My Year in Film: 2012

During 2012 I watched more films in 12 months, than I ever have before. 290 to be exact.

To give some context in 2011 I saw 226. The most I’d previously seen in a year was during 2007 when I saw 241. Trips to the cinema were more frequent this year too, 25 visits compared to just 10 in 2011.

At this time of the year Top 10s are all the rage, so as not to miss out, I’m doing one too. In fact I’m doing two; one for 2012 and another for films I saw that were released a long time ago.

First up is 2012. Although I went to the cinema more than ever, I still missed some of the big releases and my list is a ‘what I enjoyed most’ rather than best of.

Films released in the UK during 2012

    10. ChronicleThe found footage film to end the genre? Let’s hope so. What would you do if you suddenly had superpowers?

9. A Cabin in the Woods
I’m not putting the trailer in for this one, as this is a film best seen with as little information as possible. The only thing you need to know, is that 5 college age people go to a spooky cabin in a spooky wood and stuff happens. Just not what you’d expect.

8. Moonrise Kingdom
A brilliant film and one I know I will watch again and again and again. If you’re not a Wes Anderson fan, this might not do it for you though.

7. Martha Marcy May Marlene
This was a tough film to watch. A girl escapes a cult and we see the start of her ‘recovery’ whilst living with her married sister. The subject matter is hard enough but then as the film revealed more about the character, they way I viewed her changed. Clever.

6. Wild BillWild Bill is released after 8 years in prison and goes home to his kids, who don’t want him. Nor do the local criminals, who think he will push into their drug trade. A very good British film with drama, comedy & a touch of violence.

5. The Grey Liam Neeson in the snow fighting wolves. Do you need anymore than that? I’d skipped this at the cinema as I thought it would be a Taken derivative but I’m glad I finally caught up with it. This was a film that as I watched it, I hoped for a happy ending and I just couldn’t see one coming. Is there one? Well you’ll have to watch and find out, and if you do, make sure you stay through the credits for a final brief scene.

4. Argo The film that provided the second best line of the year, after The Avengers ‘We have a Hulk’. Ben Affleck’s film with its ‘Argo f**k yourself’ is about a 1979 hostage taking in Iran. Affleck directs and stars as the CIA agent tasked with retrieving 6 US Embassy staff who have been hidden in the Canadian Ambassadors house after escaping from the US Embassy, when it was overrun by locals. I wasn’t aware of the story before watching and that made it a better experience, as I didn’t actually know the outcome, which meant that the final 20 minutes were very tense as I didn’t know how the story would end.

3. Sightseers ‘Show me your world Chris’. I saw the poster for Sightseers online and couldn’t work out what kind of film it was but I was intrigued. I’d decided to see it without watching the trailer or reading any press, however that wasn’t to be as the trailer was played at the cinema and I was hooked. I think I saw the trailer 30 times online before seeing the film, it’s a really good trailer! The film follows the very naïve Tina and caravan fanatic Chris who has a murderous streak. A Midlands Bonnie & Clyde for the iPhone generation. This is a very funny but very dark film. I’d worked out where the ending was going, there are enough clues, but that still didn’t stop it being a shock when it came. A brilliant film from beginning to end, with two cracking central performances and a top notch 80s soundtrack.

2. Skyfall It had to be in here I suppose. The new Bond was a broken one and he’s only done two films, steady on. Daniel Craig is living up to the ‘best Bond’ tag that he’s been given. The action here is excellent right from the opening chase sequence. The villain is believable and played with menace by Javier Bardem and his wig & the new Q is interesting. The development of one character was obvious due his/her name, another caught me off guard. Although that characters appearance has become the new ‘I saw that all along, didn’t you?’. Well I didn’t but it’s a nice inclusion. 2012 being the 50th anniversary year, there were many nods to the older films, probably more than I spotted. There was an audible ‘oooh’ when a certain car was revealed. This was also the best looking Bond with Roger Deakins as cinematographer. I’m looking forward to see where the story goes next.

1. A Royal Affair If you told me at the start of the year that my favourite film wouldn’t be Bond or Batman, but a Danish language film about a mad King, his Queen and her relationship with his doctor. I would’ve said you were as mad as the King.

Normally if a film as long as this (two and a half hours), feels its length then I think it has failed to entertain me, not so in this case. I was enthralled from the first minute and when I checked the clock I was surprised that only an hour had passed as there is a lot going on but that isn’t a criticism.

By the time we got to the end I didn’t want it to finish, I wanted more. The story tells of a young English Princess (her elder brother was King George III) being betrothed to a young Danish King. Their ages aren’t mentioned but the real King and Princess were only 17 & 15 when they married. The King has some mental issues and isn’t a very good husband. He leaves his wife and new-born baby to go on a Grand Tour, arriving back a year later with a new Doctor in tow. This Doctor has an affair with Queen and together they, through the King, attempt to bring Denmark into the modern age.

An amazing piece of drama that benefits from being very close to what happened for real.

Films released in the UK before 1976

Watching 290 films meant I watched a lot of films released in the UK before 2012. So when I thought about doing a separate top 10 of films released before 2012, I had an awful lot to choose from. So I needed to come up with a criteria and as I’ve been known to tell people to watch more older films, I thought the best thing would be to set the bar at 1976 the year of my birth. The other criteria is that I could only select titles that I had seen for the first time in 2012.

10. Gone With The Wind (1939)I’m not sure I need say much about this one, but if you’ve avoided it because you’re Granny likes it, don’t. It is as good as they say.

9. Harold and Maude (1971)A film about depression and getting old. Doesn’t sound like fun but it really is. The two leads are fantastic. There is also a great soundtrack by Cat Stevens.

8. Our Hospitality (1923) I couldn’t find a good quality clip on YouTube so the one above is actually the whole film, and has no sound, a little ironic as Our Hospitality is a Buster Keaton silent film. A comedy film about two waring families brought together by love.

7. Paths of Glory (1957) A Stanley Kubrick film about the futility of war and the stupidity of military leaders in World War I. I’m not normally a fan of Kirk Douglas but he is excellent here as the war weary Colonel Dax. There are some great lines like ‘…one way to maintain discipline, is to shoot a man now and then.”

6. Lilies of the Field (1963) Sidney Poitier is one of my favourite actors and this film is one of the reasons why. He is Homer Smith an ex-soldier and out of work handy man, who stops at a farm in the desert looking for water for his car. Living there are a group of German/Austrian/Hungarian Nuns, the Mother Superior views Smith as a gift from God. He is persuaded to fix the roof and stays overnight with the promise of payment the following morning. The payment doesn’t arrive but the Mother Superior has other jobs he can do, and so the cycle repeats.

5. The Seventh Seal (1957) My only knowledge of The Seventh Seal was that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey spoofed the Death character and the chess game; and it turns out to be a very good spoof. Max Von Sydow, known in the wider film audience as the priest from The Exorcist, is a young man, a knight called Antonius Block who is returning home from the Crusades only to find Sweden in the grip of the plague. He sees Death playing chess and challenges him to a game, thinking it will keep him alive as long as the game is in progress. The other characters in the film do not see Death. Block makes his way home collecting other characters along the way, who are also saved from Death while the game continues but it can’t go on forever, eventually someone will lose.

4. Lifeboat (1944)lifeboatOddly there is no trailer on the internet (that I could find) for this film, so I’ve added a promotional still instead. It shows the nine protagonists in their lifeboat. 8 of them are either British or American, 1 is German (he is the chap on the left). The whole film takes place in that boat and Hitchcock still manages to keep the tension up through, the language barrier, who will be ‘Captain’, handing out food etc. A really clever film that deserves to be watched.

3. Titicut Follies (1967) (Please be aware this is the whole film and may be disturbing to sensitive souls)

I’d heard of the title years ago but didn’t know what the film was about. I went to see it at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London, I only read a little about it as I knew from the BFI blurb that it was a documentary made in 1967 and banned before it was even publicly shown, the ban wasn’t removed until 1992.

The film documents the (ill)treatment of patient-inmates at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. The title is taken from a talent show put on by the inmates. The film opens with a view of that talent show, the wise cracking guy who comes out just after 2 minutes isn’t the compere or a comedian but the head guard! Once his terrible joke is over, the film cuts to inmates stripping to receive new clothes. There is a lot of male nudity in this film and it is shown to illustrate how the guards use nudity as a way of controlling and belittling the inmates. It’s horrific stuff.

There is a scene about halfway through of a forced feeding, which is inter cut with other scenes. As I sat in the cinema and I realised what those other scenes were, I ran cold and a wave of feeling really sad came over me. Those scenes were so bad that a woman in front of me got up and left.

This is a really tough film to watch, forget all your horrors and psychological films, watching real people with serious mental issues being ill treated by those in authority is truly shocking.

All that may not sound like something you would like to watch but don’t shy away from it.

2. Brief Encounter (1945) Another of those ‘your Granny likes it, so I wont’ type of film. Once again I’m going to say give it a chance. The story of Laura and Alec is one the majority over 30 think they are familiar with but like me before seeing the film, the only bit they really known is one person is in a train carriage and one is on the platform and they are saying a fond farewell.

Thankfully the film is so much more than that. Laura meets Alec on the platform when he helps her remove a bit of grit from eye. They are both married with children and strike up a friendship that starts to mean more. We see what will be their final meeting twice, however the second time it means so much more as we have been let in on the relationship.

This was such a good film, and it’s one I will be revisiting again. There is so much said and unsaid, it is the 1940’s after all with manners, gentlemen and decorum to the full.

1. La Grande Illusion (1937) Another film that I saw at the BFI, and another where I had heard the name but knew little of it. La Grand Illusion is a war film but one set mainly in prisoner of war camps.

The main character Maréchal is played by the fantastic Jean Gabin, he is a pilot who is shot down along with a man called de Boeldieu. Being a pilot is a gentlemanly pursuit, so the man who shot them down, von Rauffenstein, orders someone to go and find out if they are officers, and if so, invite them to lunch. Lucky for them they are

After lunch the pilots are transferred to a prisoner of war camp where over a period of time they attempt to escape, before they can they are moved to another supposedly escape proof camp, which coincidentally is run by the now injured von Rauffenstein.

I wont go any further into the plot but it is a brilliant anti-war film, but it also takes a look at class and the relationships there in. As despite being an officer our hero Maréchal is actually from a working class background. There are other arguments about the honor of dieing in battles deemed to be ‘great’ by whichever side wins.

2013 Film Resolutions

So that was my year in film. I saw some really great films and some really bad ones too. New Year is always a time for resolutions so here are my film resolutions for 2013.

  • Finish watching the IMDb Top 250; 67 to go
  • Watch the remainder of Charlie Chaplin’s filmography; 13 to go
  • To watch more of the films I own, rather than renting new releases
  • Whittle down the number of DVD’s & Blurays that I own; currently 282 titles
  • Ask for film recommendations from my friends