Favourite Films of 2016

20 December 2016

These are the films that I not only think are great and will stand the test of time, but they are films that got under my skin, made me want to see them again, continued to linger in my mind and reminded me why I love cinema.

My top ten films

Released in Melbourne, Australia, in 2016

ROOM_DAY8-0044 (3) (1)1. Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
Released January

92. Son of Saul (Saul fia, László Nemes, 2015)
Released February

elle_03_rgb3. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)
Released October

the-arrival4. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
Released November

i-daniel-blake-still-45. I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)
Released November

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS6. Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016)
Released August

_DSC3602 Aaron Pedersen and Alex Russell with Guns7. Goldstone (Ivan Sen, 2016)
Released July

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS8. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016)
Released November

CAROL9. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
Released January

Spear10. Spear (Stephen Page, 2015)
Released March

 

Honourable mentions

Fifteen more films I loved this year, listed alphabetically:

BROOKLYNBrooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
Released February

Embrace of the SerpentEmbrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente, Ciro Guerra, 2015)
Released July

girl-asleepGirl Asleep (Rosemary Myers, 2015)
Released September

Hunt for the WilderpeopleHunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016)
Released May

nullLa La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
Released December

measure4
The Measure of a Man, (La loi du marché, Stéphane Brizé, 2015)
Released June

still_307692Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)
Released June

still_478533Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
Released December

DCIM101GOPROSherpa (Jennifer Peedom, 2015)
Released March

Day 25 21Sing Street (John Carney, 2016)
Released July

SpotlightPic#11Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
Released January

sullySully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)
Released September

sunset-songSunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)
Released September

TNG-14668rThe Nice Guys (Shane Black, 2016)
Released May

weinerWeiner (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, 2016)
Released September

Special mention

Most of the other notable films I saw this year will be released in Melbourne in 2017, so I’ll include them on next year’s list rather than here, but I do want to give a special mention to the following films screened at festivals that to my knowledge are not currently scheduled for release in Australia.

144507_24882_certain_w_stillCertain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)

144231_24831_kate_play_stillKate Plays Christine (Robert Greene, 2016)

148081_25808_kedi_still
Kedi
(Ceyda Torun, 2016)

147440_25882_my_life_a_still
My Life as a Zucchini
(Ma vie de Courgette, Claude Barnes, 2016)

A070_C001_081319
Notes on Blindness
(Pete Middleton and James Spinney, 2016)

This list was compiled for the upcoming Senses of Cinema 2016 World Poll

Thomas Caldwell 2016
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Favourite Films of 2015

23 December 2015

These are the films that I felt were the most innovative, important and influential; taking into account my own personal response to each one including how likely I was to want to see them more than once. Previously I’ve only considered films with a full theatrical release, but changing distribution models mean I’ve also included films with limited seasons, VOD releases and released direct to home entertainment.

Favourite ten films released in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015

Birdman
1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro G Iñárritu, 2014)
Released January

 

Inside Out2. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)
Released June

 

Inherent Vice
3. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
Released March

 

FRD-25474.TIF
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

Released May

 

The Salt of the Earth
5. The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, 2014)
Released April

 

The Lobster
6. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
Released October

 

2014_09_17HTM_0124_Tim Conigrave (Ryan Corr), John Caleo (Craig Stott) copy
7. Holding the Man (Neil Armfield, 2015)
Released August

 

Wild
8. Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2014)
Released January

 

Far from the Madding Crowd
9. Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg, 2015)
Released June

 

ItFollows5LARGE
10. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014)
Released April

 

Honourable mentions

Twenty more films I loved this year, listed alphabetically:

'71
‘71 (Yann Demange, 2014)
Released March

 

A Most Violent Year
A Most Violent Year (JC Chandor, 2014)
Released February

 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron, Roy Andersson, 2014)
Released October

 

Amy (Asif Kapadia, 2015)
Released July

 

CloudsClouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)
Released May

 

EXM_D018_02784Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
Released May

 

LeviathanLeviathan (Leviafan, Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)
Released March

 

London RoadLondon Road (Rufus Norris, 2015)
Released September

 

Love & MercyLove & Mercy (Bill Pohlad, 2014)
Released June

 

MarshlandMarshland (La isla minima, Alberto Rodríguez, 2014)
Released June

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)
Released July

 

still_252359Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi, 2015)
Released December

 

The AssassinThe Assassin (Nie yin niang, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2015)
Released November

 

The Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller, 2015)
Released September

 

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBYThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her (Ned Benson, 2013)
Released March

 

The DressmakerThe Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2015)
Released October

 

Jason Segel copy 2The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt, 2015)
Released December

 

still_252410
The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014)
Released November

 

The MartianThe Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015)
Released October

 

The Tribe by the Ukrainian writer-director Myroslav SlaboshpytskiyThe Tribe (Plemya, Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, 2014)
Released May

Special mention

Most of the other notable films I saw this year will be released in Melbourne in 2016, so I’ll include them on next year’s list rather than here, but I do want to give a special mention to one glorious film, whose fate in Australia outside of the festival screenings it received throughout 2015 seems to remain unknown:

Song of the Sea
Song Of The Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014)

This list was compiled for the Senses of Cinema 2015 World Poll

 

Thank you for reading my monthly summaries throughout the year and thank you to those of you who listen to my various radio spots. I was sad to finish up on the Breakfasters on Triple R (3RRR 102.7FM) a few weeks ago, but I decided that after being their Thursday morning film critic for the past six years, it was time to move on. However, Plato’s Cave keeps going from strength to strength and will return in 2016, and hopefully there will be a few more things that fall into place too.

But for now, I will leave you with the poem I was inspired to write after seeing Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation:

Cruise Control

Cruise Control (click to enlarge)

Thomas Caldwell 2015

Favourite Films of 2014

26 December 2014

This year I have attempted to acknowledge the films that I feel are examples of cinema at its best on both technical and artistic levels, with the films that had more a personal impact in the sense that they long stayed with me or compelled me to see them again. Most films ended up falling into both categories. Regardless of the reasons, these are the films I loved the most over the past twelve months that got a full theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia:

Top ten favourite films of 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis
1. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013)
released January

Two Days, One Night
2. Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, 2014)
released November

Snowpiercer
3. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)
released July

The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
released April

The Grandmaster
5. The Grandmaster (Yi dai zong shi, Wong Kar-wai, 2013)
released September

The Wolf of Wall Street
6. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
released January

Blue Is the Warmest Colour
7. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adèle, Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
released February

12 Years a Slave
8. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
released January

A Touch of Sin
9. A Touch of Sin (Tian zhu ding, Jia Zhangke, 2013)
released February

Nymphomaniac
10. Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier, 2013)
released March

Honourable mentions

I thought this was a particularly strong year in cinema so these are fifteen more films, listed alphabetically, that have stayed with me for one reason or another:

52 Tuesdays
52 Tuesdays (Sophie Hyde, 2013)
released May

Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014)
released December

Calvary
Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2014)
released July

Charlie's Country
Charlie’s Country (Rolf de Heer, 2013)
released July

The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse (James Napier Robertson, 2014)
released November

Force Majeure
Force Majeure (Turist, Ruben Östlund, 2014)
released October

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)
released December

Godzilla
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)
released May

HER
Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
released January

The Infinite Man
The Infinite Man (Hugh Sullivan, 2014)
released September

Lucy
Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014)
released July

nightcrawler review
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014)
released November

Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
released April

Under the Skin
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
released May

WWhat We Do in the Shadows
What We Do In The Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 2014)
released September

Favourite ten films not given a full theatrical release

Many of the best films I saw this year were not given a full theatrical release, but were still screened to Melbourne audiences at festivals or other special events.

Timbuktu
1. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)

Hard to Be a God
2. Hard to Be a God (Trudno byt bogom, Aleksey German, 2013)

Virunga
3. Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2014)

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets
4. Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (Florian Habicht, 2014)

The Possibilities Are Endless
5. The Possibilities Are Endless (James Hall and Edward Lovelace, 2014)

Happy Christmas
6. Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg, 2014)

Why Don't You Play in Hell?
7. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de naze warui, Shion Sono, 2013)

The Overnighters
8. The Overnighters (Jesse Moss, 2014)

Ping Pong Summer
9. Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully, 2014)

Housebound
10. Housebound (Gerard Johnstone, 2014)

This list was compiled for the Senses of Cinema 2014 World Poll

If you want to hear me discuss many of the films listed above, plus some that I wasn’t able to find places for in my lists, then check out the final episode of Plato’s Cave for 2014, which you can listen to via Radio On Demand or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

See you all in 2015 and thanks for reading my monthly summaries. I don’t have any plans to return to long form reviewing just yet, but I’ll still continue to do my radio spots as well as work on a couple of long term projects that may even come to fruition. Following me on Facebook and/or Twitter is the best way to see what I’m up to.

Thomas Caldwell 2014

Favourite Films of 2013

22 December 2013

From the 300+ feature films I saw this year, these are the films that most excited, inspired, moved and challenged me – restricted to films that got a theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia, where I am based.

Top ten favourite films of 2013

Amour: Anne (Emmanuelle Riva)
1. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
By stripping back any aspects of film style or narrative that feel false or constructed, Haneke ensures that everything that happens between Anne and Georges is an act of intense kindness and personal sacrifice shared by people who love each other unconditionally. Full review

Gravity

2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
Not only is Gravity a celebration of what cinema in the current era can achieve, but it is a celebration of what humans are capable of. Full review

Frances Ha
3. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
A genuinely heartfelt, gorgeous and beautiful celebration of youth, friendship and grappling with all the contradictions and challenges that life throws at us. Full review

Mystery Road
4. Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013)
An effective neo noir film that uses key characteristics of the genre to  critique the abuse of power and how it affects vulnerable and innocent people, especially in a culture of gender, racial and class inequality.

The Rocket: Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe)
5. The Rocket (Kim Mordaunt, 2013)
An extremely rewarding and entertaining film made all the stronger for the integrity and cultural details that underpin it. Full review

Broken: Skunk (Eloise Laurence) and Archie (Tim Roth)
6. Broken (Rufus Norris, 2012)
By framing such universal issues such as the power of forgiveness, redemption and love through a coming-of-age narrative of a generous and kind 11-year-old girl, Broken delivers a moving and thoughtful cinema experience. Full review

No
7. No (Pablo Larraín, 2012)
An extremely perceptive and intriguing examination of the effect that media hype and spin have on the political process. Full review

Blue Jasmine
8. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)
One of Allen’s cleverest and most compassionate films, making it also one of his greatest. Full review

Stoker
9. Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013)
Not everything is what it seems in Stoker and its strength lies in how much it undermines expectations by taking a revisionist approach to gothic fiction conventions. Full review

kinopoisk.ru
10. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012)
The film has both an old fashioned yet otherworldly feel, in keeping with its subversion of film noir style and themes. Full review

Honourable mentions

Every one of the following ten films (and a few others) were close contenders for my favourite ten list. I’ve simply listed these ones alphabetically as it was hard enough to order the previous ten by preference.

The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)

Behind the Candelabra
Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013) Review

Django Unchained
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012) Review

The Hunt
The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012) Review

Life of Pi
Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012) Review

Oh Boy
Oh Boy (Jan Ole Gerster, 2012) Review

ParaNorman
ParaNorman (Chris Butler and Sam Fell, 2012) Review

Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

Stories We Tell
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) Review

Stranger by the Lake
Stranger by the Lake (L’inconnu du lac, Alain Guiraudie, 2013)

Favourite ten films not given a full theatrical release

The following films were screened publically in Melbourne, Australia, in 2013, but not given a full theatrical release. And to the best of my knowledge at the time of publishing this list, these films are not yet confirmed to get a theatrical release in 2014. Listed alphabetically.

Bastards
Bastards (Les salauds, Claire Denis, 2013)

Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013)

Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills (EL Katz, 2013)

The Day of the Crows
The Day of the Crows (Le jour des corneilles, Jean Christophe Dessaint, 2012)

The Interval
The Interval (L’intervallo, Leonardo di Costanzo, 2012)


Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)

Nothing Bad Can Happen
Nothing Bad Can Happen (Tore tanzt, Katrin Gebbe, 2013)

Starlet
Starlet (Sean Baker, 2012)

The Weight of Elephants
The Weight of Elephants (Daniel Borgman, 2013)

What Richard Did
What Richard Did
 (Lenny Abrahamson, 2012)

Special mention

The following is a television miniseries, but it is one of my favourite things that I saw this year:

Top of the Lake
Top of the Lake (Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, 2013)

And that’s what I loved most about cinema in 2013! I feel this was a really strong year for films and there were several titles that I fell bad about leaving off these lists, not to mention the titles that don’t get released in Australia until early 2014, which I have to hold off on listing until this time next year.

As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts via the comments, just please focus on the positives as the spirit of this list is celebratory!

Thomas Caldwell 2013

This list was originally compiled for the Senses of Cinema 2013 World Poll


Favourite Films of 2012

28 December 2012

Hugo

I had a bit of fun this year keeping count of the number of films I watched and discovered that on average I saw six films per week. A large portion of my viewing was of films that received a theatrical release in Melbourne during 2012 and therefore qualify for the parameters in which I select my favourite films of the year. I saw over half the films that had a general release somewhere in Melbourne and while there are about 30 films that I still would like to catch up with, I feel fairly confident that I saw everything that would qualify for consideration for the list below.

I was tempted to not order or rank my favourites, but I changed my mind after another critic encouraged me to do so by saying that if there is one time during the year to be frivolous it is when compiling such lists. Besides, I’m calling these my favourite films – not making any claims about them being the best – so why not have fun?

Favourite ten films with a theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia in 2012:

1. Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

Hugo

Hugo is a perfect encapsulation of Scorsese the artist, film historian and pioneer – a technologically advanced 3D spectacle celebrating the craft and imagination of early cinema.’ Full review

 

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

‘Everything about this film is economical – dialogue, acting style and visual style – so that from the very opening shot the audience are themselves playing the part of spies, attempting to piece together information and looking for clues.’ Full review

 

3. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)

Weekend

Weekend is one of the most impressive films ever made about love. Haigh’s confidence and intelligence as a filmmaker, has resulted in a sincere and emotionally engaging film.’ Full review

 

4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Holy Motors

‘The very existence of a film like Holy Motors is cause for celebration. It demonstrates that playful can be profound, bewildering can be meaningful and randomness can have precision. It undermines so many cinematic conventions and yet is a loving tribute to cinema.’ Full review

 

5. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2011)

The Deep Blue Sea

The Deep Blue Sea best combines Davies’s representation of memory with a traditional narrative structure. The result is his finest film to date.’ Full review

 

6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

‘An epic meditation on morality, civilisation, masculinity and how every generation suffers the sins of the one before it.’ Full review

 

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild  (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

(Quvenzhané Wallis), (Gina Montana)

Beasts of the Southern Wild combines big scale ideas about the natural world and how humans relate to it, with a very personal and subjective portrayal of a young girl reconciling what is happening to her father and community.’ Full review

 

8. Lore (Cate Shortland, 2012)

Lore

‘Shortland has done an extraordinary job making such a bleak story into a deeply fulfilling and beautiful film. Lore is an impressionist survival film and an existential war film, and also something truly singular and remarkable.’ Full review

 

9. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)

Killing Them Softly

‘Incorporating several stunning stylised moments with a grim, gritty reality, Killing Them Softly is an engrossing vision of hell where status, money and image have become the ultimate goal and human life is just another commodity to be traded.’ Full review

 

10. Frankenweenie (Tim Burton, 2012)

Frankenweenie

‘A tribute to the type of cinema and cinematic techniques that originally inspired Burton, while growing up as something of an outsider in suburban California during the 1960s and 1970s, finding solace in monster movies and animation.’ Full review

Honourable mentions:

11. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)

12. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

13. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)

14. The Sessions (Ben Lewin, 2012)

15. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

16. The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, 2011)

17. A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin, Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

18. The Interrupters (Steve James, 2011)

19. The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2012)

20. Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)

Favourite ten films not given a full theatrical release

This is where the list making becomes extremely personal since it is based on the films I happened to see out of a very large selection of festival and speciality programmed screenings held for the public somewhere in Melbourne in 2012. I am aware that there are several films that would probably have made this list if I had seen them. It is also worth noting that the top five films on this list are either confirmed or more than likely to receive a general release in 2013:

Amour

1. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

2. ParaNorman (Chris Butler and Sam Fell, 2012)

3. Broken (Rufus Norris, 2012)

4. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)

5. Ernest et Célestine (Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, 2012)

6. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2011)

7. Kauwboy (Boudewijn Koole, 2012)

8. Only the Young (Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet, 2011)

9. Keyhole (Guy Maddin, 2011)

10. The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (La leggenda di Kaspar Hauser, Davide Manuli, 2012)

Special mention:

It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012) – feature length edit of Hertzfeldt’s previous three short films, released on DVD through bitter films.

It's Such a Beautiful Day

 

Favourite retrospective screenings and re-releases

The most personal list of all is this one, where I acknowledge the screenings of older films that brought me the most joy this year. Some of these were revisits of old favourites, seeing them on the big screen for the first time, while many were new discoveries:

Raiders of the Lost Arc 

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981) – re-released at The Astor Theatre

2. America America (Elia Kazan, 1963) – The Melbourne Cinémathèque, Elia Kazan: The Outsider season

3. Time Regained (Le temps retrouvé, Raúl Ruiz, 1999) – The Melbourne Cinémathèque, Immortal Stories: The Living Cinema Of Raúl Ruiz season

4. Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946) – The Astor Theatre, David Lean Tribute

5. Solaris (Solyaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972) – The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, (ACMI) Space on Film program

6. Suddenly, Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959) – ACMI First Look

7. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1996) – ACMI First Look

8. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006) – ACMI, Nocturnal Transmissions: The Cinema of Guy Maddin program

9. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999) – The Melbourne Cinémathèque, Borderlines: Selected Works by Claire Denis season

10. House (Hausu, Nobuhiko Ohbayashi, 1977) – ACMI, Nocturnal Transmissions: The Cinema of Guy Maddin program

Special mentions:

Seeing Goblin play their score to Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) live at ACMI as part of Melbourne Music Week was also pretty special. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the re-release of Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) at the Astor Theatre, especially as it was also the film that the theatre screened on its Protect the Astor day, which was part of a larger campaign that achieved considerable success in 2012.

Labyrinth

Thomas Caldwell, 2012

This list was originally compiled for the Senses of Cinema 2012 World Poll

PS Feel free to comment and add your thoughts and comparisons. Please note that the spirit of this post is celebratory so long rants about stuff you didn’t like or grand declarations of outrage probably won’t make it through the moderation process!


Top Ten Films of 2011

28 December 2011

As 2011 comes to an end, I’ve once more looked back at my personal highlights of the cinematic year. For the first time I did a count of how many films I saw during the year to discover that while I watched over 300 films, only half of those were new films released in Australian cinemas in 2011. I also saw several films more than once, which is unusual for me, but extremely rewarding. The result was a very satisfying year that wasn’t guided by what did or didn’t hit the multiplexes. Nevertheless, in order to create a top ten list that makes any sort of sense, won’t need revising and is the most relevant to the majority of my readers (who are Melbourne based and don’t go to advance media screenings), I’ve once again restricted myself to only including films that were given a theatrical release in Melbourne during 2011, even if only on one screen for a limited season.

Top ten films with a theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia in 2011

1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

The Tree of Life

“A cinematic poem of extraordinary scope and ambition.”

Rarely has picking a favourite film of the year been as straightforward for me as it was this year. I returned to the cinema to see Malick’s The Tree of Life a second time within a week of first seeing it to once more have it engage my mind, stir up my emotions and touch my soul. An all too rare cinematic work of art that dares to be so much more than what most people can even imagine cinema to be.

2. We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

We Need to Talk about Kevin

“This is sensory and visceral cinema at its most compelling and expertly crafted.”

One of the most confronting films I’ve experienced this year was Lynne Ramsay’s intensely subjective and impressionist film, which like The Tree of Life was also a complex representation of memory.

3. Certified Copy (Copie conforme, Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)

Certified Copy

“Its beauty, nuanced performances and grace give it the emotional and dramatic weight that make it rise far above being simply an intellectual exercise.”

My most unexpected highlight of the year was this cerebral and charming film where every single element in it contributed in some way to exploring its central question of how do we measure authenticity in art and life.

4. Pina (Wim Wenders, 2011)

Pina

“The whole range of human emotion is expressed and experienced during this film, making it a sublime visual accomplishment.”

This tribute/documentary/dance film uses 3D to almost revolutionise cinematic space to convey the power of Pina Bausch’s choreography. As somebody who had previously been sceptical about contemporary dance, Pina made me see the light.

5. Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)

Never Let Me Go

“A beautiful and satisfyingly melancholic story of mortality, destiny, love and loss.”

This strange and sad film overwhelmed me. The melancholic film style stunningly expresses the novel’s themes of fate and inevitability, without explicitly stating them.

6. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)

Drive

“A gorgeous fusion of pulp genre cinema with an almost abstract approach to characterisation.”

I admittedly had reservations about Drive the first time that I saw it, but it lingered in my mind enough for me to revisit it. The second viewing removed all doubt and I succumbed to this gloriously stylistic and minimalist neo-noir.

7. Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011)

Take Shelter

“One of the most captivating and overwhelming portrayals of mental illness in a domestic setting since John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence.”

A film that stayed with me long after seeing it, Take Shelter is a tense yet compassionate study of how mental illness can manifest and how it affects not just the sufferer, but also the people around them.

8. Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)

Another Year

“A tribute to kindness, family and friendship without sentiment, easy answers or judgement.”

This has possibly become my favourite Mike Leigh film. The central couple are two of the most wonderfully likeable characters to ever appear on screen.

9. I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009)

I Love You Phillip Morris

“Manages to walk a line between hilarity and tragedy throughout, with unexpected moments of sadness that are not undermined by the comedy surrounding them.”

After seeing this at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2010, I was so pleased for it to finally get a brief, albeit small, cinematic run this year. This romantic-comedy with its ultra-dark undertones is the funniest film I’ve seen in years.

10. 127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)

127 Hours

“While 127 Hours celebrates the achievement of an individual under extreme duress, it is also a critique of individualistic behaviour.”

Danny Boyle pulls out every trick in the book to convey the range of emotions and thoughts experienced by Aron Ralston. The resulting film is a thrilling survival story, cautionary tale and character study.

Honorary mentions

Selecting my top ten films was relatively easy this year, however, finding another ten films to list as honorary mentions was extremely difficult given that the standard of cinema that I saw this year was extremely high. Nevertheless, in alphabetical order, here goes:

Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard (Lynn-Maree Milburn and Richard Lowenstein, 2011)

Hanna (Joe Wright, 2011)

The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010)

Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010)

Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)

Mad Bastards (Brendan Fletcher, 2010)

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)

Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux, Xavier Beauvois, 2010

This Is Not a Film (In film nist, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Loong Boonmee raleuk chat, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)

This Is Not a Film

This Is Not a Film

Top ten unreleased films

Many of my highlights from the year are from films that were either only screened at festivals (in my case mostly during MIFF), during special seasons or went straight to DVD. The follow films are the best films that I saw this year, which weren’t given a full theatrical release and to the best of my knowledge aren’t scheduled to receive a general release in 2012.

How to Die in Oregon (Peter Richardson, 2011)

Inni (Vincent Morisset, 2011)

The Kid with a Bike (Le gamin au vélo, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, 2011)

Michael (Markus Schleinzer, 2011)

Polisse (Maïwenn Le Besco, 2011)

Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, 2010)

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (Matthew Bate, 2011)

Surviving Life (Přežít svůj život, Jan Švankmajer, 2010)

Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)

The Turin Horse (A torinói ló, Béla Tarr, 2011)

Inni

Inni

Top ten retrospective screenings and re-releases

While these lists are obviously personal, this next list is more so since it is dependant on what screenings I happened to make it to out of the many to choose from. To try and narrow the field down somewhat, I’ve restricted myself to films given full re-releases in their own season, films shown as part of a special event and films shown as part of curated seasons (for example those shown at the Melbourne Cinémathèque in what I think was one of their best years and I wish I attended more). Some of these are films that I was revisiting for the umpteenth time and some were new discoveries, listed alphabetically:

American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973) at the Astor Theatre

Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 1941) – my highlight of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s Sophisticated Madness: Classics of American Screwball Comedy season

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) at the Astor Theatre

Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954) – my highlight of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s You Can’t Go Home Again: The Ballard of Nicholas Ray season

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) – screened at the Astor Theatre’s 75th Anniversary

Last Year at Marienbad (L’année dernière à Marienbad, Alain Resnais, 1961) – my highlight of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s The Garden of Forking Paths: The Films of Alain Resnais season

Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006) – Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Film Festival charity/protest screening for the imprisonment of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof

Once Upon a Time in China (Wong Fei Hung, Tsui Hark, 1991) – my highlight of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s Phantoms & Fireworks: The Incredible Adventures of Tsui Hark season

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) at Cinema Nova and the Astor Theatre

Veronika Voss (Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982) – my highlight of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: The Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder season

Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad

And there you have it, 40 films – 30 new and 10 old – that most fuelled my passion for cinema during 2011. I was pleased to have been able to write full reviews about nearly all the new films and the three major re-released films I listed, so please click through to those reviews for more details about why I embraced those films to the extent that I did. This year I also particularly enjoyed writing reviews of Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh, 2011), A Serbian Film (Srpski film, Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010) and The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994), as well as penning my love letter to Dogs in Space (Richard Lowenstein, 1986).

Thank you to everybody who has read this blog over the year as well as subscribed to it and shared links from it. The readership and number of page views has grown considerably over the year (more than anticipated) so that’s been wonderful. Most pleasing has been the generally high level of discussion that has started to regularly appear in the comments so I’m very grateful for that and I hope in the future I’ll get better at responding to everybody.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks in mid January 2012 when Hugo gets released in Australia, so see you then!

Thomas

PS Debate and difference of opinion are as always very welcome under my reviews, but for this post I’d like to keep things celebratory and focus on the positive cinema experiences from the year just gone.

Also appears here on Senses of Cinema.

Thomas Caldwell, 2011


Top Ten Films of 2010

31 December 2010

Top ten films with a theatrical release in Melbourne, Australia in 2010

Inception

Inception

1. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
This almost clinical and mechanical representation of the human subconscious facilitated an extraordinary exploration of cinematic space in order to deliver an intriguing heist story with wonderfully thrilling action sequences. This year’s masterpiece.

2. Enter The Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)
This mesmerising assault on the senses by the director of Irréversible was a strange, brilliant and audacious first-person head-trip into drugs, death, sex and the neon lit metropolis of Tokyo.

3. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)
Martin Scorsese’s latest film was a typically brilliant example of subjective filmmaking, but where the point-of-view belongs to an unreliable protagonist. A sophisticated exercise in film style dressed up as a pulp thriller. So much more than a spot-the-twist film.

4. Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, 2010)
The Australian film to receive the most hype this year was also the most deserving. The low-key filmmaking resulted in a tense, gritty and at times horrifying crime drama.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3

5. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
The combination of tight writing, powerful sentiment, humour and characters with so much heart delivered one of the greatest animated films ever made. Possibly the most perfect resolution to a trilogy too. Not a dry eye in the house.

6. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
An extraordinarily empathetic film about the everyday and commonplace tragedy that love doesn’t always prevail. Contains the year’s strongest performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.

7. The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos, Juan José Campanella, 2009)
The surprise winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, this Argentinean murder mystery/romance contains hidden depth. A thrilling and intriguing genre film in its own right but also a moving representation of Argentina’s history of political turmoil.

8. The American (Anton Corbijn, 2010)
To reduce this to merely a generic hit man film ignores how immaculately crafted Corbijn’s second film is. The rich use of style and homage offers multiple rewards for a visually literate audience.

9. The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
Another great example of subjective filmmaking where the film gets increasingly deranged as its psychopathic protagonist increasingly loses his grip on reality. A superb adaptation of Jim Thompson’s hardboiled novel featuring some incredibly upsetting acts of violence.

10. Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009)
It wasn’t an old-school David Cronenberg film but the glorious blend of science-fiction, horror, melodrama and psycho-sexual thriller made it feel like one. Transgressive wicked fun.

Honourable mentions

11. The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
12. Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010)
13. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
14. Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
15. Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper, 2009)
16. The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009)
17. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
18. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
19. A Prophet (Un prophète, Jacques Audiard, 2009)
20. Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)

Top ten unreleased films

Son of Babylon

Son of Babylon

(Films with either very short seasons or only festival screenings, and to the best of my knowledge aren’t scheduled for a general release in 2011).

1. Son of Babylon (Mohamed Al Daradji, 2009)
2. I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra and John Reque, 2009)
3. Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2010)
4. The Illusionist (L’illusionniste, Sylvain Chomet, 2010)
5. Poetry (Shi, Lee Chang-dong, 2010)
6. Nobody’s Perfect (Niko von Glasow, 2008)
7. William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, 2009)
8. When You’re Strange (Tom DiCillo, 2009)
9. World’s Greatest Dad (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2009)
10. The Army of Crime (L’armée du crime, Robert Guédiguian, 2009)

Other

Tim Burton: The Exhibition

Tim Burton: The Exhibition

1. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948) at the Astor Theatre.
2. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) with a live orchestra at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
3. Tim Burton: The Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
4. The Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa and Jacques Demy seasons plus the Max Ophuls and Tod Browning nights at the Melbourne Cinémathèque.
5. The experience of seeing The Room (Tommy Wiseau, 2003) as part of the on-going Cult Cravings program at Cinema Nova.

Also appears here on Senses of Cinema.

An earlier (and since revised) version of the top ten film list originally appeared in the December 2010 edition of the Triple R magazine The Trip (online here).

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010