It is very hard to quantify a film viewing experience. Just because a film is well made, it doesn’t mean it is as entertaining as another, and vice versa. Just because a story is gripping, doesn’t mean it has better acting than a rival motion picture. Judgment and ‘ranking’ is cruel and unfair. Emotion and frame of mind are chaotic factors. Watching something at the wrong time can have a major impact on one’s opinion of the movie. But I’m a glutton for punishment, so…with nothing but the Olympics on everyone’s mind it seems fitting to start ‘ranking’ some of the year’s films of note.
Never one to think in black and white, I felt that simply having a list of 5 best and 5 worst would be cheap. So what sits below are six…you heard me, six separate categories. The tabling works, as always, with whatever movie labeled ‘1’ being, in my opinion, the primary candidate of that given category.
When doing such lineation of cinema, one must try to create some form of ‘overall’ feeling about said film. For me the lure and frequency of repeat viewings plays a major part. This list speaks more about my relationship with the films, than of the films themselves. For me, the hardest part of this list was organizing the 5 best, because in all honesty, 4 of the 5 were just as great as each other. But in the words of Christopher Lambert: “There can be, only one!”
You will not doubt nod, shake and hold your head whilst reading my judgmental groupings; I am well prepared for the tirade of abuse and controversy that some will draw. But then again, it is my list, based on my overall reflections on the year so far and the specific films I have seen (I have yet to see a small minority of releases, so am unable to judge those). Most of all, I want it to spark healthy debate amongst all you lovely WhatCulturenareans.
Let the dispute begin.
NOTE: These are based on UK release dates so for a lot of US readers, you may be surprised that some of last year’s films are on this list.
Underrated Or Unappreciated
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Into The Abyss
- Being Elmo
- Red Lights
- Bernie (U.S Release)
These films may have been given positive reviews (Red Lights, less so) or even done relatively well at the box office, but for some reason they still remain criminally unwatched by many. Say what you will about The Amazing Spider-Man, but I still maintain that its a much better version of the character and a rare example of when unwanted products can prove themselves to be worthwhile.
- 21 Jump Street
- Martha Marcy May Marlene
- The Grey
- Jeff Who Lives At Home
- The Woman In Black
Come off it, no one expected 21 Jump Street to be as brilliant as it was; possibly the most outstanding left field comedy since Pineapple Express. The rest of the list found exposure through festival successes or studio backing, and provided rewarding additions to the year’s releases. These films taught us that there is more to the Olsen gene pool than vapid plop, Liam Neeson’s kick ass persona is firmly set, Jason Segel is a king of kings and Daniel Radcliffe CAN act!
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- We Bought A Zoo
- John Carter
How do you turn the tragedy of 9/11 into an annoying torrent of brain numbing bile? Stephen Daldry seems to know how. Jonathan Safran Foer’s source material was completely slaughtered by this oversentimental mash up of Rain Man and Forrest Gump. Haywire hurt for all the wrong reasons, and We Bought A Zoo affirmed that Cameron Crowe needs to stay in retirement. Chronicle and John Carter were victims of their own hype. The key to Chronicle’s critical success remains a mystery to me; I’ve never been more bored. As for John Carter…zzzzzzzzz.
Average At Best
- The War Horse
- Rock Of Ages
- Young Adult
- How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Get The Gringo)
J.Edgar was unfairly assaulted by critics. It is, despite many niggles, a very well made and stirring movie. The War Horse may have been lauded and applauded, but let’s be honest; the horse is kind of boring – and that’s a large part of the movie. Rock of Ages was never more than awkward sexual imagery and a killer soundtrack, whilst Young Adult and How I Spent My Summer Vacation took interesting premises and made them by the book grey matter. In all fairness, as good as the cast of Young Adult were, it was a pretty uninspiring film.
- This Means War
- The Sitter
- Jack and Jill
- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
- The Muppets
Plotless, pointless, toilet fluid; that would be the best way to describe these five. This Means War, The Sitter and Jack and Jill were so painful to watch it almost felt like some form of sick A Clockwork Orange style torture. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was surprisingly better than its predecessor, but still almost unwatchable. Then there was The Muppets. Maybe it takes a fanboy to appreciate this cinematic equivalent of SARS, but if you are not partial to Kermit and Co, then be warned. By the closing credits I couldn’t care less whether I was a Muppet or a Man, I just wanted an hour and forty minutes of my life back.
- The Raid: Redemption
- The Dark Knight Rises
- Avengers Assemble (The Avengers)
- The Descendants
So there you have it. When push came to shove (or repeated punches to the face), the best film I’ve seen so far this year is The Raid: Redemption. Despite the scope and excitement of Avengers Assemble and the sheer grandeur and emotion of The Dark Knight Rises, or even the genius of The Descendants or depth of Prometheus; I felt that The Raid just tipped it over. A solid breakout from Gareth Evans, ram packed with insane action and visual flair, The Raid just took me by the scruff of the neck and still hasn’t quite let go.
With much more to come, there is a strong chance this list will evolve and develop. The likes of Tarantino, Hillcoat, Affleck and Mendes have their work cut out for them; late comers to a very exciting party. It has been a pretty groovy 7 months, with the next 5 looking just as promising. Only time will tell if Bond or Django have it in them to out punch The Raid or disassemble the The Avengers, or maybe they will end up in the silo of pig crap that is home to McG and Adam Sandler. Fingers crossed that it is the former rather than the latter.
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