Category Archives: 2011 cinema releases

Everything I saw on the big screen within the timeframe of 12 months of 2011.

Limitless by Neil Burger (2011)

I saw a great drawing depicting a film journalist sitting down at his computer to write down a review having watched “Limitless”. He just sits there. In all three pics of the comic.

I had the same problem. Here is why.

The film touches upon the creative inability/writer’s block. Initially this sets off as a story of a sad person who cannot cope with his life, is being dumped by his girlfriend and unable to produce a sensible few pages of the novel he already signed a contract for. When he is at the bottom and cannot really get any lower, he bumps into an old acquaintance in the street. There goes the breakthrough. Former brother-in-law buys our writer a drink and drops in a freebie – a pill of a supposedly licensed drug enhancing human brains.

Only the drug isn’t licensed. And the supplier gets shot the next day. And … it really works.

What sets off for Eddie Morra is a journey on the rollercoaster as he finds a fair amount stuck in Vernon’s flat. He finishes his book in no time (and it’s good), takes control over his life, and basically as long as he remembers to eat and stays away from alcohol, he is invincible.

The downsides? Well – the limited amount of the magic drug for one thing, another is definitely that once the Russian mafia finds out about it, Eddie’s in danger.

Overall impression? I want that drug! Don’t we all? Imagine, you can sit down at your computer and produce whatever you wanted to produce and it’s good. Or you can learn easily how the stock markets work and make money that way. Or you can get into politics and become the US president. You can learn as many languages as you want in no time… It is mentioned at the beginning of the film that this drug works better on smart people. Is that a drop of irony? Is that a wink at the audience strengthened by the final few scenes when Eddie openly states he no longer uses the drug? My understanding of the overall message is that if you really know what you want and focus on that, you can do miracles, hence why it works on smart people. It’s not the pill that we need, just confidence and belief in our own strengths.

I like films with a moral. And I really liked this one.

I will watch it again and again – every time I feel I am unable to move on with something I want to be reminded it is all in my head. And once I realise that, all I need to do is get my stuff together and act.

Great performance by Bradley Cooper, fantastic supporting role of Robert de Niro.

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Detachment by Tony Kaye (2011)

Adrien Brody is a replacement teacher who only teaches English until the end of the semester before the proper teacher gets hired.

The film pictures the crisis of the institution of school, the burning out of teachers, the helpless children who get agressive and violent as that seems to be the only way for them to survive the cursed adolescence.

Brody plays a flesh and blood character who has the patience and smoothness of a lamb while at school, but has also a brutal and strict side of him outside the workplace.

Amazingly acted and fantastically told – great watch.

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Howl by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

The life of writer-poet Allen Ginsberg is presented through magic, impeccable filmic tools.

What strikes a very personal chord are the mockumentary fragments when Allen Ginsberg talks about the life of a writer; how he could write whatever he wished because he knew it would never be published. He never wanted his father to read whatever Ginsberg had to write. He wrote for the drawer only.

The film is short and intertwines the jumps through time back and forth, where the main action takes place in the courtroom where several literary men are asked to establish whether Ginsberg’s HOWL has any literary merit. It is being compared toWalt Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS.

It should be a must watch for English Literature students, writers, poets, aesthetes, cinema geeks, poetry geeks, 1950’s and 1960’s enthusiasts, Mad Men fanatics, bohemians, artists, indie cinema lovers… and their friends.

A masterpiece, slightly too short perhaps…

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Moneyball by Bennett Miller

Brad Pitt is nominated for the Oscar as the Best Actor for this one. Script is also nominated as best adapted screenplay.

I am not a baseball fan, even more – I don’t think I understand the rules of baseball.

Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the script, but the pace of the film is very far from his usual.

I hope Brad Pitt does not get the Oscar for this film. He is definitely a great actor, but this does not show in this movie.

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Margin Call by J.C. Chandor

Nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category for the Oscar in 2012.

Well paced, made with a pleasant attention to detail. Depicts 24 hours marking the beginning of the credit crunch in 2008. Probably simplified so that non-experts can follow the plot – successfully passing the message on.

Dry, concrete and capably played by the big stars of Hollywood such as Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons.

Eric – one man who seems to be the grey eminence triggering the sequence of dramatic events is a stoic engineer who has no choice but to surrender to the firm’s decisions. There is a lot of giving up by those low on the ladder to those high up. The film ends on a naive note that the top business fish seem to be sharing. Yet the viewer knows there will be no choice for them after the film credits stop scrolling down. We are richer knowing the history.

A very nice work.

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The Help by Tate Taylor

This is another of the Oscars 2012 nominations.

A very powerful film, a meaningful one and carefully directed.

In one of the opening scenes we hear Johnny Cash’s  song about Jackson, where the plot is set. Johnny Cash has this specific notion and bears this exceptional note of the American South. The South in the 1960’s – somebody pointed out that this story is historically parallel to what we see in the Mad Men. Only New York City at that time and Mississippi are very distant places. From every possible angle. Also, this film shows what Mad Men ignores: the polarisation of white and black in the society. What in Mad Men is naturally acknowledged as the status quo, The Help questions.

Emma Stone plays a young journalist filled with idealistic belief that she can change the world. Perhaps she might. Not totally, but certainly the character catalysed something important which later waterfalled into a massive change in modern America.

This film should be  appreciated at tomorrow’s Oscars Gala. I really hope it does.

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The Descendants by Alexander Payne

In the Oscar nominated section.

George Clooney plays middle aged father of two girls. They live in Hawaii – on one of the smaller islands. The mother and wife undergoes an accident – on a motorboat, which lands her in a coma. The exposition shows clueless Clooney who does not know how to interact with his 10-year old and calls his 17-year old for help. At the same time, he has a business decision to make.

The plot is predictable – only the film is set in Hawaii. George Clooney is George Clooney and he had better roles in the past, so I really hope he does not get the Oscar for this one.

Beautiful clouds, a new, interesting face of Shailene Woodley, who plays the older daughter. It is a nice film. But it is also a mainstream film and in the grand scheme of things, it is not an important film. A pleasant watch for a Sunday afternoon. To watch and to forget. Thank you.

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No Strings Attached v. Friends with Benefits – a comparison

Two films made in the same year – after the triumphant record of Oscar nominations for Black Swan with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. The two actresses separated after the film, where they played two dancers competing for the leading role in the ballet and then both took part in two identical projects. The two films have to be looked at together given they treat the same concept – of physical relationships without actual personal or emotional involvement.

Very surprisingly, it was the film with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake that had any depth at all. I was very surprised that Natalie Portman agreed to take a shallow and flat role of the character in No Strings Attached alongside Ashton Kutcher. None of the two films had my expectations high, or should I say I had absolutely no expectiations. Yet Friends with Benefits is a quite ok film, whereas No Strings Attached is a total kitschy flop.

Dear readers – do not watch any of the two films, but if you really want to, pick Friends with Benefits.

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2011 in cinema – Blondoner’s personal summary

Please note – the expressed opinions are biased as they are personally and subjectively mine.

This summary should have been done on January 1st 2012 or even on December 31st but I was busy with other stuff…

On Jan 1st 2011 I woke up in London. Just like on Jan 1st 2012.

Throughout 2011 I attended two major film festivals in full – as in had a pass and attended as many screenings as I could.

2011 was an amazing year in both the cinema and in my personal life.

I spent April 2011 in Krakow, Poland working for Off Plus Camera, where I have met a great bunch of fantastic people – both filmmakers and festivalmakers.

Having moved to London for permanent stay (as in: at least 2 yrs dating from May 2011), I have attended the fantastic Raindance in the hit record of heatwave at that time of year.

I have seen a massive amount of good films, great films and masterpieces. They can all be found on my blog given I have written at least a few sentences on every single one I have watched.

It was a great honour and pleasure to have met Terry McMahon – who did the incredible; wrote and made a powerful picture for almost no money. Talking about CHARLIE CASANOVA, which will hit UK screens quite soon.

Another great film was made by Tom Hall – SENSATION, also an Irish point of view on everyday life with a certain twist.

2011 was also filled with films that were either nominated or won the Oscars in 2011. Among them my favourites were: David Fincher’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Sofia Coppola’s SOMEWHERE, Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and above all Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION. But obviously – they were “so 2010”!

The important films that were actually released in cinemas in 2011 are listed below – please note the order is random as each film belongs to its own special category.

Films of 2011 by BLONDONER:

1. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE by a pair of directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. In my top 10 for the style, for Ryan Gosling, for the ambience, for the self-irony of dialogues, for costumes, interior design and humour! It is an exquisite comedy of manners with perhaps slightly unfortunate title but definitely worth every penny spent on a trip to the cinema, DVD or a BluRay.

2. THE BEGINNERS by Mike Mills – for an incredibly light and sweet approach to death and farewell paid to one’s life, as well as a message to the world that it is never too late in your life to get out of the closet. And Christopher Plummer’s performance, for which he got an Oscar nomination for best Supporting Role in 2012.

3. 50/50 by Jonathan Levine – for the perfect balance of two genres: comedy and drama, perfect balance of tears and laughter and impressive Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

4. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS by Woody Allen – for the wittiest ever intellectual game put on by the master of cinema: Mr Woody Allen. Honestly, I do not care about his private life. He is a genius. And Owen Wilson playing Woody Allen is astonishingly good! Nominated for the original script for the Oscar in 2012.

5. DRIVE by Nicolas Winding Refn – for the lighting, for set design, for music, for costumes and for Christina Hendricks!!!

6. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY – for the cold nordic grading, for costumes, for Gary Oldman!

7. TREACLE JR. by Jamie Thraves – for great indie spirit and a bitter sweet view at one man’s mid life crisis.

8. HORRIBLE BOSSES by Seth Gordon – for humour in good taste and for Kevin Spacey.

9. A SEPARATION by Ashghar Farhadi – for reminding us Europocentric egoists that there is life outside of our borders, which at the bottom is not that much different! Nominated in the foreign film category for the Oscar in 2012.

10. SUBMARINE by Richard Ayoade – for the crafty technique playing with different cameras, colour, play with genres and conventions, self criticism and self-consciousness, also for Paddy Considine!

To summarise briefly – the year was filled with Ryan Gosling who is undergoing a considerable boom on his persona.

I am aware of the fact that I should probably make a ‘bottom’ list of 2011.

That is only one really – my total misunderstanding with so many others, who loved this film. I’m sorry: BRIDESMAIDS by Paul Feig. Sorry, not my taste. Sorry. Oh, one more: THE GUARD by Martin McDonagh’s brother. I did not get that one either. Sorry.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by David Fincher

Mr Fincher, you are a genius.
Your version of the book adaptation is infinitely better than the Swedish one.

I am a fan of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and have obviously watched all three Swedish episodes of the Millennium trilogy.

That you have selected Daniel Craig to be Mikael Blomkvist was one of the greatest ideas! That you have decided to create proper old school intro to the film, which in itself is a piece of art – a thrilling combination of Bond films intros with Matrix, that you have braved the length of 158minutes, that you have gone so bold – for all that, you deserve a big applause.

I cannot wait the next two parts. Good Luck!

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