Gilbey on Film: Highlights of 2011

What to look forward to in the year ahead, plus a few sneak previews.

What to look forward to in the year ahead, plus a few sneak previews.

Of the three films I singled out this time last year as titles I was particularly looking forward to seeing in 2010, one was moderately interesting but deeply flawed (The Killer Inside Me), another was a well-liked romp that hardly anyone went to see (Scott Pilgrim Vs the World) and the third ended up on DVD after unfairly scathing reviews and only a few days in cinemas (Gentlemen Broncos). So now, I'm casting my net wider. Surely one of the films below is going to go down well . . .

The Fighter

The unpredictable genius David O Russell (Three Kings) returns after the folly/triumph (delete as applicable) of I Heart Huckabees with a drama about a boxer (Mark Wahlberg) and his junkie brother (Christian Bale), who is also his coach. Just when you thought you'd seen everything Bale could do . . . (4 February)

Two in the Wave

A documentary about Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut; there's also a Truffaut season coming up at the BFI Southbank in February. (11 February)

Archipelago

The second film from Joanna Hogg, director of the marvellous Unrelated. Something tells me it's not going to be a screwball comedy. (4 March)

Restless

Gus Van Sant's first film since the Oscar-winning Milk stars Henry Hopper (son of Dennis) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) as a crazy couple of mixed-up kids. He attends strangers' funerals! She's terminally ill! The trailer looks . . . cute. (11 March)

Ballast

I've deliberately avoided reading anything much about this 2008 US indie set in the Mississippi Delta but have still managed to notice the waves of acclaim and respect it has received. (18 March)

Attack the Block

Joe Cornish, one half of Adam & Joe, already deserves a place in film history for his alternative theme for Quantum of Solace. This year, he has writing credits on two pictures: Attack the Block (8 April), which also marks his directing debut, is an alien-invasion movie shot in Elephant and Castle, south London. It's not to be confused with Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (26 October) a motion-capture adaptation of Hergé, co-written by Cornish, Edgar Wright and Doctor Who's Steven Moffat.

Source Code

The second feature from Duncan Jones, director of Moon. No further enticement necessary, surely. (22 April)

The Tree of Life

Do I even need to mention that Terrence Malick has a new film out? Have a butcher's at the trailer, which is typically sumptuous, if ever-so-slightly redolent of a Malick pastiche, or the product of a computer programme that can generate its own trailers for imaginary Malick movies. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, is likely to premiere at Cannes before going on release soon after. It's the director's first since 2005's The New World but the six-year wait has been a mere toilet break compared to the two decades that elapsed between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. (May/June/anyone's guess)

Cowboys and Aliens

If this looks like a straight-faced Wild Wild West, that shouldn't preclude the chances of it being thrilling -- if you're going to trust any director with making a decent popcorn movie these days, it should be Jon Favreau (especially after Zathura and the first Iron Man). (12 August)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

All hail the return of Lynne Ramsay, with this adaptation of Lionel Shriver's provocative novel. Starring Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly as the parents of a boy gone ferociously astray. (2 September)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (16 September),Wuthering Heights and One Day (both 30 September)

Three literary adaptations to get the mouth (and, in two cases, the eyes) watering. TTSS is directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and stars Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch , Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Stephen Graham -- every decent British actor, more or less, working today. The Brontë adaptation is by Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank), who has attracted attention for the not-at-all controversial move of actually reading what the text says and casting a non-Caucasian actor as Heathcliff (that's newcomer James Howson). Meanwhile, One Day stars Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as two university pals glimpsed on the same day each year over a two-decade period. Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs, David Nicholls adapts his own novel. I gobbled up the book -- didn't you?

On the Road

Walter Salles is still working on his film version of Jack Kerouac's Beat bible, starring Sam Riley (also to be seen in another literary adaptation, Brighton Rock, out in February), but it should be released before the end of the year.

There. I got all the way to the end of my 2011 list without admitting that I was looking forward to The Green Hornet.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Katy Perry’s new song is not so much Chained to the Rhythm as Chained to a Black Mirror episode

The video for “Chained to the Rhythm” is overwhelmingly pastel and batshit crazy. Watch out, this satire is sharp!

If you’ve tuned into the radio in the last month, you might have heard Katy Perry’s new song, “Chained to the Rhythm”, a blandly hypnotic single that’s quietly, creepingly irresistible.

If you’re a really attuned listener, you might have noticed that the lyrics of this song explore that very same atmosphere. “Are we crazy?” Perry sings, “Living our lives through a lens?”

Trapped in our white picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
Aren’t you lonely?
Up there in utopia
Where nothing will ever be enough
Happily numb

The chorus muses that we all “think we’re free” but are, in fact, “stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah.” It’s a swipe (hehe) at social media, Instagram culture, online dating, whatever. As we all know, modern technology is Bad, people who take photos aren’t enjoying the moment, and glimpses other people’s Perfect Lives leave us lonely and empty. Kids these days just don’t feel anything any more!!!

The video for this new song was released today, and it’s set in a (get this) METAPHORICAL AMUSEMENT PARK. Not since Banky’s Dismaland have we seen such cutting satire of modern life. Walk with me, through Katy Perry’s OBLIVIA.

Yes, the park is literally called Oblivia. Get it? It sounds fun but it’s about oblivion, the state of being unaware or unconscious, i.e. the state we’re all living in, all the time, because phones. (I also personally hope it’s a nod to Staffordshire’s own Oblivion, but cannot confirm if Katy Perry has ever been on the Alton Towers classic steel roller coaster.)

The symbol of the park is a spaced-out gerbil thing, because, aren’t we all caged little hairy beings in our own hamster wheels?! Can’t someone get us off this never-ending rat race?!

We follow Katy as she explores the park – her wide eyes take in every ride, while her peers are unable to look past the giant iPads pressed against their noses.


You, a mindless drone: *takes selfies with an iPad*
Katy Perry, a smart, engaged person: *looks around with actual human eyes, stops to smell the roses*

She walks past rides, and stops to smell the roses – and the pastel-perfect world is injected with a dose of bright red reality when she pricks her finger on a thorn. Cause that’s what life really is, kids! Risk! At least she FEELS SOMETHING.


More like the not-so-great American Dream, am I right?!

So Katy (wait, “Rose”, apparently) takes her seat on her first ride – the LOVE ME ride. Heteronormative couples take their seats against either a blue heart or a pink one, before being whizzed through a tunnel of Facebook reaction icons.

Is this a comment on social media sexism, or a hint that Rose is just too damn human for your validation station? Who knows! All we can say for sure is that Katy Perry has definitely seen the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”:

Now, we see a whole bunch of other rides.


Wait time: um, forever, because the human condition is now one of permanent stasis and unsatisfied desires, duh.

No Place Like Home is decorated with travel stamps and catapults two of the only black people in the video out of the park. A searing comment on anti-immigrant rhetoric/racism? Uh, maybe?

Meanwhile, Bombs Away shoots you around like you’re in a nuclear missile.


War: also bad.

Then everyone goes and takes a long drink of fire water (?!?!) at Inferno H2O (?!?!) which is also a gas station. Is this about polluted water or petrol companies or… drugs? Or are we just so commercialised even fire and water are paid-for privileges? I literally don’t know.

Anyway, Now it’s time for the NUCLEAR FAMILY SHOW, in 3D, no less. Rose is last to put her glasses on because, guess what? She’s not a robot. The show includes your typical 1950s family ironing and shit, while hamsters on wheels run on the TV. Then we see people in the rest of theme park running on similar wheels. Watch out! That satire is sharp.

Skip Marley appears on the TV with his message of “break down the walls to connect, inspire”, but no one seems to notice accept Rose, and soon becomes trapped in their dance of distraction.


Rose despairs amidst the choreography of compliance.

Wow, if that didn’t make you think, are you even human? Truly?

In many ways – this is the Platonic ideal of Katy Perry videos: overwhelmingly pastel, batshit crazy, the campest of camp, yet somehow walking the fine line between self-ridicule and terrifying sincerity. It might be totally stupid, but it’s somehow still irresistible.

But then I would say that. I’m a mindless drone, stumbling around like a wasted zombie, injecting pop culture like a prescription sedative.

I’m chained…………. to the rhythm.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.