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And so another year exits leaving a clear path for Time Version 2012 to enter our AD existence with the purpose, swagger and sense of authority of a holy innocent. Our collective hopes. dreams, grievances, hatreds will drag this symbolic vessel through the fire of earthly experience; planes of thought, physicality, ideology and earthliness filtered through work,art, politics, nature, learning, prayer and violence.

What shall remain of this shiny, buffed monument of future folly by years end? Fucked if i know! Im not a mystic.

And on that rugpulling note, lets talk about ’11 for a bit shall we? Ok so the world is on the precipice of economic, political and environmental disaster from which there is little hope of recovery…check! hang on that was last year surely? And the year before perhaps? Okay well the impending psychological, societal and cultural apocalypse aside, here are MY favourite things that have dropped from this annus of crazi-ness. For those reading this blog for the first time, im normally less vulgar in my choice of words though in person i am still a bit of a …(rhymes with punt)!  And so on to…..

The Cinema, Darling!

Yes, 2011 was supposedly the year of films death and it’s reincarnation but what do those digital despots know anyway? Probably quite a lot to be at the vanguard of technology and so these futurist know it all overlords dangle small, sleek multipurpose gadgets in front of our blank faces as if enticing a dog with a bone or a politician with a high-priced Ukrainian call girl.

The Best

1) The Tree of Life –

Terence Malick’s microcosmic masterwork already discussed.

2) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier,Spy.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson‘s adaptation of John Le Carre‘s novel is a chilly, beautifully realized period piece, replicating the drab greys and browns of 70’s era Britain and transcending the often convoluted spy narrative about the presence of a Russian Mole in MI-5 by painting a complex, melancholy picture of distrust and paranoia amongst men.
3) Drive

Much praised and lavished with gifts from the Cannes elite, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed with Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn‘s stripped down and stylish homage to 7o’s and 80’s action cinema. There is no doubting Refn’s visual command and panache, particularly in a disturbing scene scored to Italian B movie composer Riz Ortolani‘s florid ‘Oh My Love’ but Ryan Gosling‘s Driver left me cold. But on reflection, it became clear. This was a portrait not of a cool, existential hero but of an antisocial, psychotic individual wrapped up in a glossy New Romantic sheen. Clearly , Refn is being  both sincere and fucking with us forcing us to sympathize with a less than savoury individual much like the protagonists in Refn’s earlier work particularly The Pusher Trilogy and Bronson.
4) Tyrannosaur

Well, this was a tough one to sit through but the powerful acting of Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan could not be denied all under the strong guiding hand of first time director Paddy Considine. This tale of abuse, forgiveness and the struggle of living is not easily forgotten.
5) Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s barking mad, deliriously entertaining study of a performers mental deterioration owed something to the cinema of both Roman Polanski and Dario Argento. Here was dark comedy, melodrama and absurd psychological horror wrapped up in a tightly controlled package played to the hilt by a committed cast led by Natalie Portman. Profoundly ridiculous, unsettling and surprisingly moving.

 The Worst

1) Swinging With The Finkels

There is very little I need to say here that I didn’t say in my July review for Film Ireland. Just an appalling and lazy piece of hackery. A  partner-swapping Comedy without the laughs, a stranded cast of talented performers whom I felt more sorry for with every passing moment. And then, I realized that they were all paid for their efforts. There was nothing left but to weep  in that bleak darkness of the screening room.

2) Justice

Not to repeat myself but just depressing. I truly hope that Nicolas Cage’s career recovers from listless B movie fodder such as this revenge drama from the always uninspired Roger Donaldson.

3) The Dilemma

One of the most confused, cowardly and pandering mainstream films I’ve seen in a long time, The Dilemma tries to please everyone and ends up confusing and pissing off anyone who sees it. The capable and skilled Ron Howard tries to combine a serious study of marital infidelity with a raucous Vince Vaughn-Kevin James buddy comedy whilst also trying to shoehorn in another subplot about car manufacturing! Will all of this tie together coherently in any way? No, because clearly Howard and producer Brian Grazer didn’t have a clue as to what type of film this was.  Certain scenes work in isolation as drama but all the comedy falls absolutely flat and the result is a schizophrenic mess.

4) Big Momma: Like Father, Like Son

Christ on a bike or the Devil in a Fatsuit?

5) The Hangover Part II

Admittedly, I laughed several times. I enjoyed the first film though felt it was way over-rated especially when it was being recommended to myself by people who never, ever go the movies but this despite the pre-release talk of director Todd Phillips doing his best to dent that the project was a career cash-in, pure and simple. Same formula, different location. Less funny. By the time it’s ludicrously smug and complacent sitcom climax somehow got even more excruciating with the ‘hilarious’ cameo appearance of everyone’s favourite woman beater, I wanted to set the cinema on fire with my eyes.

Coming soon: Part 2 – Music of the Year…hmmm, maybe not as this year I became more and more a time traveller in this respect with the downloading habits of 2001 to present day discombobulating my fragile thirty something mind.

In Addendum: Melancholia, Lars Von Trier’s end of the world meditation on depression from which I nicked the featured still from above and the heartwarming Irish documentary Ballymun Lullaby just missed the Top 5 Best of the Year.

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