Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Entirely Pointless Film Ha Ha Annual Review 2011

Part Two: Best of Miscellaneous

Best Actor: Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
The man with the craziest eyes in America does it again. Take Shelter isn't without flaws, but Shannon's performance keeps you hooked even when the narrative doesn't. Portraying the desperate, confused Curtis, Shannon combines manic energy with emotive force to create a character unlike any other. It's the heartbreaking sequence in the storm shelter that propels this performance from the great to the transcendent.
Notable Mentions:
Choi Min-Sik – I Saw the Devil (easily this year's finest villain)
Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ben Mandelson – Animal Kingdom

Best Actress: Joeng-hie Yun - Poetry
Poetry is a remarkable film for a plethora of reasons, but it's all held together by an astonishing central performance by Joeng-hie Yun as the lonely, naive Mija. Her coming-of-age story is handled with great subtlety by Yun, and without her sterling characterisation the film wouldn't be quite as powerful as it is. In a film world often devoid of strong roles for elderly performers, Joeng-hie Yun emerges triumphantly.
Notable Mentions: 
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Meek’s Cutoff / Blue Valentine
Kirsten Wiig - Bridesmaids

Best Discovery: Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
Every talented child actor is often met with a flurry of hyperbole, only to disappear into obscurity as they grow older. Let's hope Hailee Stenifeld will prove an exception. It's a risky endeavour having a film that relies entirely on a young character, especially one as charismatic and independent as Mattie Ross. But the Coen Brothers found the perfect match for the role in fifteen-year old Steinfeld. Being relegated to mere 'Best Supporting Actress' in the Oscars was underselling the power of her performance. Let's hope she doesn't go the way of countless child actors past.
Notable Mentions:
Kiko Mizuhara - Norwegian Wood
Craig Roberts / Yasmin Paige – Submarine
Jessica Chastain - Every other film

Best Scene: La Quattro Volte - The Parade
The Four Steps was a film heavily concerned with man's relationship with nature, and its precarious connection with us. Never was this more evident than in the tremendous centerpiece of the movie: an extended single take shot of a dog trying to attract the local villager's attention as his master lies on his deathbed. Inspired chaos follows. Poignant, beautifully choreographed, but (most importantly) laugh out loud funny: it's a burst of energy in an otherwise very slow-burning movie, but one that perfectly encapsulates the film's grand thematic concerns.
Notable Mentions:
Evangelion 2.22 - Berserk / Ending
Summer Wars - Koi-koi
Take Shelter - The storm shelter
I Saw the Devil - Mansion chase
Hugo - Mélies studio recreations
Drive - Opening sequence
13 Assassins - The battle

Best Cinematography / Editing: The Tree of Life
Say what you will about the Tree of Life, but it's impossible to deny that every single frame looks absolutely astonishing. Director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki dazzles throughout. Not only is it a technical marvel, but the dreamy, hypnotic camera work perfectly captures the hazy, nostalgic atmosphere of the film as a whole. Gelling smoothly with Malick's overall vision, Lubezki even makes ghastly contemporary architecture look heavenly. Add to that the sterling work from five (FIVE!?) different editors and you have the cinematic equivalent of stream-of-consciousness.
Notable Mentions:
Norwegian Wood
Kill List

Film(s) that Deserved More Attention: Cold Weather / Summer Wars
Funny, charming and offbeat, Cold Weather is another triumph from mumblecore auteur Aaron Katz. While it has made a few critics' end-of-year lists, a film this charismatic deserved far more attention that it received. Similarly, Summer Wars was an idiosyncratic gem. But, like so much anime, it went straight to DVD with little fanfare. Which is a shame, as no other animated film this year was anywhere near as colourful, thoughtful and energetic.

Soundtrack / Score of the Year: Evangelion 2.22 - You Can (Not) Advance
Sagisu Shirou's unusual, hypnotic score is a triumph. While retaining many of the core themes and melodies from the show and previous films, he truly hits a peak with the 2.0 score. From comedy to action, the music creates a fantastic atmosphere. But it's the scoring of two pivotal, shocking scenes with almost childlike songs that's really remarkable. Cleverly subverting popular Japanese graduation song Tsubasa wo Kudasai during the mind-bending climax is the highlight of a superb OST.
Notable Mentions:
True Grit
Underwater Love

And finally...What Were They Thinking? Cars 2
I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at Pixar, but I am utterly bamboozled that the hugely influential John Lasseter managed to conceive, let alone release, a film as inane and pointless as Cars 2. The decision to place a load of automobiles in a generic detective story isn't a good one, and the decision to focus in on the obnoxious Mater is even worse. Technically as adept as ever, Cars 2 is nonetheless an utterly soulless beast, and Pixar's first (and hopefully last) shameless cash-in.

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