To honour the traditions of this time of year we asked our team of hard-working, film-loving taste-makers for their highlights of the year in cinema – this is what they said….
Chris Butler -
Danny Boyle’s tour de force 127 Hours exploded onto the big screen in January, telling a story with such flair and vision that it almost seems too good to be true. James Franco excelled in a role that suited his acting style perfectly, and had it not been for Colin Firth’s magnificent portrayal in the remarkable The King’s Speech, the Oscar would have been his.
Drive, featuring the beautiful Ryan Gosling and a nicely-shot LA, was a brilliant take on the action genre that was purposefully slow-paced, allowing Gosling’s character to develop as the film progresses. The violence was genuinely unsettling, showing that cinema can still provide shocks and directors can still reinvent the wheel.
In We Need to Talk about Kevin, Tilda Swinton managed to portray glimmers of hope even when being attacked for the school massacre her son carried out. Every time she smiled, the screen came alive; a truly remarkable film.
Without doubt the funniest film of the year was Bridesmaids; packed full of gross-out gags, it still carried depth. The film tells us a lot about jealousy and friendships, though all the set-pieces are hilarious, for me, the aeroplane scene is perfect.
Joe Cornish’s directorial debut Attack the Block got a thumbs up from me on So So Gay earlier in the year and on second viewing, the full effect of Cornish’s vision becomes more obvious. He writes excellently and on the strength of this, he should have a long future ahead in films.
Most disappointing this year was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I was terribly excited about the film, and was left feeling quite bored by it. Good performances all round and some great locations couldn’t quite make up for a convoluted story that seemed to go on for too long. It’s not that the film is bad, I just expected more.
Matt Buttell -
Anything with RGos in. And X-Men: First Class.
Rob Cook -
As many eye rolls as this might get, Bridesmaids was incredible. Watching with my mother when the first scene came up was questionable, however. I did also love X-men: First Class.
Gerard Daniels -
Nothing has moved me like We Were Here! Also recently nominated for an Oscar!
Jen Kilchenmann -
The Beaver was beautifully shot, with fantastic performances, and for me is this year’s most unnecessarily panned filmed.
Crazy Stupid Love actually turned out to be one of the few decent romcoms of the year. With regards to Bridesmaids, I certainly didn’t need to be told women were funny! Hilarious and actually heart-warming; Kristen Wiig had me years ago, this just added to my love. What did surprise me however was The Help – awesome performances, and it never fell on the wrong side of cheese!
Michelle Williams was seemingly born to play Miss Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, Tomboy was a simple, truthful, lovely gem and Life Above All was heart-breaking.
And finally, I agreed that J. J. Abrams’s Super 8 was super great! A lovely homage to 1980s family adventure movies and the master of them all, Steven Speilberg.
If we’re highlighting the worst films of 2011, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes would feature prominently… poorly written and featuring some wooden acting that the Thunderbirds would be proud of, it was just about saved by the impressive special effects and Andy Serkis’ turn as Caesar. On the other side of the divide – as mentioned by others - Drive was one of the highlights of the year.
Young Tan -
Being a fan of superhero films, X-Men: First Class would be near the top end of my favourites list even with its few flaws and plot-holes, as well as Harry Potter, despite not being a huge HP fan. In terms of least favourite, although Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was critically acclaimed, it wasn’t a film I understood or enjoyed – was far too slow-paced and confusing. The Green Hornet was probably the most rather dire film in almost every way possible.
Dominic Graham -
I’m afraid that much as I would like to have said otherwise I was really disappointed by X-men: First Class and was quite hard on it when it was released back in May this year. Looking forward to 2011 from last year, the release schedule indicated a summer blockbuster season to end all blockbuster seasons. An enjoyably silly take on Thor, J.J. Abrams’ flawed but charming Super 8 and a dramatic climax to the Harry Potter series aside, disappointment was what I felt quite frequently, blockbuster-wise. What emerged instead was a surprisingly rich year for the auteur. Woody Allen and Pedro Almodóvar both recovered from a slight slump to deliver respectable additions to their respective canons, Terrence Malick, who averages 1 film roughly every 8 years, gifted 2011 with The Tree of Life, and even Jean-Luc Godard of the nouvelle vague released a film! Though in any other year Malick’s film might have been my all-out favourite, in 2011 it must be Melancholia. In Melancholia Lars Von Trier more than made up for Antichrist – which I found (probably deliberately) set out to shock but lacked substance in exactly the way his detractors say all his work does – with a film that was brilliantly-acted, eerie, beautiful, weird, and finally quite overwhelming.
As for next year I hope that The Avengers delivers, and that we’re spared any more of these.