Saturday, 21 January 2012

Vic's Top Ten (Fifteen) Films of 2011

What a great year for film! Only one film made in 2009 and 2010 (combined) made it into my top 150 films of all time. This year, there were five such films. In the past two years, I struggled to find ten films worthy to be in my top ten films of the year. This year, there were twenty films fighting to get into my top ten. I finally gave up trying to limit myself to ten films and will be doing a top fifteen this year (sixteen actually). Even so, there are seven films which I watched in 2011 which were not 2011 releases but which also might have had a shot at my top ten (Never Let Me Go, Mr. Nobody, Enter the Void, Lebanon, The Illusionist, White Material and Blue Valentine).

This was the year of Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, each of whom starred in two films in my top six. It was also the year of Ryan Gosling, whose films didn’t quite make it but two of which were among those twenty I mentioned (The Ides of March and Drive). Also in that twenty were Anonymous and Young Adult.

It’s a long list, so let’s get to it:

15. The Beaver. Mel Gibson is fantastic as a man dealing with his depression by speaking through a beaver hand-puppet. Jodie Foster directs and stars as the wife and Anton Yelchin is great as the son in this underrated drama featuring a well-written original screenplay, excellent cinematography and very good music.

15. Source Code - The plot may be illogical and the ending questionable, but this was my favourite sci-fi film of the year and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to impress as an actor and Duncan Jones, who made one of my favourite films of 2009 (Moon), continues to impress as a director.

14. Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen’s best film in fifteen years, Midnight in Paris is a wonderful romantic comedy starring Luke Wilson as a man whose visit to Paris takes him on a journey to what he believes was the golden age of the 1920s. Full of witty, intelligent dialogue, fascinating characters and great music.

13. We Need to Talk About Kevin. Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar for her portrayal of Eve, the mother of a boy serving time for committing a high school massacre. Lynne Ramsay’s film, based on Lionel Shriver’s controversial novel, provides a mother’s perspective on the question of nature versus nurture in the making of a sociopath. Fascinating and very well made.

12. The Time That Remains. A subtle cry for justice, The Time That Remains is a darkly funny epic tale chronicling the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 1948. This poetic thought-provoking film was directed by, and stars, Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman.

11. Jane Eyre. A gorgeous traditional re-filming of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre has the feel of a 1930s epic romance. Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender are excellent as Jane and Rochester.

10. Beginners. Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent are flawless as Oliver and Anna, two lonely, hurting people, haunted by their fathers, who try to make a lasting connection. Christopher Plummer, as Oliver’s gay father, provides outstanding support. Beginners somehow manages to be both a subdued melancholy film and a very funny one.

9. The Descendants. George Clooney is wonderful as an Hawaiian lawyer who finds himself needing to relate differently to all the people around him after his wife has a boating accident, leaving her in a coma. The Descendants was made by Alexander Payne, a master of satisfying character development.

8. Margin Call. A haunting intelligent film with a great ensemble cast, Margin Call tells the story of one fateful night in an investment firm at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis. While humanizing those responsible for the crisis, it exposes the dehumanizing impact of money on all of us who are among the rich.

7. Hugo. A delightful old-fashioned adventure film with a beautifully-realized setting (a Paris train station in the 1930s), Hugo is about fixing broken people who have lost their purpose in life and about the wonder of film. Too bad it had to be in 3D.

6. Moneyball. A classic-style film written by the formidable Aaron Sorkin and featuring a brilliant performance by Brad Pitt as the manager of the Oakland A’s (baseball team) in 2002, Moneyball is moving and funny and all about relationships (not baseball).

5. Take Shelter. A spellbinding psychological drama which may, or may not, be about a coming apocalyptic storm (and about global warming), Take Shelter features awe-inspiring performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain as a couple struggling with the effects of mental illness on a loving young family.

4. The Way. A funny, inspiring and beautiful film about a man (played by Martin Sheen, whose son, Emilio Estevez, directs) who decides, on the spur of the moment, to do a famous pilgrimage in northern Spain. Along the way, he meets a number of lonely people who have lost their way and who are, like himself, searching for community and God.

3. Incendies. A haunting, expertly-crafted film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, Incendies is the story of a woman who struggles for dignity in a world torn apart by religious violence. An insightful and poetic reflection on Middle Eastern violence.

2. The Tree of Life. Yet another profound and sublime work of cinematic art, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life uses breathtaking cinematography and classical music to create a poetic theological film about the meaning of life, specifically the life of Jack, an architect reflecting on his childhood in small-town Texas. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are wonderful as Jack’s parents and Hunter McCracken is amazing as the adolescent Jack.

1. Of Gods and Men. A profound and sublime work of cinematic art, Of Gods and Men tells the true story of nine French monks caught up in the Algerian Civil War of 1996. With one beautiful scene after another, this film depicts what loving others and following Jesus is really about while showing both Christianity and Islam in a positive (and even compatible) light.

1 comment:

  1. Now that I finally have mine done, I can comment on yours. I'm a little shocked that I ended up putting Woody Allen so much higher than you did. If it's not compensating for all my Allen-bashing then it's probably the reminder of my days of roaming through Paris. Then, of course, you put Tree of Life much higher than I did, which is not a surprise. I suspect if I had seen Hugo, The Descendants, Moneyball and Take Shelter our lists would be even more similar because I suspect I will like all of these. Definitely looking forward to all of these. Though I'm not sure Hugo would make my list - we'll see if I'm surprised. Numbers 10-12, oddly in a row, didn't interest me enough from trailers to want to see, but I may reconsider.