Some quick notes:
* this list only includes films I actually saw. Despite my suspicion that, say, J. EDGAR or WE BOUGHT A ZOO would be much more watchable with flying guillotines, I can't speak to that likelihood with true authority.
* some of you may never, somehow, have seen a flying guillotine in action, and so this trailer, which as far as I know represents the pinnacle of cinema du flying guillotine, may prove useful:
* this list is not the top ten best films of the year, nor is it the worst films of the year. It is, merely, the films that would be most improved by the inclusion of flying guillotines. Because, of course, every film would be improved by the inclusion of a flying guillotine, but the question is, how much?
For you, dear reader, an answer is here.
10. VIVA RIVA! I had my hopes up for this much hyped Congolese action film, and its setting was fresh and exciting, but I quickly found myself descending into a hibernatory state as it descended into formulaic no-budget action. Memo to all action filmmakers: flying guillotines are always a great way to rouse your audience.
9. THE IDES OF MARCH. It's an easy joke that a classily-photographed chamber play of a movie would be improved by a flying guillotine - but it's easy BECAUSE IT'S TRUE. Anything would be an unexpected infusion of life into this antiseptic film - but if you're going for an infusion of life, why take half measures?
8. KNUCKLE. Can't fault the filmmaker on this one, what with it being a documentary, but the fact is that bare knuckle fighting starts shocking and then continues at the same level of shocking, albeit more engrossing as we know the characters. But if these characters had taken their grudge settling to the next level, everyone would have been screaming about that crazy documentary about the Irish travelers and their crazy flying guillotine grudge matches.
7. PUSS IN BOOTS 3-D. "Oh, but it's a kid's film!", you say. I say: any kid's film that has room for FIGHT CLUB references, has room for flying guillotines. And whilst I was fairly happy with my experience in this film, a flying guillotine would have made my heart ten sizes too big. WITH JOY.
6. BRIDESMAIDS. Now, I enjoyed BRIDESMAIDS, despite it being 83 hours long and ending with a Wilson Phillips song, but damn did I have a difficult time convincing my fellow Y-chromosome holders it was worth their attention. But if I could have hit with the one-two punch of "it has Chris O'Dowd from THE IT CROWD ... and it has a flying guillotine"? Sells itself, really. And would it have been out of character for Melissa McCarthy to use one at some point? No. No, it would not.
5. SANCTUM. I love caves, I love diving, I love the 3-D system used in AVATAR, I love horror. These four things came together and somehow produced one of the worst movies I saw this year, as someone along the way decided to take all of that and put in the background in favor of a hackneyed father-son conflict. Now, if the writers had been forced to work in a flying guillotine, a level of unseriousness might have been reached that would take it around the bend into sheer goofy enjoyment. One can live in hope, anyway. Also, it could have been the setting for the innovation of an underwater flying guillotine: now, THAT would be something.
4. ATTACK THE BLOCK. A controversial inclusion, in that this is my favorite film of the list, and I like to consider it perfect as what it is. But then I stop to think: what if our street toughs had broken out a flying guillotine as an alien-fighting tool? No question that, at the screening I went to, the crowd would have gone wild.
3. 3-D SEX AND ZEN: EXTREME ECSTACY. Nothing I saw in the theatre in 2011 came close in terms of "shameless exploitation" to this ... well, I guess technically it's a film, but mostly it's a receptacle for insanity. But there are many tedious passages in between the extreme moments of WTF-ery, and that tedium would have instantly lifted with the appearance of a flying guillotine ... in 3-D, no less! And it would have fit ... well, about as well as anything fits in this movie.
2. THE TREE OF LIFE. You know that scene with the dinosaur? The one where it decides whether or not to kill its prey? Replace it with a master of the flying guillotine, deciding whether to show mercy or not on the final of his victims. Malick fans would insist it fits just as much as anything else in the movie (and get to watch the dinosaur scene in the inevitable 2019 7-hour cut), those who found the dinosaur scene risible would lose it and instead have an awesome flying guillotine scene. Who wins? EVERYBODY.
1. DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. A fundamentally flawed movie, too fraught with potential peril for children while well short on actual consequences for adults. But if the monsters of this film wielded some truly frightening machinery - and you know what I'm talking about - in the first twenty minutes, suddenly there would be some real blood on the floor, a great fan moment, and it would have had to then follow through at that level of menace. And it might be remembered as the horror movie of the year. (Well, no, probably not. But it would have been less forgettable.)
My hope for 2012, as always: more flying guillotines in cinema.