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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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Preview: 2011 New Zealand Film Festival

By Cinema and Reviews

Despite the shock­ing and inex­plic­able decision to omit Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins from this year’s Film Festival (a dis­aster applic­able only to me I think) the actu­al line-up is as good as every­one says. At least I think it is from sur­vey­ing about 20 out of the 160+ titles in the pro­gramme – hardly a rep­res­ent­at­ive sample but when most of those 20 bring such joy and only a few land with a dull thud you have to think that the rest of the pro­gramme is sim­il­arly proportioned.

Last year the big Cannes win­ner, Of Gods and Men, was missed by the International Festival, a situ­ation that was remedied at Easter’s World Cinema Showcase. This year, of the big Cannes movies, only Godard’s Film Socialisme is miss­ing in action. The great Swiss icon­o­clast may well have pro­duced his most inter­est­ing work in years but it will take a trip to Amazon to find out for sure. Even the redoubt­able Aro Video are unlikely to take a punt on it without the Festival’s imprimatur.

As usu­al, I asked the help­ful Festival people to point me towards the less likely, the unher­al­ded, the little bat­tle­rs, the kind of film that is eas­ily missed when skim­ming the 80 page pro­gramme. Any fool can tell you that The Tree of Life is going to be inter­est­ing. Capital Times read­ers want more than that.

Firstly music: two doc­u­ment­ar­ies impressed me and they worked so well togeth­er I wish they were a double-feature. Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself is a bio­graphy of the out­law coun­try star as he settles in to an uncom­fort­able old age. Actually old age to Haggard is no less com­fort­able than every oth­er age – I can’t think of a great star less at ease in his own skin.

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