2011 was the best year for film since I really started caring about the medium. I feel as though I should get that out of the way to start with, as I’ve been reading in some places people talking about the year in less than glowing terms. Perhaps my perspective is different from others – there have been very few mainstream hits of the likes of No Country for Old Men or The Hurt Locker which garner both critical admiration and box office success – but underneath the mainstream there’s been a groundswell of creativity.
Established directors like Terence Malick, Pedro Almodovar and Lars von Trier have created their best films in years, while newer voices like Kelly Reichardt and Asghar Farhadi have emerged with their strongest statements of intent thus far. Films that have been left off this list – Drive,Take Shelter, Kill List – would have been near the top any other year, and that’s before considering the great films I saw this year that haven’t yet been give a UK release date.
It’s hard to talk about Margaret without mentioning the story behind the scenes. The subject of endless legal disputes, it was shot in 2005, completed in 2008 and finally released just now, with some apparent embarrassment from Searchlight, to just a handful of screens across the world. In the UK, it was released at just one screen in one shitty cinema for just one week. But, of course, you all know about this. Almost all the critics who have seen it have been shouting about it as loud as they can on blogs and twitter (where #TeamMargaret has been trending for a while now), and they’ve managed to make it into as big a hit as it can be: after achieving the highest screen average for a film in the country, it’s being shown in six screens across London this week and – fingers crossed – a wider release might be on the cards. This is because, regardless of what its distributors would have you believe, Margaret is astonishing.