TF Review Of The Half-Year 2011

Best Movies

The King’s Speech
The Film:
Oscar-clutching history lesson starring Colin Firth as stuttering monarch King George VI.
TF Says: “The dialogue’s lightness of touch pervades the whole film, turning what could easily have been a stuffy slog of a period piece into well-oiled entertainment. Neither does it feel like a TV movie, thanks in no small part to high-class production values, from Danny Cohen’s lush cinematography to the suitably precise sound design.”

Black Swan
The Film:
Demented ballet horror movie following Natalie Portman’s increasingly hysterical dancer.
TF Says: “Set in a cloistered world full of pitter-patter feet and stomping egos, Darren Aronofsky’s fifth feature starts off hysterical and raises the barre from there, fusing genres (psychodrama, horror, backstage musical) and masterpieces (The Red Shoes, All About Eve, Suspiria, pretty much all of Polanski’s early work) with spirited, nay, reckless aplomb.”

Blue Valentine
The Film:
Emotionally-draining drama about the dissolution of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s on-screen marriage.
TF Says: “Gosling may get to be the devoted romantic while Williams can appear distant and cold. But Blue Valentine doesn’t play the blame game: love and its loss are never rational. You might feel like averting your gaze at times, but don’t – performances this penetrating are a sight to see.”

Animal Kingdom
The Film:
Crafty and cool Australian crime thriller.
TF Says: “With his anthropological eye recalling early Scorsese, Michôd synchs the simmer of dread to character and setting, a suburban jungle of parched interiors and colourdrained exteriors where the strong prey in packs on the weak.”

True Grit
The Film:
Coen Brothers remake introducing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as a young girl searching for the man who killed her father.
TF Says: “In the plum role of Rooster Cogburn, Jeff Bridges can’t totally resist the temptation to ham it up a bit (though a lot less than Wayne did). But given such a richly larger-than-life character, who could blame him? Bridges lends the Marshal a deep, throaty, mellowed-in-whiskey voice that gives full weight to his hard-bitten pronouncements.”

Blue Valentine (2010)

Sex sells, especially in the movie world – but not if nobody actually gets to see your movie. Saucy clinches shared by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine stirred up a scandal in America this year, where the MPAA decided that the film’s raunch factor warranted an NC-17 certificate – basically, a film version of the kiss of death.

Sit down with Valentine, though, and there’s little apparent reason for the controversy. A grown-up account of two people falling in – and then devastatingly out of – love, it’s a bleaker version of last year’s eloquent (500) Days Of Summer. “It’s like when you hear a song and you just have to dance,” explains young Dean (Gosling) of his feelings for glacial beauty Cindy (Williams). Luckily, she feels the same. But fast forward five years and she’s getting frumpy, he’s got a thinning crop, and there’s a five year old stampeding around the house. The strain’s showing; when will things snap?

Played out via elegantly crafted flashbacks, director Derek Cianfrance’s sophomore feature is a dreamy, painfully honest examination of a stagnating relationship. Torturously teasing apart the threads in Dean and Cindy’s marriage, Cianfrance’s documentary experience pays off in hand-held, tightly-shot vignettes that will feel horribly familiar to anybody who’s dallied in a duff liaison. And yes, there is sex, but it won’t upset anybody but grandma. Even she probably won’t find it particularly riveting.

Because while the sex is what’s made the news, it’s Gosling and Williams’ fearless dramatic turns that mesmerize. It’s their efforts that ensure Valentine becomes a beautifully poignant slice of filmmaking, albeit a spectacularly depressing one. And what of the US rating quarrel? It’s all been ironed out after a painfully protracted appeal, the MPAA awarding the film a far more reasonable R. Love hurts, and you better believe it. 4/5

Via Out In The City