Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Encore Awards: Audacious Cinema

The always intelligent Nick Davis (Nick’s Flick Picks) has this thing where he not only grades film on the typical scale of A to F, but on a 1 to 5 scale to indicate a films VOR importance, meaning its value, its originality and the level of risk taken in making it. Last year when I was compiling my year in review I thought that it was an excellent category to include in my analysis of the year in cinema. Essentially it’s about citing those films in the year which might not have been definite favourites but were significant to the fabric of cinema in the year (as the abbreviation says in terms of their value, originality and risk). What films here will endure not necessarily as the best of 2011, but as indications of the dynamism of the genre? Last year, for example, my favourite film was Rabbit Hole which didn’t make it on my Auspicious Cinema ballot (here), so it’s not necessarily about [what I consider to be] best it’s about being audacious and carrying the art of cinema further. So, this isn't my top 5 films of the year...the grades for the top 5 vary from B through to A

As usual, click on images to link to my reviews.

THE NOMINEES
Certified Copy
What role does authenticity really play in art? In Certified Copy James takes “She” to see a painting in a museum. It’s of the Greek Muse Polymnia. It was thought to be an original copy (yes, a paradox) for years until it was revealed to be an imitation, at which point critics feeling that it was such a perfect replication it was meritorious in its own right. Then….asks, James…why the hubbub about real and artificial artefacts? Their realness has no effect one they’re effectively rendered. And the dance the two leads take part in the film is essentially forcing us to ask ourselves the question. Does not knowing whether something is authentic or not diminish its worth?

directed by Abbas Kiarostami; original screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami
              
Contagion 
I remember Jose in particular zeroing on the way which this film portends to the potential duplicity in globalisation, and that’s just one of the facets at work here. Soderbergh has been continuously diverting between genres, and I’m impressed as his ability to handle them. Contagionis not just a return to the huge cast of Traffic. The tagline of “nothing spreads like fear” is certainly pat, but in the film’s insistence on an almost antiseptic sheen to cover the realness of the machinations on screen only augment the truly horrific undertones which can be found if we look around at ourselves.

directed by Steven Soderbergh; original screenplay by Scott Z. Burns
            
Hanna
Perhaps the only film here that I second guessed myself on, and then I think – this is my party, right? I’m not sure Hanna is explicitly original or risky (at least, not in the way it thinks) but I think it has value. I mentioned to Joey Madgison that I think this film will endure for being a key point in Wright’s career, and I think that Hannais worthy of a citation just because it’s such a generally straightforward screenplay turned into this cinematic feast making good use of editing, visual effects, music, costuming and set design and so confident of its strengths (and even its shortcomings). And, even its standard screenplay has things to say about identity, and the way children are raised. Some say shallow, I say daring.
directed by Joe Wright; original screenplay by David Farr and Seth Lochhead

Melancholia
Melancholia, a bit like Hanna is a film I find worthy of note even when it’s got its blinkers on and seems rather insular. The very insularity with which von Trier maps this story of the world ending paralleled with a woman’s depression is daring in the way it’s such a singularly original take on an issue which has flooded art for centuries. And, it’s not just story. The film is a visual marvel, one of the most gorgeous films of the year – no doubt – and with a firm grip on its characters, even the most minor ones. Is the wedding indicating the silliness of life? Is the silliness of life the reason the world ends? Dense with imagery and figurate language, they’ll be assessing its “meaning” for years.
directed by Lars von Trier; original screenplay by Lars von Trier

The Tree of Life


The entirety of a man’s world flashing before his (and our) eyes. I feel I don’t explicitly need to justify this film’s position here, it’s both a requiem for life and an praise song for it. It’s abstract and yet it has a definitive focus on a family, it is visually progressive in the best of ways, its teeming with individuality and ferociously personal. It’s scope is both infinitesimal and infinite. One thing you can’t fault Malick for as a filmmaker is courage.

directed by Terrence Malick; original screenplay by Terrence Malick

Runners Up: A Separation is an outstanding amalgamation of family drama, societal politic, legal strife and religious fervour unfolding with an easiness unknown in so many films trying to tackle one of these issues; Hugo is, perhaps, based on a book for children but it’s a passionate and romantic look at something deeply personal to Scorsese grounded in all the charm and fantasy with which one remembers olden idols.

Honourable Mentions: The Artist; A Dangerous Method; Drive; Rampart
         
Previously: Actresses / Sound and Music / Opening Scenes / Forgotten Characters


Which films of 2011 do you think have important in pushing the medium forward?

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