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Archive for the 'Best Of' Category

Best Films of 2012

On the final day of the year when I know I cannot possibly squeeze in seeing another film, I’ve compiled the complete list of movies I have seen at the cinema in 2012.

Listed below, they are in order, my best film being “Amour”.  It dealt with a very heavy topic and was, in parts, a difficult slow watch but the power of this film directed by Michael Haneke was immense, no wonder it won the Palme d’Or.

There are plenty I never got to see, wonder what gems I missed?

 

My favourite film in 2012 Amour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2012 LISTED IN ORDER with marks out of 10 given first.

9      Amour

8      The Artist

8      A Separation

8      Martha Marcy May Marlene

7½   Untouchable

7½   Your Sister’s Sister

7½   Shame

7½   Monsieur Lazhar

7½   The Kid with the Bike

7½   Breathing

7½   Searching For Sugar Man

7¼   Rust and Bone

7¼   Sightseers

7      Ginger and Rosa

7      Argo

7      The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

7      Shadow Dancer

7      Take This Waltz

7      The Hunter

7      Jar City

7      Carnage

6½   Beasts of the Southern Wild

6½   The Master

6½   The Descendents

6½   Patience (After Sebold)

6      The Imposter

6      Lawless

6      Rampart

6      The Angels’ Share

5¾   Moonrise Kingdom

5½   Muppets

5½   The Dark Knight Rises (Batman 3)

5      The Hunger Games

5      Killing Them Softly

 

 


Desert Island Discs


My good friend Chris, who I’ve known since school, loves his music and he came up with a tough challenge last year. What would my Desert Island Disc choices be if I were stranded in isolation, surrounded by sea, on a beach with no rescue in sight? Not only that, could a few scribbles be put with each track to illuminate why certain tracks made the cut.

He mentioned this at the start of 2011 and set a deadline of the final day of the year. So I did a lot of mulling and of course left it til the last minute to nail my colours to the mast. Wow, it was a hard thing to do but the journey was great fun.

Having to commit to only 8 tracks was unbelievably difficult. So tough that I’ve listed some back-ups at the end of this post, just in case my original CD gets lost on the island.

In the end I picked as if sifting through my musical memory. Which tracks had stood out for me since I first discovered the joy of music?

Sweet Thing by Van Morrison (1968)
Rock On by David Essex (1973)
Take Five by Dave Brubeck (1959)
Secret World by Peter Gabriel (1992)
Seashell by Skylab (1994)
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads (1983)
Spooky by Dusty Springfield (1970)
Tomorrow Morning by The Blue Nile (1996)

Van Morrison “Sweet Thing” off Astral Weeks (1968)
After reading many glowing reviews I was really looking forward to hearing Astral Weeks. First listen and I hated it, what a load of rubbish, garbled, conceptual, rough. But never one to give up on a good thing I kept going and loved it after a year, now ten years on, it’s probably my favourite album of all time.

David Essex “Rock On” his first single (1973)
I’ve included this as I was a massive David Essex fan growing up, complete with teenage crush. Claire (H my best friend at school) was always a Donny Osmond girl so we had endless talks on who was best. Weird thing is, both David and Donny are still going strong decades later. Bet we aren’t saying that about Matt Cardle down the line. As for the song, I still think it is superb, just a terrific pop single, way ahead of it’s time, as proved by the number of times it’s been sampled in the digital age.

Dave Brubeck “take five” (1959)
Always reminds me of my Dad. He was Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and jazz whilst Mum was Bee Gees, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder and Leo Sayer. A great bit of music, superb emotional playing by all concerned. Timeless.

Peter Gabriel “Secret World” off Us (1992)
PG is someone I admire tremendously. He has used his time and position for so many good things, his voice is a thing of beauty and though not perfect it always sounds heartfelt and full of soul. He’s written many great tracks and never produces work without a great deal of thought, a forest could grow in the gap between his albums. But it is always worth the wait.  This track is typical Gabriel; emotional delivery, heartfelt lyrics and has been known to make me cry.  A neck tingler of the highest order.

Skylab “Seashell” off skylab No1 (1994)
From the very first moment I heard this I loved it. Dreamy beats, very atmospheric, I’m right there on the beach. Well on the desert island this will be perfect. Very visual for me with lots of lovely scenes and places I’ve visited popping into my head.

Talking Heads This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) off Speaking in Tongues (1983)
Captures the isolation and loneliness of being away from home. One of my all time favourite bands. I think I will find it supportive to listen to this whilst on the island. Makes me think of the people and environments that make a home a good place to be. David Byrne is such a talent, great writer and lyricist. A big regret is I never got to see them live.

Dusty Springfield “Spooky” a B-side from single How Can I Be Sure (1970)
If I ever get married, this will be my choice for first dance. It’s just so happy and lovely. What a delicate and distinctive vocal from Dusty. So cool. Great sax solo. The only female vocalist to make my DID list. What can I say, seems I’m a baritone kind of girl!

Blue Nile “Tomorrow Morning” off Peace at Last (1996)
Probably my favourite vocalist ever is Paul Buchanan. Tough choice to pick which song to represent the Blue Nile. I went for this as despite the melancholia it is hopeful, maybe the rescue ship will arrive tomorrow. Minor keys, romance, regret, atmosphere, stories. It’ll all here.

Back-Up Disc in case Disc One gets lost.
Peter Gabriel “Zaar” off Passion (1989)
Richard Thompson “Mystery Wind” off Rumour & Sigh (1991)
The Beatles “Come Together” off Abbey Road (1969)
Martha Wainwright “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” off Martha Wainwright (2004)
The Smiths “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” off The Queen Is Dead (1986)
Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal” off Fleet Foxes (2008)
M “Pop Muzik” single (1979)
Georgie Fame “In the Meantime” single (1965)


My Best Films of 2011

 

9/10 Blue Valentine

Dir: Derek Cianfrance  (USA)
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

Plot: The story of a young, blue-collar couple living in smalltown America which cuts back and forth between the start of their relationship and their troubled present.

 

 

My thoughts: Realistic, Quirky, Moving, Slow. Nice Filming. Great Acting. The unfolding story is engaging and in contrast with the majority of Hollywood films the central relationship feels natural, boosted by real charisma between the two leads.

 

 

8.5/10  Snowtown

Dir: Justin Kurzel  (Australia)
Actors: Craig Coyne, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Lucas Pittaway

Plot: A charismatic drifter brings horror to an Australian suburb in this shocking take on a notorious real-life crime.

My thoughts: An exceptionally difficult watch, not sure I’d recommend to everyone, but v glad I saw it as it adds real insight into a horrid topic which one probably would not take time to read about.  Powerful stuff, very atmospheric NOT the side of Australia you usually see, deprived, no hope, dysfunctional families and society.  The acting is brilliant and uncomfortably real, probably due to the fact that only the lead is a professional actor. Lasts long in the memory and with much to think over. Outstanding film-making from a debut Director.

 

 

8.5/10  The Skin That I Live In

Dir: Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Actors: Antonia Banderas, Elena Anaya.

Plot: Almodovar in dazzlingly idiosyncratic form; a sexual melodrama on gender issues and human identity. Features the visual austerity of his more recent work with elements of sheer Almodovarian entertainment.

My thoughts: Gothic, horror and humour make for a weird mix but one I hugely enjoyed.  Thoughtful and distinctive, a true auteur Almodovar makes films for himself with no compromise.

 

 

8.5/10  We Need To Talk About Kevin

Dir: Lynne Ramsay
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C Reilly,

Plot:The mother of a troubled teenage boy tries to deal with her feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions, based on Lionel Shriver’s award-winning 2003 novel.

My thoughts: Dealing with blame, guilt, gender roles, society pressures and stereotypes, this is a provocative and often bleak film with no easy answers but stimulating in its approach. A superb adaptation, extremely visual and bold which enhances the narrative.

Lynne Ramsey’s first film since 1992 Morvern Caller it marks her out once again as a powerful director with an individual vision. Deliberately confusing in parts and featuring many crimson-tinged flashbacks, the ride is not smooth, but it forces the audience to think. A chilling and powerful antithesis to the “happy family” Hollywood blockbusters we usually get presented with. The novel and film provides a voice for thoughts, feelings and discussions which are seldom heard and for that alone it deserves a place in my Top 6. Never mind the powerful and nuanced performance of Tilda Swinton who totally convinces in a difficult and complex role. She effortlessly reveals the contrasting layers of emotion such a horrific scenario must provoke.

 

 

8/10 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Dir: Tomas Alfredson (France | UK | Germany)
Actors: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong.

Plot: A flawless cast and stylish direction creates a masterful new rendering of le Carre’s classic spy thriller.

My thoughts: Slow but engrossing and complex, woven beautifully together by “Let The Right One In” director Tomas Alfredson.  Gorgeous muted colour palette, attention to detail and sharp framing entertain the eye.  Each role is perfectly cast and every actor is flawless, especially Oldman who gives Smiley an intense mesmeric centre ensuring we are totally drawn into this Cold War chess.

 

 

 

8/10  127 Hours

Dir: Danny Boyle (USA | UK)
Actors: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn.

Plot: A mountain climber becomes trapped while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. Based on a true story.

My thoughts: Danny Boyle’s best film since “Trainspotting”. He brings this story to life and keeps the audience gripped with stylish direction and superb editing. The bulk of the film is set in one location and in the hands of a less-skilled director it could easily have become laboured. Boyle uses lots of tricks and techniques to allow the tale to unfold whilst the tension racks up. The clever script allows plenty of scope for the emotions of the narrative to be shared with the audience.  James Franco imbues the role with charisma and physicality, creating a courageous and strong-willed character with a huge will to live. Engrossing and inspirational.

 

And the Rest:

7.5/10    The Kings Speech

7/10        True Grit,   The Guard,   Drive,    Hugo 3D

6 ¾/10    The American,    Contagion,

6.5/10     Submarine,   Senna,   Jane Eyre,   Ides of March

6/10        The Way Back,   The Fighter,   The Big Picture

5.5/10    How I Ended This Summer,   Sarah’s Key

5/10       Black Swan

4.5/10   Wuthering Heights (such a massive disappointment as I loved the Directors last film “Fish Tank” which was my Best Film for 2009)

 


Best Music Tracks 2011

 
 

My Best Music Tracks of 2011:

In no particular order, I’ve enjoyed listening to these over the year. If you click on a track you can hear the song in full.

 

Iron & Wine – Tree By The River

John Grant – I Wanna Go To Marz

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Bats In The Attic

Warpaint – Undertow

My Morning Jacket – Holdin On To Black Metal

James Vincent McMorrow – This Old Dark Machine

Wild Beasts – Lions Share

Nathaniel Rateliff – Early Spring Till

The Knocks – Dancing With The DJ

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Cloud Control – Ghost Story

Adele – Rolling In The Deep

Lana Del Rey – Video Games

Braids – Glass Deers

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

Richard Swift – Lady Luck

The Boxer Rebellion – No Harm


Best of 2009: Music and Films.

2009_bestfilms_music

Indeed, it is that time of year again when a cultural reckoning is required.  Did you have any favourite films this year and what was cooking up a storm on the music front?  Just like a friendly chinwag round the internet campfire, all are welcome to spend their two-pennies worth, please share your own Best Of’s for the Year 2009 and leave a comment.

I shall kick things off with my choices:

Best singles:

    Laura Marling – Alas I cannot swim (came out in 2008)
    Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
    Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
    The xx – xx
    Wilco – Wilco
    Wildbeasts – Two Dancers
    Yeasayer- All Hour Cymbals

Bubbling under
Tunng- Good Arrows (came out in 2007) / The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love / School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms / Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz / Polar Bear – Polar Bear / Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs / The Antlers – Hospice

Best Films
(roughly in order, best first)

    Fish Tank
    The Damned United
    Mesrine Killer Instinct
    The Class
    Moon
    Caramel (2007)
    Sleep Furiously
    Coraline
    Doubt
    35 Shots of Rum
    Frozen River
    Let the Right One In
    The Reader
    An Education
    Inglorious Basterds
    Slumdog Millionaire
    Syndoche new york
    Public Enemies
    State of Play

…. sadly there were others but they didn’t even make the cut.

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Shot Up North exhibition reaches Newcastle @ the Biscuit Factory in March …

biscuitfactory_ext

I blogged during the light nights of June 2008 about my decision to enter the Shot Up North Awards.  SUN is a showcase designed to reward the best in professional photography north of Birmingham and to increase the profile of Northern Photographers in general.  50 images are chosen to be printed in the SUN catalogue, this wings its way to most of the movers and shakers in the Northern creative fraternity.  The winning work is also printed and framed and exhibited at various venues including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Belfast and Birmingham.  So not a bad little showcase at all.

This was my first time for entering any kind of award, so I tried to canvas opinion from my inner advice circle (you know who you are – and thanks!).  In the end there were 3 or 4 images that seemed to be the most popular, which I then entered via the Shot Up North website.  Each image entered incurs an entry fee, so it isn’t just a case of entering hundreds and hoping one will produce success – unless you have money to burn of course.

After the judging I discovered I was successful with one of my images, which I had taken during the summer, at the Feast Festival in Manchester.  It was chosen for exhibiting, inclusion in the SUN catalogue and is also available to purchase as a limited edition print (framed or unframed) via Comme Ca Art.

I had to supply some blurb to go in the brochure and having to write this proved far more strenuous than taking the shot I can tell you!

“I find our physical world fascinating in all its forms from tiny seeds to panoramic landscapes, even crumbling buildings have a soul which sometimes cries out to be captured.

The image (see below titled “lanterns”) was taken at a recent Festival in Manchester, locals placed the floating lanterns on the Lake and created such a beautiful and powerful scene, I just tried to catch the moment – the merging of the community, nature and mankind in harmony, rebirth or farewell?  It made me think of so many things.”  (Gill Moore).

biscuitfactory
The exhibition has now reached what looks like a very nice venue in Newcastle called the Biscuit Factory.  It is Britain’s largest commercial gallery with two floors of space.   Apparently my image has been chosen to go on the front cover of their latest gallery brochure which previews the SUN show, which, if true I shall take as a real compliment.  I will endeavour to get my hands on a copy and post up on the blog.

For now here is my image “lanterns” and the overall winning image (and my favourite too) a stunning shot titled “Alpine Choughs” taken by Robert Pogson.

lanterns

robertpogson_sun

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