Favourite films of 2011

December 31st, 2011
Author: Meredith Taylor

Well let’s look back on 2011 film-wise: was it a good year? It certainly wasn’t a bad one although let’s accentuate the positive for now and give you my personal thoughts and then you can give me yours. I’d like to hear them when you’ve got a minute..

I’ll have to start with The King’s Speech, as it would be impossible not to include it in any film list due to Colin Firth as King George. In a stellar performance he combines sensitivity with regal bearing – no mean feat – and the subtlety of his myriad facial expressions throughout are testament to his talent as one of the best actors currently working today.

Moving swiftly on let’s talk about Brighton Rock because I felt it had a raw deal and was a very nifty piece of filmmaking with great turns from Helen Mirren and Sam Riley. Roland Joffe managed to convey the sinister edginess of Graeme Greene’s original forties work by giving it a sixties setting and the jaw-dropping violence of that era worked particularly well with the storyline.

Another British film from the indie stable last year was Archipelago from director Joanna Hogg. She’s particularly good at her portrayals of middle class Englishness seen from a woman’s point of view as in “Unrelated” her first feature. Here along with a tight script and intelligent casting, she uses a wonderful sense of lighting thanks to DOp Ed Rutherford. The ambient birdsong of Tresco is the soundtrack to this stiff-upper-lipped family affair starring Tim Hiddleston.

Polish director, Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing is a gorgeous film to look at. It’s an escape and survival movie set against the stark and pared-down beauty of snowy landscapes and starring Vincent Gallo as a convict on the run.

In fifth place comes a gritty little British thriller called Blitz that I actually saw in Spain and was an unexpected treat. Aidan Gillen gives a dynamite performance as a creepy serial killer of cops up against action hard man Jason Statham and Mark Rylance. This is Elliott Lester’s second feature.

Let’s include an Italian film in the mix and I was completely charmed by Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte. It’s a gently soporific saga of a goatherd living out his days in a quiet corner of Calabria set against a background of bells and goats bleating in the breeze. Real navel-gazing stuff and very thought-provoking.

It’s difficult to go wrong with John Michael McDonagh writing and now directing and The Guard was probably the most entertaining film of 2011 for me. A subversively silly crime caper starring Brendan Gleeson as a delightfully un-pc PC and Don Cheedle as his FBI sidekick, it’s another winning combination from the producers of The King’s Speech.

I think possibly my favourite film of 2011 would have to be Drive. Slick violence and sublime screenplay are a winning combination and the palpable on-screen chemistry between Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling makes them one of the most pleasurable romantic pairings of last year. I admire Nicolas Winding Refyn’s work and let’s hope he goes from strength to strength.

Tilda Swinton is probably my favourite actor de nos jours. In We Have To Talk About Kevin she’s superb as mother driven to distraction by her delinquent son. Let’s just remember here that a book’s not a film and this adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s work has to stand alone and be judged as such.

And let’s end on a dramatic note with the final film of the 2011, Snowtown. It’s not so much about the violence but the bleak emotional cruelty of this Aussie psychopath fest…. and a soundtrack like a striking cobra…

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