Category Archives: The Angel’s Share

Top Five Films of 2012

The end of one year gives film fans like myself the chance to reflect upon the past twelve months and consider what has past.

2012 was a year which saw The Artist cruise to Best Picture at the oscars.

The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Skyfall all broke $1 billion worldwide showing that sequels/franchises continue to be box office gold. In fact 9 of the Top 10 Highest Grossing Movies of 2012 were sequels or part of an existing franchise.

It also saw films as diverse as Cloud Atlas and John Carter receive a thumping at the box office… or at least the American Box Office, which tends to be the only one reported. John Carter actually made $283 million worldwide against a budget of $250 million. Likewise Cloud Atlas could still break even after it gets a full release worldwide. One unmitigated disaster, however, was The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure which made back only 5% of its $20 million budget. If you’re curious as to why, this article offers a good explanation along with some mind-altering clips.

Anyway, onto the main feature:

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5. The Imposter
I have a suspicion of documentaries that ‘tell a story’ or purposefully withhold information from the viewer, rather than merely showing them things and letting them make their own mind up.
The Imposter breaks this rule, but the way it structures its narrative is such that I didn’t really mind. The story, of a young spanish man who poses as a missing american teenager, is so difficult to believe anyway that telling it like a Hollywood thriller really does suit the nature of the tale.
Finally, getting the antagonist of the film to not only agree to the interviews but be so up front about what he did, gave the whole film a creepy Silence of the Lambs feel that you do not see very often in documentaries. At times astonishing, at times disturbing and at times heart-breaking; make sure you check it out if you missed it.

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4. Looper
Brick and The Brothers Bloom showed the invention of director Rian Johnson, and in some ways are reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s early films like Momento and The Following.
Looper showed what Johnson could do with more of a budget. Like Nolan’s Inception its plot is full of complex twist and turns, however, unlike Inception, the characters, ideas and substance of the film are able to match said complexity.
In making the lead character deal with killing his older self, Looper also manages to do something creative and interesting with the time travel genre, without getting itself too wrapped up in the finer details of how it all works.
Looper was a smart, engaging film which kept the audience on its toes the whole time without resorting to an over-the-top twist or withholding too much information (cf. Prometheus). This year’s best sci-fi film by far.

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3. Cabin in the Woods
Avenger’s Assemble may be the Joss Whedon movie most people saw in 2012, but Cabin in the Woods is the one that shows us just how creative he can be when he is given the space to do so.
Collaborating with fellow Buffy writer Drew Goddard, Cabin in the Woods is a twist on the traditional horror set-up; with five young people going on a vacation that can only have terrible consequences.
With a third act that thrilled like few films can, Cabin in the Woods was one of the most surprising and fun films of the year that is sure to be remembered as one of this decade’s best horror movies.

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2. The Angel’s Share
Ken Loach is renowned for his brand of ‘social realism’ which normally sees things going from bad to worse for his working class characters. The Angel’s Share has moments like this (a scene where the protagonist has to confront a victim of his crimes for example), but mostly it’s an upbeat affair about a young father trying to turn his life around through whisky. One scene in particular had me laughing more than anything else I saw at the cinema this year (the one involving two Irn Bru bottles for those who have seen the film).
Overall the film was ‘feel-good’ without being saccharine, a story where you feel the story and characters have really earned the right to smile at the end.

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1. The Muppets
I grew up watching The Muppets Tonight on BBC and also The Muppet Christmas Carol pretty much every Christmas since it was first released. So when I heard they were making a movie much like the original films/tv series I was very excited.
The film did not disappoint; completely capturing the spirit of the films/series of the 70s/80s whilst creating a tale that made sense of The Muppets absence from popular culture for the past few decades. No other film this year brought me just as much joy as The Muppets, and for that reason it simply has to be number one.

Agree/Disagree? Feel free to provide your own Top 5 Films in the comments below:

What I’ve Been Watching: The Angel’s Share

TheAngelsShareGreat Scottish movies are hard to come by. Often they take a stereotypical, or romantic view of the nation and fail to get into its heart, or appreciate the way it’s changed since the kilts and FREEDOM!!! of Braveheart.

It’s perhaps ironic that it’s been two englishmen in Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave) and Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen, Ae Fond Kiss, My Name is Joe) who have managed to portray modern Scotland with both realism and affection.

Perhaps unlike Loach’s last few films in Scotland, however, The Angel’s Share has a lot more in common with that other great recent(-ish) director of Scottish films, Bill Forsyth (Local Hero, Gregory’s Girl). There’s a certain optimism to this film we normally don’t associate with the director of films like The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Route Irish.

The film’s plot sees Robbie (Paul Brannigan) try and build a new life for himself and his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) who are days away from becoming parents when the film starts. Unfortunately, Robbie’s time in jail, and bitter rivalry with another local family are making this hard to do.

After being charged with assault, Robbie narrowly avoids jail but has to do community service. There he meets Harry (John Henshaw), who takes him and the rest of the motley crew to a distillery where Robbie becomes fascinated by the process and art of whisky making. Could this be the thing that allows him to set himself to make the new start he is looking for?

Although a mainly positive film, The Angel’s Share never backs away from the real problems its characters face, or the real harm they have caused. Robbie is the film’s protagonist, but in one of the film’s best scenes he’s forced to meet face-to-face with the boy he assaulted, and ultimately served time for.

The anger, fear, remorse and regret between the victim, his family and their attacker is almost unwatchable as through flashbacks we see just how violent and sadistic Robbie once was. This makes it all the more tense when we see Robbie later in the film square up to folk: will he return to his old ways? Will he be able to stop himself?

As well as the combination of realism with warmth and humour, there’s also a great juxtaposition of the main working class characters with the rich middle classes normally associated with the love of fine whisky.

Later in the film, Robbie and his friends take a pilgrimage (of sorts) to see the finest whisky there is, and there’s a great humour in seeing the Scotland of fairytales, highlands and kilts with these far more rough, ready and down-to-earth chancers.

As the film ends, it could be argued that the way the choices Robbie makes suggest the only way out of his situation is through immorality. However, it could be argued that they are consistent with the established code of the characters, and are ultimately victimless in their execution. Loach also shows us they are not the only criminals on screen, and people who commit much more financially beneficial crimes appear to get away with them much more easily.

With it’s great melting pot of humour, realism, depth, and hope, The Angel’s Share is a film with a great heart that is almost impossible not to love. I also guarantee you’ll never look at a bottle of Irn Bru in the same way again.