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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012


The last year was one of huge personal and professional changes for me, and although change can be painful, it was also necessary and has set me on a new course in many ways.

I started a new job at the Stratford Picturehouse in London, as Business Development Manager, working on consolidating the Picturehouses' position in Stratford in light of the new competition and huge developments happening in East London (Olympics, Westfield, etc). The job has been challenging but hugely educational.

My job at the Dukes continued, and we experienced one of our most succesful years ever, with growing audiences and amazing events, like the Brighton Rock Premiere, the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon Q&A, and great gigs from artists like 65daysofstatic and WHY?.

I also spent a lot of the year travelling to festivals, including the Berlinale in February, the Toulouse Latin American festival, I served on the CICAE jury at the Sarajevo Film Festival, attended the Venice Mostra, and finally the San Sebastian festival. I've become a real festival addict, and in 2012 I'll be re-visiting Berlin, Toulouse, and also reprising my CICAE Jury role, this time at the Vilnius Film Festival in Lithuania. Where else the year will take me is yet unknown.

This blog has taken a back seat in my life, due to lack of time, and also a re-definition of what it's for. The podcast I record with Robert Beames almost every week is the more regular outlet for opinions and rants, and after two years recording it, I think we've actually gotten good at it.

I'll post festival updates and reviews through here, and ocassional pieces if I feel the need. My twitter feed @splendorcinema is pretty active too.

Have a great year!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Best of 2011


The year, cinematically, was dominated for me, as for many people, with the release of Terence Malick's long-awaited TREE OF LIFE. Beyond that, traveling to a few amazing festivals (Berlin, Venice, Sarajevo, Toulouse, San Sebastian) afforded me opportunities to see work overlooked or just unreleased in the UK (MARIMBAS FROM HELL for example). My Top 10 might be different if I'd had a chance to see films like WEEKEND, MARGARET, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Fincher's version), A SEPARATION or MONEYBALL. Below the Top 10 is also a list of some runners up in no particular order.

1 - TREE OF LIFE
Any year that includes a Terence Malick film is going to be a good one. This film is pure Malick, distilled, a true expression of all the ideas that percolate throughout his career. It was a moving, beautiful, powerful, astonishing piece of work. Primarily about memory, I cried, laughed and was blown away. Films like this make the word masterpiece easy to use.

2 - MARIMBAS FROM HELL
A gem from Guatemala. Saw this in Toulouse and spent a good part of the year trying to get others to watch it and love it. In a world with hundreds of copycat films, all a replica of something else, a true orginial emerges. Funny and moving, real and staged, intense and light all at once.

3 - WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Andrea Arnold's flawed masterpiece is a giant 'fuck you' to the legion of boring, safe heritage films that constitute the British film 'industry'. Fresh, raw, moving, and in gorgeous 1.33 aspect ratio.

4 - PINA
Wenders' best film in a couple of decades is the best use of 3D up to now in any feature film. A poem to Pina Bausch wrapped in superb stereoscopic set pieces. A landmark in film history.

5 - THE CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
Watching Herzog's doc alone at The Dukes one morning was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of my life. With his trademark humour and smart observation, he unravels the origin of art in the medium's latest gimmick: 3D.

6 - THE GUARD
This came as a huge relief, sandwiched between the generic gloom of the Berlinale. A sharp shotgun of a dark comedy with hugely quotable dialogue and Brendan Gleason in his most memorable performance ever. To be re-watched ad nauseum.

7 - HUGO
Martin Scorsese delivers a film history lesson wrapped in a family-friendly package, using 3D technology to drive home the point that cinema itself is the biggest 'gimmick'. Everything THE ARTIST wishes it could be.

8 - WE HAVE A POPE
As a long standing admirer of Nanni Moretti, I was always going to love this, but its a particularly well executed piece of high concept comedy from Italy's answer to Woody Allen. The message being that often stupidity and inefficiency can be as pernicious as pure evil.

9 - BEGINNERS
If you can avoid knee-jerk reactions to the 'quirk' in this film, and embrace its very personal and human story, it's heartbreaking. If you can't, then you have no heart. Ewan McGregor has never been better and Christopher Plummer confirms his status as global treasure.

10 - RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
A surprising entry - I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. Embracing the political allegory of the 1970s Planet movies it delivers a strong action film which never compromises its message or meaning. Can't wait for the sequel.

Amongst my runners-up are Julie Deply's third outing as director, SKYLAB, Chilean romance BONSAI, Woody Allen's light and fluffy MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Asif Kapadia's doc SENNA, Lars Von Trier's depression-as-end-of-world MELANCHOLIA, the hilarious BRIDESMAIDS, Serbian documentary CINEMA KOMUNISTO, Aki Kaurismaki's sweet LE HAVRE, Crialese's beautiful TERRAFERMA and the kick-ass Samurai flick 13 ASSASSINS.