a good year

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 28 December, 2011 at

Yes, it’s that time of year when a man’s mind turns to best-of-lists and good intentions to get back into the groove of regular blogging. I’d like to propose a gentle revolution that involves a general move away from Facebook and back to the deeper conversations and richer community of the blogosphere. Anyone with me?

But for now, The Lists. It’s been a good year for me in terms of movie-watching. In the last decade my engagement with cinema had declined drastically as a result of moving from Dublin to Coleraine (I assume this needs no explanation) and becoming a parent to three lively children (likewise). When I came to do my best-of-lists at the end of last year, I realised I had only seen about 10 movies in the whole year. That was the nadir and the wake-up-call. Good films have always been a source of inspiration and nourishment to me, a kind of means of grace. So the famine had to end.

We signed up to a postal DVD service, and dived into a year of catching up on everything we had missed the last few years. This will help explain why my choices are all a bit behind-the-times. We still don’t often get to the cinema and the best movies don’t make it to the Coleraine Moviehouse anyway. So I’m usually about a year behind the cultural cutting edge. But I managed to watch 70 movies this year, and most of them were good, quite a few were great, and these were the eight that most stirred my heart and mind:

A Prophet

Man on Wire


Of Gods and Men

The Fighter

The Last Days of Sophie Scholl

Blue Valentine

Joyeux Noel

For the record, here are the movies that just missed the cut: Crazy Heart, The Dark Knight, Wasteland, Away We Go, True Grit, Munich, Inside Job, Black Swan, The Class, Moneyball.

The worst films I saw this year? Prince of Persia, Taken, Green Lantern.

The biggest disappointments? Avatar, The King’s Speech, Hugo .

And the films from this year that I’m most looking forward to catching up with soon: The Tree of Life, The Artist, We Need to Talk about Kevin.

If I’ve missed something essential or deeply offended your favourite movie, please let me know and share your lists with the rest of us. My music and book lists are still to come…

8 Responses to “a good year”

  1. Stephen Orr

    Good post JM – thanks. Reminded me of lots that I need to see that I missed. I think 127 hours is a must see. Enjoyed Tinker Tailor too and there’s a great documentary called Restrepo you should check out if you haven’t. The guy who made it was killed earlier this year in Libya, you might have read about it?

  2. jaybercrow

    Ah yes. 127 Hours and Tinker Tailor are both on my list to watch soon. I watched Restrepo after reading about the death of the journalist – very powerful stuff. I was struck by just how different it was to just about any “war movie” I’ve seen. It gave me more compassion for the actual human soldiers on the front line who have been sent to fight for a misjudged or muddy cause.

  3. RickyMc

    Nice list, loved A Prophet and Inception from last year. Although Tree of Life warranted a worthy mention, I was pretty disappointed. I am a big Malick fan, though for me this echoed the protagonist in Douglas Coupland J-Pod, who opened the novel saying ‘I feel like a character in a Douglas Coupland novel’. It felt like Malick trying to ‘out-Malick’ himself, almost to the point of becoming parody.

    I forgot about Moneyball, which was a gem of a film, though I really really hated Black Swan. I would really recommend A Separation, other older foreign language films which haunted and moved me this year include Alexandra and Come and See, following from your previous post on Restrepo.

  4. jaybercrow

    Thanks for the recommendations Ricky. Tree of Life dropped through my letterbox today so will probably be the first film I watch in 2012. Will let you know what I think…

    Still working on my music list!

  5. jaybercrow

    Alright Ricky, I’m not going to listen to a word you say about movies from now on. I finally watched Tree of Life and it would easily have blown out of the water anything else on my list (except maybe Of Gods and Men). I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an explicitly theological movie in my life. It’s like a visual commentary on the book of Job (with a bit of Romans thrown in for good measure). And yet it’s still beautiful, too.

  6. Ricky_mcallister

    Sorry to disappoint JM!! For the record I liked it, but my disappointment was only in light of how much I loved his other films. It was beautiful as always, and some of it was very moving, and his theological text in the film was really admirable, but…for me it just didnt all hang together the way his other films did.

    Ultimately I am a philistine, films that appear to be saying ‘take notice, this is the most profound film you will ever see’ live me slightly cold. Harsh maybe?

    It was undoubtedly heartfelt, for some reason it left me less than convinced. But most definately worth watching.

    I am also writing an article on it for our church magazine. As a slight aside, the reaction it received at Cannes was in stark contast to other ‘religious’ films over the past 2 festivals. It was roundly jeered by the audience at its first screening and reputedly the main reason for its critical backlash was that it was ‘too religious’. Two of the most acclaimed films over the last 2 years were ‘La Quattro Volte’ and ‘Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives’. Quattro was a celebration of the directors belief in animism and a clear distillation of that belief and Uncle Boonmee was a celebration of that directors belief in reincarnation and a clear distillation of that belief. Were they not ‘too religious’? Are the only religious films deemed to be crude and lacking artistic merit those referencing a christian God?

  7. Delighted the Fighter made it onto your lists. The word “bravura” was invented to describe such a film. I’d never before seen a film in which the potential for healing in a family is as exciting as a championship fight.

    Crazy Heart made my top three. I admired it as a story beautifully told; a piece of cinema that is honest and unflinching but crafted with the loving care of a vintage guitar.

    Away We Go is a lovely curio. I’m an Eggers fan but even he might admit his skill is in creating characters that enchant rather than driving plot lines (and anyway, he has carved out a new identity as a warm-hearted Truman Capote with his long-form non-fiction). This seemed quite similar in that the first third was rapturously fun, the middle hummed along, and the ending wound down to a conclusion which was like a glass of Coke at the end of a party. Overall, a gem but not a jewel.

    Are you enjoying the Goon Squad?


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