Monday, 19 December 2011


Before the sun sets on another year and we all say farewell / shit off to 2011, here are some of my film highlights from the last twelve months.

Nietzsche famously witnessed a horse being flogged in the street, which caused him to break down and throw his arms around the beast. He was consequently insane (and mute) for the final ten years of his life. But what the heck happened to that horse?

After this fascinating premise (and a mesmerising opening sequence) not a hell of a lot happens in The Turin Horse. Scores of hot potatoes get eaten by people with bad table manners. It’s very difficult to refute the charge that it’s quite a boring art film, relentlessly nihilistic and completely depressing. But in a year when I found some of the hotly anticipated arthouse giants disappointing, The Turin Horse seemed to have some kind of miserable integrity. Like most Bela Tarr films, there is a hypnotic and dreamlike intensity to the film. And it contains the best horse performance I’ve ever seen.

At a packed preview for this 'fairytale for adults' many audible gasps punctuated the second half of the film and at one point an elderly man declared 'OH JESUS!' in a loud, trembling cry. It was a most irreligious way to spend a Sunday morning.


I watched Thor in a fleapit cinema beneath the busy streets of the Beyoglu district in Istanbul. Perhaps I was in a heady, happy state of mind brought about by Efes pilsen, shisha pipes and celestial kebabs, but there is a whole lot of fun to be had in the realm of Asgard. It’s essentially Masters of the Universe meets Norse mythology, directed by Kenneth Branagh, and that is exactly as good as it sounds.


The film that shits all over the 'women just aren't as funny as men' debate. 

This modern weepy makes inventive use of a Grizzly Bear soundtrack, has painfully intimate performances and an unbearable sex scene in a spaceship-themed hotel room (we've all been there). I also loved the non-linear beginning / end of the relationship structure. If you see this movie with a partner you will probably end up having a massive argument. But will you break up? That's the question.   

Is there anything more horrifying than ballet? No. My best multiplex experience this year. A film that needs big sound so that Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake rattles your organs and makes you feel a little bit sick. 

Kill List sent the willies right up me when I caught it at a disquietingly empty press show with about two other similarly dumbstruck folk in the cinema. I'm sure we all felt quite worried during the film. Best viewed as a state of the nation nightmare, it’s cryptic, jarring and has a really nasty edge. Wake up Jay!


Here comes Lynne Ramsay, riding on a river of red to sneak an arty horror into the cinemas! Probably the best new film I’ve seen this year. Kevin is such a little bastard. 


Of the many great re-releases out this year these two stunners still have the power to carpet bomb the living shit out of all that stand in their way. Apocalypse Now (1979) is uniquely intense; a horrifying fever dream that builds and builds until no less than Marlon shitting Brando pops out the dark and starts to monologue like a lunatic. Seeing this beautiful restored digital print at the cinema was a big fat Coppola treat. 

Apocalypse Now shares with Taxi Driver (1976) something of a nightmare quality and is, in many ways, the flip-side to the American troops’ experience in Vietnam (alienation abroad versus alienation at home). I hadn’t watched Taxi Driver in years but revisiting it on the big screen was wonderful. It's still completely enthralling. Weird to think that old Marty has had Taxi Driver, The Last WaltzHugo and George Harrison: Living in the Material World (And I Am A Material Girl) all in cinemas this year. He's a prolific old geezer!

So that's the end of my selective 'pictures of the year' list. I missed a lot of films that I really wanted to see and hope will score highly. These include Once Upon a Time in Anatolia by the masterful Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Post Mortem (follow up to the scuzzy, disturbing Tony Manero) and A Separation.

Hope you have a very Happy New Year. I'll be spending lots of time with Final Draft in January and I've just found out I'll be attending the Berlinale Talent Campus in February. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into some German pretzels. Wunderbar!

Let’s all try and survive this Mesoamerican long count calendar apocalypse thing in 2012. Good luck!

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