It was close, but in the end took the back seat (literally) and best film went to – which always looked like a candidate for cult immortality, writes Donald Clarke
IT WAS A CLOSE-RUN thing for best film. But, as the checkered flag beckoned, Nicolas Winding Refn’s offbeat Drive just managed to pull ahead of Darren Aronofsky’s delightfully overheated Black Swan. The appearance of these two odd films at the top of the poll – and the strong showing for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and We Need to Talk About Kevin a few places behind – confirms that, in otherwise grim times, good news buzzed about the cinema this year.
Each of these pictures did very respectable business in commercial cinemas. None featured giant robots or comic pirates. All invited a degree of concentration. Indeed, one individual in the US tried to sue the makers of Drive for failing to include enough explosions and car chases.
The wise readers of The Ticket proved that they don’t mind their getaway movies indulging in a bit of existential angst. Turbo-charged with 1980s antistyle and tuned-up to 1970s sub-verité rhythms (enough motoring metaphors?), Drive always looked like a candidate for cult immortality.
Given the cerebral nature of the electorate, it was, perhaps, a little surprising that The Tree of Life finished so far behind the leading pack. Both that Terrence Malick film and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia – so similar in theme – seem to have annoyed as many people as they delighted.
How would True Grit have fared if we had not dropped it from the final 10 at the last minute? Very well indeed, one must assume. Joel and Ethan Coen ran away with the consolation prize for Best Director. Von Trier, runner-up in that race, managed less than a third as many votes. Hailee Steinfeld, young star of the Coens’ picture, came second to Natalie Portman (always a certain winner) in the poll for Best Actress.
Once again, proof is offered that discerning viewers will sit quietly for a good film even if it moves at a stubbornly unhurried pace. We would not, however, expect a revival of the western any time soon. Hollywood has, over the last few decades, placed that bet at least once too often.
The competition for best comedy and best feature animation was somewhat deadened by the fact that 2011 proved to be a very disappointing year in those areas.
Of course Bridesmaids won the comedy section. It’s properly funny and it seems to have had particular appeal for Irish viewers. The film performed relatively poorly outside the US but, busting the trend to a spectacular degree, passed out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to become the biggest film of the year in the Republic of Ireland. We have yet to find another sovereign nation where Bridesmaids achieved that result. Even in its home territories, the picture failed to crack the top 10. Now granted a prestigious Ticket Award, the producers had better send the betrothed to Ireland for the honeymoon.
Tangled, a delightful slice of old-school Disney, deservedly won Best Animation. But the victory is somewhat tainted. Rango looked lovely, but was too pleased with itself. Arthur Christmas was featherweight. Studio Ghibli’s Arrietty was superb, but nobody saw the blasted thing. What the hell were Pixar up to with the largely frightful Cars 2? The most consistent studio of the century is now officially on probation. Sort it out, Lasseter You hardly need to be told that The Guard romped home with the gong for Best Irish Film. The people behind Sensation will be happy to hear that their film managed second place, but will shiver at the news that the Brendan Gleeson comedy polled over nine times as many votes as the clever midlands sex drama. For once, an Irish film actually secured a spot in the mainstream. Lessons should be learned.
Everyone liked Senna. The halfwits who failed to put it on the long list for the best documentary Oscar should note its comfortable victory in the relevant category.
Gleeson is our favourite Irish actor. Fair enough.
With Submarine, that nice boy Richard Ayoade directed the most admired debut. Good for him.
We must, however, register our concern at the results in the worst picture category. Green Lantern was dire, but it wasn’t nearly as awful as Swinging With the Finkels. “As what?” you say. It seems that only critics and the film-makers’ family get to see the really, really atrocious films. It’s a hard life.