Dans La Maison – In The House

A clever, and at times very funny, film about the developing mentor/mentee relationship between a teacher and one of his pupils.

Teachers (and I think there were several in the audience with me) will enjoy the sequence a the beginning of the film in which there is much poking of fun at the new pedagogy being introduced to the school – a uniform, putting the ‘learner’ (not the ‘pupil’) at the centre of the learning experience …

As the story progresses, it’s not always easy to see who is steering the relationship and why, but it all hangs together in a very clever way, with excellent performances from Kristen Scott Thomas, Fabrice Luchini and newcomer Ernst Umhauer.

My top 12 films of 2012

I suppose most people do a top 10 at the end of the year. But I’ve seen so many good films in 2012 that I was finding it difficult to narrow down to just 10. And then I heard Mark Kermode decide it was OK to have 12 films for 2012 – and who am I to argue.

As with the worst films of 2012, click on the film title to read longer opinions.

Number 12 – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Gentle, sinister and chilling – difficult to say more without giving too much away.

Number 11 – Cosmopolis

Intriguing, mystifying and enigmatic, giving Robert Pattinson a new challenge.

Number 10 – The Dark Knight Rises

A fitting finale to the trilogy – always difficult to fault Christopher Nolan’s directing.

Number 9 – Melancholia

Maybe this was officially released in 2011, but I didn’t get to see it until this year, so I’m allowing it. An excellent observation of a chronicle of severe depression, and visually very powerful. 

Number 8 – Shame

Powerful film about the shame of addiction (of any type), of not being able to break free from it, of battling inner demons; with an excellent performance from Michael Fassbender.

Number 7 – Argo

A tight, excellently constructed film, and the ‘will they, won’t they’ sequence towards the end are some of the most tense few minutes I have ever experienced watching a film.

Number 6 – Jagten (The Hunt)

The ending to this film about a teacher accused of inappropriate behaviour with a pupil stayed with me for quite a while after I’d seen it. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent.

Number 5 – Nostalgia de la luz (Nostalgia for the Light)

Finely meshes together two themes, looking up from the Atacama desert to unlock the secrets of the universe, and looking down beneath the desert for the remains of Pinochet’s many ‘disappeared’. 

Number 4 – En Kongelig Affaere (A Royal Affair)

Second appearance for the beautiful and brilliant Mads Mikkelsen. Not your common or garden fluffy period drama – this is social history brought to life.

Number 3 – Skyfall

Where No Bond Has Gone Before. All the action and glamour of Bond, plus the added layers which, don’t spoil the Bond mystique. Beautifully shot.

Number 2 – Samsara

An absolutely beautiful film that will say something different to everyone who sees it – a juxtaposition of faith, nature, humanity and automata which had me leaving the cinema with a feeling of wonderment.

Number 1 – Even The Rain

Fascinatingly weaves in the real life story of the exploitation of locals in Cochabamba with a film shoot also using locals. Parallels are drawn yet not over-stated, and when the modern police encroach on the filmset and find themselves face to face with the red-painted indiginous people, the point is well and truly made. Brilliant.

I’d love to know what you liked this year, and if you agreed with my choices.  Happy New Year! 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Cards on the table: I only went to see this because I wanted to see what a film in 48 frames per second would look like. I would have gone to see just about anything, and this happened to be the first one that came along.

It’s several decades since I read the book, so I can’t comment on any adaptation or on the stretching into three films.

This film is far too long, and remarkably devoid of female characters (with the obvious exception of Cate Blanchett). It has a bunch of interchangeable dwarf characters, none of whom I found interesting, apart from the delectable Richard Armitage (obvz).

Technically, 48fps does give a highly realistic image to the characters in the foreground, and seemed to make the 3D light loss much less of an issue.  I did, however, find that it showed up the computer-generated background as much less real, and a huge contrast to the live action.

3D tends to give me a headache, but I will definitely try out more films in the higher frame rate when they appear.

I, Anna

Oh dear me.

The marketing for this film describes it in terms such as this, from IMDb.com:

A noir thriller told from the point of view of a femme fatale, who falls for the detective in charge of a murder case.

Well it’s not ‘noir’, Anna is not a ‘femme fatale’ and this is a good example of how the marketing people have misled potential audiences by souping-up the description.

Therefore it was hugely disappointing at the time and I tutted all the way home. Looking back a few days later, there is the essence of a good story in there about a fragile woman whose circumstances challenge her beyond what she can mentally endure, but noir it is not.

Jagten – The Hunt

The ending to this film stayed with me for quite a while after I’d seen it, and completely over-rode the few doubts I’d had about it at the beginning.

The beautiful and most excellent actor Mads Mikkelsen plays a quiet, lonely but amiable kindergarten assistant whose life is turned on its head by a lie told by one of his pupils. It’s torture to watch what happens to him, and at no point do you doubt his innocence, which makes the treatment of this delicate subject so engrossing.

The doubts I had were admittedly with my teacher hat on, eg the way the initial allegations were handled didn’t seem to be quite right and was frustrating at the start, but I was able to forgive this by the end. One of the top films of the year.

End of Watch

Liked this a lot.

It’s a great observation of the relationship between two cops, patrolling tough neighbo(u)rhoods of Los Angeles. The two leads (the always watchable Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Peña) are great together, and the film was really engaging, despite the slight annoyance of the hand-held camera shots.

Not your run-of-the-mill cop film, and the trailer doesn’t really do it justice – watch it for yourself.


The Master

There’s a scene in the film (it’s in the trailer, too so it’s not giving anything away), where one of the characters says “He’s making all this up as he goes along – you don’t see that?”.

Well I’m convinced that’s what director Paul Thomas Anderson was doing with this film.

It consists of a series of episodes in the lives of the two main characters (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix), but it just doesn’t go anywhere. The characters don’t develop or evolve, there’s no resolution to anything, and to be quite honest, I was bored.

Hoffman and Phoenix are both huge, but end up cancelling each other out in the scene-stealing stakes.  The real class act is Amy Adams, who is sharp and chilling as The Master’s wife.

I don’t always expect a conventional beginning, middle and end to a  film, but I do expect to be drawn in by some aspect. This time, all I really wanted was for someone to please make it stop.

Emperor’s New Clothes.

Silver Linings Playbook

Handsome (but damaged) Bradley Cooper comes out of a mental institution and crosses paths with attractive (but damaged) Jennifer Lawrence.

I’m not really sure where all the Oscar talk is coming from (apart from the fact that it’s a Weinstein-backed film). The parts of the story which dealt with bi-polar disorder and depression were really well done, and it may be that this is where the chat is coming from. But the plot contrivances of the rest of the story are fine for a bog-standard rom-com, but nothing more.

Bradley has beautiful blue eyes, and Jennifer is turning into an actress worth following (check out Winter’s Bone to see how good she is), but it didn’t grab me as much as reviews had led me to believe.

The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 2

If you’re not ‘with’ the Twilight franchise, then this film will do nothing for you.

I’ve watched all the films, and this one was fine. It’s not the best of the series, but it finishes off the story in a satisfactory manner.

I haven’t read any of the books, so there’s no point me trying to get involved in a discussion on the ‘ending’, but as a cinematic experience it was entertaining and exactly what I was expecting.

I felt a little bit uncomfortable with the ‘imprinting’ idea,and I do think it was a bit gory towards the end for a 12A certificate.

But Yay for park-your-brain-at-the-door-and-enjoy-the-ride entertainment!