Review of the Year Part 4 – Films

Just a top five – I didn’t see as many films as I wanted to this year. On the plus side, I managed to avoid any real stinkers, although Quantum of Solace was a pretty hollow experience.

5. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman)
The animation was a strange mixture of realism and almost comic book framing, and the narrative was part interviews, part flashbacks. It was a unique way of presenting a documentary about the film maker’s attempts to establish what really went on during the Lebanese Civil War of 1982 – a conflict that he was present at, but had little recollection of. In particular, it deals with a brutal massacre of Palestinians carried out by Lebanese Christians while the Israeli Army stood back and watched – either in complicity or in ignorance. Sometimes funny, but more often horrifying, it was a truly original piece of film making.

4. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone)
The world of Neapolitan organised crime shown from the point of view of the foot soldiers and small timers caught up with it, Gomorrah was in fact a portmanteau of four inter-weaved stories rather than a single narrative arc. There were no heroes on show, just people caught up in a stinking system they had little control over. Those who tried, either by embarking on an unsanctioned life of crime, or trying to escape the tentacles of corruption and retribution, were cut down or reined in. Only one character walks away unscathed. An unglamorous, brutal movie.

3. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
Possibly Pixar’s greatest work, yet, and certainly their most daring. The first half hour of wordless, visual comedy is stunning to look at, and quite sad, too, as the eponymous robot goes about his business – the last of his kind still functioning. The rest of the film is a more traditional tale of love and redemption as the humans finally return to earth, but is still done with a great deal of wit and invention.

2. No Country For Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen)
Burn After Reading was amusing, well-acted, but pretty lightweight. The Coen’s first movie of the year was much more interesting. With the brothers’ usual cast of oddballs, understated dark humour and brutal violence, the plot felt somehow secondary to the characters, who were about as far from the one dimensional black hat / white hat ciphers as it’s possible to get.

1. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
A Citizen Kane for the 21st Century? There are a lot of parallels – self-made millionaires ending up tortured and isolated, and bravura central performances among them. Daniel Day-Lewis got a lot of plaudits for his performance as Daniel Plainview (and rightly so), but I think Paul Dano’s creepy, self-righteous and corrupt preacher was just as great a turn. A true modern classic

I also enjoyed the Orphanage, Jar City, In the Valley of Elah and the Baader-Meinhof Complex, whilst somehow managing to miss Hunger and In Bruges, whilst Bela Tarr’s The Man from London hasn’t come to Scotland yet.

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