Sunday, 30 December 2012

Kino Shout! Top 10 Movies of 2012

And, so, another year passes.. Sunrise; sunset. Narrative cinema is over a hundred years old. What have we learned? Kindles are up, Mitt Romney is down, and the global economy is no better.
Also, in other news, GANGHAM STYLE!

But, on the bright side, I saw many, many great films (and a few terrible ones).

Anyways, this is the first "Best of the Year List" that I have have had the privilege of sharing on this blog....the first of many, I hope.

Enjoy the list (or at least the pretty pictures) and don't forget to judge me as a person based on my selections!

10. Paranorman

I wanted to kick off my list with a true underdog. Though, having loved Coraline, I should have really known that this would deliver. Still, the Chris Butler-directed film is comfortably the creepiest kids film you were likely to see this year, yet still had so much warmth. The loveable characters, the one-liners ("aw, my boobs"), the best neo-expressionist work this side of early Tim Burton, and the amazingly camp genre references seal the deal. Also, the film's conclusion features some of the best-animated set-pieces in some time. This one is a real charmer for all ages.

9. Killer Joe

C'mon, did you really expect the return of William Friedkin (The Exorcist) to be anything less? Killer Joe is the (ahem) charming tale of a young man who hires a hit man to kill his own mother, and offers his sister up to said hit man as a sex-toy for collateral. Yup, this is a slightly more twisted spin on the already twisted "dames, guns, whiskey, and violence" vigilante film. The blood, however, does flow freely nonetheless. I don't want to spoil much, but look out for an awkward date and an even more awkward encounter with KFC chicken....ew, but I can't wait to see it again.

8. What Richard Did

For once, a teen movie in which the popular jock suffers. In the latest from master Irish auteur Lenny Abrahamson, Jack Reynor stars as Richard, the school rugby star that has it all. Looks, charisma, work, ethic, and loyalty do not save Richard when he makes one life-altering mistake. A wonderful, quiet musing on guilt, responsibility, and Irish society, this one really hits you where it counts. Quiet, yet devastating.

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Only the magic of youth can turn intense poverty into an adventure. This magnificent film celebrates the imagination and dignity of youth in sub-human conditions. Hush Puppy lives with her father in the "bath Tub", a a southern Louisiana Bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a levee. Poverty, storms, and intense poverty only bring Hush Puppy closer to the natural world around her. Eventually, as her father becomes sick, she must face the mysterious demons that haunt her. Ben Zeitlin's film makes for a stunningly filmic adaptation of a one-act play by Lucy Alibar. Date movie, anyone?

6. Turn Me on, Godamnit

Sweden has never shied away from honest films, but rarely are they this fun. Can a movie in which a horny 15 year old girl who likes phone sex gets poked in the hip by a penis be moving? Yup, when the characters are this good it can. In a word: hilarious.

5. Killing Them Softly

Like his last film The Assassination of Jesse James, many will say that Andrew Dominik's latest film is too talky. Yet, this is as effortlessly character driven and stylish as any small-time mob caper could ever hope to be. Violent and with stark set pieces, this film is anchored in the relationships between its not-so-glamorous characters. Despite the occasionally irritating social commentary, it does confirm my suspicion that Brad Pitt is getting better and better as he ages. Look out for the Brad's big introduction, set to the grizzly sounds of Johnny Cash's 'The Man Comes Around."

4. The Dark Knight Rises

Thankfully, the most mainstream entry onto the list is also one of the most intelligent. I love this film more every time I watch it. Better characters, better themes, a mature conclusion and, most importantly, a Batman you actually care about set this one apart from other tales of the caped crusader. The scenes in the prison are spellbinding. Michael Caine has never been better. Also, kudos to a brave Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy for bravely attempting to fill Heath Ledger's sizeable shoes. I still thinkof the film's closing minutes virtually every day...

3.  Amour

How can a film be so unsentimental yet so sympathetic? Growing old together is both beautiful and tragic; this has never been better explored than in this two hour homage to love farthest lengths from Michael Haneke. Benefiting from two dynamite lead performances from Emmanuelle Rivera and Jean-louis Trintingnant, this portrait of the poetic last days of a life together brings new meaning to the word "devastating" in modern film.

2.  The Master

I sometimes think that I am the only one who saw this for what it is- a whimsical love story. The tragic story of a drifter and a charismatic cult leader is the newest offering from Paul Thomas Anderson. Thus far, it seems to be his most polarising. In it's best moments, however, it is a gorgeously photographed, intensely performed period piece that seems that seems to both address the hopes of an era and completely ignore them simultaneously. The questioning scene (among others) is unforgettable. Thanks to it's physical beauty, the brilliance of both Jaoquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and downright strangeness, PTA has made another incendiary film that won't be shaken.

And, finally, the best....

1. Moonrise Kingdom 

I laughed, I cried, I never looked at Wes Anderson the same again...

I was taken completely by surprise when I first saw this masterpiece. It's not that I didn't like Wes Anderson's work, I simply did not know him to be that good. The music, the wit, the characters, the photography, there is a little to discredit this one, is there? You may find Anderson's universe a tad forced, but with two central characters this endearing and a tale of love so sweet and unaplolgetic (it borders on Disney territory), what's not to love?

Among it's many great moments, the scenes on the beach remain my favourite: poetry, ear-piercing, dancing, and a first kiss make these moments sweet to the core. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both newcomers, had quit a task ahead of them to perform opposite the likes of Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwarzman, and Bruce Willis...and they did it with aplomb.

Take a bow, Moonrise Kingdom, you're number one.

Honorable Mention: Looper, Seven Psychopaths, Dredd, The Avengers, The Imposter, The Hobbit.

Have not yet seen: Lincoln, Django Unchained (next year's list, I guess.)
...And the worst: One for the Money, Taken 2, Paranormal Activity 4

Happy New Year,

Friday, 7 December 2012

Buried Treasure: Criminally Underrated Films Part 2

What are the most underrated, under-viewed, unappreciated films of all time?

Part 2

The Misfits  (1961) 

Dir. John Huston

Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach

Synopsis: The final chapter in the careers of legends Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift (all three would die soon after) could not have been more apt. Indeed, John Huston's revisionist Western set in Reno, Nevada turns the glamorous former image of all three on it's head. The film sees the three veterans playing disturbed, estranged wash-ups in a film about friendship and loss of place in society.

The story of an ex-stripper (Monroe) who befriends two washed-up rodeo clowns for a weekend of drinking, dancing, comradely, and equestrianism is one of Hollywood's best musings on mercy and fitting in. 

Unmissable for: the performances and how handily it turns the western on its head.

White Lightning (1973)

Dir. Joseph Sargent

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty

Synopsis: When bad-ass moonshine-runner Gator McKluskey's (Reynolds) brother is murdered by corrupt police sheriff Connors (Beatty) , he busts out of jail to go get some payback....and run a little moonshine while he's at it!

The definitive good ol' boy movie is all guns, babes, soundtrack, and car-chases. No wonder Tarantino used the score for Inglorious Basterds (2009)!

Unmissable for: The soundtrack, the style, and the leading man.

The Limey (1999)

Dir. Steven Soderberg

Starring: Terrence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Luis Guzman,

Synopsis: For our second trip to the darkly comic world of the vigilante genre, here's Soderberg's 1999 LA style odyssey. Terrenmce Stamp plays a british convict named Wilson who travels to the alien world of LA to confront a corrupt record producer about the mysterious death of his daughter. The hypnotic structure probes into Wilson's dark psyche without letting the film brood too mordantly. There are one liners a plenty, an ace soundtrack, and enough memorable sequences to match that of most director's entire filmographies.Furious stuff, indeed!

Unmissable for: Essentially for everyrthing in it; Stamp and the soundtrack in particular.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Dir: T.Sean Durkin

Starring: Elizebeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes

Synopsis: An indie film that shone among many great indie films in 2012; if you have yet to see this great film you are truly missing out. Elizebeth Olsen (far more talented an actress than her twin older sisters) plays Marcy, a young girl who has run away from a dangerous cult that had indoctrinated her. Taken in by her yuppy sister and her husband, Marcy has to learn how to behave in society, having been brainwashed into believing that she is "a teacher and a leader". However, the threat of the old cult catching up to her is ever present, particularly in Marcy's fractured, confused mind.

Unmissable for: John Hawkes' insane cult leader singing to Marcy (the song the film was based on) and the ambiguous ending.

Part 3 will come!