Sunday, July 29, 2012

My 20 Favourite Movies of 2011.

Okay, here we are. 20 may seem like a big number, but it was the only way I could fit in everything that I wanted to fit in. So let's not spend any time waffling - it is time for me to close out 2011 once and for all...

Honourable mentions: Hesher, Moneyball, Like Crazy, The Ides of March, Incendies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Sarah's Key, The Adventures of Tintin, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Limitless, Thor, Young Adult, Hugo, Melancholia, Contagion, The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Super 8, X-Men: First Class, Source Code, Jane Eyre, Rango, Another Earth, Perfect Sense.

20. The Skin I Live In - Dir. Pedro Almodovar



A little strange? Definitely. The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodovar's latest film, explores themes of loneliness, sexual identity, death, and possibly the most unique tale of revenge that I've ever seen. In other hands, this would have been the stuff that fits right into The Human Centipede's generation of horror. Almodóvar creates his macabre, ominous tale with elegance, kitsch and malevolence. The Skin I Live In is almost in a breed of it's own, playing out as a horror that dares you to get under your skin and make you question your own identity. Which is somewhat funny to see these days when horrors are all about scaring you with more blood and guts than are probably possible to be inside one person.

19. Certified Copy - Dir. Abbas Kiarostami



It's a magical thing that Abbas Kiarostami does with Certified Copy; it's like he planted an idea deep in our brains right at the very beginning and it just eats it's way through as the film goes on. Usually that's not the type of thing that would expect from a romantic drama - this film is fairly unconventional, while looking deceivingly conventional.

18. Martha Marcy May Marlene - Dir. Sean Durkin



Martha Marcy May Marlene heralds the debuts of writer/director Sean Durkin and actress Elizabeth Olsen. However, you would never know that these two are newbies to the business. Olsen's performance is a revelation, as she commands the screen with her fragile, mentally-unstable Martha. The film surrounding her is an apt study of paranoia, with Durkin's direction creating this claustrophobic feel around the audience. A low-fi independent film that I can see becoming a cult classic (excuse the pun) in the future.

17. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Dir. Tomas Alfredson



I watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy around the time we were 'studying' film in our English class. And while I was watching Tomas Alfredson's first English film, I couldn't help but notice that he turned everything that I had been told in class upside down. The thing with The Shawshank Redemption is that the symbolism is always right in your face, directing everyone's line of thought in the exact same direction. Tinker Tailor is nothing like that. This is the spy world, remember, so nothing is ever what it seems. Tomas Alfredson realises that, and makes it in the most subtle - yet detailed - way that he possibly could. This is a film that would be hard to teach at schools.

16. Tyrannosaur - Dir. Paddy Considine



Paddy Considine directs his debut film with blood-curdling simplicity, never looking at the 'big picture', but focussing on the anger inside his characters. It is here that you see the cracks and the flaws. It may be a dark film, but the product isn't all black-and-white. This film is rich with the colours that make a human being unleash violence upon another human being. Colours that we wish we couldn't see, but are there as cruel reminders of how low people can really go. Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman deliver soul-bearing, heart-wrenching performances, making this film act like a migraine - but one you can appreciate.

15. Warrior - Dir. Gavin O'Connor



Imagine how Warrior must have looked on paper: another fighting movie about two brothers from a stuffed up family who are the underdogs that have to fight there way up and win against all odds. I can imagine the money-grubbers turning their heads away and wondering when the next movie about boxing robots was going to be pitched. Alas, even though Hollywood is partial to their clichéd stories that generally make everyone feel good, Warrior had the incomparable task of making Hollywood like it, and everyone else too (if you think about it, not many films succeed in that area). Like the story in the movie, Warrior was a film that not many of us expected great things to come out of. It was indeed the underdog who achieved some great things. It works on the basis of it's wondrously crafted characters (who are backed by marvellous performances). It doesn't throw huge issues like alcoholism at you like a ball of guilt. Everything is crafted so it is realistic, especially as it shows themes of reconciliation and human spirit without dipping it in treacle first.

14. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Dir. David Fincher



As much as I appreciated the popular novel by Stieg Larsson and the Swedish adaptation that followed it, David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is by far my favourite take on the story. The story itself isn't the most enthralling (murder cases don't always entertain in the CSI: Miami, New York, Any Other US City era), but screen-writer Steven Zallian maps the convoluted tale out without rushing anything. Fincher takes that screenplay and gives it an icy, gritty, occasionally beautiful feel. But most of all, the film is powered by Rooney Mara's electrifying, awkward portrayal of the most iconic female character that's greeted celluloid recently.

13. Take Shelter - Dir. Jeff Nichols



A powerhouse of flawless acting from Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, Jeff Nichols' sophomore effort is a slow-burning thriller that remains riveting until the very end. And that ending itself is one of the most memorable of the year - a stunning sequence that leaves your head whirling as you question the fate of the characters. The pace may be a little languid for some, as Nichols paints a picture of paranoia one brush-stroke at a time. The end result is over-whelming, though, due to its intoxicating view of the possible apocalypse all happening inside one man's head.

12. The Artist - Dir. Michel Hazanavicius



This year's Best Picture winner totally personified what was the year of nostalgia. What many dismissed as just "that black-and-white movie with no talking" was actually a heart-felt, immensely entertaining tribute to old Hollywood that didn't feel like one big gimmick. Living in a film-world filled with 3D and CGI, it would be an extremely difficult task to go backwards in both technology and ideals, but Michel Hazanavicius and his team do it effortlessly. Plus, it made sound seem like a surprise in the 21st century.

11. The Tree of Life - Dir. Terrence Malick



In the future, I'll probably regret only placing this at number 11. I can see this film living a long, prosperous life - maybe even more so than anything else on this list. For now, though, here is one of the most polarising films in recent memory: it could very well be a beautiful powerpoint on the meaning of life, with five metaphors per slide. If you want to invest in that, you'll find a great movie. If you don't, then there's still pretty pictures. The Tree of Life is indeed a forest of confusion - but a forest that I'd like to stay lost in.

10. Beginners - Dir. Mike Mills



I'm a sucker for independent romantic dramas, but Beginners is a step ahead of the rest. Filled with great performances from Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Mary Page Keller and Goran Visnjic, Mike Mills' semi-autobiograpical dramedy is a heartfelt thing of beauty and quirk, doused in sadness. Every time I see it I fall in love with it all over again. The kind of honesty that the film has is quite refreshing.

9. 50/50 - Dir. Jonathan Levine



Who would have thought of making a cancer comedy? Will Reiser, who knew how to make the best out of that situation since he's a cancer survivor himself. His buddy Seth Rogen encouraged him to write a screenplay about his experiences, and we were gifted with 50/50. The film never forces emotions onto you. If you find yourself teary-eyed, it won't be because the film has handed you a box of tissues and told you to soak them with pity; it'll be because everything - especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance - is so natural. It doesn't fit into one specific genre. Unless there was a genre called 'life'.

8. A Separation - Dir. Asghar Farhadi



Asghar Farhadi uses words like the knives or guns that you’d expect to see from a typical thriller, using them to create a tense, taut film that you perhaps wouldn’t expect from such a simple storyline. But that Farhadi does the best is challenge your perceptions. You think you know what happened, and go along for the rest of the film thinking that you have resolved the entire issue, but then the movie has a way of twisting it. It is only then that you realise that you didn't have enough facts to begin with, and if you were to argue your case, you probably wouldn't have a lot of evidence to back it up. This isn't because you're stupid or ignorant - it is because when we watch films, we're so used to having everything handed to us on a silver platter that we generally make our own summations of how the story goes because we know what will happen. And usually, it does happen the way we've planned. In A Separation, you won't find that is the case. You'll be lucky to find any silver platters in this film.

7. Senna - Dir. Asif Kapadia



When I sat down to watch Senna, I had no idea who Ayrton Senna was. Formula One was a mostly foreign activity to me. But thanks to Senna's masterful editing, which brought together a compelling life story that was almost a proper narrative, I was completely enthralled by this documentary. I guess I can say that it did its job considering the way I was bawling my eyes out at the end. Something I definitely wasn't expecting when I slipped the DVD in.

6. War Horse - Dir. Steven Spielberg



You can all just shut up now: I know that just about everyone will disagree with this choice, but it's not my fault that I loved War Horse to pieces. I loved how old-fashioned this film was, which will definitely ensure that it will stand the test of time. It is the kind of film that I'd want to show my children, not only to show them what true friendship is and how much it sucks to have that broken, but also to show them the horrors of war. Spielberg created such a beautiful film here - one which I'll treasure for the rest of my life.

5. The Muppets - Dir. James Bobin



This film may not be in the same league as A Separation or The Tree of Life, but it gets a place so high up in the list because it makes me extremely happy. Seriously, I just about keel over with excitement every time I see Life's a Happy Song. While I love films that make me sad, I feel like we never appreciate the truly happy films of this world enough. The Muppets is unabashedly self-aware, heart-warming and inspirational. I just love it to pieces.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Dir. Lynne Ramsay



Apart from the fact an earthquake happens every time I watch it (okay, it was only twice but that's still creepy), We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the most powerful, terrifying films I've ever seen. Not only because a high school shooting is my biggest fear - after earthquakes, ironically - but I felt just as helpless as poor Eva, who had to deal with the resounding effects her son left behind. Featuring amazing performances by Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, along with artistic direction from Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterpiece.

3. Midnight in Paris - Dir. Woody Allen



Just like The Muppets, Midnight in Paris is another film which makes me smile like a complete idiot. Mainly because of the way it uses nostalgia as something truly magical. Just like Gil, I'd love to go back to the 1920's and meet people like Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald. Everything about his ride back in time is perfect, and so devastatingly beautiful. I've never been a huge fan of Woody Allen's work, but Midnight in Paris is one of the funniest, warmest films I've ever seen.

2. Drive - Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn



How cool is this movie? What many thought was going to be another petrol-fuelled blockbuster actually turned out to be the perfect blend between arthouse and action, and also an effortlessly awesome throw-back to 80s B-grade movies. I loved that this movie wasn't all violence. Everything unfolds slowly, making the rather large outbursts of violence even more shocking. This is definitely going to become a cult classic, thanks to the awesome soundtrack, Ryan Gosling's mostly silent driver and Nicolas Winding Refn's awesome direction. And that elevator scene.

1. Shame - Dir. Steve McQueen



Shame has to be one of the most wholly affecting movies that I've ever seen. Every single little thing about it completely won me over. Steve McQueen's film looking at the day-to-day life of a sex addict who has his life thrown out of order by his sister is compelling, brave, and extremely hard to watch. The best thing about the film, though, is Michael Fassbender's performance. Never before have I seen an actor who has thrown himself into a role like that, completely embodying a broken spirit with such a devastating effect. It was such a brilliant, brilliant film, that - should I ever become a film-maker - will have a clear influence on my work. But I could never make anything as good as this.

What do you think of my choices? What are some of your favourite films from last year?

44 comments:

  1. Great list. We have quite a few in common. Our number 2 is the same :P That elevator scene indeed.

    Glad you loved things like We Need to Talk About Kevin and MMMM. Those really were little gems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Drive and that elevator scene. Love it!

      I love little gems like that. 2011 was filled with them.

      Delete
  2. I can see why people liked The Muppets so much now - watched it a couple of weeks/month ago and it was such a lovely little film, true to The Muppets!

    Some of these films I haven't seen since the films I did watch in 2011 weren't really 2011 releases, but seems like a solid list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a lovely little film!

      All the films I watched in 2011 were 2010 releases, haha. Man I love NZ.

      Delete
  3. Very nice list!I think 2011 was a good year for cinema generally. I can't choose one because I liked so many movies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2011 was a very good year for cinema! I liked a lot of movies too.

      Delete
  4. I liked your list series very very very much. Thank you!

    http://mettelray.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. God, I so called what your #1 would be. I love the top three too.

    One of my favorites from last year was Andrew Haigh's Weekend. Oh, did my heart ache afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still need to see Weekend! I just have to wait until it's available.

      Delete
  6. Melancholia, Blue Valentine, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, The Troll Hunter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tucker & Dale and TrollHunter were pretty awesome!

      Delete
  7. Great choices here. I also love how you combine the photos... I might have to plagiarise this technique in the near future.

    Anyway nice way to wrap up 2011. See you in the year 2012, I'm looking forward to seeing The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises next year... hey, wait a second....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I thought I might do something different.

      Oh hey 2012, didn't see you there behind all that 2011 :P

      Delete
  8. After Hardy in TDKR I really have to watch Warrior!

    And I agree with asrap above, plagiarisation (is it even a word?) is in due order.

    Beautiful designs as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warrior is really really really good!

      Thanks :)

      Delete
  9. Really nice list here, though mine would be much different. Glad to see Shame on number 1 and love for Dragon Tattoo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, you're list was quite different from what I remember. Dragon Tattoo rules!

      Delete
  10. Great list indeed. Mine's of course will come soon as I'm still trying to watch some 2011 and 2010 features that I've missed out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that someone else is as behind as I am!

      Delete
  11. Great job! It's awesome to see Senna make it onto someone else's list.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I awarded you a Liebster. Collect it here http://www.themoviewaffler.com/2012/07/the-liebster-award.html

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is an amazing list. I have seen each of these films and agree almost entirely. From your 1-11, 6 of them made my end-of-year Top 10. What a choice for #1 and #2. Looking forward to watching Drive again. It has been almost 12 months since i saw it at MIFF.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I was just thinking about how long ago it was that Drive rocked the world. So weird! But thanks :)

      Delete
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  15. Great list! I haven't seen most of these films yet, and I am really looking forward to many of them, especially A Separation and Take Shelter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A Separation and Take Shelter are bloody great films. I hope you enjoy them!

      Delete
  16. Wonderful list. I also have Drive and Midnight in Paris in my top 5. And I love that you included Beginners (my #6) and Certified Copy (my #7).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that you love Beginners and Certified Copy! Two severely underrated films.

      Delete
  17. Great list. Some of my favorites made it (The Tree of Life, The Skin I Live In, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), but my 4 of my top 5 (Like Crazy, Weekend, Hugo, Bridesmaids) didn't make the cut. Goes to show what a great year 2011 was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved Like Crazy and Hugo, they only *just* missed the cut. 2011 was such a tough year!

      Delete
  18. I can't argue with your list at all. It was a great year. I probably would have added a few different choices and changed the order a little. But hey, that is me just being fussy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I'm sure EVERYONE would tinker with this list.

      Delete
  19. Great list, glad you snuck Warrior in there! So underrated. I also loved Drive and it was my #1.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warrior was so underrated! Drive is so awesome!

      Delete
  20. Gosh, it's embarrassing how many of those I still need to see.

    But Shame, The Tree of Life and Drive went immediately to my all time favorites. Also amazing were Take Shelter, Beginners (so bittersweet and simple), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Artist and 50/50.

    btw, I've awarded you again, Stevee. here it is: http://filmflare.blogspot.pt/2012/07/blog-award.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha, most of these I only saw in the past couple of weeks!

      I'll get to that when I get back from my break. Thanks!

      Delete
  21. This is a great list. Sure it's a little predictable, but that's hardly your fault and there are a few surprising inclusions/exclusions too. Happy to see SHAME at number one. Excellent stuff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm guessing that Shame must be one of your favourite 2011 films, too?

      Delete
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  23. Love this list. Many of your picks topped my year as well. If I was making my list today, I think Warrior would very well crack the Top 10 (or 15, at least). That's one that got better with time.

    And Shame. Ahh, Shame. What's to say? It's just that good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warrior did get better with time. I loved it so much on a second watch.

      Shame is frickin amazing. Like...how does someone do that?

      Delete

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