Though it lacked mega-blockbusters, such as Avatar, that take the movie world by storm, this has been a reasonably good year for film-lovers. The closest in impact was probably the release of Toy Story 3, which cemented the position of the Toy Story franchise as not just one of the most loved, but also critically acclaimed animation feature film series ever.
The release of the first half of the seventh Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, didn’t even come close to generating the kind of excitement expected of such a big ticket release, with many people complaining that it had left ordinary cinema-going behind, catering only to fans of the series who are familiar with the complex backstory.
Films in 3D were very much a part of the cinema landscape this year, with big releases every few weeks keeping Taipei’s growing array of super high-tech screens doing a brisk business. But on balance, it was still old-fashioned 2D that provided the most fulfilling cinematic experiences. One of the highlights was the release of Kichitaro Negishi’s film Villon’s Wife, an adaptation of a novel by Osamu Dazai that was published in 1947. It would be hard to find something more old-fashioned, but the genius of a cinematic storyteller will trump high-tech effects every time. This point was made clear by the dismal performance of the much-hyped Skyline, which despite oodles of technical wizardry, failed to bring in the punters. Audiences are sometimes a bit too easily impressed by big effects, but Skyline proved that some sort of story, or at least some high-profile faces, are still needed.
Comedy did well this year. Youth in Revolt showed once again that Michael Cera is here to stay, Greenberg revealed that Ben Stiller has far greater depth as a comedian than he usually lets on and The Kids Are All Right was a splendid little alternative hit that had a nice mixture of feel-good moments, social commentary and well-honed dialogue.
The Kids also had the added attraction of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. For more dynamic thrills, it’s sad to say that one of the most memorable action films of the year was Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendibles, but only because of its appeal to nostalgia and its ridiculously overstuffed cast of musclemen, rather than any intrinsic merit as a movie.
An increasing number of minor film festivals, such as distributor CatchPlay’s two HorrorFever festivals, brought some fun B-movies and fringe horror cinema to local screens as well.
In all, one can’t complain, as the blockbuster pap was well leavened with good independent releases.