Last year, Film Blerg ran a Top 10 of 2010. It was fun but perhaps not the freshest idea. This year, a few “Favourite” categories supplement the top ten films, hopefully helping with the freshness factor. Films considered were theatrically released in Australia from Jan 1, 2011 to Dec 31, 2011. While there is a sequential order, these films could very easily swap positions at any rank. So without further adieu…
10. Black Swan
Release Date: Jan 20
Few films have the power to heighten your emotions. For the second half of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, I felt like I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. With hands constantly ready to shield my eyes from Barbara Hershey’s maniacal wielding nail cutting hands, tension continually disturbed the molecules in the air. Portman too was particular wonderful as the prima ballerina and takes the brunt of so much hostility and endurance. Who would have thought a thriller set in the New York Ballet scene could be so captivating?
Release Date: May 19
Known as one of Australia’s most horrific crimes, the journey of darkness if chronicles in Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown. Displaying the slums of suburban Australia, Snowtown was both disturbing in its storytelling and in its aesthetics. The searing cinematography and score showcased wonderful talents. The film stands out in a genre of Australian cinema that is already richly populated with a vast array of crime films.
Release Date: Nov 17
Mood is the first thing that comes to mind when considering this film. The film’s mood is what stood out and stayed in my mind weeks after I saw it. Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel with fellow co-writer Rory Kinnear was a detailed piece of pure, subjective cinema. The film, told through the thoughts and memories of Eva (played by the insanely talented Tilda Swinton) are hers alone. These are not sequences that have double meaning or could be viewed in many ways. They are her experiences and it is this style that makes the film so interesting. Like life, many questions remain unanswered, and it is these wandering feelings that make the film truly fascinating.
7. The Help
Release Date: Sept 1
Perhaps this is a controversial choice, but I am sticking to my guns. I saw this film twice, which almost rarely happens in a film’s theatrical season, and loved it each time. Yes, it is conventional and mainstream. Yes, the minority characters benefit from the aid of a white protagonist. But it did showcase a story to the mainstream that is rarely seen in the multiplexes. Also, it is filled with great performances, especially from Viola Davis (who stole the show) and Jessica Chastain in the supporting role of Celia Foote. Emma Stone was fine in the lead, but got overshadowed by almost everyone in the film. The Help was my feel-good film of the year, and I cannot wait to see it again!
Release Date: Oct 27
Many a critic have chosen this film as their favourite film of the year, and it is easy to see why. The film is extremely unconventional in its storytelling, lead protagonist and its wonderfully 80’s sounding synthesised soundtrack. If Jessica Chastain is the most featured female performer of the season, then Gosling must be leading the charge on the male side (behind some stiff Fassbender competition – pardon the pun.) Drive was just a whole lot of fun. I caught it late in its release and thus chose not to review it. A poor decision on my part, but there is always time for a retrospective review…
Release Date: June 16
Bridesmaids was my personal surprise hit of the season. Seeing the film out of my love for both Rose Byrne and Kristen Wiig, I was delighted at the sharp script, ample direction from Paul Feig and the general funniness of the film. It is a really funny film (astute observation, I know.) Judd Apatow’s involvement added that “glue” feeling to tie all of those wild elements together. The results were brilliant and the comedic skills of the cast showcase a huge bunch of talent.
4. Burning Man
Release Date: Nov 17
Ineligible for this year’s inaugural AACTA awards by only a week or so may have quieten this film’s staggering momentum. It deserves the solid attention it received and much, much more. Jonathan Teplitzsky’s previous films showed an interesting voice in Australian cinema, and his third feature helps cement this voice. Matthew Goode plays a widower who is on a sexually destructive rampage. The film is a master-class in editing and just needs to be seen dammit!
3. Take Shelter
Release Date: Oct 13
Another film that took my by surprise was Take Shelter. Having my own recurring nature apocalyptic dreams, I was fascinated by the portrayal of a man who may or may not be going insane. The narrative dance between sanity and insanity was terrifyingly interesting and reached a wonderful climax towards the finish line. Michael Shannon is terrific and gives one of the best performances of the year and Jessica Chastain is once again terrific.
Release Date: Nov 3
A perfect example of when a documentary captures something magical. It has to be all about the subject. In this case, the subject was noted fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. Heralded as a legend in the business, Cunningham’s spirit and work ethic are something to marvel at, especially when he is in his eighties. The film is funny, charming and heart warming, and offers wonderful adulation from usually reserved figures such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Release Date: Oct 20
When Vicky Cristina Barcelona was released in 2009, I called it my favourite film of the year. It therefore comes as no surprise that Allen has struck gold again with another of his European films Midnight in Paris. His latest films set in Europe have not all been hits, if we can cast our eyes back to Cassandra’s Dream and Scoop. Owen Wilson plays the familiar Allen character. Gil is a neurotic writer who is yearning for something more. What I love about this film is its meditations on nostalgia. Like Gil, I too suffer from believing that life would have been better at particular times in the past. However, films like Midnight in Paris make me realise that there still is a golden age of films that exist. Allen’s biggest financial hit since Hannah and her Sisters, is witty, smart, observant and joyful.
Favourite Director: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Favourite Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Favourite Lead Male Actor: Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Favourite Lead Female Actor: Viola Davis, The Help
Favourite Supporting Male Actor: Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
Favourite Supporting Female Actor: Jessica Chastain, The Help
Favourite Documentary: Bill Cunningham, New York