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2011 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

I’ve been watch­ing reac­tions to oth­er people’s “Best of 2011” with interest. It’s fas­cin­at­ing to see online com­ment­ors insist that films they have seen are so much bet­ter than films that they haven’t. Even though I do, in fact, watch everything I’m not going to pre­tend that this list is defin­it­ive – except to say that it gets a lot closer than most…

I also don’t believe in the arbit­rar­i­ness of “Top Tens”. I have my own entirely arbit­rary scale: Keepers, Renters and Respecters.

Secretariat posterKeepers are the films that I loved so much I want to own them – films that make me feel bet­ter just hav­ing them in the house. The first film I adored this year was slushy Disney horse racing story Secretariat. It should have been everything I hate – manip­u­lat­ive, worthy, a faith-based sub­text – and yet I cried like a baby – expert button-pushing from dir­ect­or Randall Wallace. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favour­ite block­buster. Superb dir­ec­tion by Rupert Wyatt over­came the flaws (ahem, James Franco, ahem) and it care­fully walked the tightrope of both respect for its pre­de­cessors and kick­ing off some­thing new.

The Tree of Life posterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is my favour­ite film of the year by a long stretch. A second view­ing allowed me to stop think­ing about it and just feel it, mean­ing that I got closer than ever before to the soul of a film artist. Profound in the way that only the greatest works of art are. Tusi Tamasese announced him­self with one of the most mature and con­sidered debuts I’ve ever seen – The Orator placed us deeply inside a cul­ture in a way that was both respect­ful and chal­len­ging of it. That film’s jour­ney hasn’t fin­ished yet.

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Review: Arthur Christmas, Immortals, When a City Falls, Rest for the Wicked and Submarine

By Cinema and Reviews

I believe that it should be illeg­al to even men­tion the word Christmas in any month oth­er than December. Yup, illeg­al. No one should be allowed to even breathe it, let alone have parades, dis­play mince pies in super­mar­kets or throw staff parties. If, as a once-great nation, we can restrict fire­work sales to three days before Guy Fawkes I’m sure we can man­age to pull our col­lect­ive yuletide-obsessed heads in for a few weeks and focus all that atten­tion on only one month a year.

Arthur Christmas posterAt least that’s what I thought until last Friday. That was when I saw the new pic­ture from England’s Aardman Animation, Arthur Christmas. I was pre­pared, based on my afore­men­tioned bah-humbuggery – and some unpre­pos­sess­ing trail­ers – to be scorn­ful and yet I was won over. Won over to the extent that I might as well be wrapped in tin­sel with a fairy on top. Arthur Christmas made me believe in Christmas a week before I was ready.

This film is digit­al 3D rather than the stop-motion clay mod­els that made Aardman fam­ous, but the inven­tion, wit, pace, struc­ture and com­mit­ment to theme are all securely in place, brought to life by an awe­some UK voice cast (Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy both do out­stand­ing work) and some bril­liantly clev­er visuals.

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