30 Must-See films at the 54th London Film Festival

Monday September 13th 2010


Now that I’ve had five days to recover from the trauma of the croissant shortage at Wednesday’s press launch, I’m mega-stoked to present my definitive list of the must-see films at this year’s BFI London Film Festival.

‘World premiere’ seems to be a dirty word at BFI headquarters this year so once again it’s something of a ‘Best Of’ festival: taking pretty much every talked-about hit from Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Toronto and cramming them into the Vue West End for the enjoyment of journalists, bloggers, ‘film people’ and of course, the general public.

Here are 30 awesome choices you ought to catch:

30. SURVIVING LIFE
Film festivals are all about sitting through weird foreign animations, and no-one is more weird or foreign than Czech animation legend Jan Švankmajer.
29. LET ME IN
While it looks nearly identical to its Swedish cousin, Matt Reeve’s hastily-prepared remake of last year’s Let The Right One In can at least boast a snappier title.
28. UNCLE BOONMEE…
This year’s Palme D’Or winner doesn’t look like the easiest watch in the world, but who am I to disagree with Tim Burton?
27. THE TILLMAN STORY
I don’t know what this is but I saw it on the Apple Movie Trailers homepage so it must be a big deal, surely? At least it has a gritty poster.
26. CONVICTION
The trailer for this Swank vehicle groups it in the same genre as Extraordinary Measures, but the cast is aces and if there’s one thing I love, it’s a courtroom drama.
25. ANOTHER YEAR
It wouldn’t be the London Film Festival without Mike Leigh wombling about like a cheeky Father Christmas, and word has it this is top.
24. CARLOS
At 325 minutes, this French film-cum-miniseries is already the certified endurance test of the festival, with a single midday showing on October 16th.
23. COLD WEATHER
US indie doesn’t get any more indie than a genre-shifting crime mystery starring a cast of unknowns. In a quiet year for mumblecore, this can fill the void.
22. ROUTE IRISH
Ken Loach returns to serious territory for this Iraq War drama set mainly in Liverpool. The clip they showed at the launch was entirely good.
21. KABOOM
Pulled at the last minute from Frightfest (likely because of its inclusion here), this sci-fi effort from Smiley Face director Gregg Araki can only be amazing.
20. HOWL
Last year’s big poetry drama Bright Star certainly put the zzzz in festival buzz (zing!) but this Allen Ginsberg biopic has Franco involved, so it can’t be all bad.
19. MIRAL
Freida Pinto emerges from hibernation for the new one from Julian Schnabel. It’s set against a backdrop of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, so expect ROFLs.
18. THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE
Intricately restored and accompanied by a live score, this one-off event should be pretty special if you can avoid all the fucking awful people it’s bound to attract.
17. SELF MADE
Perpetual YBA Gillian Wearing dives into the world of feature films with this arty documentary. Let’s hope it’s a Steve McQueen and not a Sam Taylor-Wood.
16. LITTLE WHITE LIES
A certain alternative film magazine will be getting very excited about the title of Guillaume Canet’s eagerly-awaited follow up to 2006’s Tell No One.
15. 127 HOURS
Franco ‘does a Clooney’ and takes over this year’s fest, starring not only in Howl but also this closing night epic from Danny Boyle. Can’t be worse than Slumdog.
14. THE AMERICAN
Clooney isn’t taking it lying down, though, getting a prime Saturday night slot for his Anton Corbijn-directed assassin thriller.
13. TABLOID
Suddenly-prolific documentarian Errol Morris presents a new film about the 1977 Joyce McKinney sex scandal. I had to Wikipedia it.
12. A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN
Yet another addition to the already bloated ‘A __ Man’ subgenre, Stellan Skarsgård stars in this dark comedy about an ex-convict returning to his home town.
11. BIUTIFUL
I’ve heard mixed things about this new one from Alejandro González Iñárritu but until proven otherwise, anything he puts his name on is fine with me.
10. THE KING’S SPEECH
Since A Single Man made it OK to like Colin Firth again, I’ve been waiting for another chance to gush. This quirky biopic of George VI could be just the thing.
9. NEDS
I knew almost nothing about Neds until Wednesday, but the clip from the promo reel was more than enough to convince me that it deserves a spot in the Top 10.
8. CATFISH
A mysterious no-budget doc about social networks and communication that ’caused a stir’ at Sundance and comes recommended by Brett Ratner? Yes plz.
7. IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY
Directing superteam Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden bring their third film to the LFF, and it’s got Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts in it. Hooray!
6. BLACK SWAN
It seemed like a contender for the surprise film, but this effortlessly divisive film from King Aranofsky has been lined up for a bona fide gala on the 22nd.
5. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
It’s already being pegged for Oscar success, and 3 months after it’s US release, UK audiences are finally getting a chance to see what all the fuss is about.
4. NEVER LET ME GO
My faith in Mark Romanek is almost limitless, so if this turns out to be this year’s Nowhere Boy, I’ll be suicidally disappointed. Consider fingers crossed.
3. SURPRISE FILM
After a major flop last year in the form of Capitalism: A Love Story, LFF organisers better have a real peach lined up if they want this shit to keep selling out.
2. BLUE VALENTINE
Fresh from success at Sundance and Cannes, Derek Cianfrance’s melancholy love story hits London with a bang. Gosling. Williams. I’m there.
1. SUBMARINE
Directed by man of many talents Richard Ayoade and featuring Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine, this intimate Welsh indie comedy better be fucking amazing or I’m going home in a huff.