Friday, October 19, 2012
THE TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2011! (Sorry about the, sigh, 10-month delay) OH, AND A FEW SECONDS OF TEMPER TANTRUM, AS I TALK ABOUT THE WORST MOVIES OF 2011!
Well, it's that time of year again, almost. Where I've finally caught up with nearly every major film that came out the year before, long after most every other film critic has already long done it, and I've compiled a list of the absolute Best Movies of the year, this case 2011! Why so late. Well, 'cause I hadn't seen everything yet. Still haven't. As I'm writing this prologue in fact, I'm in the middle of watching "Footnote," the last of the five Foreign Language film, Oscar nominees from this past year. That actually wasn't a requirement for me to begin making such a list, as I outlined last year when I made my 2010 list, but on top of winning the Foreign Language Oscar, the film "A Separation," also recieved a nomination for Best Screenplay,a category, that I did deem, was an essential to have seen every film in, before one should be eligible to compile a Top Ten List. (My Best Films of 2010 blog can be found at the link below.)
I also detailed in that blog, all the requirements I self-inflict upon myself, before I allow myself to make a Ten Best Films of a Year list. Basically, I try to watch everything that is essential to have watched, on top of everything else I watch from that year. Now, there's different definitions of "What is essential?", but I believe at a minimum, all the nominees for Oscars, in the main categories, should be the minimum. Those categories being Picture, Director, Writing, Acting, (Sigh) and Animated Feature. I'm sighing at that one, because unfortunately, I'm gonna have to break my rule in this case, 'cause so far, I've only seen 3 of the Best Animated Feature nominees. I'm hoping to say that I would've seen "Chico & Rita," before I post this, 'cause it's available on Netflix, and I'm planning to watch "A Cat in Paris," ASAP! (It's in the Top Ten on my Netflix.) Now, I don't watch only those films. I try to watch everything I can. I use other Award shows for guidelines as well, and critical reviews, and box office, a little bit, important names and directors of course. In total, I have seen as of 4:49pm, Wednesday 17th of October, 2012, I've seen 228 movies, from the year 2011! In case your curious, when I made my list last year, I had probably seen, somewhere around 140 at the time. (I also wrote that list out, two months earlier in the year than I'm doing this year. [It was only 8 months late]) So, you can imagine, why I'm a little bit itchin' to finally get around to doing my list for this year. For one thing, I've seen a lot of frigging movies! There was also fewer movies I had to see last year. When I added up the categories, I came to only, 18 or 19 different films I had to watch. This year, nine Best Picture nominees, only 5 of which got screenwriting nominations (Weird), so 10 Writing nominations, that's five more, 14, all five directing were nominated for Best Picture, but acting,... 7,8, 9 other nominated throughout the categories, plus the animated films, so that's yikes, 28, total, some of which haven't been available on DVD until, like yesterday. Haven't seen two of the animated, like I said. Haven't seen 3 of the documentaries yet. Normally, I'm on top of those, but not this year. I've also got to remember to catch up on "Harry Potter," at some point; I'm four movies behind on that. (Note: Call my cousin, ask to borrow his DVDs.) A few other minor categories that I've missed so far, but I'm gonna say that, for the sake of, well my sanity, I'm gonna say that I've seen enough to make at least an official, albeit unofficially-official, Top Ten Films of 2011 list, keeping in mind, that like all such lists, they're completely subjective, and of course, subject to change. Saying that, I'm fairly confident in this list though.
I must also say that, although, I was critical of the some of the so-called, Top Films of 2011, overall, there were a ton of great films this year. I can legitimately understand, 30 or 40 other films, at least, being on somebody's Top Ten Best Films list from 2011. Had my Top Ten films, not been made, and I posted my 11-20 list instead as my Top Ten, it still would've been a great year for films. This was not an easy list to make this year, and frankly, I'm happy about that. When it's easy, it means it hasn't been that great a year.
Alright, last time, I started at number one, and went down to number ten, I'm gonna switch it up this time, and start with #10, and count down, to number 1!
THE TOP TEN BEST FILMS OF 2011!
#10 We Need to Talk About Kevin
The most frightening movie of the year, was Lynne Ramsey's portrait of parental hell, "We Need to Talk About Kevin". Tilda Swinton gives, maybe her best performance yet, and that's saying something, in this film, about her sociopathic son Kevin, and how he spends his young life, terrorizing his mother.
From my original review:
"Out damn spot!", was the line made famous by Lady MacBeth. That line gets completely redefined forever in my mind after watching Lynne Ramsey's "We Need to Talk About Kevin". This is her third feature-length film,...but it's only the first one I've seen, and it's a frightening masterpiece. There's no easy way to go into this next line, but to all current and future parents out there, the movie, might as well be a horror film....The movie goes back-and-forth through time, from image-to-image, but this isn't a mind-bending puzzler. We know that Eva's (Swinton) son Kevin (Ezra Miller, as a teenager) is in jail. She's visiting him. These collisions of times and images, instead represent, her perspective of events, and how being a mother and having her son grow up in front of her eyes, all these events essentially happen simultaneously. Yes, there's the debate about nature vs. nurture, fighting in her mind, but it's also the battle she's fought his entire life. Kevin is evil. He did a very evil thing. She knows he's evil. Why is he evil? She's searching for answers. Did she try hard enough when she was younger? Did she really want him to begin with? At one point, Eva tells the infant Kevin in a desperate outpouring of rage how she used to be happy until he came around, which her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) accidentally hears. He gives a disappointing shake. He's oblivious to Kevin's evergrowing sociopathic tendencies. I'd say Eva was in denial, but she isn't, but there also isn't any clear thing that it seems she could've done differently. The simplest acts, like Kevin biting off his fingernails, seems like an act of terrorism, directed against his mother. Strangely, the only seemingly happy memory of Kevin she has, is of him being sick. She read to him, and he genuinely wanted and needed her care and devotion, the care and devotion she desperately tried to give. Even the devil spawn of "The Bad Seed," and "The Omen", needs his Mommy when he's sick. Except when we think about it afterwards, even that becomes...-. I can describe the details of the movie, but the emotions of watching the movie feel real. The hopelessness, the inevitability, the disturbing reality that the worse thing to ever happen in your life could've come from your own loins.
I'll tell a bit of the trade secrets, here, I had actually started writing on this blog, about another film, much higher on this list actually, and originally I had, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," 11th, and instead, I pushed the other film down, which was quite a good film, but I pushed it off the list, to add this film, and I'm glad I've changed my mind. I don't know, what some people call a "horror" film, or not, or whatever, but this is a horror film. This is the hardest-to-watch and most frightening and disturbing film on my list, or probably anybody's list. It's one thing to talk about, the truly nightmare scenarios about being a parent, and there've been films about the parents of those kids, but what really separates, and makes this film special, is that, it's about the mind of the parent. The way it's shot, cross-cutting between time periods, cross-cutting images, real, and imagined, the extreme close-ups. especially on the mouth of Ezra Miller, etc. To be able to get inside a mind of a character, very difficult to portray in a visual medium; this is as much a directing achievement, as any film this year, and let's not forgot, a female director too, Lynne Ramsey, getting inside the mind of a mother,-. This film needed a great female in front of, and behind the camera, one of the best films of the year.
#9 Margin Call
There were a couple films about the financial collapse, but JC Chandor's claustrophobic debut feature, "Margin Call" was the best. Taking place, inside one of those Wall Street financial institutions, an All-Star cast leads us through a day and night, that begins with massive cutbacks, and ends with a fire sale, after one laid-off employee, gives a USB drive to a man he trusts, which shows just how in a whole, they actually are, as big guns are brought in, just ot figure out how to account for their errors, and explain to there hundreds of stockholders, the losses they're about to take in, and the mistakes they've made.
From my original review:
There's seems to only be a couple different kinds of people who seem to be in this profession, the highly-intelligent, educated and skilled, and those who are overly-ambitious, cocky and hungry for the wealth that the job provides, or at least it did....This is the kind of movie where it helps that most of the actors are instantly recognizable. For one thing, it helps us to separate them, for the other, the movie is almost all dialog-driven, and requires the best actors to come in, with there characters already firmly developed, so as the tensions between certain characters remain throughout, but put on hold while they have to handle this crisis....Writer/Director JC Chandor earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the screenplay, for this, his feature-length directioral film. It actually reminding me of "The China Syndrome," another movie that's mostly dialogue-driven, about what just might be the end-of-the-world is approaching, right as no one listens to the one guy who knows for sure. That film was also a fiction film based obviously on real events. "Margin Call," is quiet, but incredibly intense; this is one of the best thrillers of the year! It's also one of those films that shows just how it's possible to believe that not only are there smart people working on Wall Street, but show exactly how they could've just screwed up, and how they are able to reason that, while simultaneously destroying the lives of others. Nobody in this movie is a bad guy, none of them wishes harm on anyone, and none of them want to do what they absolute have to do. With the reports about some companies that actually did blew up stock they knew to be worthless to jack up the stock price out there, that makes that, possibly the only unrealistic part of the film. That's the correct choice by Chandor though; a bad guy would've made us want to defeat somebody. This is movie about men who learn a little too late, that they've already been beaten.
Also, this film stuck with me since first seeing it. It's one of those films, that seems like it could've been a great play. This really intense, quiet, but low-key film, but it's also the one movie, that really dives into the source of the financial crises, and does it well, in a way that, you really feel that this scenario, could've easily happened at any Wall Street firm, even though we know most of particulars weren't as caring and thoughtful as the ones in this film, even the ones who are somewhat clueless as to, what's going on, you can see how, even the best of intentions and safeguards, and preventions, and doing everything right, after you realize the problems, and still, people are gonna get hurt. It's a small film, but very powerful.
#8 The Descendants
Director Alexander Payne's first film since "Sideways", earned him his second Oscar for Adapted Screenplay. It's also more proof that George Clooney, can absolutely do anything. It's also probably the best American Family drama from last year, and surprisingly, it's very funny, as Clooney plays a man who's a descendant from both the original Hawaiian royalty, and the originals Europeans who came to Hawaii, has a big decision to make on a piece of land that his family's owned for centuries, all the while, having to deal with his wife being in a coma, that she won't come out, only to find out, she's been having an affair.
From my original review:
You can tell how difficult it's become to take the camera off of George Clooney by watching "The Descendants". More than a few times, director Alexander Payne, keeps it on his face, even when others are talking, he's refusing to cut to them unless absolutely necessary. I don't blame him one bit. Clooney is that unusual kind of actor who is both an incredible actor and is simply mesmerizing to watch on screen, as he acts. His handsomeness makes the obvious comparison actor to be Cary Grant. Grant was incredibly underrated as an actor in his day, partly because of his looks; Clooney has evaded that problem....He (Matt King [Clooney]) learns that his wife has been having an affair. I don't want discuss any other events of the film. They should be discovered by the viewer watching the film. The same way that Matt discovers them. Sometimes by searching for answers, other times by finding them accidentally.... The farther away I've gotten from this film, the more I've found myself dwelling on it. It's about losing a love one, it's about discovering someone you thought you knew, it's about discovering yourself, and yet, ultimately, the film is about family. At the end of the movie, there's one perfect last long take. It's of Matt and his two daughters at home. Not much is said. Nothing needs to be; they've been through a lot already.
Alexander Payne's name really should be put up there, as one of the great directors of our time. His films, don't seem, to be epic in scope or grandeur, they're hard to categorize, you can't get the full effect of them, by simply describing the plots of the films, there's so much more to them. Their subtle, they really dig at human behavior, in ways that most filmmakers can't get to. "The Descendants," is so perceptive and well-made. The way we learn information in this film, one piece at a time, is dead-on. Any little piece of this movie, being off, and it falls apart, and few filmmakers can perfectly live at that edge, and make great movie after great movie, and he's one of them.
#7 Young Adult
It takes some brass balls to make this movie, and thank God for Diablo Cody, and Jason Reitman, who's quickly becoming, like-, he is just a natural director who makes, great movie after great movie. Charlize Theron, might have created, once again, the most memorable character of the year, but when she did it with "Monster," that was, at least, a real person to base it on. This came out of Diablo Cody's head, and the way she structure this movie, and this character around the film, wow! Know the rules, then learn how to break them, she demolishes them, and it's brilliant.
From my original review:
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), sleeps in two positions, either on her face, with her body laid out over whatever she happened to fall on the night before, or on her back, under the arm of some one-night-stand. She awakes to the sound of bad reality TV, before she chugs diet coke from a two-liter like it's a baby bottle, this before a constant assault of alcohol in her body for the rest of the waking day. She's a self-centered, delusional, narcissitic, former prom queen, and the fact that she looks like Charlize Theron, makes her that much more depressing. She is a complete and utter trainwreck of a person. Do not think that by me saying that, that by the end of "Young Adult," she'll be a changed person well on her way to bettering herself. In some ways, you could say she might end up worse by the end. It has to take a special mind like Diablo Cody to not only come up with this character, but to actually find a way to admire her, and it takes a special actress like Charlize Theron to take this part and engulf herself into it.... "Young Adult" seems to take the sensabilities and wit that Cody has used in her dialogue, and instead of creating worlds where it makes sense... but now, she's placed it in a character while the world around her isn't in sync with her.... I've struggled writing this review, in fact I spent a long time debating how many stars to give it. It's not the easiest film to digest, but the more you do, the more you find in it. Oswalt and especially Theron have created two of the most complex characters in years, and the more you go into it, and peel away, the richer and darker they get. That this film is a comedy is more of a necessity for us in the audience. They say a good comic looks at the world and thinks it's funny; a great comic looks at the world and thinks it's not. These characters think it's not, and make us laugh because they insist on asking "What the fuck is wrong with all of you!" There's too much in "Young Adult" to ignore, and it's just gonna stick with you for days on end. It might not be the most pleasant filmviewing experience, but it's an absolutely great film.
You know, it did take awhile to write that review, and to digest this film, but that's because, there's so much in the movie. The subtleties, of behavior, and how characters react and respond to things, especially Charlize Theron's character, but not just her, everyone. The ex-boyfriend she's trying to win back, his wife, the Patton Oswalt character, her parents,... and that's just one part of this film. You know, if one thing for a film to defy your expectations, and suddenly do something you're not expecting, whether it's the story itself, or what you heard about the film before you got into it, etc.. By the end of this movie, I forgot what my expectations were. This movie is original, it just broke down every barrier I had up. It wasn't easy, it is as discomforting as it funny and as it tragic.... "Young Adult," is a truly original film, from an original artist. Nobody, but Diablo Cody could've written this, and that is a sign of an artist.
#6 Leap Year (Ano Bisiesto)
Probably the least well-known film on my list, Mexican Director Michael Rowe's debut feature "Leap Year" or "Ano Bisiesto," is a Mexican film that won the 2010 Camera D'Or Award at Cannes, it got released in America in 2011, and in many ways, it's almost like the flip side of "Young Adult," if the main character had less ambition and practically never left her apartment. It's also the most erotic and sexually graphic film on my list, as the film follows Laura, in a brave performance by Monica Del Carmen, as a journalist, apparently, who lives alone, and has some kind of sexual death wish, as she engages in a sadomasochistic relationship, with what at first seemed like, another one-night stand.
From my original review:
...One of the strangest and most fascinating characters I've seen all year. She apparently works as a journalist in Mexico City, although you never see her working. You hardly see her doing anything, in fact. She sits around her apartment all day, usually in various stages of undress, sometimes she talks on the phone. Her editor seems to have fired her at one point, and she has a younger brother, who occasionally visits. When she occasionally does go out, it's to find a guy at a club, for a one-night stand. Soon, she meets Arturo (Gustavo Sanchez Parra). At first, he just seems like one of her long line of fucks, but soon, they develop a routine. She prepares the house, for him to come over. She's wearing, whatever he asks, if anything at all, and they're relationship gets progressively more violent and sadomasochistic. It enthralls her. The more humilating and dangerous, the better.... In some ways, their isn't much (about Laura) to reveal, 'cause their isn't much to Laura. In other ways, there's so much deep dark emotions and pains inside her, that we find ourselves wondering about her. Her motives. Her secrets. Her seeming insistence on this lonely and closed-off lifestyle that she's chosen, and "chosen" is the correct word.... She a mysterious character, who I still want to know more about.... Few movies are capable of giving us so little, and keep us so utterly fascinated.
You know, American movies, for the most part, tend to be plot-driven. Everything's about, what amazing thing is going to happen next, and actually that alone. We know, and have seen, most every conceivable plot ever created, although there's certainly valid points about deconstructionist perspectives, but what's really intriguing, is simply, finding a great character, and getting enthralled in their lives. Especially one's whose actions we can't predict, or even understand, because that actually, makes them more mysterious to us. The movie's been compared to film's like "Last Tango in Paris," which is a good comparison film; I thought about, the heroine's in Kieslowski's "Three Colors Trilogy," for instance, or the Catherine DeNeuve character in "Belle de Jour", and other rich characters, when I think of Laura. We don't have, detailed explanations of what their doing, or why they're acting this way, and in many ways it's refreshing to have to think about films and characters, in other ways, it makes them seem more realistic. This character could be your next-door neighbor, and you'd have no idea. It's this appeal, that makes "Leap Year," so hypnotically fascinating.
#5 Life in a Day
The only documentary in my Top Ten, was the poetic, Youtube-produced mosaic of life, "Life in a Day". This was a conceptual film, in which people around the world were given camera, and given the only instruction to shoot, whatever was going on, one day, July 24, 2010, and upload all the footage onto Youtube, which was then edited together, to create this ever-encompassing portrayal of life.
From my original review:
I don't use this word often, but I can't think of any other way to describe this..., "Life in a Day", is some kind of miracle. Not technically or anything like that. I can pretty easily describe and explain what they're doing and how they did it, while that part is interesting, what's miraculous is this incredible mosaic of everyday life that the filmmakers created.... It takes place in more countries than I could count, and shows nothing more than the day-to-day activity of people. This sounds boring. It's not. Some of it may be finding poetry in the banality of life, but those moments are just as fascinating as the more dramatic ones. To describe what happens in the film, would be useless, and would frankly just be a description of one event, and then another and then another, until the end. Sometimes themes keep recurring and there's edited together in montages, but nothing unique or magical about that except that, people might eat or drink, or go to the bathroom, just like we do. Somewhere, somebody is shaving their face for the first time. Somebody is going to be engaged today. Somebody might be getting married. Somebody else be dying, maybe brutally and uselessly. And somewhere, somebody comes home late at night, looks out into the rainy night, and ponders that nothing very interesting happened today.... The result is just one of those few existential slices-of-life in it's entirety that simple imagination and creativity just can't come up with on it's own. I hope they make another one of these,... maybe one every five years so that we can continually get a new collection on life, like the 7Up Documentaries that goes back and follows what the same people have been doing every seven years. As a piece of modern-day anthropology, it's entirety is unequaled. As a piece of film, it's one of the most amazing, life-affirming things I've seen, maybe ever.
There really is no other film quite like "Life in a Day," and for that reason, alone it should be considered for most of these lists. You can't really use film, to equate something to this. You could, try making some comparisons, I even compared in my review to a film, that I might mention later in this blog (hint, hint), but equivalents to this are really, these large art projects, like the Aids quilt, of the Earth Day concert, or even, on a smaller scale, the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony for instance, these projects that aren't just one person's vision, it's these global, communal projects, that aren't about the visionary behind them, so much as how everybody's contribution, helps make a greater whole. This is a film transcends it's medium. It's the cinema's version of these kind of grand artistic expressions.
#4 Midnight in Paris
When even my Mom, kinda likes the Woody Allen movie, then it's a good Woody Allen movie. There were quite a few films last year that created magic by going deep into the past, particularly the 1920s, to tell their stories, all of them really good, two made my list, and this first one, "Midnight in Paris", was one of the most fun movies of the year, particular if you're a literature buff, and what can you say about Woody Allen. He earned his 4th career Oscar, third for writing for this film, and I know it's a little debatable, but he's made at least, one great movie, in each of the last, six decades! Unbelievable.
From my original review:
Normally, I prefer to keep spoilers out of reviews, but in this case I can't help it. So, fair warning, for anybody who hasn't already seen Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," go see it as soon as you can, (particularly if you happen to be a fan, aficienado, or any kind of Literature buff, especially American literature, absolutely see this film!), and until you have, stop reading this review right now,.... "Midnight in Paris," is certainly one of most distinctive among his recent work, and a lot of fun, and the whole thing takes place in the city of Paris, which is just fine with Gil (Owen Wilson). Gil is a hack Hollywood screenwriter who's trying to write a novel about a man who works in a nostalgia shop that specializes in the 1920s, in the days of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, and other guilded age legends that paroused Paris back then. He's thrilled and amazed at how beautiful Paris is, although his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), are conservative Americans who are strangely unimpressed with the city.... Then one night, Gil walks alone, half drunk in Paris, and the clock strikes midnight, and an old car pulls up an offers him a ride. It is at this moment, the movie enters the surreal. Or the fantastical as some might same. It is certainly ideal romanticism.... The conceit of traveling to the past is frankly a conceit to examine that classic culture conflict or the pragmatist vs. the romantic, or if you prefer, the realist vs. the dreamer. Gil is certainly a romantic, and this '20s is certainly fantastical and probably very unrealistic and cliched portrayals of the era and that's part of the point and part of the fun. There's something quite amazing to suggest an idea for a film to Luis Bunuel, knowing he'd make the movie some time later.
Well, it's been over a year, so I'm gonna presume, that, at least by this point, most everybody has seen, "Midnight in Paris", and to some point, it is just this wonderfully insucient fun movie, that you just want to watch, and kinda get swept into, but it's one of those films for people who read. The pseudo-intellectual version of fantasy. Yes, it's got a lot of the same Woody Allenisms that we're used to in his films, but it does ponder this question of romanticism vs. realism, not just in literature, but as a lifestyle point-of-view. Yes, to be an artist of any kind, you have to some kind of romanticism, and even a little nostalgic, but he explores, and comes up with some very interesting answers, and it isn't all black-and-white, or one versus another, and that's really what's at the center of "Midnight in Paris". It's enchanting, it's light, it's fun, and it's all that, about serious philosophical issues. Plus, it's just a great film by a great filmmaker, and that's all you need sometimes.
If "Midnight in Paris," took place in the twenties and was about the love of literature; "Hugo," took place in the '20s, but is about our love of movies. Technically, at least by Martin Scorsese's standards, it's his first childrens movie. Wonderful images and beauty, especially in 3-D, it's the best classic Hollywood-style epic of the year, and it's a visionary lovesong to true loves of cinema, everywhere.
From my original review:
Scorsese must’ve smiled when he first read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the children’s book that “Hugo,” his latest and one of his best and certainly the most magical of his films, is based on. Probably the one thing he’s never done is make a film with, for and starring kids, and to top it all off, he’s shooting in 3-D, something a proper film historian and preserver, like Scorsese knows is a fad that’s never fully been mastered. Scorsese’s best films are undeniably his most personal films.... In recent years..., his priority interest has been film preservation.... Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a Paris train station, constantly looking down from the clocktower towards the people of the station below. A stern man who run a toy shop named George Melies (Ben Kingsley) hires him on to work after Hugo had stolen a few of his tools. Film scholars who are reading this, know the name George Melies, and have just smiled (and now understand completely why Scorsese chose 3-D,...) Those who don’t are in for an amazing discovery, especially after George’s goddaughter Isabel (Chloe Grace Moretz) decides to help Hugo finish building the automaton, and hopefully find out George’s long-kept secret.... Scorsese was a sickly-child who spent most of his days either looking out the window of his Little Italy bedroom where he observed the local kids and hoods that inspired much of his early work, like the way Hugo looks down on the world of the station, or by watching movies. He’s made many a film capturing the reality he saw from his window. “Who’s That Knocking at My Door?”, “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,”… now, he’s managed to capture his dream-like imagination that must have made movies a fascination for him as a child.
You know, while I'm ranking "Hugo", incredibly high, and I'm not the only one, by any means, the movie won five Oscars, and was nominated for eleven, including Best Picture, Director, etc. I don't know, how many kids, or even teenagers, are gonna walk into this movie, and even understand who George Melies is, even with the clues that the movie gives us. This is one of those movies where, the more knowledge and appreciation you have for film, and film history, in particular, the more your going to love "Hugo". Saying that though, I've talked to some people, who knew who he is before the movie, and those who didn't, and they both seemed to love the movie, so it probably transcends such eras. You could show this film to your kids, and they're gonna like a lot. They're not gonna appreciate it, until they're much older, and they revisit it again, and again and again. This is one of those movies like "The Wizard of Oz," or "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," or "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," it's gonna be beloved by children of all ages for generations, because it's gonna get better with each viewing. It's almost impossible to compare Scorsese films, as it is to compare Woody Allen's, there are so many great and legendary films, "Hugo," really could be up there though. and to make something, of that caliber, at this time in one's career,...- I mean, what can you say that hasn't already been said.
#2 A Separation
I came really close to putting "A Separation," #1 by the way. The Iranian film is a complex and human tale about a bunch of people, all trying to do the right thing, the best thing, for themselves, their family, and their faith, but they're in a situation that prevents anybody from getting what they want, what they need, and causes far more unintended consequences than anyone could foresee.
From my original review:
"A Separation," this year's Oscar Winner for Foreign Language Film, feels like an old Hollywood film, that could've opened right next to "Casablanca," or "Mildred Pierce," or those other great old Hollywood movies with incredible, realistic adult characters, where there's no good guys, no bad guys, just good people in a bad situation. The separation in the title is Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami). We meet them, arguing in front of a judge, in an early divorce court proceeding. Simin, wants to begin living abroad, but Nader won't leave his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who's suffering from senility and Alzheimer's. Their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) has chosen to live with her father, who's a good student, and wise beyond her years, and very good in school, partly because of her tutor, Miss Ghahrail (Merila Zare'l) who often works with Termeh at home. Nader does what he can with his father, but has to hire some help, Sarieh (Sareh Bayat). She seems to be somewhat competent at a very tough job, which often includes taking her young daughter Somaya (Kimia Hosseini) but one day, Nader's Father gets out of the house, and she has to go after him. She tries to set it up so that her out-of-work husband Hojjat, (Shahab Hoessini) could replace her, without him knowing that she was working there before, (or at all), but he gets taken into jail by creditors, so she shows up for work again. When Nader arrives home afterwards however, her father is tied to the bedpost, fallen to the ground and barely breathing. There's money supposedly missing, and Sarieh and Somaya aren't there. She arrives later, claiming she had to be somewhere, There's a confrontation as she gets fired, and Nader throws her out, or does he? Later, it gets revealed that she had a miscarriage; she blames Nader. Nader says he didn't know she was pregnant, Miss Ghahrail says he didn't, but she knew. It didn't look like he was overly violent, and he did say the money was missing, but worse, his father had just nearly died, and was left alone.... It gets far more complicated and intricate than that, as the situation slowly unravels,.... This is the kind of movie, I want Hollywood to make more of, and they could actually.... "A Separation" is a great, great film, about a sad situation that nobody wants to be in, but they have to be in, and make choices that will effects more lives than just their own, and they're all too aware of their actions. This is a masterpiece!
One of the parts about "A Separation," that I don't think got talked about enough, was the incredible acting the film has. Both leads won Awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and Maodi and Hatami, as well as everybody else, really helped make this movie, seem believable and the story, universal. Admittedly, it's hard to describe the movie, and explain to people why they should see "A Separation." The title, pretty much does explain what the film is about though. Two people, separating from each other, who don't want to, but are driven to because of their own needs. This is a great family drama. I've heard a few other films mentioned as premiere family dramas this year, that some claimed were really special, this is the real one that's special. This is the film about a family falling apart, and the heartbreaks and struggles that kind of event has on everybody. Themselves, each other, their kids, their parents, innocent bystanders, etc. It's a simple film, about a tough subject to make a film about, and Writer/Director Asghar Farhadi, got it exactly right.
And now, my pick for the #1 film of 2011!
#1 The Tree of Life
There were a lot of really great films this year. Some were over-the-top, some were epic in scope, some created visual poetry that isn't comparable to anything else in the art form, some were magical, and some tried to dive headfirst into ideas about life, death, religion, childhood, the day-to-day banalities, the extraordinary events, and everything in between, and make some profound statement about the way we shape our lives, or how they've been shaped for us. And then, there was Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life," the movie, that amazingly seems to do all of this, say it better, more thoughtfully, more beautifully, more magically even. No matter how you sliced, every film that came out last year, basically would have to be compare to "The Tree of Life", and while a few of them tried, this was just in another league.
From my original review:
I got a phone call a couple weeks ago from a friend of mine who just had to tell me about what she called, let me see if I can get this right: "The worst fucking movie she had ever fucking seen." That movie was "The Tree of Life," from the great Terrence Malick. Malick, a notoriously reclusive filmmaker who has a reputation of only working when he feels inspired, and this had led to one of the most intriguing filmographies of anybody. He once went nineteen years between finished films.... Yet "The Tree of Life," might be the biggest clue yet as to who Terrence Malick is. It also is his most ambitious work. Hell, I'm putting that mildly; this might be the ambitious movie ever made.... The movie is told through the mind of a grown-up Jack (Sean Penn). It begins with.... I just realized there's no way I can finish that sentence. The movie seems to be told in flashbacks, but it's actually told in the mind. Jack is in conflict about the nature of life. The greatest of all philosophical conflicts, and he, like all of us, isn't exactly sure what to think about it. He works in a cold New York City skyscraper, where every room seem to have a tree or a plant somewhere in it. Man at conflict with nature has always been Malick's core theme, as well as Man arguing against his core self, but never like this exactly. He apologizes to his Dad on the phone, about something he said about his brother, who died when he was 19 in the Vietnam War. The rest of the movie, is Jack in conflict about the meaning of life. That is a simple definition and explanation for the rest of the movie. Jack's mind is in conflict, as he searches for an understanding of how he is a man who is a mere grain of sand compared to the universe, yet with distinct memories and experiences that lead to us being uniquely oneself. If you think I'm being metaphorical with that last sentence, strangely I'm not. Jack experiences are of a 1950s childhood in an unnamed town (Probably Waco, Texas, where Malick grew up). His father (Brad Pitt) is a strict disciplinarian at home. He's a failed inventor who once dreamed of being a musician before family got in the way. His wife (Jessica Chastain) is more forgiving and nurturing, although she's mischievous at times. Any other description of what happens in the movie, would only contain a list of scenes, but they're all scenes that are apart of Jack's life. Some of clear memories, others might be more subjective. Some seems to exist only as told through others. Almost everybody I'm sure, will have some kind of flashback to memories of their own childhood in the film. The right angles of a child's viewpoint of the world alone perhaps. How does Jack go from this childhood to the place where he is today? How does anybody get anywhere?
After I posted my review, my friend later reminded me that she also said "The Tree of Life," was the most artistic movie she had ever seen. It isn't a film for the casual moviegoer, that's for sure. I got into a few words with another blogger who criticized the movie as being about everything, instead of Malick's picking something to make the movie about. It is about everything, but not in the way he says it, like Malick's throwing stuff on the screen like a bunch of thought bubbles he wrote down and didn't edit. "The Tree of Life," is about "everything," in the philosophical sense. This movie doesn't just ponders the big questions of the universe, it explores them, and even embraces them. It's the most autobiographical film Malick's ever made, and yet, like all autobiographies, they're completely unique and individual, and yet, they're simply a speck of dust on a grain of sand, floating through the giant landscape known as the universe. "The Tree of Life," is about a man, who's come to the point in his life, where he now thinks about these things, and he struggles with the double-sided nature of it all. "The Tree of Life," can and will be analyzed thousands of different ways over the rest of our lifetimes, we're all going to come up with our own meanings and theories regarding it, all of them, complimentary and contradictory to each other's and we're gonna to be discussing it, for years on end. You may like it; you may hate it, but any movie that can instigate so much passion and theoretical debate over it, at minimum, can't be ignored, and at best,-, well, at best, it's the Best Film of the Year.
Well, there you have it. The, as-of-the-date-I'm-posting-this-blog, List of my Top Ten Films of 2011. Again, sorry for being late, really late to post such a list, but now that I have, I can start moving on to seriously look at 2012's greatest movies. Although, before that, there were lots other spectacular and great films, that just didn't make my Top Ten cut, so alphabetically, here's a short list of, lets say Jury Prize Recipients, other movies from 2011, that I highly and enthusiastically recommend, and their directors.
LIVE-ACTION AND ANIMATED FEATURES
The Adjustment Bureau-George Nolfi
The Adventures of Tintin-Steven Spielberg
The Artist-Michel Hazanavicius
Beautiful Boy-Shawn Ku
A Better Life-Chris Weitz
Cedar Rapids-Miguel Arteta
Certified Copy-Abbas Kiarostami
Crazy, Stupid, Love-Glenn Ficara & John Requa
A Dangerous Method-David Cronenberg
Drive-Nicolas Winding Refn
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-David Fincher
The Green-Steve Williford
The Guard-John Michael McDonagh
Higher Ground-Vera Farmiga
House of Pleasures (aka House of Tolerance)-Bertrand Bernello
I Saw the Devil-Jee-Woon Kim
Le Havre-Aki Kaurismaki
Martha Marcy May Marlene-Sean Durkin
Melancholia-Lars von Trier
Monsieur Lazhar-Philippe Falardeau
My Week with Marilyn-Simon Curtis
The Myth of the American Sleepover-David Robert Mitchell
Putty Hill-Matthew Porterfield
The Skin I Live In-Pedro Almodovar
Student Services-Emmanuelle Bercot
Take Shelter-Jeff Nichols
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Tomas Alfredson
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives-Apichatong Weerasethakul
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest-Michael Rapaport
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey-Constance Marks
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop-Rodman Flender
Into the Abyss-Werner Herzog
Pearl Jam: Twenty-Cameron Crowe
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold-Morgan Spurlock
Project Nim-James Marsh
Public Speaking-Martin Scorsese
The Interrupters-Steve James
Well, I saw a lot of good movies, as you can see, and like I said, this is a short list. However, since I have seen so many film, Easily over 200 films, as of today,- I didn't do this last year, but since, I've seen so many films this year before getting to this, I thought, maybe real quickly, I'd get some pent-up frustration out of my system, and talk about the Ten worst, giant, godawful pieces of turds of a movies, I saw this year as well. Now, I try, I really do, go out of my way as much as I can to avoid, many of these really, really bad films, because life is short quite frankly, and I don't have an editor that makes me go see whatever crap Adam Sandler put out this year. But even still, there has been some really crappy films I've unfortunately sat through, so to the Top, or I should say, Bottom Ten, real quick.
#10 The Mill and the Cross
A boring art-school thesis, disguised as a boring film about a painting, 'cause spending two hours looking at a painting, is kinda like a movie. Not really though.
#9 X: Night of Vengeance
Two prostitutes, the old-retiring pro, and the underage rookie, team up, and get the hell beaten out of them and that's the beginning of the dreadful night for those two in this piece of garbage action thriller.
#8 Saving Private Perez
If this film was serious, it was way too over-the-top, if it supposed to be a comedy, it wasn't funny. I think it might have been offensive to six different ethnics groups, and too much mind-numbing violent at times, but basically, it just annoyed the hell out of me.
Seth Rogan, did not need to be an alien. Seriously, if he wasn't an alien, this movie wouldn't have changed one bit. It still would've sucked, but....
#6 Vidal Sassoon: The Movie
A propaganda documentary, made to sell a book on Vidal Sassoon, as well as a bunch other Vidal Sassoon stuff. I'm okay with Vidal Sassoon, but not ok, with this dreadfully unnecessary film.
#5 The Hangover Part II
I wasn't the biggest fan of the original, but they could've done hundreds of cool things with this sequel, and instead, I think they through a dart at a map, and began literally cutting and pasting the old script. Worse and worse the more you thought about it.
The great Gus Van Sant directed this unwatchable love story between a dying cancer patient and a kid who's obsessed with death and funerals. Yeah, "Harold and Maude," meets "Love Story," that's what I wanted to see. Gus, what were you thinking?!
Tarsem Singh, what were you thinking?! So many bad plot loopholes, a ridiculous script, and loads of excessive Greek mythology violence, oh, and btw, everybody is a God or something, so despite all this blood and violence, hardly anyone ever fucking dies! So, more gruesome blood and violence. Ugh!
2. Cowboys & Aliens
Jon Favreau, another good director, but what the hell were you thinking?! This movie was a boring video game, and it wasn't good enough to be entertaining, even by that standard.
And yet, despite all this crap, amazingly, so far for 2011, I only gave one film, a ZERO STAR rating, but man, did they earn it, and I still can't get over it.
How in the hell, they managed to completely f--- up "Winnie-the-Pooh," is beyond me. It still hurts my head to think about it. "Winnie-the-Pooh," very unfortunately, is my choice, for the absolute worse piece-of-crap film of 2011!