With 2012 just over the horizon – and where did 2011 go, anyway? – it’s time to take a look back at my cinema year. This may read something like a list of awards, but in no way am I seeking to copy any of the forthcoming accolades, serious or otherwise. After all, we’ll have more than enough of them in the next couple of months.
I’m not sure why, but so often the first film I see each year turns out to be my favourite over the 12 months. In 2010 it was Sex ‘N’ Drugs ‘N’ Rock ‘N’ Roll, the Ian Dury biopic with a sensational performance from Andy Serkis. Were he not such an adventurous and versatile actor, he could spend the rest of his career playing the part – the film cried out to be a stage musical. This year, the first film in my diary, and again my favourite, is The King’s Speech. I talked about it at length in the final part of my Christmas preview so I won’t repeat myself but, when the British Film Council got the chop this year, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who recalled all the difficulties the film had in raising the necessary money, even with the BFC around. What chance would its producers have stood now?
My performers of the year won’t be big surprises. I’ve seen some really good actors but, for me, Philip Seymour Hoffman stands head and shoulders above the rest. His work this year has underlined his versatility and range as an actor, from the bullish, cynical campaign manager in The Ides of March to the gentle, socially awkward eponymous hero of his directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating. Even better, I was lucky enough to be at his BAFTA Life In Pictures, when he was interviewed by Francine Stock. In a check shirt and chinos, he was laid-back and affable, but there was no doubting the sharpness of the mind that lay beneath.
My actress of the year, despite stiff competition from Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, is Tilda Swinton – of course. Perfectly cast in We Need To Talk About Kevin, she is truly extraordinary and compelling and her clutch of award nominations comes as no surprise. Now all we need is for her to win …..
I’ve thought long and hard but I don’t honestly have a dud or turkey of the year. None of the films I’ve seen have been so bad that I would describe them that way. In fact, if you look through the reviews on here, you’ll notice that I’ve not given anything a real panning (excluding the turkeys in the Christmas Preview, of course) and that’s because I’m selective about what I go to see. But writing this blog has changed the way I choose my movies: because I want my reviews to be truly my own thoughts and reactions, I can’t read anybody else’s, so my decision to see a film is now based on its cast, director, trailer (if I see it) and, sometimes, a large dollop of instinct. I can’t read any critics’ reviews until I’ve written and posted my own. Thankfully, my ability to pick a decent film has held me in good stead so far, but it can’t go on for ever. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese. I just hope it’s not the Year of the Turkey for me!
I’ve had some great film-related experiences this year. As well as Hoffman’s Life In Pictures at BAFTA, I was at the BFI for an interview with Tom Hooper following a screening of The King’s Speech and, later in the year, for an interview with Paul Laverty about his approach to screenwriting and collaboration with Ken Loach. But it was Charlie Kaufman that left the most lasting impression. Interviews with him are rare enough, but this was the first time he’d given a lecture and here was somebody who said they had no talent for writing! His body of work said something else entirely. He was inspirational – and is probably partially to blame for this blog.
Life being what it is, we lose talented people every year. This year I was particularly saddened by the demise of the great Sydney Lumet, who directed some wonderful films during a lengthy career. Twelve Angry Men and Network were two of his most high profile achievements, but it’s extraordinary to think that his last film, the punchy thriller, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, was released in his 83rd year. The acting world lost the unique Pete Postlethwaite, best known for his performance in Brassed Off, and more recently Harry Morgan, a supporting actor par excellence who not only starred in the long-running TV version of M*A*S*H but also appeared in some 90 movies, including High Noon and Inherit The Wind.
So how was the movie year 2011 for me? Not bad at all, thank you very much. It was rather like the London Film Festival in October – good, but not vintage. Despite financial issues, British talent was able to bask in the spotlight and, with any luck, will continue to do so next year. I saw some quality films, but whether any of them have that unique staying power that could turn them into a classic remains to be seen. The King’s Speech might, but that’s the only one I could see finding a place in that category.
And what of 2012? Watch this space, as I’ll be looking ahead to the films on the horizon – and a little further away.