Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Halfway Through 2010: The Best Movies

It's that time of year, I hear. Near enough the halfway point: the perfect opportunity to take stock of what 2010 has given us so far. What we should be grateful for, what travesties we wish we'd had the foresight to avoid. I'm going to run down my personal top five books, video games and movies - in that order - published or otherwise released between January 1st and June 30th. There'll also be a space for honourable mentions - as in, things I've loved that either came out before the period of eligibility began or else haven't yet hit shelves or home consoles or multiplexes - as well as worst disappointments, and any glaring oversights for each medium of entertainment.

Yesterday, we kicked things off with my favourite books of the year to date. Today, we're talking movies. You know: moving pictures. Sometimes based on books! They've gotten to be quite a trend, of late.


Five Favourites

5. Kick-Ass
dir. Matthew Vaughn

Now I had problems with Kick-Ass. I caught a bit of flack for my issues with the latest collaboration between Stardust's writer/director team, in fact, but however uneven its narrative felt, however schizophrenic its tone, there was a lot to love about Matthew Vaugn and Jane Goldman's self-aware superhero satire. In particular, Hit-Girl and her dad - Nic bloody Cage, believe it or not, in his best role since the good old days. A movie with real heart.

4. Cracks
dir. Jordan Scott

Bond girl Eva Green is Miss G, the swimming teacher who sets the cat amongst the pigeons in Cracks. A story of jealousy running rampant among the girls of an elite British boarding school in the mode of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Jordan Scott's directorial debut immediately places her above her father, Ridley Scott, in the talent stakes, and certainly her uncle Tony. The sexual tension is unbearable despite the absence of any explicit scenes, the performances are powerful and the composition is pitch-perfect. Look out for a full review of Cracks in the near future.

3. Ondine
dir. Neal Jordan

Another somewhat flawed film here - the last act somewhat shatters the moody seaside idyll Ondine works so hard to achieve - but a wonderful watch nevertheless, honest and dreamy and beautiful. From its haunting score to its muted aesthetic, Neal Jordan's latest, a selkie fable set in a left-behind fishing village in Ireland, stands shoulder to shoulder with his greatest. And newcomer Allison Barry is a joy to watch as Colin Farrell's brave, disabled daughter. Did I mention that in my review?

2. micMacs
dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Should have a review of this one up in the not-too-distant. In the meantime, I'll say that the latest from Jean-Pierre Jeunet doesn't quite live up to the innocent wonder of Amelie, but it easily exceeds Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children and A Very Long Engagement. Basically it's brilliant. Tight, colourful and visually stunning, micMacs is the greatest farce in recent memory, and a reminder of what cinema can be when those who create it aren't overburdened by the misguided notion that all good film is deathly serious and abominably clever. Which isn't to say micMacs is lacking in the smarts department, nor is it short a few serious moments; the palette of Jeunet's latest is just more expansive than that. A real treat.

1. Shutter Island
dir. Martin Scorsese

At last, Leonardo DiCaprio has grown up! Martin Scorsese has given him chance after chance, and though all of the films the pair have made together have been worth watching, Shutter Island, based on the book by Dennis Lehane, has to be the highlight of them - surpassing even The Departed, and certainly boasting a more mature performance from its unfortunately baby-faced leading man. A real mindfuck of a movie. You might see the twist coming, but you won't be able to fathom its repercussions. And the end... simply sublime.

Runners Up

I didn't used to hate Johnny Depp. Not that he's in The Book of Eli, but he starred in the Hughes brothers' last film, From Hell, and I kind of liked From Hell. Perhaps it was the Alan Moore connection, or Daddy Borrower as the big bad, but I had fun. The case with The Book of Eli is much the same. Denzel Washington does his usual - pleasant and mildly commanding - Gary Oldman is excellent as always, and the Hughes brothers bring it in terms of style and panache. Not hugely memorable - except the dreadfully predictable twist - but a good time nonetheless.

Honourable Mentions

The Road isn't quite up to snuff when you compare it with the ubiquitous book on which it's based, but with this bleak, washed-out post-apocalyptic tale of survival against all the odds, the director of The Proposition again shows himself capable of bringing out the best in the worst. Viggo Mortensen equips himself well at the man, but he's outdone but some stellar supporting actors, and undone, ultimately, by the boy's uneven performance. Still, a fine film, and a far more faithful adaptation than I'd imagined (review).

Worst Disappointments

Daybreakers starts brilliantly, stylish and promising, before descending immediately into B-grade territory - a real waste (review). Alice in Wonderland, on the other hand, disappointed me more, I think, because as ever with new Tim Burton films, I'd such high hopes. Short of the lovely Mia Wasikowski as Alice, however, his latest was very much in the mode of the forgettable, if visually impressive movies he's been making for the last decade, and that's just not what I want from Tim Burton, damn it. At least it wasn't a straight-up retelling of the old story; there's that.

Glaring Oversights

A word of explanation: I'm not really the cinema sort. I've got a big old HDTV and a great surround sound system, so movies have to be something special for me to make the effort to take to the multiplex rather than hold out for home cinema experience, and neither of these were - though they each intrigue me for different reasons. Is Iron Man 2 truly the mess of potential so many critics have asserted? And how did The Wolfman fare, ultimately, after such a troubled production?

I guess we'll see when LoveFilm lets me rent the DVDs...

Final Thoughts

All told, I haven't watched nearly enough movies this year. I don't know that it's been slim pickings per se, or if my focus has simply been elsewhere in the time I'd otherwise have spent in front of the telly. You can only do so much with so much free time, at the end of the day, and I've spent it reading. Or, um... playing Red Dead Redemption. More on which tomorrow.

Meantime, what have a few of your favourite movies of the year been? Anyone out there want to heckle me for hating on Alice in Wonderland, or preach the salvation of the second Iron Man? Talk to me, guys.

1 comment:

  1. Have to say, I don't think you missed much with Iron Man2 - I went into it with such high expectations and it was just such a mess. What a pity.