Friday, February 24, 2012

Top Ten Movies of 2011: Revised

by richmin3000

back in january, i expressed that my top ten movies of 2011 list should be considered a work in progress. well, all this week leading up to the oscars, i will be updating my list along with my comments on the oscar nominees and my predictions of the winners. see my original top ten list, here.

10. 13 assassins*
though listed as a 2010 film, it wasn't released in the u.s. until 2011 so it qualifies. you can read my review here.

9. poetry*
the film is driven by one of the best performances of the year by yoon jeong-hee, a famous korean actress, retired and living in paris since the mid-90s, until her comeback with this film. a reserved performance of a woman trying to view the world through a different lense as she struggles with alzheimer's and the discovery of a horrific crime committed by her grandson.

8. contagion
there are few film-makers that demand the level of respect that steven soderbergh does through his films. capable of making studio money-makers (ocean series), critically acclaimed films (traffic) and indie artsy projects (the girlfriend experience), soderbergh doesn't always satisfy everyone's expectations but you can't say he isn't willing to take risks. contagion succeeded in captivating me and scaring the shit out of me even if the narrative wasn't totally satisfying.

7. hugo
see my previous review of the film, here.

6. midnight in paris
i'm not a fan of woody allen. in the last couple of years i've watched annie hall and vicky christina barcelona and didn't enjoy either. i know, that's unheard of. my friend told me it's because i'm not a jewish male. i'm not sure if that's true, but if it is, then perhaps the reason i so enjoyed this film is because of owen wilson who played the woody allen role but with an all-american twist. i also fell immediately in love with the time travel element and all the great characters we meet along the way.

5. a separation is one of the best screenplays i've seen in some time and certainly the best of the year. a separation gives us a glimpse into iranian culture while also presenting the audience with a story that is universal, how the choices that parents make can have devastating effects on their children.

4. drive
nicolas winding refn says he likes making visually stimulating movies. well, if that was his goal, i'd like to tell him....SUCCESS! ryan gosling (crazy, stupid, love; the ides of march) and albert brooks put on great performances... gosling as the essential strong and silent hero typically found in many westerns and brooks as the gangster villain. the camerawork was superb and the soundtrack really captured the spirit of the film. our collective vision of los angeles as a place of dreams served as a great backdrop for the film.

3. the descendants
read my review here.

2. take shelter
the only film from 2011 that i wanted to watch again immediately after it concluded. this was one tour de force of a film. great performances by michael shannon and jessica chastain. great suspense in the vein of hitchcock. i'm not sure if i've ever seen another film quite like this one. shannon plays a good husband/father who starts to see delusions of an impending storm of biblical proportions and decides to build a shelter to protect his family. it's a great ride so i won't spoil anything else. don't bother watching any trailers. just watch the movie and enjoy.

1. tree of life
terrence malick has directed only 5 films since 'badlands' in 1973. i've seen 4 of them and they've all been gorgeous examples of personal filmmaking though none have been as personal as tree of life. a semi-autobiographical film about a family growing up in texas in the 1950s set against the backdrop of the origins of the universe and life in general, i'm pretty sure i've never seen a film this ambitious. malick does a good job avoiding being pretentious with this film through his subtle and genuine appreciation of his subject matter. a cynical person will find many ways to mock this film, but if you recall, i've made a new year's resolution to be less cynical. in a very weak year in film, this is perhaps the only film on this list i will remember 20 years from now.

*notes that the film is currently streaming on netflix


  1. i agree with most of your picks (especially 13 assasins and tree of life) but contagion was one of the hugest turds of the year for me. I was utterly shocked when I saw its rotten tomato ranking. flat, horrible acting and dry dialog, stale script. Bad directing. They could have edited the first 99.95% out and just showed the last 2 minutes and it would have been better.

  2. i really thought it was realistic. it didn't try to be emotionally self-serving as a lot of movies like that are (say if steven spielberg had made the film) and it was really really scary. my strong visceral reaction to the film definitely helped me appreciate it that much more.

    for sure, there are a lot of issues with the narrative and stale script as you allude to, but i thought it was overall a powerful film. i would add that there is a big jump between the top 4 (which would all garner at least an A- rating) and the rest (none of which would get higher than a B+).