The Establishing Shot's Top Films of 2011 - The Short List 2011


Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Monday, February 06, 2012

The Establishing Shot's Top Films of 2011We are a month into 2012 and a week away from the pre-eminent British film awards ceremony that will light up

London on Sunday 12th February. I am of course talking about The Orange British Academy Film Awards, or rather The BAFTAs, the jewel in the crown of the UK film world that celebrates the best in film as recognised by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.




After looking through the recent list of US Academy Awards nominees I was somewhat surprised by some of their choices (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, The Descendants, Moneyball, The Tree of Life and no mention of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, We Need To Talk About Kevin or Tilda Swinton), well more like flabbergasted and was curious to see that BAFTA had made some similarly odd choices (The Descendants, Jonah Hill, Senna and no Bullhead) as well as some inspired choices with their nominations (The Guard - John Michael McDonagh, Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, John Hurt, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Attack The Block). The full list of Orange BAFTA nominees can be accessed from here: Orange Film Pulse

Spurred on by this  I have decided to put up my own Short List or annual list of The Establishing Shot's  Top 10 films of 2011 and discuss some of the differences and similarities between the Oscars, BAFTA and my nominations.

Before I get into the thick of it, I just want to say I am over the moon to see that Mr. Gary Oldman has been recognised for his marvellous work as well as Mr. John Hurt is being celebrated this year as the recipient of the Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema BAFTA.

In the interests of transparency (and to create a buffer between the start of this article and my controversial number 10 film) - below is a list of  films that  feel as though they could have ended up on my list of Best Films of 2011 had I actually seen them.

The Artist, Margin Call, Albatross, Shame, A Separation, Life, Above AllCarnage, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Albert Nobbs and Dreams of A Life. 

Now, had I taken advantage of some of the offers from this post's sponsor like Orange Wednesdays, which sees Orange offer two-for-one tickets every Wednesday at Odeon cinemas, or Orange Film To Go which allows Orange customers to download a new film from iTunes, every Thursday, absolutely free of charge, I may not have missed those films. Orange have also set-up Orange Film Pulse a website that measures the pulse of film on the internet, rates them and allows fans to discuss their favourite films likes and dislikes. Head over to http://bafta.orange.co.uk/love/the-artist/ for more information about Orange's great offers as well to rate your favourite films.

The Establishing Shot’s Best films of 2011
Without further ado, welcome to another year and The Establishing Shot's list of top films from the past year. It might just be me but 2011 seemed to be a rollercoaster ride of film releases with dips, highs and some loops. Please feel free to leave your thoughts, rants, affirmations or sensible discussion in the comment section below. But before we kick off our countdown with a controversial choice - a quick commercial break:

Video: Coming Soon - Satan’s Alley



10. Sucker Punch
A young girl is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.

A controversial choice I am sure. Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch may have been a little less smart than it thought it was, get very little love from the critics and collected a relatively low £6 million profit - given its £50 Million production budget.

But it is still a brave, bold and visually spectacular film that may be ahead of its time. To be honest I think its greatest failing was being just too big to be taken in on one screening. Had I seen Sucker Punch when I was a teenager I suspect that it might well have given me a brain implosion as well as been on my list of favourite films forever.

Video: Sucker Punch Samurai Fight Scene

Filled with over-the-top battles punctuated with an original story drawing on tropes and idioms from action cinema of a vulnerable young girl taking refuge in her mind-bending multiple genres, layered with both subtle and blatant subtext, incredible effects and showcasing spectacular performances. It set the bar too high early on with its pre-release marketing campaign and continued to raise it to the point that it was just too much to absorb in a single screening as the big effects pushed displaced the emotion in the story.

It should have been the biggest film of the year but may have been overly ambitious with its game level styling and lost the audience with its continuous barrage of computer-generated effects.

I can’t really understand the criticism Sucker Punch received for being morally ambiguous or sexist as it very clearly draws on the human condition in extreme circumstances. To write it off as irrelevant as tantamount to ignoring what has happened in Europe in the last 60 years. If one is unable to see the humanity behind the facade, I can only assume myopia is at the root.

That aside it's sad to note that Sucker Punch was not even recognised in categories that it excelled in like; Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing, Editing, Music, Production Design or Cinematography.

Sucker Punch
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya
Stars: Emily Browning, Carla Gugino, John Hamm, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens

9. 30:Minutes or Less
Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else...

I really enjoyed 30:Minutes or Less.  It’s absolutely hilarious, highly entertaining and should really be higher up on my list, but when weighed up against some of the heavyweight material on offer this year, it slowly made its way up my list.

It is easier to entertain an audience when you can fill a film with effects, spectacular locations and exciting gadgets but it takes real talent to set a story in a small town and base it around a handful of characters and be as incredibly entertaining as 30:Minutes or Less is.

It relies on quick-fire dialogue, sharp editing and engaging performances. Apparently based on actual events, we move at a break-neck speed as a local pizza delivery guy becomes embroiled in the criminal aspirations of two low lifes and their lofty ambition of becoming criminal masterminds.


Video: Shouldn't have let Nick explode - 30 Minutes or Less - in cinemas 16th September

Like some of those one room films that transcend their seemingly humble position 30:Minutes or Less is put together in a way that the bizarre set ups and small town vocabulary become genuinely entertaining as it masterfully edited to great effect and delivered by some fine talent who have an incredible on screen chemistry.

As much as I enjoyed 30:Minutes or Less it is unlikely that any Academy would grant it the credit it deserves, but I have no doubt that we will be seeing more of the talented individuals involved in 30:Minutes or Less.

 30:Minutes or Less
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Michael Diliberti & Matthew Sullivan
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson


8. Limitless
A writer discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities. I remember when I watched Limitless and remember about three minutes into it being struck with the realization that I was completely and utterly enthralled. I was buzzing for days after seeing it excited like a little kid who had received a new toy. I love Science Fiction and Limitless is one of those rare films that takes a high concept idea and delivers it in a relatively lo fi way when placing it into our world maintaining its sensibility. Limitless is also now one of my favourite super powers stories.


Video: Limitless Subway Fight Clip

Limitless merges some great visual aesthetics that keep you engaged with a fast paced story. A lot of the magic of the film comes down squarely to leading man Bradley Cooper’s charisma. He gains our sympathy early on as a failed writer and you want him to succeed through the story despite his morally ambiguous actions brought on by the corrupting power of his new found knowledge. The narrative arc sets up a scenario early on that keeps you guessing where it may be going the whole way through.

Limitless received neither BAFTA nor Oscar recognition for adapted screenplay, sound design or the cinematography. Excerpt from my review of Limitless:
I don’t know if we are being really spoilt by Hollywood right now, if I’m having some sort of mid-life crisis or my abstinence from watching trailers and other film related marketing is paying off in spades but I have seen a rash of really good films lately. I just got back from seeing Limitless and still buzzing from it. I’m tired but too excited to sleep right now. I had scanned the trailer for Limitless - and too be honest despite the very reliable Bradley Cooper & slightly less so, but still a legend Robert De Niro (c’mon Fockers? Machete? Really?) - I thought the very slick, overly voiced trailer pointed towards another soulless Hollywood film that will invariably disappoint. But Limitless doesn’t, it goes the other way…”
My full review of Limitless can be found here: The Establishing Shot: Limitless review - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/03/limitless-review-spoiler-free-if-you.html

Limitless
Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Leslie Dixon & Alan Glynn
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish


 Time for a quick commercial break before we get to number 7 in our countdown of best films of 2011.
Video: Coming Soon – Simple Jack



To recap our top films of 2011 so far we have, coming in at No. 10 - Sucker Punch, No. 9 -  30:Minutes or Less , No. 8 - Limitless and at our much vaunted No.7 spot we have:

7. Drive
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman, mechanic and getaway driver lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbour.

In all honesty up until I started writing this post, Drive was actually in the also ran category or The Outsiders and would have probably come in ranked at about 13 or 14 on my list. And I certainly didn't expect it to be recognised by the Academies apart from a possible token nomination.

Don’t get me wrong I fully dig and appreciate Nicolas Winding Refn’s work - he is one of the boldest and freshest talents working today and more importantly he gets me. In fact I have enjoyed every one of his films which peaked with Valhalla Rising. Which is an incredible bold film embodied a unique visual aesthetic (stylistically very 70s), the right amount of existential symbolism, subtle cinemas references (the scene on the beach to recall one), a kick ass story and a mysterious morally ambiguous protagonist that can handle himself. All themes that permeate each of Refn’s films.

Drive was good and I really enjoyed it. Subtle, bold and slickly visual in equal measure with a strong undercurrent of empathy brought on by understated acting, particularly from Ryan Gosling. So much so that in March 2011 we caught up with actor Oscar Isaac at the Sucker Punch Premiere, the only question we had for him was Drive related.

The Establishing Shot: Oscar Isaac talks Madonna's W.E. & Drive

With Drive Refn touches on many cinematic elements that I personally love; existential crises stunt drivers, symbolism, getaway men, car chases, slick visuals, 80s LA, Crime, a hypnotic soundtrack, smart criminals and a silent protagonist with surprising inner strength that goes against the grain. To labour this point all of these elements are exhibited in two of my favourite films of all time; Walter Hill’s The Driver and William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. and on some level Drive is set in the same universe. Yet you’ll probably notice that there is no Drive review and very little mention of it on The Establishing Shot.

Video: Drive TV Spot

Well that’s because for me Drive’s success is bittersweet and will always be the film that Refn cracked the big time and his sensibilities started veering towards Hollywood mainstream. It is great to see Refn get the recognition he deserves but as wonderful as ex Mickey Mouse clubber Ryan Gosling is - and there are many websites expounding his virtues - he brought a whole OMG audience to Nicolas Winding Refn’s films. I can’t help but think this manufactured hype machine will inflate & skew Refn’s vision as like any smart filmmaker Refn will adapt his style to keep this whole new audience interested in his films rather than continue making original masterpieces.

I’m looking forward to Nicolas Winding Refn’s next feature Only God Forgives but it would have been great to see another Pusher film as he planned after Drive or Refn re-team with long time collaborator Mads Mikkelsen now that he has some Hollywood clout rather than immediately replacing Luke Evans with Ryan Gosling as the lead for Only God Forgives as the two of them working together is money in the bank for investors. I mean Luke Evans scheduling conflict.

Whilst Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis are up for an Oscar for Sound Editing. BAFTA gave it much of the recognition it deserved with nominations for Mat Newman's Editing, Carey Mulligan for Supporting Actress, Nicolas Winding Refn for Director and Drive for Best Film.

Drive
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Hossein Amini & James Sallis
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston


6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Eight years of being raised by humans and now left behind in an abusive sanctuary, a hyper-intelligent chimpanzee will lead a revolution of apes towards freedom from man's torturous exploitation.

Going in I had no expectations of Rise of the Planet of the Apes apart from the possibility that a relatively new Director may have sold out to mediocrity for the opportunity to make a fairly big film. How very wrong I was.

Video: Rise of The Planet of The Apes - Kitchen Table/ Neighbor Fight Clip

Rupert Wyatt put together a narrative tale that respects the source material as well as surprises with its own big heart. Carried by some great live and Mo Cap performances. The fact that the special effects were absolutely astounding didn’t hurt either. Something both the BAFTAs and Oscars did recognise. You can see more about the extraordinary WETA created special effects for Rise of the Planet of the Apes in an earlier post of mine over here!

 Expect to see great things from Director Rupert Wyatt as well as I’m sure that Rise of the Planet of the Apes must surely be another building block to Motion Capture performances particularly Andy Serkis’s being considered for accolades? Excerpt from my review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes:
Finally a big summer film for adults as well. Rise of The Planet of The Apes is easily the most entertaining big summer film I have seen this year.

As with many film aficionados of my age the original Planet of the Apes holds a special place in our museum of memories. With one of the most memorable endings on screen ever - the original Planet of The Apes is one third of my Sci-Fi triumvirate from the Bronze Age. Coincidentally all 3 star Charlton Heston, are examples of the reactionary counter culture of the late 1960s brimming with gritty subversiveness and explore different dystopian futures.
The first, the original 1968 version of the Planet of The Apes, the second 1971s The Omega Man and finally from 1973 Soylent Green. All 3 absolutely astound examples of great science fiction but only Planet of The Apes has spawned a legacy of thought provoking and complex tales…”
If you are so inclined you can read my full review here: The Establishing Shot: Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/08/rise-of-planet-of-apes-review.html
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver & Pierre Boulle
Stars: James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto


5. The Help
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

The first film that the academies and I converge on is The Help. Adapted from a 2009 novel by first time writer Kathryn Stockett it could easily be written off as an attempt to alleviate white guilt, but growing up in Apartheid era South Africa The Help resonated fairly deeply with me.

I’m unsure if the novel or the film deserves the bulk of the credit, but it is a well crafted film that could have been heavy handed to deliver greater effect to its portrayal of the wrongs of the past. Instead it relies on performances to convey the tragic subtext of the narrative without miring itself in sentimentality.

Video: The Help - Official Character Profile : Minnie

I thought the performance were good all round and glad that Octavia Spencer has been nominated for the Supporting Actress BAFTA and Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar, even happier that Viola Davis was nominated for a Leading Actress BAFTA & Actress in a Leading Role Oscar and a little bemused by Jessica Chastain’s nomination for a Supporting Actress BAFTA & Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar. Don’t get me wrong I do think she is some kind of wonderful, and very talented but feel that she still has a little way to go before taking home a BAFTAThe Help is also up for a BAFTA for Best Film as well as a Best Picture Oscar.

The Help
Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Tate Taylor, Kathryn Stockett
Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer


Before we get to knocking on the door number 4 in our list of top 10 films of 2011 we have time for another commercial break.

Video: Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown - Coming Soon


Down to our final 4 top films of 2011. Which cinematic gem will crack the coveted position of number 1? A quick recap of where we are; No. 10 – Sucker Punch, No. 9 - 30:Minutes or Less, No. 8 - Limitless,  No. 7 - Drive, No. 6 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes and our No. 5 - The Help


4. The Guard
An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.

The Guard took me by complete surprise. I absolutely loved the dichotomy of it being old fashioned yet feeling completely original and fresh. Bits of it do feel a little forced like the relationship between Don Cheadle’s FBI Agent and Brendan Gleeson’s sarcastic and irreverent Irish policeman. And the antagonists existentialism. But it all comes together in a bitingly humorous tale underpinned with serious real world issues.

Now that 2011 has come to end I feel even more strongly that The Guard may be the most original film of the year and feel that Brendan Gleeson’s performance should have been more recognised especially when weighed up against some of the more by the numbers and frankly flat performances well within certain actors comfort zones.

Video: The Guard – You are hunting 3 men Clip

Rightfully BAFTA acknowledged John Michael McDonagh’s good work with a nomination for screenplay for Original Screenplay. Criminally it was overlooked by the Oscars for more comfortable and well trodden fare. Excerpt from my review of The Guard:
As a film fan I spend a lot of my time in the dark, waiting and hoping for those rare outstanding films that come along once in awhile. A film that is so fresh, original and sharp that it is achingly cool while demonstrating an uncanny understanding of the film medium and its audience’s needs.

The Guard is such a film. I cannot recommend this flawless gem highly enough. Before I get into my thoughts of The Guard I would like to start with 3 quotes from other films and characters that made an impact on me at some time or other and I couldn’t help drawing parallels between those characters and Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of The Guard…”
Read my full review here: The Establishing Shot: The Guard A Review - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/08/guard-review.html

The Guard Director: John Michael McDonagh Writer: John Michael McDonagh Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong When asked for comment one disgusted film-maker responded with:
I am appalled to discover that I have only come fourth in The Establishing Shot's Best Films of 2011 list. I should've been Number One!

Scorsese, Ramsey and that Swedish bloke can eat my dust!  -- John Michael McDonagh (Reprisal Films)

3. Hugo - Orange Film Pulse Ranking: 76/100
Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. Another film that was a surprise for me and even while watching I was in awe as the wonderful tale unrolled in front of my eyes. I had been hearing about Hugo for ages but had thought that at best it would fall into a similar world of Harry Potter. But it is so much more and bigger than that. Martin Scorsese orchestrates Hugo’s production from A-Z to create an immersive experience that transports the viewer to a magical world that transcends it format. Nothing is left to chance as the sound visuals come together in a very well thought out design.

Video: Hugo Trailer

Hugo is a great case study for 3D as well as carries all the trademark element of another class Martin Scorsese feature. I loved it, film fans love it, critics love it and rightfully so the Academies loved it. With BAFTA nominations for; Original Music, Cinematography Production Design, Costume Design, Sound, Make Up & Hair as well as Martin Scorsese For Director. And Oscar nominations for Art Direction, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Music, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing and Best Picture Excerpt from my review of Hugo:
I wept three times during Hugo. Not because Martin Scorsese lost it like with; Shutter Island (rather watch The Ninth Configuration) or The Aviator (rather watch paint dry) but rather because Martin Scorsese has made such a beautiful film that will touch anyone who loves film.

It is a film that transcends the crassness of show business whilst rolling out an entertaining adventure mystery. I’m hopelessly under qualified to try and review it. But I’m pretty sure Scorsese’s response to this would be something to the effect of “Hey, I’m just glad you enjoyed it” – but in a New York Accent.

In this age of Harry Potter. Surprisingly, Hugo starts off in the exact way that I had envisioned it, when I first heard about the film regarding a boy who lives in the walls of a Parisian railway Station during the 1930s that would star; Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee. I was surprised because as spectacular as it was to see some incredible 3D and cinematography (classic sweeping Scorsese single takes IN 3D) within a period station. It seemed a little conventional for Martin Scorsese. Then the title flickers up and everything changes...”
My full review can be found here: The Establishing Shot: Hugo Review - A film lover’s gift from Martin Scorsese - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/11/establishing-shot-hugo-review-film.html

Hugo
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan, Brian Selznick
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Lee


2. We Need To Talk About Kevin
The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions.

Some films don’t need to be reviewed, hyped, or deconstructed into the parts that made sense as a whole or the bits that spark an emotional connection - some films are just brilliant and Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin is one such film.

From the film's establishing shot we are swept away and are never quite given the opportunity to plant our feet too firmly on the ground as the clever narrative unfolds.

Video: We Need to Talk About Kevin UK Trailer

In all honesty Tilda Swinton’s etherealness scares me a little bit but in 2009 I fell in love with her immeasurable depth of talent with her portrayal of Emma Recchi in I Am Love (Io sono l'amore) in my top 8 films of 2009. And she continues to deliver brave and unconventional performances that should need to be celebrated. Another serious role for John C. Reilly where he reminds us of what a talent he is beyond the goofball roles he is so fond of and Ezra Miller may well be a defining light of his generation given the right material.

Lynne Ramsay brings all of the parts together with great editing and cinematography which enhances the powerful performances across the board. As the film engages us to experience the mystery behind Tilda Swinton’s Eva Khatchadourian as her life slowly unwinds to its mind-blowing climax. Exhilarating and tragic at the same time, We Need to Talk About Kevin  tackles sensitive subject matter in an intelligent and well thought out way and will surely continue to impress long after 2011 to become a modern classic.

So how does this extraordinary film measure up in the real world? Well it was shamefully ignored by the American Academy. Maybe all the slots were too full exploring less challenging subject matter with the likes of the mediocre and imminently forgettable Moneyball or The Descendants. It would appear that George Clooney and Brad Pitt learnt a lot while researching their con men roles for the Oceans series of films.

Thankfully BAFTA gave it some of the recognition it deserves with: Tilda Swinton up for Leading Actress, Lynne Ramsay for Director and We Need to Talk About Kevin for Outstanding British Film.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear & Lionel Shriver
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller

Just enough time for one last commercial break before we get to our esteemed best film of 2011.

Video: Hamlet - Coming Soon



1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

Well for anyone that reads The Establishing Shot I am sure it is no surprise that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is my top film of the year.

An incredibly well constructed film with what must surely be the pinnacle of ensemble casts that doesn’t kowtow to a slick MTV veneer instead opting to maintain its complex narrative thread dressed in class and polish.

The Establishing Shot: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Premiere Interviews - Gary Oldman

Aside for what a magnificent achievement Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is in terms of bringing an icon of modern literature to the screen and staying very close to its literary spirit. The world that Tomas Alfredson creates is rich deep and easy to be immersed in with lots of thought going into the design of visuals, costumes, sets, colour palettes, tone and sound.But for me the subtext and subtle references lift Tinker Tailor from great to an exceptional film.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy got some respect with Oscar nominations for; Mr Gary Oldman as Actor in a Leading Role, Alberto Iglesias for Music (Original Score) and much deserved Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan for Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Whilst it shines at BAFTA with a staggering 11 BAFTA nominations starting with:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for Best Film. John Casali, Howard Bargroff, Doug Cooper, Stephen Griffiths, Andy Shelley for Sound. Jacqueline Durran for Costume Design, Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana MacDonald for Production Design [you can read more about the intricate production design in this QA session with Maria Djurkovic over here!]. Dino Jonsäter for Editing, Hoyte van Hoytema for Cinematography. Alberto Iglesias for Original Music.

Mr Gary Oldman for Leading Actor, Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan for Adapted Screenplay, Tomas Alfredson for Director and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for Outstanding British Film.

 Excerpt from my review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:
Before I get into my thoughts of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. If you are not familiar with John le Carré’s work let’s cover some groundwork early on - despite what the marketing for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy would have you believe - George Smiley codename Beggar-man (an indication of his character status) the lead played by Gary Oldman is not a super star spy.

He is an experienced spy but has become a bureaucratic worker, more of a long suffering office worker who has had it rough having lost his job as well as his wife. He is more of a hard pressed upon tragic everyman filling his life with routine...”
You can read my full review here: The Establishing Shot: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Review - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/09/tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-review.html Or here: The Establishing Shot: Exclusive Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Premiere Pictures and thoughts after a second viewing - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2012/01/establishing-shot-tinker-tailor.html Or: The Establishing Shot: Tinker Tailor Exclusive! Title of Tinker Tailor sequel confirmed and decoding Tinker Tailor with the film’s makers - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2012/01/establishing-shot-tinker-tailor.html

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan & John le Carré
Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy


But wait there is more....

 The Outsiders
The Outsiders are films that I really enjoyed and appreciated for the skill that went into making them but fell just outside my Top 10 Films of 2011. In no particular order:

Arthur
A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn't like.

Russell Brand's Arthur had one mission - to entertain you. And it does so in spades. Brand's personal life may overshadow his work but Arthur is a rare thing of beauty when a role is created that seems made to measure for the actor. It is hard to guess where the character Arthur ends and Brand begins but this film had me in fits of giggles the entire way through it. I laughed so hard during one scene featuring Luis Guzmán I almost asphyxiated.

Not an entirely original story, aside from it being based on the Dudley Moore and Denholm Elliot 's 80s film Arthur and some some bits are well trodden but  Russell Brand and Dame Helen Mirren bring a breathe of fresh air and hilarity to Arthur.

Arthur
Director: Jason Winer
Writers: Peter Baynham & Steve Gordon
Stars: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Garner

My full review of Arthur can be found here: The Establishing Shot: Arthur Review - http://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/04/arthur-review.html

The Debt
The espionage thriller begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1965, when the trio (portrayed respectively by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team's mission was accomplished - or was it? The suspense builds in and across two different time periods, with startling action and surprising revelations.

Officially released in 2010 but only in cinemas in 2011. The Debt is another part adaptation from one of the team behind Tinker Tailor - Peter Straughan, masterfully directed by John Madden backed up with a phenomenal cast and performances from:  Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds and Jessica Chastain.

A post-war tale of an Israeli Secret Service mission going awry. It is intelligent, tense and punctuated with action. Sam Worthington's best performance to date showing vulnerability and toughness in the same breath. Also Dame Helen Mirren has a knife fight.

The Debt
Director: John Madden
Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan, Assaf Bernstein, Ido Rosenblum
Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson


Midnight In Paris A romantic comedy about a family traveling to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better. I watched Midnight In Paris on a plane and even that could not dampen my enthusiasm as I was absolutely swept away by the light hearted tale set in the city of lights. Woody Allen perfectly captures romantic nostalgia of an era that still ignites our imagination with the perfect cast.

Midnight In Paris
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates

Perfect Sense A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions.

Sadly this quirky romantic art house tale was overlooked by just about everyone. Set to an original take on the end of the world - the cast across the board deliver great colloquial performances but the real hook of Perfect Sense is the incredible chemistry between Eva Green and Ewan McGregor that will sweep you away.

Perfect Sense
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green and Ewen Bremner


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord.

Not just the best film of the Potter series but a superb film in it own right. Frustratingly I wish the makers had put as much care and attention into the others of the series as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

My full review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 can be found here: The Establishing Shot: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Reviewhttp://www.theestablishingshot.com/2011/07/harry-potter-and-deathly-hallows-part-2.html

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Director: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves & J.K. Rowling
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint


I Saw the Devil When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge. I love South Korean cinema - I'm unsure if the language barrier or the understated po faced performances push the inventive stories to the fore and remove having to decipher performances from actors jostling for screen time and keen to show how well their method works. With South Korean cinema you are in and the story gets going very quickly.

I Saw the Devil is no picnic and it could be considered fairly hardcore if not not outright insane, but it is an inventive look at both the revenge and serial killer genres and doesn't rehash ideas to reach its goal. Even though its subject matter is slightly controversial, its originality pushes cinema forward.

I Saw the Devil 
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Writer: Hoon-jung Park
Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi and Gook-hwan Jeon


50/50
Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. 50/50 really deserves to be higher up on my list but I clean forgot about it. From the makers of Superbad (don’t hold that against it) the bitter sweet tale of a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) coming to terms with cancer.

50/50 was way better than I thought it was going to be with exceptional performances all round and a fairly fresh and engaging look at a young man and his circle of relations coming to terms with his life threatening disease.

At times it felt a little choppy like characters popped up to move the story line along but by and large it was great tale with  Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulling a touching performance out the bag and Seth Rogen moving further away from frat boy humour to surprisingly charming as the comedic sidekick. You’ll laugh out loud as well tear up at times.

50/50
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

 So there you have it ladies and gentleman - The Establishing Shot’s Top Films of 2011. How did they match up with yours? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Did I miss out any of your favourites? Please do let me know your thoughts. Thanks and until next year: Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

BAFTAs


Just a reminder of how Orange is engaging in film. Their type of corporate sponsorship is now more important than ever with the closure of the British Film Council. Support film and check out Orange's offer's like Orange Wednesdays, which sees Orange offer two-for-one tickets every Wednesday at Odeon cinemas, or Orange Film To Go which allows Orange customers to download a new film from iTunes, every Thursday, absolutely free of charge, I may not have missed those films. 

Orange have also set-up Orange Film Pulse a website that measures the pulse of film on the internet, rates them and allows fans to discuss their favourite films likes and dislikes. Head over to  http://bafta.orange.co.uk/love/the-artist/  for more information about  Orange's great offers as well to rate your favourite films.

 The Establishing Shot's Top Films of 2011 - The Short List 2011
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