Samstag, 31. Dezember 2011

Best of 2011 - The movies.

This is the post in which I curtly repeat and emphasize my love for cinema and the movies and appraise this year's film companies' output to be pretty fucking good. And I haven't even yet seen "Drive" (January release in Germany), "The Ides Of March" (just released), "Hugo" (February), "Shame" (March), "The Help" (just released), "The Artist" (January), "Beginners" (missed it)...

That's why this list isn't close to being any kind of complete and subject to change, as are the ratings. It is, however, in order of preference. The rules: eligible for this list are all movies that were released in Germany this year, which in some cases is earlier than in other countries, and in most cases, later. Secondly, only full length feature films (meaning no short movies) are considered. Ratings for movies are always given on IMDb's 1-10 scale, where 1 is an utter and unbelievable abomination, 5 sub-average, 6 slightly above average, 7 good, 8 very good, 9 excellent and 10 a masterpiece.

1. Pina. After seeing this beautifully shot hommage to a great of performance, I finally understand what Pina Bausch meant when she said that dancing is a language. In every scene there's so much to decipher and translate from the moves, and a most beautiful rhythm to follow. Wim Wenders was right to choose 3D technology for this project: instead of drawing all attention to itself, it works to enhance the visual experience, especially in those shots on location in the town of Wuppertal, where Bausch founded her dancing theater group. 10/10

2. Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin (Nader & Simin, A Separation). This movie is speaking on a multitude of layers, resulting in a complex, yet not perplexing piece of cinematic art, so excellently brought from script into film that it's a pleasure to be able to enjoy it. Themes covered include social classes, religion, women's position in society, law and security, but instead of overwhelming the viewer with input, it does so with the depiction of a emotionally loaded situation. Because all of this seems, and probably is, very real, it's reminiscent of a documentary. The people are real, their lives are real, and the situation is for the viewer to resolve - or not, as sometimes there aren't solutions and judgement isn't easily placed. 10/10

3. Tyrannosaur. A sad old man, angry at the world and with himself, constantly lashing out against others, meets a woman who would be right to act as he does, but instead is in an endless spiral of receiving blows, deluding herself and forgiving. We witness two brilliant lead performances (as well as a downright intimidating supporting one) that make every aspect of the characters entirely convincing. Coupled with a setting so bleak that everyone's depression and being fed-up with their miserable lives is easily graspable and an excellent soundtrack, we have a winner on our hands. And win it should, in next year's award races. 9/10

4. Black Swan. "Intense" doesn't start to describe it. This tour de force will throw you into your cinema seat and leave you thoroughly upset and agitated. At the height of tension and trance, it ends and I'm still undecided whether that's brilliant, or whether Darren Aronofsky simply is an evil son of a bitch. Natalie Portman is the sole star here, and her amazing performance will make up for the film's few shortcomings, such as the relative flatness of all support characters - there's their monomania and little else. 9/10

5. Unter Schnee (Under Snow). Quite the experience, this film had a tremendous calming effect on me (and almost everyone else at the theater). The intense sound (amplified, but never artificial) and the beautiful pictures combine into an almost eerie sensation of serenity. A movie that you have to let go for. 9/10

Honourable mentions (no order in these ones): "The Guard" (8/10), "Submarine" (8/10), "Blue Valentine" (8/10), "Winter's Bone" (8/10), "Passione" ("Passion", 8/10), "Wer, Wenn Nicht Wir" ("If Not Us, Who?", 9/10), "Another Year" (9/10), and "Was Du Nicht Siehst" ("What You Don't See", 8/10).

Biggest letdowns (movies I went into expecting much and went out severely disappointed): "Loong Boonmee Raleuk Chat" ("Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recount His Past Lives", 4/10) and "Les Amour Imaginaires" ("Heartbeats", 4/10).

Freitag, 30. Dezember 2011

Best of 2011 - The music.

The songs (in no particular order, and ignoring last year's restriction to five tracks)...

Austra - Beat And The Pulse (official video)
*Technically, the single was released in 2010 already, but the album came out this year.

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - The Copper Top (official video)

The Antlers - No Widows (live video)

When Saints Go Machine - Kelly (absolutely positively awesome live video, official video version here)

Peter & Kerry - Knees (official video)

Trust - Candy Walls (official video)

J Mascis - Listen To Me (no video)

Very notable mentions:
Alex Ebert feat. RZA - Truth (everyone loves the Ebert song, but the version with RZA is even better).
The Antlers - Putting The Dog To Sleep.
Zola Jesus - Vessel.
Fotoshop - Too little, too late.
John Maus - Believer.
Austra - Darken Her Horse.

...and the shows:

06.04. Belle & Sebastian - Columbiahalle (Berlin).

- and that is that. Unlike last year, there simply weren't enough concerts amazing enough to list here. This is partly due to the fact that I didn't see as many shows in the past months, but there were also enough that should have made this list, but didn't quite live up to my expectations: Austra and Lykke Li come to mind immediately. Some were fine, but not exceptional: We're talking Zola Jesus, iLiKETRAiNS & When Saints Go Machine here. On the other hand, the single concert that stood out this year, Belle & Sebastian's, also stands out as one of best I have attended my entire life. There's nothing quite like one of your most favourite bands ending their show with the very first song of theirs you loved ("Judy & The Dream Of Horses", if you care to know).

Donnerstag, 29. Dezember 2011

A month of movies: December.

People will hate me for this comparison No one reads this anyway, but if you enjoyed "(500) Days Of Summer", treat yourself to this year's perky rom-com "Submarine" (trailer). If you didn't, you should still give the film a chance, especially considering this month's alternatives: Lars von Trier continuing to lose his touch with "Melancholia" (trailer) and Andreas Dresen delivering the well-meant and well-done "Halt Auf Freier Strecke" (German trailer), but with Dresen, "well" is less than it could have been.

The short -
Go and see: /
Well worth watching: Submarine.
Also deserving a chance: Halt Auf Freier Strecke (Stopped On Track).
Average: Melancholia.
If you're into Germans, or alcoholism, or German alcoholics: Portraits Deutscher Alkoholiker.
Forget about: Hanna (DVD).

The long -