Another year of film is almost in the books and it’s about that time where us critical types sit back and reflect upon the best and worst of the year.
Of course everything is subjective, so calling it a favourites list would be more apt. As always the gulf between the cream and the crap is vast and terrifying but we try our best to sort out that mess for you.
Here are the five films that decked our cinema halls with boughs of holly and you’ll also want to check out the five that you simply wanted to deck.
The White Ribbon’s loose ends remain untied in its conclusion but that takes nothing away from this absorbing and contemplative look at the sinewy seeds and difficult distinction of evil and fear. Michael Haneke unnerves with this socially perceptive morality tale, a film of equally repelling and enthralling grey areas, immaculately shot in gorgeous black and white. Though set in a small German town just prior to World War I, its observations on communal tension is universal. Just as the titular white ribbon serves as a reminder of purity to the village’s children, The White Ribbon serves as a reminder to its audience about the vanity of the virtuous.
An unflinching and underrated indie taking place within a singular location (a small wooden coffin buried underneath an Iraqi desert) and featuring a solitary actor (Ryan Reynolds) trapped inside. It’s a narrative device fit for a one man play, not a feature film, and yet Rodrigo Cortés manages to wring every bit of flailing claustrophobia and emotive drama from this nightmarish scenario through some truly clever camerawork and captivating writing. Buried is an ingenious horror film disguised as war allegory and it is fist-clenching in its brilliance. Spurred by a stunningly simple premise, Buried commits wholeheartedly to its breathless intensity while delivering moments of surprising levity.
Can Christopher Nolan do no wrong? The present king of non-linear storytelling crafts his most ambitious and grandest puzzle yet in Inception. As usual, chronology and reality is toyed with in the most unique, artfully structured story Nolan has ever attempted, and boy does he dazzle with this dream-bound thriller. Loaded with gravity-defying action, mind-bending situational simulacrums and a deft knowledge of presenting metaphysical conundrums in logical, easily understandable, action-movie nuggets – never has a summer blockbuster been this proudly brainy. Inception is a film that works on many levels, it punches your gut, it challenges your mind and it leaves a lasting impression.
In lieu of Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass wins the best comic-book adaptation of the year award hands down. This film about a delusional loser who wants to be a superhero and a purple-haired mass-murdering little girl is a winning deconstruction of contemporary capes-and-tights lore. Smart, ultra-violent and rebelliously tongue-in-cheek, Matthew Vaughn’s absurdist bloodbath is the definition of fun, but definitely not for all ages. Kick-Ass cackles with punk exuberance and ridiculous (yet reality-based) wish fulfilment vigilantism. As evidenced by the number of women dressed up as Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl for Halloween this year, Kick-Ass is a cult classic in the making.
The scale of human tragedy in a place like Iraq is indescribable and can only be distantly conceived of in the abstract, but darn it if Son of Babylon doesn’t manage to drive it home for you in the most humanistic way possible. This Iraqi production addresses the bleakness and soul-crushing disparity of its people’s plight by focusing on the sadly common yet excruciatingly painful story of a young boy searching for his missing father with his sickly grandmother. Son of Babylon is Iraq’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars and it’s more than deserving of winning.
Now that you're read all about the best of the best in cinema this year, you might want to see the worst of the worst, you know, just so you can avoid them if you get the chance!