Happy New Year everyone! I apologize for my massive lack of blogging lately, I’ve been at Uni, that has kept me rather busy. I did have the intention of really picking it back up once I broke up for Christmas, but unfortunately Word Press had other plans for me, failing to load up properly, even as I write to you now it isn’t running correctly. Hence the lack of images. And that’s just not cricket. So, as much as I would have liked to have had this Top 10 list for you before the New Year, I was unable to. But now here it is, my look back over the last 12 months of film and to share with you my favourites. Let the countdown commence!

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two (Dir: David Yates)- The most successful movie of the year had to end up on this list, if not just because of how successful it has been, but because of how well it managed to round off the worlds most popular franchise to such a satisfying degree. Not only does it give the fans exactly what they wanted; huge spectacle, magic galore and heartfelt emotion to boot, but it also stands as a brilliant movie in its own right. A lot of the Harry Potter movies suffer from weak acting and an uneven pace, yet this one manages to apologize for that with an unrelenting pace and the strongest performances from its three young leads, Radcliffe in particular who carries the film on his heartfelt and quietly subtle performance. And Alan Rickman is allowed his finest moments as Snape in the films most satisfying story thread. Warner Brothers will be hard pressed to find something to fill the Harry Potter void, and I’m sure audiences will too. At least it had a fantastic send off.

9. X-Men: First Class (Dir: Matthew Vaughan)- Another franchise movie (I promise this will be the last one on this list), and also another movie which improves upon the previous entries in its respective franchise. The X-Men franchise, in my opinion, really needed a boost after the shallow mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Kick Ass’ Matthew Vaughan did just that. On repeat viewings, First Class now sits as my favourite X-movie, no matter how good Bryan Singer’s X-2 still may be. I find this the first film of the series which fully grasps the team dynamic of the group of mutants, even if Professor x and Magneto have opposing views. It’s not just centered on one member, as all the movies prior to this were rather Wolvie-centric. First Class is a different game all together, introducing  a variety of new characters with a fresh new style, with a fantastic soundtrack from Henry Jackman. And Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy make for two outstanding leads, with excellent support from the likes of Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence. I just hope they don’t mess it all up with the planned sequel, get Vaughan on board and I’m sure it’ll be fine.

8. Source Code (Dir: Duncan Jones)- How do you follow up a film like Moon? I expected a lot from Source Code, Duncan Jones’ second movie as director following the exceptional Moon, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It may not be as beautifully crafted as Moon was, but Source Code works amazingly well to highlight Jones’ skills as a director, proving he can do action without selling out to the Hollywood Machine by crafting an exciting movie around a hugely complex and layered concept. Jake Gyllenhaal also impresses as the man who finds himself subject of a Government programme, in which he must take on another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life to find out who bombed a train in order to prevent a larger terrorist attack. And that’s just the start of it. If you are unfamiliar with both of Jones’ movies, I strongly recommend you find yourself a copy of Moon and Source Code now to see the work of a director, who I believe may one day take Christopher Nolan’s mantle of king of the thinking man’s action movie.

7. Submarine (Dir: Richard Ayoade)- This is not a film I have reviewed this year, as it’s one I only caught whilst at Uni at the Student Cinema. Sorry. But at least I can share with you my thoughts on it now. Richard ‘Moss from The IT Crowd’ Ayoade has produced one of the finest coming-of-age movies I have ever seen, let alone one of the best British movies this year. His style may be too similar to Wes Anderson for some, but I don’t particularly see that as a bad thing, and the British sensibilities of the movie more than allow it be considered original. It’s a witty, exuberant and wholly heartfelt film which manages to balance drama and awkward situations to both hilarious and heartbreaking results as we follow young Oliver Tate (the fantastic Craig Roberts) as he struggles to manage both his love life and his parents. With great performances, an even greater soundtrack featuring original songs from Arctic Monkeys front-man Alex Turner, I can’t wait to see what Ayoade comes out with next, because on this evidence, he is definitely a director to keep an eye on.

6. Super 8 (Dir: J.J. Abrams)- Of all the summer blockbusters that came out this year, Super 8 was undeniable the one with the biggest heart, refreshingly placing character and story above special effects and spectacle. It still features some very exciting action sequences, the chaotic train crash comes to mind, but it is the characters that stay with you once the credits begin to roll. Abrams certainly is working from the Spielberg ‘How-to’ Guide when it comes to both the wholesome style and child actors, who turn in some of the strongest performances of the year (notably Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning). It may feel like a film of two parts at points, the sci-fi horror does seem to be out of place with the coming-of-age drama at times, but for the most part Abrams manages to craft a larger than life sci-fi movie around very real and human situations. It hasn’t been done in quite the same way since, say, E.T. 

5. Melancholia (Dir: Lars Von Trier)- Another movie caught at Uni, this time at the Warwick Arts Centre, and one that may be hard to recommend, but if you want to see a movie of unique beauty and imagery then you can’t go far wrong with Melancholia. The reason it is rather hard to recommend is that it is not what you’d call a happy movie. It is quite depressing, I’d go as far to say thoroughly depressing. Then again, it would be hard for a film about a self-destructive bride-to-be (the hauntingly fantastic Kirsten Dunst) suffering from deep depression, while all the while a large planet by the name of Melancholia is on collision course for Earth, to be the feel-good film of the year. However, it is one filled with stunning imagery, and is by no means as hard to watch as Von Trier’s last movie, the downright terrifying Antichrist. It is also worth a watch to see Kirsten Dunst mature as an actress right before your eyes, and also for the greatest use of Wagner since The Great Dictator. So, by all means, watch this film for a stunning piece of art and a unique study of depression, just make sure you’re in the mood for a bit of a downer afterwards.

4. Black Swan (Dir: Darren Aronofsky)- It’s nearly a year ago since I first saw this movie, so it is a testament to how good it is that it managed to make through these 12 months of film and come out with a place in my Top 5. I believe it to be, hands down, Aronofsky’s best film; more accessible then Requiem For A Dream, more focused then The Fountain and more ambitious then The Wrestler. It’s a beautifully shot film, which is at times terrifying, mysterious yet always captivating. Natalie Portman’s Oscar Winning performance convey’s the arc of Nina’s character brilliantly, moving from naive and child-like to disturbed and unpredictable. Black Swan is so much more then just a movie about Ballet, it is a study of an art form, the human psyche and the pressures of a profession, albeit in an extreme fashion. A movie which most certainly stays on the brain.

3. Midnight in Paris (Dir: Woody Allen)- Another Warwick Arts Centre movie, they show some good films there! I’m not a huge Woody Allen fan, I find most of his movies a bit hit and miss, and for every Manhattan there’s a Cassandra’s Dream, but with Midnight in Paris, Allen has crafted probably the feel good movie of the year (watch this after Melancholia then). Owen Wilson is charming as struggling writer Gil, who during a midnight walk in Paris, somehow finds himself in the 1920’s. Whilst there, he rubs shoulders with some of the greatest creative minds of the 20th Century, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali. Part of the fun comes from trying to guess all the inter-textual references and also from the over-whelming and wholly satisfying whimsical spirit surrounding the whole thing. The high spirits of all involved in the cast certainly makes an impression, resulting in a film you know is going to have a happy ending right from the very beginning, and you have a hell of a ball along the way.

2. 50/50- How do you make a comedy about cancer? That was the question I was asking myself when I went to watch this movie, and the answer? Don’t make the laughs the priority. Sure, there are some great laughs, and the script is witty throughout, but I ultimately felt by the end of this movie that it is much more of a drama, a story of a young man who should be in his prime dealing with morality and the realities of cancer, all the while finding support from friends and family, some stronger then others. It is also a movie about finding the humour out of any situation, as comedy can help you get through all kinds of hardships in life. This is a mentality portrayed by the script and the two leads, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, who make a brilliant pair. The film truly defines the term emotional roller-coaster. One minute you’ll be laughing away and the next you could be in tears (I may have shed a little one at a certain point). It is an accessible and charming movie, which allows you to become hugely invested in the characters, which certainly makes the emotional moments hit hard. And I think I’m in love with Anna Kendrick.

1. Drive (Dir: Nicholas Winding Refn)- A true definition of a Marmite movie; you will either absolutely love this movie, or hate it with a passion (here’s looking at you Dad & Dobson). If you didn’t already know, I absolutely loved this movie. On first viewing, I found it to be a deeply atmospheric movie, a simmering pot which erupts over the boil with shocking violence as we follow Ryan Gosling’s almost wordless Driver, a man of great skill behind the wheel who tries to find meaning in his life by helping his neighbor’s (the beautiful Carey Mulligan) family, only to get further embroiled in LA’s underworld. On second viewing, the pacing was much quicker, and for some reason the tension felt much more heightened, perhaps from appreciating the subtleties of the first half even more. It is a film filled to the brim with style, evoking an 80’s cult classic atmosphere right down to its electrifying soundtrack and its costume design (who knew wearing a jacket with a Scorpion on the back could be so cool). My love for this movie is in large part thanks to this highly defined style, appearing effortlessly cool through striking images rather then high octane car chases. This ain’t no Fast and Furious. And thank God, because what you have here is what can only be described as an art-house action movie. Without a doubt, my film of the year, even if Ryan doesn’t have a lot to say about it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

127 Hours 

The King’s Speech 

Hanna 

Scream 4 

Now bring on 2012! Check out this montage of the movies from the 12 months just gone. Enjoy!

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