This week Trespass’ writers are listing their top ten cinema releases (in Australia) of 2011, as well as recognising the film they know they should have seen but didn’t (the film that got away), picking out an Australian highlight and selecting their three top non-cinema releases, films they have caught at a film festival or that remain unreleased.
Top Ten Cinema Releases
Fan poster credited to James White
1. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, USA)
Like a bolt out of the blue, the American debut of Danish director (there’s another Dane at no. 4!) Nicolas Winding Refn was an uber-stylised, transfixing homage to 1970s and 1980s pulp crime cinema (think The Driver meets To Live and Die in LA meets… Blade Runner?) It’s hard not to giggle when the heavy synthesised songs begin to play early in the film, but before long Drive is no laughing matter. With liberal lashings of hot pink and neon green, Refn’s quietly explosive film is a candy-coloured, but black-hearted masterpiece.
2. Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
3. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, France/Canada)
4. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
5. Burlesque (Steve Antin, USA)
At first I thought I was going to have to defend this entry in the list, but then I realised I really shouldn’t have to. Oh sure, you may raise your eyebrow, chortle a little bit and dismiss Steve Antin’s Burlesque as some contrary act of wannabe controversy, but the truth of the matter is that, other than Drive, no film entertained me more than this musical starring Christina Aguilera and Cher. It became an instant movie night sensation amongst my friends and I, and the soundtrack was on high rotation throughout the year. “You haven’t seen the last of me”, Cher sings. Well, I haven’t seen the last of Burlesque! I’ll be watching this on repeat until the day I die!
6. I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficcara and John Requa, USA)
7. Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, USA)
It may have been easy to forget this powerful drama from way back in February, but John Cameron Mitchell’s searing adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play Rabbit Hole demands repeat attention. I admit to being A Fan in capital letters of Nicole Kidman, but even her most ardent detractors surely can’t deny she gives a performance of such raw emotion that sticks to the brain like taffy. This tale of a couple attempting to rebuild after the death of their young son is harrowing viewing, but also deeply rewarding.
8. Dragonslayer (Tristan Patterson, USA)
9. Footloose (Craig Brewer, USA)
10. Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga, UK)
The Film(s) That Got Away
The duel indie dramadies of Beginners (Mike Mills, USA) and Win Win (Thomas McCarthy, USA)
Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh, Australia)
I thought Griff the Invisible was the better and more entertaining movie, but it’s Julia Leigh’s complex and haunting Sleeping Beauty that has remained with me the longest and strongest. This truly revisionist take on the fairy tale (Red Riding Hood would never dare) sees Emily Browning star as a student who takes on a job as a high class… sorta prostitute? I’m not really sure. Nevertheless, old men gratify themselves amongst the company of her lifeless, sleeping body- my guess is that they hope to reclaim their former sexual glory by being “the one” to awaken her from her slumber– after she takes a potion from the hand of her brothel den mother (a perfectly-coiffed Rachael Blake). It’s daring and brave, scary and delicate as a petal. Widely dismissed by many critics and audiences, I found Leigh’s film to be an extremely bewildering and bewitching experience.
Top Three Non-Cinema Releases
1. Proof (1991, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia) – viewed as a part of the 2011 AACTA Festival of Film
2. Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham, USA)
3. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (Jake West, UK)
This was little more than a glorified DVD box set extra, but while it’s a little sloppy around the edges, it’s the content that’s important. I watched this many months ago, but it’s message has become increasingly pertinent in the aftermath of the Australian ratings board banning A Serbian Film and, at least briefly, Human Centipede 2. Throw in a lot of gooey, gory clip packages and this documentary is a whole lotta fun!