Firstly, an apology to any Flickerdrome followers (left) out there. I began the year with great intentions (to analyse and assess each weeks' two most highly regarded films according to The Critic List – well, no-one’s paying me for this, I’m not sitting through Sex & The City 2 et al just to find out that yes, they really are that shit) but events conspired against me (lost my job, etc). So while I kept going to the cinema, the blog was sadly neglected and became more of a guilty burden than a fun, creative outlet.
HOWEVER, I still have plans for this site, and will be recommencing in 2011 with a more realistic (but no less brilliant, obviously) and possibly collaborative approach to bringing you, yes you, the best guide to what’s worth going to see at the cinema.
Flickerdrome’s best, and worst, movies of 2010...
2010 started off in big budget Hollywood style with James Cameron's Avatar in all its massive iMax 3D glory. I enjoyed its enveloping depth-of-field and silly HUGENESS, but I wasn’t so taken with the 3 hour length and that weird ache that developed behind my left eye. But as blockbusters go, it’s ‘up there’. Things stayed Hollywood with The Road which, while it had its flaws, gave us a lucid and terrifyingly realistic vision of the end of the world. Two impressive movies, visually at least, but not much to write home about, all things considered.
Still in the darkest depths of winter however, things started to get really interesting. First came A Prophet from French director Jacques Audiard, a hitherto ‘promising’ filmmaker who really found his stride with this ferociously-paced underworld epic. Then there was The Headless Woman – without doubt Flickerdrome’s #1 Best Film of 2010. Unique, uncompromising and utterly mesmerising, this Argentinean gem from Lucrecia Martel took me to places I’ve never been outside of a David Lynch film, and even then, in a route I’d never before been on. Both instant classics in the Flickerdrome sphere.
He saw it coming... A PROPHET
María Onetto in the masterful THE HEADLESS WOMAN, Flickerdrome's #1 film of 2010
Micmacs, from the singular mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, provided a respite of kooky French hilarity as well as Flickerdrome’s Best Cinematography of 2010 (by Tetsuo Nagata) before the beautiful The Father Of My Children arrived in early Feb. This heart-breaking French drama from Mia Hansen-Løve really knocked me for six with its blend of real-life tragedy and metaphor for the highs and lows of independent filmmaking. And if this wasn’t good enough, hot on its heels came the enchanting Lourdes, another French (well, Austrian) gem. Toying with unreliable narrative and using a beautiful painterly approach to shot composition (suggesting Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon with a similar languid use of zoom), this film really impressed me with its subtle artistry and timeless feel.
Wrong place, wrong time, superb cinematography... Dany Boon catches a bullet in MICMACS
The consequences of love... THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN
Sylvie Testud's miraculous awakening in LOURDES
Over in Hollywoodland, things ticked over, just. Martin Scorcese came back stronger than he’s been in some time, but still punching below his weight, with the bombastic, convoluted and enormously fun Shutter Island. But things got increasingly silly with Green Zone, an inanely by-the-numbers and nauseatingly pro-US (even-though-it’s-trying-to-tell-some-truths-about-the-unjust-Iraq-war) thriller from Paul Greengrass. A potentially important and noble story, all too shallowly executed. At the complete opposite end of the scale was John Pilger’s stunning, unflinching and downright horrific The War You Don’t See, Flickerdrome’s Best Documentary of 2010. This momentous film uncovers, methodically, the hypocritical and evil warmongering policies of the military industrial complex and examines its increasing control over modern mainstream journalism.
Haunting images plague the mind on SHUTTER ISLAND
Shock and awe, the American way. John Pilger's essential THE WAR YOU DON'T SEE, Flickerdrome's best documentary of 2010
Europe hit back in the spring and showed Hollywood how it should be done with the glorious I Am Love – a beautifully opulent and grandiose Italian melodrama from Luca Guadagnino. Dark and intense, but also dazzlingly bright and vibrant, this luscious, dramatic neo-opera – featuring the stunning Tilda Swinton at its heart – was right up my street. And the following month Italian cinema was back again, in equally artistic intensity, with Marco Bellocchio's brooding Vincere (pronounced ‘vin-chair-aye’ apparently) a dense, modernist and revisionist take on Mussolini and Italian fascism. Expressive and challenging, it left me awed but dazed – a potentially great film, but one that warrants a second viewing just to make sure. And then there was The Ghost from Roman Polanski, a fairly by-the-numbers thriller by Polanski’s standards, but still a film head and shoulders above most of the Hollywood dross that can only aspire to its crisp narrative dexterity.
Tilda Swinton and Edoardo Gabbriellini get fired up in I AM LOVE, Flickerdrome's #3 film of 2010
Like father, like son... VINCERE
Pierce Brosnan feels the pressure in THE GHOST (WRITER)
There followed some real turkeys, including Kick-Ass, a US/UK film that everyone fell over themselves to proclaim utterly brilliant, but which left me feeling like a good idea had been wheedled out of through comic-book escapism. Occasionally funny, but mostly just laughable. That was followed in the summer by the equally laughable Inception, a pretty pathetic attempt to construct a ‘blockbuster-with-brains’ in the Matrix mold that was left wanting on so many levels. Director Chris Nolan had the opportunity to make a decent modern sci-fi, but instead aimed far too low and gave us an empty-handed effects-laden barrel of nonsense. Underneath all the twisty pseudo-science waffle and eye-popping special effects, it was clear that Nolan’s grasp of filmmaking basics is woefully lacking.
With my patience severely tested by Kick-Ass and Inception, coupled with a long spell of beautiful weather, great tennis on the TV and a couple of cheeky holidays, it was around the summer that my cinema attendance rate took a nose-dive. Some of the year’s best-loved films came and went and I was sorry to miss Toy Story 3, The Illusionist, Down Terrace, Mother, The Social Network, The Maid and Uncle Boonmee, although I did see the lovely, poignant and deliciously funny Mary and Max in the autumn – without doubt Flickerdrome’s Best Claymation of 2010 (I wont say animation as I imagine that accolade will go to The Illusionist, when I get to see it!).
The Max Horovitz 'chocolate hotdog' from the sublime MARY & MAX, Flickerdrome's best claymation of 2010
I was also lucky enough the catch The Milk Of Sorrow (it was only shown in one screen in London, and then one of the worst: the execrable Panton Street Odeon). Tender, sad, bizarre and sometimes hilarious, this sweet little film from Peruvian director Claudia Llosa touched my heart with its delicate melancholy, and also turned up Flickerdrome’s Best Soundtrack of 2010, a heartbreaking score from Selma Mutal which you can sample here. The Milk Of Sorrow seemed to cement a golden year for South American cinema, joining The Headless Woman, The Secret In Their Eyes, The Maid and Cold Water Of The Sea to represent their continent with wonderful cinematic diversity and freshness.
When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer. THE MILK OF SORROW, lovely film, beautiful soundtrack
Britain too enjoyed a vintage year. Coming in rapid succession throughout the autumn were Tamara Drewe, a pretty uninspiring movie on paper, but one that found director Stephen Frears going all-out with cynical wrath to send up the pretensions, mores and domestic hypocrisies of middle-class middle England. Boasting pitch-perfect performances from Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig, this hilariously barbed and biting film really took me by surprise. Next came Made in Dagenham, again, a film that looked all-too familiar on paper (another Full Monty-esque cliché-fest with added 60s nostalgia) but which turned out to be a very impressive and rousing effort. Led by a heavyweight cast of British acting talent (that didn’t include Bill Nighy, Judy Dench, Helen Mirren or any of ‘the luvvies’, genius!) it managed to skillfully walk the line of genuine drama without slipping into mawkish sentimentality and proved a very satisfying historic drama all round.
'Cock pie!' Roger Allam in TAMARA DREWE
Sally Hawkins goes against 'The Man' in MADE IN DAGENHAM
Then British film took a turn for the strange with Four Lions, a typically curved ball from comedy-terrorist Chris Morris. Taking an odd but intelligent approach to the dilemma of home-grown Islamic suicide bombers, this well-researched satire is presented in a bizarrely slapstick way. Coming on like a cross between Dad’s Army and United 93, it is the blackest of black comedies – a nightmare vision of a society spinning madly out of control, but represented by lovable Three Stooges-esque rouges with impeccable comedy timing. Complex and frightening, as well as bitterly funny, challenging and perplexing.
Corvus Interruptus: the strange and frightening world of Chris Morris's FOUR LIONS
The crowning glory of Britain’s cinema releases in 2010, however, was Mike Leigh’s Another Year, Flickerdrome’s #2 Best Film of 2010. Honest, poignant and poetic, this richly charactered elegy to the haves and have-nots of happiness came on like an older and wiser version of his previous Happy-Go-Lucky. With its mellifluous and allusive structure and deceptively simple way of exposing complex home truths like most dramas cough up cliches, Another Year proves, once and for all, that Mike Leigh is one of the true originals of British cinema.
Tom and Gerri hold on for ANOTHER YEAR, Flickerdrome's #2 film of 2010
There wasn’t anything to match the quality of Another Year from ‘across the pond’, but two Sundance films did make a splash in the Flickerdrome world. The first was Winter’s Bone, a powerful but intensely oppressive film set in a poor, methamphetamine-decimated Missouri Ozarks community. Well crafted, brilliantly cast and genuinely foreboding, Winter’s Bone took the claustrophobia and bleakness of The Road and made them even more even real and frightening. The other contender was The Kids Are All Right, a touching comedy drama from Lisa Cholodenko that was well-written, impressively cast and boasted strong performances all round. While not a ‘classic’, it does suggest further works of originality and integrity from Cholodenko, who, unlike Jason Reitman, you feel may actually deliver. God knows American cinema is in need of some of that right now.
Jennifer Lawrence in the intense WINTER"S BONE
And that’s pretty much it, although I would like to mention briefly Flickerdrome’s #1 Most Hated Film of 2010, which goes to Dogtooth, a film I hated so much I can’t even go into details why. Good idea, terrible delivery. Didn’t get the allegory, didn’t like the humour, and the whole message just felt wrongly executed. Such an interesting idea too. Shame.
Catch you in 2011, hope it offers us as many fine films as this year.