“ All towns/villages starting with the letter Y. „
'Y' is for the Year 2012!
At 1 am on January 1st 2012, I hastily got bored of 2012, the first ten minutes as usual was full of fake optimism, at the stroke of midnight. I did what everyone else did; I resurrected a cheeky gleeful smile and air-kissed people I knew and didn't know. Not, that I care to fully remember the superfluous annual ritual nor could recall most of the episode sixty minutes after the event. By 1 am, I was unaware of eighty percent of what happened in 2012: why should the 8783 hours to come be any different? Low-n-behold, they weren't. In fact we were to have an extra 24 hours, due to it being a leap year - when leap year arrived - it leapt onto March 1st rather than onto 2013; wotta con! - You can see where it went wrong?
The floatation of Facebook in May lacked helium - as its inflated price tag of 66 billion deflated like a 'whoopee'-cushion - but in the meantime made Zuker 'gold berg' the 23rd richest mammal - very fishy? The following week he marries - into piranha invested waters - Two experiments in two weeks! This gave out warning signals for investors who're eager for web based corps going public. Didn't they learn anything from the dot.com bubble that splattered spectacularly all over the NASDAQ in 2000? No, probably too engrossed in their PS gaming consoles to pop their nerdy heads up from their joysticks. 4G networks got a mobile platform, although in months will be replaced by 5G - hence why our unsavoury administration cashed it in for a tune of 9 billion pounds to balance the treasury books. Meanwhile they also cashed in on Northern Rock at a 450 million pound deficit after promising the taxpayer four years ago they'll reap the rewards in shares, laugh out loud, couldn't write that without laughing - Notably, one of the biggest rip-offs in banking history done right under our noses - yet hardly a murmur about the façade. During the same time frame dodgy banker Bob Diamond was centre of attention under the Barclay's libel fiasco which tampered with banking interest rates - still no jail sentence, unlike the UBS (Swiss Bank) ex-Trader, Kweku Adoboli got a seven year sentence for a 2.3 billion pound banking fraud In November. This equates to: 899,843.51 GBP per day wiped off. In real terms, on this premise, you'll be in jail for ten minutes for a lifetime of illegal parking and not paying council tax!
Obama won a second term in the White House after a dismal campaign by the Republican Mitt Romney - a remarkable achievement considering the US economic crisis. Obama-Care a watered down version of our NHS proving enough to dislodge the Romney challenge, not forgetting the 15 billion dollar monthly QE that had been forged, to sustain a failing economy built on capitalistic values. A series of Fiscal Cliffs waits, having just hurdled one five days ago - the next one is in March 2013. The financial pantomime continues......... Obama rightly snubs 'Osbornomics', (Osborne has been sledge-hammering UK's Welfare, NHS, and Economic Trading Capacities, since he took office - and the OBR will take 'all' the flack) as does the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Instead our ludicrously expensive reform bills plow deep into the Treasury's expenditure in 2012 - approx: 212 billion pounds worth! 'Spending when the sun isn't shining' - whilst deliberately cutting the most vulnerable in society - waging a war between the 'shirkers and the strivers', and blaming the Euro-zone instability for UK's flat-lining economic growth in 2012. Basically the plan isn't working, our infrastructure is crumbling due to lack of funding and the coalition has aimlessly plodded on. And this is after just a quarter of the scheduled cuts laid-out until deadline day in May 2015. The half-way prognosis of this administration is shocking - living standards has dropped considerably, vital resources have been liquidized, energy bills amount to over 12% of middle income earner's wages, and public sector wages have been frozen for five years. Worse still Cameron states: "we are on the right track." - The same track that has hiked up 19% on rail fees, to go to work in one year. The UK's rail infrastructure is one of the worse in Europe yet is the most expensive; the program defies logic. Therefore makes our railways uncompetitive compared to standard rail networks in the EU - which in-turn disables British steel and manufacturing corporations further still as they opt for cheaper transit in Northern Europe; offloading up to 20% of their depleting workforce in 2013.
2012, was the year we lost the space-men / Neil Armstrong and Sir Patrick Moore - but we did witness a giant leap for mankind by Felix (Latin for 'lucky') Baumgartner in October 2012. Ye-es, I observed the space leap and for forty seconds of him freefalling I must admit I turned off due to boredom. He was in a tailspin at the time which is apparently dangerous because he could lose consciousness and his brain may explode. The commentator seemed unconcerned that Felix had broken the human sound-barrier, naturally I took it for granted it was broken, thanks to gravitational pull (Newton's Theory) - well he did leap from space to earth - for instant fame - the problem is... most of the UK population have forgotten him; nevertheless, there is only so much time you can assign to watching a man plummet to earth - Anyway I had to see how bad Rylan Clark was on X Factor and Gary Barlow's negative comment. I didn't make a meal out of Felix; on the basis I'm feline free - alas it was memorable and history was in the making. Not that many would remember the Austrian space-adrenaline junkie's name in a charity pub trivial quiz. Whoever he was, he's known as lucky to his friends. Lucky isn't a term I'll use when a budding eighty one year old restorer decided to resurrect a painting of Christ in the late summer of 2012. One of the biggest bungles in restoration history by a frail lady called Cecilia Giménez who was an avid church-goer. She turned Elias Garcia Martinez's "Ecce Homo - Behold the Man" painting into a 'Telly-Tubby'. Destroyed beyond recognition, restoring experts mused over it claiming proper restoration was impossible. Meanwhile hordes of support for the frail old lady stated that the painting should be renamed "Ecce Homo - Behold the Monkey" and that the nineteenth century painting should be left untouched. Brian Sewell (Elderly Art Critic) has been stunned into silence at the art atrocities of 2012, especially as Rothko's 1958 canvass "Black on Maroon" was defaced in October 2012, the perpetrator, 'Yellowist' Vladimir Umanets from Poland unrepentantly argued he had improved the abstract masterpiece - suffice to say, he must be a Lib Dem supporter, well, that's what the Poles are saying. He's currently defacing a cell wall at the taxpayer's expense. It reads: "I must refrain from defacing a Rothko canvass, especially in the name of his founded movement" - signed: Vladimir Umanets.
In 2012, the 'Arab Spring' descended down the same route with the 'Muslim Brotherhood' just like Hosni Mubarak. The people's Party emulating the old dictatorship. Robert Fisk's observation proved correct; 'a grotesque changing of the guard' scenario. Revolution via online networks, proving that vast numbers of people in one place can scare dictatorships, cause mayhem, creates panic and dehumanization, as every mortal soul becomes sub-human in the eyes of barbaric regimes. Their people visually contorted with grotesque anger depicting a Francis Bacon canvas - walking anuses shouting absurdities and squawking in pain. War creates diseased minds; it filters into souls - falling foul, in the name of religion (s) secularism. The M E's unrest is a testimony to this ideology. Eventually, the 'Arab Spring' could over-spill against the western world it is already happening in Iran and Syria. Rhetoric is pointing in this direction; worrying signs indeed for 2013 and beyond. A total of sixty five wars have burned the ME and Asia between 1990 and 2010. In comparison the UK have only been in 5; UN orientated missions, dedicated to peace and securing a life-line to Afghan women and children. Thankfully, at last, 5 thousand troops will be offloaded elsewhere in 2013, leaving the Afghan nation to their inevitable consequences. The Russians couldn't do it in the 1980's with twenty thousand more men, so be ready for another Robert Fisk type to write much of the same in fifteen years time. It all goes back to the Ottoman Empire - not that our coalition listens to our historians; nor comprehend the severity of our innate actions, that'll leave fresh scars and create terrorists, inspired by those who've existed before them, they'll be fighting under a new terror-cell brand for exactly the same delusional reasons - Sadly, the 'Arab Spring' wreaks of unrelenting wars which we in the west have a lot to answer for. After 2012 - 2013 is far more a dangerous world.
Meanwhile, we put far too much onus on celebrities as we flick, or click onto whom gets voted off, voted in, and causing a din in the 'Celebrity Big Brother House'. We're politically naïve as our interest dwindles and like wooly headed morons we walk the fiscal tight rope like lost sheep in Kabul. One of the realities of a capitalistic state - trying to work out how to recoup the 9.3 billion Olympic price tag and wondering how to build on an Olympic legacy that has only been endorsed for a couple of years? A Bradley Wiggins only comes round every eighty years or so, and his mullet even longer. Most of our Olympic golden boys and girls are retiring, opting for lucrative careers in 'after-meal speeches, and parading as Ambassadors of their sport. Why not? Footballers are expected to get a minimum of 3 million a year, plus sponsorships -why should Olympic Gold Rowers train like a machine daily - for a fraction of that take-home pay? Give credit where credit is due; our Olympians gave us Brits a bounce in our step for four weeks of 2012. It looks as if I'll have to indulge in a grandiose daily dose of Glenfiddich or purchase a space-hopper for the same affect - There's no contest, I know what one I will choose.
We've had 187 hours of 2013! Undoubtedly, the rest of the year will be a complete blur.
So another year of movies pass and the standard drops again, nothing stand out for me in 2011. I won't be doing a top ten this time around and just round up the highs and lows of what I have seen at the cinema and on DVD this year. Not all of these were made and released in 2011 but most are less than two years old and so ready to rent and not yet on telly...
Most over-rated film of the year-
The Hurt Locker of 2011 has to be 'The Fighter' (2 Oscars), a run of the mill boxing biopic that sees Mark Wahlberg deliver one of his most boring performances to date, the film only rescued by a Oscar winning turn by our very own Christian Bale, the junkie brother to Mark Wahlberg's last chance boxer role. Supposedly based on a true story of the rise to fame of Boston-Irish fighter 'Irish' Mickey Ward it has none of that magic these sports films need that make you root for the underdog through the well trodden celluloid struggle from poverty to eventual victory against the odds and you just end up getting bored because the film tails off so badly. Any other cast here and this wouldn't have registered in any award ceremonies. Avoid if you don't like being patronised by sports bio-pics. There will only ever be one Rocky Balboa!
Black Swan (1 Oscar) was incredibly boring and one of those movies you feel under pressure to rent or you are a philistine or something. Natalie Portman is all very fine and 'method' in the lead to win The Oscar but the film is about ballet and female hang-ups and so unless you do both of those things this drags all of its two hours twenty minutes. It's all a bit pretentious.
Most under-rated film - War Inc
Ok, this came out in 2010 but its worth seeing, one of those movies that gets five something on the IMDB.COM and so you ignore them because of. Yes it got panned by most critics for being a satire on the Bush war machine that was just too silly, yet it's remarkably accurate through that silliness and has a surprise Monty Python appeal and hidden witty and knowing dialogue to catch you out, an ideal way to deliver satire to dm Americans, its point one suspects. American tanks being sponsored by McDonalds could happen in the Iran war the way things are shaping up guys.
John Cusack is always good value in the lead and he is here, his sexy sister delivering her best comic turn since School of Rock a bonus. The central premise of America privatising a war in an oil rich Central Asian republic to steal its oil is not that far fetched and great material for stacks of Muslim fanatic and fat greedy America Corporation gags. Give it a go and then you will know never to judge critic's ratings - including mine if you do indeed hate it.
New male Star of the year!
The pretty boys of Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds were the hottest faces of 2011 but hunky Chris Hemsworth is the one the girls will go for. The Aussie came up through Neighbours but has a great screen presence and really put on the muscle for Thor. He came to our attention in Star Trek and will be the next big action star for me. Female wise Anne Hathaway seems to be the darling but I only go for how cute they are and so Eva Mendez for me!
Top 10 bankable Hollywood stars in 2011...
1. Kristen Stewart (£55.83 return for every £1 spent)
2. Anne Hathaway (£45.67 return for every £1 spent)
3. Robert Pattinson (£39.43 return for every £1 spent)
4. Daniel Radcliffe (£34.24 return for every £1 spent)
5. Shia LaBeouf (£29.40 return for every £1 spent)
6. Robert Downey Jr. (£18.74 return for every £1 spent)
7. Matt Damon (£15.83 return for every £1 spent)
8. Cate Blanchett (£15.17 return for every £1 spent)
9. Meryl Streep (£13.54 return for every £1 spent)
10. Johnny Depp (£12.48 return for every £1 spent)
The Social Network, Like Avatar, succeeded on hype alone and the type of film you look back on and say what was all that about, why did they gush about that one? It was instantly forgettable. Most people reading this will watch Raging Bull and Goodfellas again and again but no one will watch The Social Network again, a PR vanity stunt by media corporations who funded the film to help sell Facebook in this year's massive share flotation if you ask me, why it tanked at the Oscars. Facebook will be next years MySpace very soon and why Zuckerberg is off-loading it.
Talk to Me is Don Cheadle yet again on top form as a black man against the world, here playing the role of 'Petey Greene', a notorious shock jock from the 1960s and 70s that narrated his version of the black struggle as it was for black men over mainstream radio in the USA during the height of the human rights riots. In a way he was the birth of black celebrity in America and a lot of entertainers to day owe a lot to him for saying it as it is, a man after my own heart. Making people blush by throwing the truth at them is always pleasurable.
SCI - FI...
Monsters was a low budget movie I loved, an ashamed Cloverfield hybrid but brilliant all the same, the unseen monster living alongside humans on earth in the modern day, a cracking premise for any movie, very District 9. Most of it was made on a lap top in the bathroom of the brilliant young talent that is Gareth Edwards and it's feted as being the first big budget low budget ever made because the special effects and pure boldness of the film is so big for the money spent on it. It's currently running on Film4 and I beg you guys to check it out.
Source Code was by far the best of this years Inception spin-offs and played out like an extended episode of the Twilight Zone. Jake Gylenhaal manages to keep the tension going in the confined space of a train journey for the viewer as the plot and mystery unfolds for the final big twist and enigmatic ending. If you deciding between 'The Adjustment Bureau' and this to rent than go with The Source Code. It does keep you guessing more than the Matt Damon one does. This new breed of smart sci-fi action film sure as hell beats Michael Bay blowing the planet up every film.
Super 8 was JJ Abrahams of TV series Lost and Star Trek fame tribute to Stephen Spielberg, who produces here, many suggesting that Stephen had more input than just finding the money to make it, this every inch a Spielberg movie. Its great fun and a real dose of nostalgia from classic films of old as a strange malevolent force inflicts itself on a small town in America in the 1970s after a big train crash, captured by the local kids filming their Super8 horror movie, the local kids going into battle with the military and parents, as well as the monster, trying to track down their friend that has gone missing as the unseen monster turned up and started to trash the place. The kids are the stars and it's like we are innocent and all back in the long summer holidays again as we create our own worlds of adventure and wonderment.
The Kings Speech cleaned up at the Oscars, of course, actors voting for actors, the audience going along with it all to make it the biggest earning British independent film ever. But it was all rather dull at times and certainly no independent movie, $40 million minimal coming from the big studios, filed away in the 'Independent section' under administration costs'. I think part of the reason it swept the board was because it looked so good for the money. But the real reason is the Academy love Colin Firth and he finally got his Oscar here for playing the stuffy Brit Hollywood loves, the royalty theme the clincher. Pretty much every American woman is in love with his guy.
I loved Attack the Block, a sizzling urban British comedy that wasn't afraid to tackle issues and the first film to accept London has a black gang/mugger problem. It's very funny as the hoodies tackle a localised alien invasion as they try to 'shank up' the red eyed, razor sharp teeth monsters that are blacker than they are. There is some great young black British talent on show here and this one should be on your must see list.
Fish Tank should also be on that list, a cracking and gritty low budget effort from our burgeoning female directing talent out there, Angela Arnold here. Set on an Essex council estate it captures the anxieties of the so-called 'white flight', the Brits edged out of London by black and Asian immigration, not wanting to live in those communities and so beached in the rougher parts of Essex, the drama told through the eyes of a young female chav that just wants to escape the ghetto through street dance, talking and acting like a black girl from 'Ackney', in it. It has one of the most harrowing endings on film and noted for the fact the lead actress from the same streets had never acted before, the films main point that we can all make it if we are given the chance played out for real by actress Katie Jarvis.
'Senna' was the class act of the year but had serious competition from its own sport, Closer to the Edge, about the crazy TT Race riders on the Isle of Man, a little seen classic. But the Oscars ignored both and neither made the shortlist, in Senna's case to utter bafflement by the film press. If you don't know the Senna story then this film has twice the impact it does for those who do as we live the life of one of the worlds most charismatic and complex race driver's right up until his death using old footage and archive. With no layered commentary or talking head interviews you are left to decide what you think of the guy and his life and what blame he played in his own death, powerful stuff that will have you gripping things as tight as if you were in the car with him.
'Through the Giftshop' was my personal favourite of the year and nearly won the Oscar for best factual film of 2010-11, an intriguing tale directed and financed by elusive graffiti artist 'Banksy', which explores his friendship with this fat French bloke, Phillipe, who had covertly filmed the graffiti and street art scene over the last twenty years or so for a hobby, but Banksy thinking there maybe a film their in his boxes of VHS tapes and so given the guy a few quid to try and make that film, but ending up with the Frenchman picking up the spray can thinking that he could be the new Banksy, fooling the arty types into exactly that by the films end, a fascinating journey about the vacuous world of modern art. Or say we think. It was thought to be all a hoax after closer inspection but extremely watchable all the same as only the two of them seem to be in on the hoax and the art world left with egg on their face its all very deliciously satisfying.
Cat Fish, also in the 'is it or isn't it real' documentary category, also intrigued, exploring internet infatuations and how fat and normal people can pretend to be the exact opposite online and cause havoc in places like the facebook vanity hierarchy. Again there were suggestions the film wasn't as it seemed and a bit of a set up by some young Manhattan filmmakers, exploiting a hick in the sticks to make their film work. But by the end you realise the subject question is nothing out of the ordinary here and lot of people do have fake online personas as they create their own fantasy worlds and there is a film to be made out of that culture. A lot of you guys do it now and then and its just good fun, if you don't get carried away.
The Cove, perhaps more 2010 than 2011, explored the barbaric world of Dolphin fishing in Japan, hardly a delicacy but done to feed the voracious needs of seaquariums around the world for the Bottlenose Dolphin variety, the ones with the natural smiles the punters love, the smile their curse. The Japanese fishermen protect their industry at all costs and don't want any foreign eco warriors coming in messing with their nets, most of the catch never eaten or sold and left to rot in the bloodbath harbour. The twist is the guy who leads the charge to save the dolphin campaign was the one who started the problem in the first place by using the Bottlenoses in the first ever seaquarium show in the 1970s, a Californian dolphin trainer with a conscious, a man who knows through experience that the dolphins should not be locked up this way, needing to swim at least 40 miles a day to maintain their correct body and brain weight, not what's on offer in a tennis court size pool. The big message here is that killing, selling and exploiting livestock and fish is people's livelihoods and do-gooders only want to stick up for the cute animals and fish.
The most pretentious pile of foreign poo this DVD year was 'Dogtooth', a tiresome Greek picture about some kids never allowed to go out by their parents and taught an alternative reality about the world around them, dressed in puritanical white. The critics swooned over it, mainly because it has risky teenage sex in it (do I need to draw you a picture), a film to avoid at all costs if you hate subtitles and deliberately contentious art movies.
Red Cliffe is a cracking piece of Hong Kong cinema, detailing the battling warlords of the old Chinese dynasties, two leaders going up against each other trying to outdo their armies with their cunning military strategies. When these big budget Asia historical films are done well they look incredible and this is no different, the signature rain of arrows and sword fights superb throughout.
'A Prophet' was a highly admired and gritty gangster prison drama from France that had a more realistic take on mob life than The Godfather ever did, a great lead turn by Tahar Rahim as the young Arab guy seeping into the Corsican mafia to become a powerful player one of the performances of the year. Mesrine: Part 1 & 2, the true story of a French gangster's notorious life through the 1960s to his murder by the police in the late 1990s, played Vincent Cassell's, is also a cracking crime movie watch; although its six hours long so file it under box-set watch.
I've Loved You so long looks at how middle-class people deal with crime in their own borzois' number, Kristen Scott - Thomas on amazing form playing the mother released from jail after 15 years for murder. We don't know what she did until half way in and the final scene reveals why. Again this is 2010 stuff but absolute artistry of the type of intelligent well observed foreign film you can buy.
El Secreto du Sus Ojos (The Secret in your Eyes) from Argentina saw the creators and cast from the brilliant conman flick 'Nouve Rienas' (Nine Queens) come together again for another smart and elegant twisting crime thriller. The lead performances are superb and the Hitchcokian mystery enthralling as the layers are slowly unwrapped around political corruption in Buenos Aires. The best films of the year are nearly always foreign and so if you can hack subtitles then dot miss this one.
Kill List takes the honours here, a creepy British occult thriller that seamlessly moves from hit man movie to suggested paranormal horror in a way we haven't really seen before, mixing traditional Hammer Horror with the gore of the sick psycho killer, here an ex soldier suffering PTSD getting increasingly sadistic in his job as a hit man for a shady paymaster. Dan Wheatley's film has the feel of the arrival of director Shane Meadows with Dead Mans Shoes and looks a real talent.
Daybreakers and Stake Land tied for the best American horror films of the year in what was a poor year for horror there, the dross crowned by the sick and twisted Human Centipede films, again no need to draw a picture how the mad scientist made his creation and where the directors head was when he came up with such dirge.
'The American' was the most stylish thriller of the year, George Clooney at his most charismatic best in this moody hit man piece filmed in the quiet and idyllic Italian lakes region in rustic autumn. Clooney is so right for this type of cool and calculated role and no one has looked this good in film since the 1950s. He is the perfect matinee idol. If you like a bit of film noir with a European flavour then this is for you.
'Red' was a more tongue-in-cheek spy thriller with more twists than an Alton Towers ride. Not only does Helen Mirren get to open up on hot young talent Karl Urban with a mini-gun but Bruce Willis gets a welcome return to form movie to show off in. Just about everyone is in this movie and the perfect dark humor spy thriller for a Sunday afternoon. You will love this.
Animal Kingdom from Australia is a cracking gangster flick and one not to miss. Aussies make films like no other and this one fizzes off the page. It's violent as it's real and swept the board at the Australian Award ceremonies.
The Other Guys was one of the funniest DVDs of the year, Will Ferrell on top form as the bumbling pen pushing, Prius driving detective who is paired up with an ambitious gun tooting one (Mark Wahlberg), one wanting to keep his head below the radar and the other, Wahlberg, wanting to be a super cop. Whether you like Ferrell or not his dead pan thing really works here and the chemistry with Wahlberg rather fun, an unlimited pool of police gags to race you through the riotous 90 minutes.
Up in the Air was another hit for George Clooney, a sophisticated rom-com about the life of a high flying human resources executive, his job to help companies downsize around the United States and so break the news to employers they are no longer needed, but facing the very same demise as technology moves on in his line of work. He is obsessed with the freedom of the life on the road and in the air and determined to break the airlines air miles record and win the sacred gold car privilege before he too is surplus to requirements and outdated. But he meets his match in the terminals in sexy Vera Fermiga, she, too, like him, happy on the movie and living out of hotel rooms, the two made for each other. Or so Clooney's ego thinks. You just don't see smart comedies like this anymore and so you really should snap it up before the genre is also downsized, Mad Men meets The Good Wife.
'Paul', Simon Pegg and Nock Frost third comedy together, is surprisingly funny, considering it's an Americanization of the boy's signature comedy. Paul is the foul mouthed three foot alien brother of ET that the boys stumble upon, somewhat ironically as they are on a campervan holiday in the America mid-west visiting sci-fi convections and UFO sites. The jokes are a good mix of British and American style humour of slapstick and the British bits that make it funny. Its one of those movies you don't expect to work as you feel there is going to be compromise to get the funding but pleasantly surprised as you chuckle away.
Made in Dagenham was a refreshing old style Carry on British comedy with lots of short hemlines and seaside postcard humour and situations as the girls at the Dagenham car factories go on strike over equal pay. There's no stand out laughs but its just so well made and placed that you cant help but enjoy it, and an amazing true story of girl power in the 1960s that changed the way women in the western world were treated in the work place, that battle over using your looks to get ahead in a mans world or using courage.
The Forbes Most Overpaid Hollywood Stars in 2011:
1. Drew Barrymore ($0.40 return)
2. Eddie Murphy ($2.70)
3. Will Ferrell ($3.50)
4. Reese Witherspoon ($3.55)
5. Denzel Washington ($4.25)
6. Nicolas Cage ($4.40)
7. Adam Sandler ($5.20)
8. Vince Vaughn ($5.20)
9. Tom Cruise ($6.35)
10. Nicole Kidman ($6.70)