Friday, 31 December 2010


This year has been pretty spectacular for new films… here’s my Top 10 favourites from the past 12 months (in no particular order, of course).

Black Swan
What if you took SWAN LAKE and mixed it with THE PIANO TEACHER, added a little bit of JEKYLL AND HYDE, seasoned with THE RED SHOES, REPULSION and SHOWGIRLS then wrapped it all up in a blockbusting MOMMIE DEAREST-type package, what would you end up with? Why BLACK SWAN of course!

I know I’m putting this on my 2010 list even though it doesn’t officially come out until 2011 – but I just had to, because I’ve seen it and think it’s incredible.

I haven’t really loved any of Aronofsky’s films before, but this one really did it for me. Epic, beautiful, mindfucking and of course, camper than a row of fluffy pink tents, it blew me away and I’m sure it will you too.

Just go see in the cinema for maximum effect – that’s where the magic happens folks!

Certified Copy
A guaranteed head-scratcher, Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature to use professional actors is a poetic, beautiful experience. Juliette Binoche is perfect, as per usual, and you won’t take your eyes off her.

CERTIFIED COPY is like the film equivalent of a Chinese thumb puzzle – the harder you try to understand, the less you will.

Don’t read any more about it – it’ll ruin the surprise – just watch it.

A (relatively) low-budget gem masquerading as Hollywood blockbuster, BURIED by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés takes the old ‘one room’ format (à la Hitchcock’s ROPE) and instead shrinks the setting down to coffin-size proportions.

Yep, this unique thriller is entirely set in a box. Six feet underground. With just one actor (the not-unpretty Ryan Reynolds).

Completely claustrophobic and edge-of-your-seat all the way – this is imaginative filmmaking which uses its low budget as an advantage rather than an obstacle.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Almost verging on the same ‘one room’ format as BURIED, although not quite, Brit flick THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is something of a thrill ride, with the nail-chomping tension and gay subplot that echoes the brilliant BOUND.

Being a beautiful Kentish girl, I was always going to admire Gemma Arterton. Just as long as she stays away from the Hollywood shite more often, we’ll get on just fine. Thankfully, ALICE CREED generally avoids the formulas.

I love Kristin Scott Thomas, always have. She has that sad glimmer in her eyes that keeps her bobbing between vulnerable and strong, which is a great quality on film. Plus, anyone who can seamlessly switch between English and French-language films is always going to be a winner with me (and yes that does include you Charlotte Rampling).

LEAVING chronicles the torrid affair and subsequent marriage break up of a seemingly reserved, middle-class British ex-pat, living in the south of France. Dreamy, sexy and sometimes shocking, LEAVING is a real grower that you’ll want to revisit.

Another Year
Divided into four seasons, this melancholic passing of a complete year is a real tour-de-force of simplicity.

Mike Leigh’s latest film is his best in a decade, owed in part to his regular actresses Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville. The latter’s performance as Mary – a single, needy, over the hill lush is heartbreaking – more so because you’re sure to know her, some way or another.

Definitely my favourite British film of the year.

Le Refuge
Ah Francois, Francois. How I love him so. And I swooned once more when I went to see LE REFUGE.

I can’t deny I love his moody, urbane films much more than the comedies, and this one shows him at the top of his game. Filmed when the lead actress really was pregnant, and using her changing shape within the plot, this is another understated gem. Oh, and the impossibly sexy Melvil Poupaud is in it, albeit briefly – what more could you want?

What I know about Greek cinema you could write on a postcard (notwithstanding ‘ISLAND OF DEATH’) but I’m determined to find out more after being captivated by DOGTOOTH in the summer. Once again, it’s probably best not to read too much about this one, but let’s just say it’s about isolation, sexual naïveté and being fearful of the modern world.

The most Hanekesque film not directed by Haneke I’ve ever seen, this one recently emerged on the free-to-air Film4 channel just weeks after its UK DVD release – so keep your eyes peeled – it’s well worth two hours of your life.

Rabbit Hole
As someone who loves HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH like a religion and who also went to some unforgettable cinema screenings of SHORTBUS (hardcore porn on the big screen with an audience of open-mouthed OAPs would stick in your mind too) I was nearly foaming at the mouth to see John Cameron Mitchell’s newest film.

Although it’s just his third feature in ten years, I’m getting the feeling than it’s quality rather than quantity that really counts for Mitchell.

And yes, this one does star Tinsletown upstart Nicole (does she deserve a mononym yet?) and is definitely more Hollywood that his previous films – but inside it feels like nothing has changed.

A modern avant-garde weepie with a message of hope, RABBIT HOLE is the conclusion of a victorious hat trick for Mitchell.

I know, I know. A film costing more than the GDP of a small country wouldn’t normally make it onto my list, and the total cost of all the Roundeye films probably comes to what they spent on Mr DiCaprio’s mascara alone – but this genre-defying cinema ride by Chris Nolan really did impress me. A lot.

Less a film and more like a pseudo-drug, I can’t deny it, INCEPTION is mind-bogglingly brilliant. In fact, I think I like it more than MEMENTO, and that’s saying something…

Ben Barton

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