(Slightly late) 2011 Review (including the best things I’ve seen this year, both new and old)

Movies

I unfortunately had to rely more heavily than ever on art centres (Chapter in Cardiff, Taliesin in Swansea and the DCA in Dundee) for my movie going fix, due mainly to the multiplexes’ lack of originality in their line-ups. 2011 was notable for being the year in which the most movie sequels were released (congratulations), with a staggering 28 – working out at just over one a fortnight. It is hardly surprising then that eight of the top grossing films of the year were sequels, with the kid-friendly duo of Rio and The Smurfs making up the numbers.

Consequently, my ‘need to see’ list is now far, far outweighing my ‘seen’ list. The Ides of March, Drive, The Skin I Live In, J. Edgar, Melancholia, Hugo, The Artist, Shame, Carnage, In the Land of Blood & Honey, The Kid With a Bike, The Descendents, The Killing Fields, Sleeping Beauty, Margaret, Bridesmaids, The Tree of Life, Another Earth, The Whistleblower, Contagion, Take Shelter and Margaret are all on my list, although I am redeemed as some of these are still yet to be released.

Now, to what I have seen. I was blown away by two different but equally incredibly powerful British films by female directors, Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Andrea Arnold’s bold Wuthering Heights retelling. Two films that could be the last of a dying breed if David Cameron gets his way… but that showcase the true talent in acting, writing, directing and cinematography that Britain has to offer. To continue the patriotic theme, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy was also brilliant, an excellent film with perhaps the best British ensemble cast, in one of my favourite genres.

2011 will also be a notable year for me, as it is when I became a Harry Potter convert (of sorts)! For spectacle, in the final two films in particular, there is almost nothing to touch it.

On the subject of entertainment:

Source Code continued Duncan Jones’ impressive CV thus far, a brilliant, fresh action thriller.

The Lincoln Lawyer was slick, stylish and brimming with tension; even making me hate Matthew McConaughey slightly less.

The Kids are All Right cemented Lisa Cholodenko’s place as one of my favourite directors.

The Adjustment Bureau was great fun, if Hitchcock had directed Blade Runner this would be it.

Whilst I also loved a number of thrillers including, The Secret in their Eyes which is wonderfully intricate, sinister and above all, engrossing; Winter’s Bone, icy, visceral and unforgiving mountain noir; whilst Revanche was restrained and subtle yet menacingly tense.

As well as Somewhere (Sofia Coppola), Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood), Easy A (Will Gluck), Paris (Cédric Klapisch) and Let’s Talk About the Rain (Agnes Jaoui).

I’ve also been watching a number of Luis Buñuel’s more religion-centric films, and loved the subversive, playful and joyfully mocking nature of Viridiana, Simon of the Desert and The Milky Way in particular.

 

TV

Television almost overtook my movie viewing in this past year, which the quality continuing to increase.

A special mention needs to go to Game of Thrones, the first season of which proved to be brutal, addictive and immense. The latest season of Mad Men continued to prove its justified reputation as the best thing on TV at the moment. Whilst, after a shaky first few episodes, the much hyped Boardwalk Empire got gradually better, before confidently hitting it’s stride in season two and finishing with an incredibly bold and brave final episode; setting events up beautifully for the upcoming third season. regrettably, the same cannot be said for a personal favourite of mine, Dexter, season six of which limped along worryingly, before righting itself somewhat in the final few episodes – although I’m hopeful that the already confirmed season seven may be its last. One show that got nowhere near the seventh season mark was The Chicago Code which was unfortunately cancelled after the first season, despite being a good, solid cop drama with ample potential for future season arcs. The Borgias managed to almost fill the gap left by The Tudors, whilst the latest instalment of This Is England (this time set in 1988) was another gritty, powerhouse of cinematic excellence.

The French police series Spiral produced another brilliant season, whilst Braquo also finally made it to UK screens, and in the process threatened to make the corruption and lawbreaking of The Shield’s Vic Mackey and co. look like an episode of The Bill.

Season one of The Killing (USA) got better as the weeks went on and becomes compelling in its own right. Only then did I watch season two of The Killing (Denmark) and immediately forget that there ever was an American version.

As for the future, I am extremely looking forward to Luck, plus new series of Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Spiral, Boardwalk Empire and The Borgias.

The final mention however, must go to Mark Cousins’ wonderful, sprawling epic The Story of Film: An Odysseythe defining encyclopaedia of the history of cinema.

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