PPH in 2011 Part 2: A semi-alternative ‘end of year’ awards

Permanent Plastic Helmet has already done its Top 10 of 2011. You can (and should!) read it HERE. The following is a list of some other film-related things from 2011 that have been on my chest. I’ve decided to get them off it.

THE ONE FILM I WISH I HADN’T SEEN – Snowtown

Unlike my dear Granddad, I don’t believe that films should only serve the purpose of providing pure escapism. However, I would have preferred more from Snowtown than the feeling of stomach sickness that it left me with when I emerged blinking from a mid-morning press screening at the LFF. Justin Kurzel’s dramatisation of Australia’s notorious barrel murders was a tawdry – if technically accomplished, well acted and fiercely, atmospherically oppressive – fiesta of animal abuse, male rape, paedophilia, torture, and dodgy haircuts. I guess I can see what people got out of it, but I’ll be honest: it seemed more like depiction than interrogation or illumination to me, and – yep – I wish I hadn’t seen it.

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THE FILM THAT I DESPISED AND SEEM TO BE IN THE VAST MINORITY IN DESPISING – Melancholia

After an astounding opening sequence, Lars Von Trier’s latest turned into a thunderingly dull slab of navel-gazing with a first half that played out like a student version of a David Lynch movie, and a second in which you could you go for a curry and a reiki session and not miss anything. Stunning visuals and some good acting (especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) just couldn’t make up for the crashing boredom. Ever divisive, Von Trier left me way on the other side of the line with this one. I found Ballast to be a much more powerful and rich study of depression and its effects.

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THE HIDDEN SUCCESS STORY OF THE YEAR – The Story of Lovers Rock

Menelik Shabazz’ excellent, important slice of black British cultural history The Story of Lovers Rock had a troubled conception, being stuck in development and rights hell for a few years. However, thanks to tireless work from Shabazz himself and a loyal team of supporters, the documentary has weathered the tough times (Shabazz, for example, went to the Birmingham VUE only to find that not only were the posters for the film not up, the film itself hadn’t even been delivered!) and in January 2012 it’ll enter its fifth month in UK cinemas. To date, it’s enjoyed a string of sold-out, vibrant Q+As in cinemas across the country, and has rolled out into prestigious venues like The Tricycle and Riverside Studios. Despite very limited, lukewarm press coverage (a piece in Time Out gave the film a mildly positive review, yet signed off with the dismissive “for fans only” line), it’s taken a very respectable £50,000+ at the UK Box office. It seems that the people wanted this film, and they got it. Its continued success represents a victory for black British independent cinema and the power of the consumer. [interview with Menelik Shabazz]

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THE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR – Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom

Honourable mentions go to Uggie the dog from The Artist, Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life, Michael Shannon in Take Shelter, and everyone in A Separation (there’s loads more but there’s also loads more end-of-year-lists that’ll do this sort of thing in more detail. And the Oscars, I guess). However, the turn that’s lingered longest in my mind is Ben Mendehlson as the seedy, villainous and utterly psychopathic uncle Pope from Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom (which I saw way back in January). I can’t remember having such a visceral reaction to a fictional character since the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters gave me sleepless nights years ago.

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THE RETURNING BLOG COMMENTER OF THE YEAR – “Truthteller”

Last year, I published a short piece praising Errol Morris’ tricky, entertaining documentary Tabloid (which tells the confounding tale of former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney). Imagine my surprise when I returned to my computer to discover an 801-word screed by somebody named ‘Truthteller’ in the comments section. Well, I did another post this year to announce the film’s UK release date, and lo and behold ‘Truthteller’ came back with another rant. This time “they” branded me “a heartless, gossiping moron”. “They” were at least a third right. I would suggest my assailant was Joyce McKinney herself, but if I did that I’d be in all sorts of legal hot water. It was Joyce. IT WAS JOYCE!

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THE COMPANY OF THE YEAR – Dogwoof Documentary

For upping their game to match their compelling USP (to wit: UK distribution for social issue films and documentaries) with a consistently intriguing and often brilliant slate. In 2011 alone Dogwoof pictures provided us with PPH’s film of the year Dreams Of A Life, Steve James’ astonishing The Interrupters, Errol Morris’ Tabloid, the paean to newspaper journalism Page One: Inside The New York Times, Mark Cousins’ The First Movie, and chess doc Bobby Fischer Against The World, to name but a few. Bravo.

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THE MOST TEMPTING CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO BUY FOR SOMEONE YOU HATE

Sadly the price – coming in at well over the £0.01 to £1.00 bracket that I’m prepared to spend on joke presents – proved prohibitive. Note also the steadfastly tripartite approach to titling. Triads, yardies and onion bhajees! Well I never.

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THE TV OF THE YEAR – The Story Of Film/Black Mirror -’15 Million Merits’

Across 15 spellbinding weeks, writer and broadcaster Mark Cousins’ passionate, jet-setting documentary The Story of Film was an absolute joy to watch. I loved his emphasis on world cinema, his fiercely personal take on things and his slightly mental metaphors (“The bauble!” “The gorilla!”). I learned a lot, enjoyed every minute and now, as a result, have a viewing list as long as my arm.

The biggest surprise of the year TV-wise was the second instalment of Charlie Brooker’s techno-dystopian trilogy Black Mirror, entitled ‘15 Million Merits’, co-written with his wife and ex-Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq. It depicted a terrifyingly realised (and horribly imaginable) near-future in which humanity now consists of bored subordinates participating in a never-ending videogame to accumulate points. And what can you do with those points? Enter an X-Factor-style reality music show, or watch porn. It was beautifully shot and designed, deeply disturbing, and rising star Daniel Kaluuya was brilliant as the stoic yet vulnerable hero.

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THE MOST VIEWED ARTICLE ON PERMANENT PLASTIC HELMET IN 2011

Runners-up:

Winner: 

Earlier this year I discovered that the erstwhile host of kids’ TV show Art Attack had a side career as the guitarist in a metal band called Marseille. Despite it having literally nothing to do with the site’s film-specific remit I decided to post about it anyway, and it’s racked up thousands of hits. Although most people have found their way to the article by enquiring via search engine (Q. ‘is+Neil+Buchanan+dead+?’ A. I hope not), I’m amazed at the levels of interest it’s generated. Perhaps I should knock the film thing on the head and dedicate the blog instead to the whereabouts of 90s TV entertainers. Whither Jonathan Morris?

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THE BEST YOUTUBE VID THAT WE POSTED THIS YEAR

It had to be Guillaume Gendron‘s discovery of Joe Pesci’s short-lived career in gangsta rap, which had me laughing like a drain for days every time I thought about it. “A lovely day for a drive-by” indeed. Enjoy:

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THE MOST HILARIOUS NON-FILM RELATED ARTS REVIEW OF THE YEAR – The Daily Express on ‘Let England Shake’ by PJ Harvey

You’ll find the “review” underneath the player. Enough said:

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THE “WHAT WE’RE MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR 2012” AWARD(S)

  • Michael Fassbender winning the Best Actor Oscar for his amazing performance in Shame.
  • The return to our screens of Spike Lee with his new film Red Hook Summer (which you can find out a bit more about over at Cinemart).
  • Amour, the latest effort from Michael Haneke, which sounds absolutely spellbinding.
  • The big one: Paul Thomas Anderson (for my money, the best, brightest director currently working in American cinema today) returns with The Master, a Scientology-inspired epic starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.
  • Another wish would be full UK distribution for William Friedkin’s latest Killer Joe, and Michael Rapaport’s excellent documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest which was released in the States in August. Here’s the trailer:

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Thank you for reading. There’s one more post to come in our look back at 2011, and it will be packed to the gills with bad language. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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4 thoughts on “PPH in 2011 Part 2: A semi-alternative ‘end of year’ awards

  1. JamieR

    Agree with you about Melancholia – I found it absurd, and not in a good way. At least Antichrist was sort of funny.

    Have you seen The Arbor? IMO it’s a lot like Dreams of a Life (which I also enjoyed) but even better…

    Reply
    1. Ashley Clark Post author

      I have seen The Arbor – I thought it was fantastic; the concept was executed brilliantly.

      Glad to know there’s another anti-Melancholiac around. I thought it was a disgraceful waste of a great cast, and I’ve been genuinely, truly astonished at how well it’s been received.

      Reply

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