Best Ten Films Of 2011

While 2011 hasn’t exactly been a year of record-breaking box office success, it has been a fantastic one for British cinema, emerging talent and unique independent features which found themselves surpassing the popularity of many much bigger movies.

The films I’ve chosen – and believe me when I say it wasn’t an easy process – are what I think represent the pinnacle of the cinema I Continue reading “Best Ten Films Of 2011”

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Feature: Top Ten Films Of 2011: January – June

So far, 2011 has been a fantastic year for film. Below, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favourites from the last six months, with a few honourable mentions that just missed out on a place. Finally, I’ve listed some somewhat less honourable mentions that you should probably avoid at all costs.

10. Never Let Me Go (February 2011)

Mark Romanek’s shamefully overlooked adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s momentous novel Never Let Me Go wasn’t exactly the hit Fox Searchlight were banking on, but that didn’t stop it being a beautifully explorative, acted and directed piece of cinema.

9. Animal Kingdom (February 2011)

This Australian crime-thriller rose from the underbelly, picking up momentum thick and fact for its astoundingly honest portrayal of a fully functional crime family. Striking direction, raw performances and compelling source material have made well worth seeking out.

8. Archipelago (March 2011)

Joanna Hogg’s stark look at family turmoil is beautifully captured and carefully paced to provide a deeply resonant and affecting glimpse into the highs and lows of family life and what makes people tick.

7. Heartbeats (May 2011)

Multi-faceted Xavier Dolan follows in the footsteps of acclaimed filmmakers Gus Van Sant, Pedro Almodóvar and Wong Kar Wai to write and direct Heartbeats, a film of true beauty, wisdom and depth beyond its years.

6. Arrietty (June 2011 – EIFF)

Studio Ghibli’s sprightly interpretation of Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book The Borrowers is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, under the watchful eye of filmmaker extraordinaire Hayao Miyazaki. Arrietty boasts some truly illustrious animation and a score by French musician Cecile Corbel that made me go weak at the knees.

5. Bridesmaids (June 2011)

Kristen Wiig, well known for her long-standing stint on Saturday Night Live, was launched to stardom with hit comedy Bridesmaids. Directed by Paul Feig, the film features an array of flawless comedic performances, unforgettable gags and the goddess-like figure Rose Bryne.

4. Albatross (June 2011 – EIFF)

Niall McCormick’s British coming-of-age film premiered at the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival to rave reviews. Written by burgeoning writer Tamzin Refn, Albatross is a fully realised and thought-provoking piece of cinema, chock full of heart, depth and humour to boot. If Jessica Findlay-Brown doesn’t become a star, then there’s something seriously wrong with the world.

3. Black Swan (January 2011)

Granted, this film opened last year in America, but due to different release schedules it was early January before I had a chance to see Natalie Portman give an Academy Award winning performance in Darren Aronofsky’s daringly dark psychological ballet thriller. Hauntingly brilliant.

2. Submarine (March 2011)

Former IT Crowd actor Richard Ayoade made his directorial debut with the mesmerising, outlandish and warm-hearted indie comedy Submarine. The entire cast, not least relative newcomer Craig Roberts, delivered remarkable performances.

1. Blue Valentine (January 2011)

This emotionally crippling insight into one couple’s turbulent relationship shot Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams back into the limelight, and earned them a few dozen award nominations in the process. After years of suffering various unfortunate setbacks, Derek Cianfrance’s passion project came to fruition with such intensity that it was hard to ignore. From the offset I was hooked, so it’d be impossible for Blue Valentine not to be my top film of the year so far.

Films of notable interest: Hobo With A Shotgun, Trust, Project Nim, Attack The Block, Rango, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Rubber, Pina 3D, Scream 4, Winnie The Pooh, Meek’s Cutoff, X-Men: First Class, The Silent House, 13 Assassins, Perfect Sense, Thor and Cave Of Forgotten Dreams.

Films to think no more of: Mars Needs Moms, Larry Crowne, Ghosted, I Am Number Four, The Rite, Faster, Chalet Girl, Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angeles.

DVD Releases: May 9, 2011

The King’s Speech

Director: Tom Hooper

Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush

Blue Valentine

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling and Faith Wladyka

The Way Back

Director: Peter Weir

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell

I Saw The Devil

Director: Jee-woon Kim

Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi and Gook-hwan Jeon

Biutiful

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez and Hanaa Bouchaib

Archipelago

Director: Joanna Hogg

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Baker and Kate Fahy

Chico & Rita

Director: Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba

Starring: Mario Guerra, Limara Meneses and Eman Xor Oña

Waiting For Superman

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: The Black Family, Geoffrey Canada and The Esparza Family

83rd Academy Awards: Nominations

Best Picture

  • The Social Network
  • Winter’s Bone
  • True Grit
  • Black Swan
  • The King’s Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Fighter
  • Toy Story 3
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right

Best Director

  • Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
  • David Fincher (The Social Network)
  • Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
  • Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit)
  • David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Best Actor

  • Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
  • Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
  • James Franco (127 Hours)
  • Jeff Bridges (True Grit)

Best Actress

  • Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
  • Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
  • Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
  • Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)

Best Supporting Actor

  • John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
  • Christian Bale (The Fighter)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
  • Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
  • Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Best Original Screenplay

  • Another Year (Mike Leigh)
  • The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (David Seidler)
  • Inception (Christopher Nolan)
  • The Fighter (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson & Keith Dorrington)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • 127 Hours (Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy)
  • The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
  • Toy Story 3 (Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  • Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik & Anne Rosellin)

Best Animated Film

  • Toy Story 3
  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Biutiful
  • Dogtooth
  • In A Better World
  • Incendies
  • Outside The Law

Best Documentary

  • GasLand
  • Inside Job
  • Exit Through The Gift Shop
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land

Best Art Direction

  • Inception
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit

Best Cinematography

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit
  • The Social Network

Best Costume Design

  • The Tempest
  • I Am Love
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit

Best Editing

  • The King’s Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network

Best Short Film (Live Action)

  • The Crush
  • Wish 143
  • Na Wewe
  • The Confession
  • God Of Love

Best Short Film (Animated)

  • The Gruffalo
  • Day & Night
  • Let’s Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, A Journey Diary

Best Makeup

  • The Wolfman
  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back

Best Original Score

  • Inception (Hanz Zimmer)
  • How To Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
  • The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat)
  • 127 Hours (A.R. Rahman)
  • The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

Best Original Song

  • Coming Home (Country Strong)
  • I See The Light (Tangled)
  • If I Rise (127 Hours)
  • We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)

Best Sound Mixing

  • Salt
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit
  • The Social Network

Best Sound Editing

  • Toy Story 3
  • Inception
  • Unstoppable
  • True Grit
  • Tron: Legacy

Best Visual Effects

  • Hereafter
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
  • Iron Man 2
  • Inception

Cinema Releases: January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet

Director – Michel Gondry

Starring – Seth Rogen, Jay Chou and Cameron Diaz

Blue Valentine

Director – Derek Cianfrance

Starring – Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling and Faith Wladyka

Conviction

Director – Tony Goldwyn

Starring – Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Melissa Leo

Henry’s Crime

Director – Malcolm Venville

Starring – Keanu Reaves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan

Brotherhood

Director – Will Canon

Starring – Lou Taylor Pucci, Trevor Morgan and Jon Foster

Review: Blue Valentine (2010)

Derek Cianfrance directs Blue Valentine, an exacting, achingly distressing look at the complexity of a marriage and its steady dissolve.

The narrative unfolds in a non-linear fashion over two timelines as it tracks the burgeoning romance between Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams), and its eventual breakdown.

The action flicks back and forth, transposing the bright optimism of their young romance – each yearning for one another’s veracity – against the buried anguish and turmoil the dissolve has lead to.

Gosling’s Dean, through flashbacks, is seen as a charming, caring guy, while Williams’ Cindy is an intelligent, wholesome girl attracted to Dean’s fun-loving nature – beautifully captured in a scene where Dean’s playing a ukulele as Cindy dances along.

Their personalities age with the turbulent marriage, Gosling undercuts his characters’ charm with a frightening anger and eruptiveness. Williams’ contained performance as the older Cindy exudes despair and hopelessness, surmising her feelings towards her changed husband.

Cianfrance beautifully transposes the two different time periods with pitch-perfect direction. He uses penetrating camera angles and subdued lighting to represent the turmoil the relationship has become, while intercutting this with bright, snappy flashbacks to convey the puppy-love beginnings.

The film is a deeply visceral experience, pulling you from one emotion to another as it skips so dramatically from the giddy hopes of young love to the painful sorrow of this union’s death throes.

Grizzly Bear’s stripped back tracks are used to great avail as the films core soundtrack, further adding to the emotional integrity this film boasts.

Equally, in the scene where Dean sing’s “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” and Cindy dances along, the emotional devastation set to behold the troubled pair is hinted as subtly, yet devastatingly so.

Blue Valentine is an emotionally affecting, raw and impeccably acted portrait of a doomed marriage, making brilliant use of the complex, non-linear narrative structure, gaining complete control over the audiences emotions from start to finish.

A breathtakingly real piece of filmmaking from a talented up-and-coming director.

Feature: 30 Most Anticipated Films Of 2011

2011 is shaping up to be a wonderful year for cinema, with a lot of big name and word-class directors offering up new films across a wide range of genres. Here’s the thirty I’m most looking forward to:

1. Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s highly acclaimed psychological ballet drama finally hits UK cinemas. This one stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Winona Ryder.

2. Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance’s juxtaposing relationship drama, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.

3. Submarine

Richard Ayoyade’s comical coming-of-age directorial debut, starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine.

4. Sucker Punch

Zack Snyder’s futuristic action-fantasy film, starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Vanessa Hudgens as girl’s willing to do anything to survive.

5. Scream 4

Wes Craven returns to the Scream franchise, along with regular actors Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette. New recruits include Emma Roberts, Adam Brody and Hayden Panettiere.

6. Your Highness

David Gordon’s Green hilarious-looking medieval stone comedy, starring James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel.

7. The Skin That I Inhabit

Pedro Almodovar re-teams with Antonio Banderas for terror film The Skin That I Inhabit.

8. Attack The Block

Directed by Joe Cornish, this south London comedy-action film pitches a gang of youths against an alien invasion. Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker and Luke Treadaway star.

9. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Johnny Depp returns as Jack Sparrow for a fourth installment in the colossal Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, this time with new faces (Penelope Cruz and a surprise Judi Dench appearance) and a new director (Rob Marshall).

10. Bridesmaids

Judd Apatow produces Paul Weig’s comedy about two women dueling for the perfect wedding, starring Kristen Wigg, Rose Bryne and Jon Hamm.

11. Paul

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg reunite for an ensemble alien road movie. Greg Mottola directs.

12. Melancholia

Lars Von Trier returns with a psychological disaster film, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Keifer Sutherland.

13. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The final installment in the globally successful Harry Potter franchise, featuring Harry, Ron and Hermoine as they race against time to kill Voldemort.

14. X-Men: First Class

Kick-Ass director returns to the superhero genre with an X-Men prequel showing how Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magnet (Michael Fassbender) met and the first time they discovered their powers.

15. Wuthering Heights

Andrea Arnold follows-up the critical darling Fish Tank with an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, starring Kaya Scodelario, Nichola Burley and Oliver Milburn.

16. Contagion

Steven Soderberg’s film centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease, starring Jude Law, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marion Cotillard.

17. The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson collaborate on a 3D motion capture film based on the comic books created by Belgianartist Georges “Hergé” Remi about an adventurer, Tintin (Jamie Bell), and his white dog Snowy.

18. Fright Night

Craig Gillespie directs a remake of Tom Holland’s 1985 original horror, starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant and Toni Collette.

19. A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg’s historical biopic focusing on the turbulent relationship between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the woman who comes between theme.

20. Cowboys & Aliens

Jon Favreau teams James Bond (Daniel Craig) with Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) for this genre-blurring science-fiction western film.

21. Wanderlust

Producer Judd Apatow teams with Jennifer Aniston for a sexy comedy that could well reignite her struggling career. David Wain directs, with Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose and Malin Akerman also starring.

22. Hanna

After the acclaimed Atonement, Joe Wright switches genres with this action-thriller starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana.

23. Route Irish

Ken Loach’s study into the consequences suffered by private security contractors after fighting in the Iraq War opened to lukewarm reviews at Cannes, but features a vigorous performances from Mark Womack.

24. We Need To Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay’s long-awaited return to directing. We Need To Talk About Kevin is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name and stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller.

25. Thor

Marvel’s latest superhero incarnation to hit the big screen, directed by Shakespearean thesp Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston.

26. The Darkest Hour

A new science-fiction film starring Olivia Thirlby and Emile Hirsch as young people caught in an alien invasion. Chris Gorak directs, with Timur Bekmambetov producing.

27. War Horse

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s acclaimed children’s novel War Horse, starring Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Emily Watson and Stephen Graham.

28. The Invention Of Hugo Cabret

Martin Scorcese’s first foray into 3D, featuring a cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Ben Kingsley.

29. The Tree Of Life

Terrence Malick’s long-delayed film about the quest to regain the meaning of life, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain.

30. Sherlock Holmes 2

Guy Ritchie returns to direct a sequel to the 2009 box office success. Sherlock Holmes re-teams Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, with new additions including Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry.