Permanent Plastic Helmet at the movies: a year in review

So that was 2010. A year of financial turmoil, protest, bizarre environmental catastrophes, and the rise to fame of a ubiquitous Gordon Ramsay lookalike with a silly name and the fundamental inability to keep a secret. More importantly though, this was the year in which I stayed true to my New Year’s resolution, and managed to maintain a blog to a reasonable standard beyond a couple of months.

In the coming paragraphs, I will celebrate the year in film according to my tastes, and take the opportunity to deride those deserving of my vitriol. (There is no room here for Mel Gibson’s beaver). Before that, I would like to say A BIG THANK YOU to everybody who has read the blog or plugged it on any one of a variety of social networking sites. It is much appreciated – hits keep a blogger in the game!

Film of the year: A Prophet

Tahar Rahim as Malik El-Djebna in A Prophet

It feels odd writing about A Prophet as a film from this year, given that it has been doing the rounds since Cannes 2009, and I first saw it at the London Film Festival last year. However, the subject of Permanent Plastic Helmet’s first ever blog post was released on Jan 22, and there has been simply nothing else to touch it in terms of epic sweep and mastery of pure, muscular cinematic technique. Featuring a remarkable, intuitive performance from first-time actor Tahar Rahim, and an inspired soundtrack (which runs the gamut from Talk Talk to Nas via Sigur Ros), A Prophet is intelligent, thrilling, disquieting and strangely uplifting. Oh, and totally unmissable.

Surprise of the year: Dogtooth

Not since Gus Van Sant’s Elephant have I seen a cinema so quiet at a film’s conclusion. Greek drama Dogtooth’s tale of a deeply mundane father exerting total control over his family has parallels with the nightmarish Josef Fritzl case, and mines a vein of deep, dark black humour. Be warned, Dogtooth is no date movie, unless you happened to have found a partner who smiles upon unsimulated incest in graphic close-up.

Scene of the year #1: Chase at the football stadium // The Secret in Their Eyes

Argentine thriller The Secret in Their Eyes defeated both A Prophet and Michael Haneke’s magisterial The White Ribbon to claim the Best Picture in a Foreign Language award at this year’s Oscars. It shouldn’t have. But there was one moment so visceral, so gripping, that when it finished, I realised I was literally both breathless and on the edge of my seat; a one-take chase sequence that begins high up above a football ground, sweeps across the pitch, into the crowd and ends in the bowels of the stadium.   Filmed at Argentine team Huracan’s stadium, the scene took a scarcely believable three months of pre-production, three days of shooting and nine months of post production to complete.

Scene of the year #2: Malik’s first murder // A Prophet

Placed in an impossible position (either kill or be killed), our young anti-hero Malik readies himself for his decisive encounter with a fellow inmate in a dank, dingy prison cell. What follows in an absolute masterclass in ratcheting up tension, and, if you’ll excuse the slight crassness of the expression, doing violence “well”. Every time I have seen this film in the cinema, the communal audience reaction (gasps, shocks, faces buried into partner’s shoulders) is one to cherish. Razor-sharp film-making.

Performance of the year: Joaquin Phoenix // I’m Still Here

Muthafuckin' confusion

What was this all about? Well, we know that director Casey Affleck confirmed that his film, to all intents and purposes, was a hoax. It was also a total box-office flop. However, hoaxes are not usually played out at the potential risk of one’s career across an entire year.  Phoenix, an actor at the peak of his powers, throws himself into the role, stumbling, stuttering and totally convincing as a failed, tragic version of himself; a colossal shambles. By the way, other performances I particularly enjoyed were Andrew Garfield in The Social Network (a sensitive, measured portrayal of a decent chap amongst a band of total arseholes), and Nicolas Cage back to his unhinged, moon-eyed best in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Movie meme of the year: Nicolas Cage losing his shit

I’M A VAMPIY-UH! I’M A VAMPIY-UH! I’M A VAMPIY-UH! I’M A VAMPIY-UH! I’M A VAMPIY-UH! I’M A VAMPIY-UH! Watch, and watch again. And again. And again.

“Celebrity” fan of the year: —– ——–

In October, I published a short, thoroughly inoffensive piece praising Errol Morris’ tricky, entertaining documentary Tabloid (telling the confounding tale of former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney), which I had seen at the 54th BFI London Film Festival. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I returned to my computer to discover an 801-word rant by somebody named ‘Truthteller’.

Highlights (there were many) included:

Get your suit pressed, you’re going to court . (And PS she has sued creeps like you before and always wins damages into thousands of dollars, so we hope you have lots of dough to pay it off. Be sure and bring a “rape” charge sheet to court with you. (Hint Bright Boy: Since Joyce has never been charged with it– one doesn’t exist, HA HA, and you will have egg on your face.)

So pal you better get your butt in gear, save yourself, and get this sick perverted article OFF your website or you will find yourself with a big lawsuit, a lot of court appearances, and paying out damages to her.

In November, my mystery commenter returned with a further screed. This time it was less entertaining, more sad. And who was/is ‘Truthteller’? Well, I don’t want to get myself in hot water, but I think we can all guess. I have my ‘rape charge’ sheet ready, just in case.

Disappointment of the year: Brighton Rock // Surprise Film at BFI London Film Festival

"Go on. Tell me again that I look like Pete Doherty"

I was less than impressed with a number of this year’s much vaunted releases (namely the horribly hollow, pretentious and dull Inception, and the under- powered, curiously unengaging Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) but the biggest groan-fest of the year was without question the Surprise Film at this year’s LFF. Brighton Rock, which will be released next year and no doubt trumpeted as a big deal for British cinema, was insipid, lacking in content and tension and – the biggest crime of all – totally pointless. Must try harder.

The Leonardo di Caprio award for acting with your jaw wired shut, and generally being a little bit dull, even though ShortList magazine hails you as better than Robert de Niro:

Leonardo di Caprio in Inception

Unexpected voice actor of the year: Timothy Dalton as Mr Pricklepants // Toy Story 3

Timothy Dalton in the marvellous Toy Story 3

And a list of some films that I really wanted to see at the cinema, but didn’t quite get round to (there’s always the DVD):

Of Gods and Men, The Kids Are All Right, Carlos, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?, World’s Greatest Dad, The Killer Inside Me, Enter the Void.

And… that’s all folks! Thanks again, and see you in the New Year!

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2 thoughts on “Permanent Plastic Helmet at the movies: a year in review

  1. Pingback: Films - Page 27 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

  2. Pingback: Digital Social Sound | 3 Must Watch Foreign Films From 2010

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