Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994) = 4/5
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson! Heavenly Creatures is an evocative tale of obsessive adolescent fantasy. It is darkly comical, whimsical, but most of all terrifying. There's something very disturbing about innocent escapism that evolves into the sinister. Kate Winslet is very good, but it is Melanie Lynskey in her debut role who impressed me the most. I let her know it and she responded, which may have made my year.
The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano, 2011) = 4/5
It is far from the most original or intelligent film I have ever seen, but it was extremely hard not to like this one. Simply put, it is hilarious and heartwarming. It's a breath of fresh air for the buddy comedy genre. Cluzet and Sy are brilliant. I just feel as though there was a lot of untapped potential here. The direction is somewhat methodical (slick but feels too plotted) and the film could have been even greater in more experienced hands. Oh well, I shouldn't expect too much from a blatant crowdpleaser.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) = 3.5/5
This vibrant nightmare, while somewhat dated, offers a nice blend of cheese and scares. It's an important slasher film that I should have seen years ago. Some of the colours in this film are just out of this world, and the score by progressive rock band Goblin is the film's pulse.
The Black Balloon (Elissa Down, 2008) = 4.5/5
I was really surprised by how much I loved this film. Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) develops a crush on Jackie (Gemma Ward), but any attempts to capitalise on those feelings are thwarted by Thomas' autistic brother, Charlie (Luke Ford). As you can imagine, a film with such a plot allows for plenty of emotional tension, and this is what makes the film so absorbing. I think it says a lot about the innate strength of family ties and the value of tolerance. There are no easy roles in this film, and everyone handles their part with aplomb. The cinematography is rather striking—we see Sydney in all its suburban splendour.
City of God (Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund, 2002) = 3/5
Knowing this film is often hailed as one of the greatest of all time, there was a lot of pressure for me to like it. Unfortunately, it just didn't interest me a whole lot. Too many characters. Too much movement. All acceleration and no braking. I wanted to like it but it's sensory carnage. This film has been called the Brazilian Goodfellas, but I think Scorsese's film is streets ahead of this.
Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009) = 4/5
Three teenagers are confined to a property to endure a twisted form of home-schooling. They have no idea what life is like beyond the walls of the estate. It's not the easiest or most logical film to watch, but it is endlessly compelling. A daring work about power and indoctrination that is unashamedly nasty when it wants to be. It contains one of the most subtly evil film insults of all time: "I wish your children get all the wrong stimuli and grow to be bad." Imagine Haneke meets Von Trier meets Korine.
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948) = 4.5/5
I had seen two other Michael Powell films before watching this and loved both: They're a Weird Mob and Peeping Tom. This was the first time I'd seen a Powell-Pressburger collaboration. The Red Shoes is a gorgeous film that captures the fervour of artistic impulse and the dizzying intoxication of the impassioned soul. It has aged magnificently, and Black Swan has nothing on it, in my opinion.
The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2009) = 1.5/5