This is part of a series of year end lists here on The Lost Boys this week… Check back for more, and enjoy Matt’s 5 biggest film-related disappointments of 2011 below:
1. THE DESCENDANTS
I’m sure Alexander Payne would be much happier writing drafts of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry – as once he did – than aspiring to the depths of feeling and insight he fails to attain so cataclysmically in The Descendants. I found nothing about this film true or honest, and felt that all the humour – gags, shall we? – was imposed upon, rather than generated by, its potent set-up. If this is contemporary adult cinema at its finest, you’ll find me with the kids at the back watching Election on DVD.
2. THE FUTURE
It took me a while to realise just how seriously this film – which, lest we forget, opens with a voiceover by a disabled cat – takes itself. But once I did, it became the most excruciating cinematic experience of the year. To be fair to writer-director-star Miranda July, my viewing companions and I did get a lot of amusement from imagining the filming of a particular scene – in which, presumably, Ms July directed her own performance of her own script whilst sealed inside a giant body sock – but other than that, watching this film quirk itself to death was an utterly joyless trial.
3. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Where is the line between deliciously featherlight and insufferably lightweight? It is the tightrope walked by this film, which I did in fact enjoy for large swathes. However, it must still rank as a disappointment, if only as evidence that Woody Allen could do so much better if only he tried a little harder. He seems to have become something of a nomadic film production factory in his senior years, shooting film after film in which ever city is first to trump up the budget – or maybe Soon-Yi just loves continental travel. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that someone had green-lit this Paris-based romp while the ink was still wet on the script’s first draft, and if it had all just been honed more tightly, and shot more imaginatively, the performances of Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson might have lifted this to something worth re-watching.
4. THE CHOICE OF “360” AS THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL’S OPENING NIGHT FILM
Not that I ever expected this film to be any good, nor even – shoot me! – stayed til the end. But as a proud Londoner, I was embarrassed that our festival could not come up with any better than this for artistic director Sandra Hebron’s last year at the helm. Two years ago they managed to bookend the festival with world premieres (Fantastic Mr Fox and Nowhere Boy), but this had already been screened and panned in Toronto. In a festival featuring such British highlights as Shame, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Wuthering Heights, it reeked of a safe choice for all those corporate sponsors at the gala screening.
5. THE SPECTACULAR MISCASTING OF JOHN C. REILLY IN WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN AND CAREY MULLIGAN IN DRIVE
This year has been full of examples of the triumphs and pitfalls of casting. The girl cast as young Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go so eerily resembled the elder actress as to make her mere screen presence compelling (unlike anything else in the film). But Mulligan’s casting in Drive as a gangster’s wife – a role originally written for a Latina actress – felt disingenuous and pandering to taste, to say nothing of unconvincing (no disrespect to Mulligan’s best efforts). But it still pales in comparison to John C. Reilly’s appearance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, cast into unfortunately sharp relief by the inspired pairing of Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton. Sharp relief is an apposite phrase for both those actors’ physical appearances, but the same can not be said for Mr Reilly, whose cauliflower features and comedy screen persona proved near terminal for my enjoyment of Lynn Ramsey’s otherwise excellent film.