Asghar Farhadi directed A Separation, one of the best films of the decade so far. His new film is called The Past. Ron Swanson thinks it is the work one of the the greatest filmmakers working today. You need to read what he says, and then see the film.
by Matthew Turner
My favourite film of 2011, hands down, is True Grit, the Coen Brothers’ Oscar nominated adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis. I’m a huge Coen Brothers fan (they’re my favourite current directors and only Michel “The Artist” Hazanavicius is their equal when it comes to pastiche) but when I heard that they were doing True Grit, I initially wondered why they’d want to do that rather than come up with an original western of their own. My doubts were quickly quashed as soon as the official trailer was released. I haven’t read the source novel, but by extrapolating from the overlap between the 1969 film (directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne as Cogburn) and the Coens’ version, it’s easy to see what attracted them to Portis’ novel in the first place, not least because it combines the two elements the Coen Brothers are most known for: jet black humour and moments of shocking violence.
I am spectacularly under-qualified to write this, but when has that ever stopped me? I did a pop column for six months, despite being quite clearly a man in his mid-thirties. So here I am writing about the best videogames of 2011 having only played about ten in total. I haven’t had a chance to play two I’m looking forward to (Skyrim and Zelda). None of the games I have played were the big, brown franchises – Resistance, Gears, Battlefield, Call of sodding Duty – none were quirky Japanese side-scrollers and absolutely none had any downloadable content installed because I haven’t got a fucking modem, okay?
So for the half-dozen of you still here, let’s get cracking.
by Spank the Monkey
Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s animated TV series, South Park, first hit our screens in 1997, about the same time as domestic internet access was beginning to take off. It was the first TV show I can remember being widely, let’s say, distributed across the web, a factor that probably contributed towards its rapid worldwide success. (It certainly didn’t hurt that in those days of 28k modems, a South Park episode looked so rough already that it could be brutally squished into 30-odd Mb of Real Video without any visible degradation.)
Parker and Stone apparently appeared out of nowhere, but the technology of the web also gave fans like me a method of tracking down their earlier work. There were a couple of crude South Park prototypes, Jesus v Frosty and The Spirit Of Christmas: a curious in-house short for Universal called Your Studio And You: and further back than those was their first proper film, the unholy marriage of Rodgers and Hammerstein with Lucio Fulci that was Cannibal! The Musical.
Cannibal! was made in 1993, which means that Trey and Matt have been getting away with this shit for nearly two decades now. And their 2011 smash hit Broadway musical, The Book Of Mormon, is the perfect synthesis of everything they’ve done over those two decades.
Continue reading MostlyFilm’s Best of 2011 – The Book of Mormon
by Adam Howard
In a year full of big-name directors making big, messy, ambitious films – see The Tree of Life, Melancholia, Black Swan – I suppose it makes sense that one of the very best of the year would be a quiet little character piece, its ambitions only to capture life in all its complicated shades of grey. While watching A Separation for the first time, I remember thinking to myself that director Asghar Farhadi had created an entire universe for his characters to live in. It was only when I realised that that universe was the very same one that we’re living in now that I realised how truly special it is. It’s a film about an incredibly specific situation that touches on something universal, and while we in the West may not be able to relate to an awful lot of what happens to these people, the emotions that run through the film resonate far beyond the characters’ where and whats.
by Paul Shuttle
In the largely subjective realm of film criticism, there can be few more useful barometers of quality than whether you were moved to again return to a film once your review had been filed. The process by which a critic arrives at their film of the year may be a tortuous one but such retrospective analysis tends to lionize the important over the good. Rather than succumbing to the futile cross-referencing of colour coordinated lists, perhaps a critic should instead consider just one question: which film do they feel most compelled to watch right now? For my part, the answer has been the same for almost every day that has passed since I first saw it. The answer is Submarine.
by Jim Eaton-Terry
Having spent most of 2011 trying, with varying degrees of success, to listen only to music released this year, the albums I’ve loved the most have invariably been odd and angular takes on pop. They’ve also mostly been fronted by women
Whether I think about Tune-Yard’s dazzling, incomparable, almost indescribable WHOKILL – without doubt my album of the year, the first record I’ve ever heard to be as exciting as The Pop Group and still work as pop music – or Let England Shake, with PJ Harvey stepping further away from straightforward rock than she’s ever been and, in the process, producing her best album since 4-Track Demos, most of the year has been spent listening to music by women taking music places it’s never quite been before.
Despite that, the song I keep coming back to, find myself listening to, humming, and boring my children with more than anything else I’ve come across this year is straightforward to the point of minimalism. It’s also sung by a man.
Continue reading MOSTLYFILM’S BEST OF 2011 – Mostly Records
by “Ron Swanson”
2011 has been a great year, in many ways. We’ve seen excellent documentaries, brilliantly ambitious auteur epics, fresh and inventive period drama and some great foreign language films. The one genre that has lagged behind has been the stereotypical American ‘indie’ movie, the type that would have a star in a slightly schlubby role learning life lessons in a quirkily sad way. Usually also featuring a bewilderingly attractive love interest and some sharp-tongued best friends.
There are good ways to make that film, and there are bad ways. In 2011, the best example of the genre was Mike Mills’ Beginners. Mills followed up his excellent, under-appreciated debut Thumbsucker with one of the year’s most emotionally arresting films, while never really deviating too far from the genre blueprint.
by Philip Concannon
The most exciting action sequence I saw on the big screen in 2011 didn’t occur in a summer blockbuster. It wasn’t directed by Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Paul Greengrass, or any other contemporary master of cinematic thrills, and it has nothing to do with those myriad French films in which a frantic man in a suit runs around Paris for some reason. The sequence I’m referring to is the climax of Storm Over Asia, when the protagonist – a direct descendant of Genghis Khan – picks up his sword and leads the charge against his British captors. Breathlessly paced and set to a rousing score of Mongolian throat singing, the sequence practically lifted me out of my seat in a way that very few recent films have managed to do. Storm Over Asia was directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin, and it was made in 1928.
by Sam Inglis
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. Not entirely, sayeth the movies.
The vengeance film has a long, sometimes sordid, often fascinating history, and it’s a subgenre I have long found interesting due largely to the way that it allows filmmakers and actors to explore characters in extremis. This year’s outstanding entry in this subgenre is Japanese, and comes from a perhaps unexpected source.