stylish, action thriller directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. An incredibly talented stuntman, he soon finds himself driving for his life. Mixing the best of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen with an edgy art-house inspired sheen that references early Tarantino, this is a wonderfully crafted piece of art. Carey Mullligan, playing Irene, is also excellent as the love interest.
Do you agree? Have any films been missed? Post your thoughts below