Top 20 Movies of 2011: Part 2
Check out 20 through 11 here.
For those that really care, at some point within the next week I’ll be listing all 365 movies I watched this year in order of preference. I’m just crazy like that, I guess. I also love lists.
Now, for the cream of the crop of 2011, the best year for movies in recent memory.
Martin Scorsese’s most personal film in years concerns two major factors in his personal salvation; family and cinema itself, and Hugo showcases how neither is mutually exclusive in magical detail and breathtaking 3D cinematography.
9.Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Step into the dusty-aired world of this spy thriller for adults and prepare yourself to get lost in its labyrinthine character motivations, mysterious intrigue and shadowy side plots. Just as you wrap your head around it all, the movie suggests that the differences between spies, nations and ideology is incredibly thin and possibly non-existent.
The years second best love story is a refreshing spin on a familiar story trope; two very different men fall for each other, but only have a limited time to enjoy their affair before one of them moves far away. Weekend sings not only for it’s incredibly honest and realistic characters, but for its illuminating subtext of the complicated reality of openly gay relationships in a hostile world.
7. Attack the Block
The summer bored me with its non-stop barrage of boring, unimaginative comic book yarns. Then Attack the Block showed up and blew them all away, with its witty, exciting and socially relevant take on inner-city crime, poverty, gentrification, class differences and social disparity, all wrapped up in the best sci-fi action movie of the year. And its protagonist, Moses, is the action hero of the year; a young man who selfishly uses his born leadership skills for ill use and grows to the point where he’s willing to sacrifice his life for his friends, for his home, for the block and for the nation that has neglected and forgotten about him.
Deceptively simple, Tomboy takes the complicated issues of gender identification, young love, and pre-adolescent social anxiety, creating a fluid, touching portrait of a young woman who grows to accept the way society sees her and how she views herself.
5. Take Shelter
Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain give terrific, electrifying performances as a husband and wife coming apart at the seams due to his growing psychological fear of an outside force tearing his family apart. Debates on whether or not Shannon’s character is “crazy” or “right” miss the point; he’s both. The tragedy is not that a force is coming to rip the family apart but that the force is his illness. The drama builds from his incredible struggle, desperately trying to keep his sickness at bay. Shannon walks a delicate tightrope, simultaneously terrifying and compassionate, and Chastain shows tremendous patience as his strong but patient wife.
A haunting parable of painful sacrifice and inconsiderate cruelty. A grandmother lovingly looking after her grandson yearns to create something beautiful while her spoiled ward takes advantage of her and everyone around him. Is he involved with the murder of a female class mate? Poetry is about how we empathize with the unknown and how beautiful and painful the creation process can be, including the creation of a completely new outlook on life.
3. The Future
People really can’t stand Miranda July. Maybe because she’s so refreshingly honest. Oh, I can see you rolling your eyes. “A talking cat narrator is her being honest?” Well, frankly, yes. The Future vividly lists July’s fears of what might come; an expressionistic, magical-realist detailing of her idiosyncratic neurosis, failings and faults. Will she be able to remain faithful, will she be able to care for a child, will she be able to stay relevant and try new things without fear? If the cat represents what people would criticize about July’s “twee’ aesthetic, how telling is it that in the end she lets the thing die alone? Is this a sign of bold reinvention or fear of being unable to nurture who she is and what she loves? July’s critics be damned; the Future boldly reveals that nobody is more critical of July than July herself. This is thoughtful, bold film making at its finest.
2. The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick’s most personal film is beautiful mixture of contradictions; it lets viewers spy on characters most intimate moments while holding us at a distance, it’s majestically spiritual but scientifically grounded, stunningly composed, like a rich work of art, but thoughtfully realistic. Mostly, though, it’s a story of a creator finding his place in the world by investigating what he knows about his reality, his past, his family, his history, the history of the world, the history of the universe, the future, the present, his dream of death, his imagination, pouring it all into a colorful, heartfelt, thoughtful celluloid celebration. If a movie can contain this much vitality, then who can argue life isn’t worth living to the fullest?
1. Certified Copy
Abbas Kiaostami directs a masterpiece of romance, relationships, language, communication and how we construct our realities out of seemingly nothing, knowing and not knowing all the while. A man and a woman meet to discuss art. He’s written a book about copies of artwork, and how good copies of real works of art shouldn’t have their value diminished (if they’re convincing enough, don’t they serve the same purpose)? She debates him playfully as they depart on what begins almost as an innocent first date. From there, they slip into the roles of a married couple so convincingly we begin to question how much they really know each other. Is this a legitimate relationship, or just a copy of one? In the end, it doesn’t really matter; they’ve lived decades of romance, love, painful struggles, insightful conversations, spirited debates and humbling observations all in the span of an hour and same change, and we are lucky to have been able to tag along. Stunningly acted, perfectly paced, cleverly constructed and elegantly directed, if this decade produces a better film, we will all be incredibly fortunate. It’s available to watch online at Netflix. Do yourself a favor and check it out.