Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Jan 24, 2012
11:22 AMTalk about Arts
Spree's Top 10 Films of 2011
We compiled our personal top 25 films of 2011 (full lists located at the bottom) and gave each ranking a value (#1 = 25 pts, #2 = 24 pts, and so on). An aggregate was calculated and the final scores set. The following is the Top 10 Films of our combined tastes—mirroring the Academy for some and giving exposure to others at the same time. —JM
Martha Marcy May Marlene - d. Sean Durkin (26 pts)
CS: Sometimes you just have an inkling you're going to be enraptured by a movie, and from the first reviews out of Sundance, I felt MMMM could hook me. In some ways, I think it's a flawless film—strange, haunting, emotional, and downright scary. When it ends, you don't know much more than you did when it began, and it feels right. Perfect ending, too.
JM: A thriller of the best kind, the disjointed flashing from past to present really paints a portrait of this girl's terror and the grip of evil that will never just go away. Elizabeth Olsen is stunning and John Hawkes continues to prove he's a versatile actor with a menacing edge.
Midnight in Paris - d. Woody Allen (27 pts)
CS: I tend to go very easy on Woody—You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was one of my favorites of 2010, and I didn't see much positive talk about it. Paris, on the other hand, initially struck me as very minor Woody, and a tad overrated. But on re-watch, it struck me as one of his most purely enjoyable films of all time. Corey Stoll was robbed of an Oscar nom as Hemmingway.
JM: Opposingly, I am admittedly a Woody novice with aspirations to become a devotee. I disliked Stranger—a lot actually—and haven't loved too many of his I've seen, but I knew this was Top Ten as soon as the credits ended its beautifully charming love letter to Paris and the artistic lifeblood flowing within.
Take Shelter - d. Jeff Nichols (29 pts)
CS: A staggering experience for me. I found myself riveted from beginning to end, especially during the simple family scenes. Like MMMM, an ending to be pondered. But I'm disappointed Shannon and Jessica Chastain were not nominated—Jessica is in for the wrong movie.
JM: A slow burn of a psychological thriller, the questions its end posits ask you to reinterpret everything you've seen before it. Shannon is fantastic in a role that deserves recognition, but I don't want to gloss over director Jeff Nichols either as his handle on the material is meticulous in showing us exactly what he wants.
Oslo, 31. august [Oslo, August 31st] - d. Joachim Trier (29 pts)
CS: I'll be anxious to see the critical response on this side of the pond; it was a TIFF highlight, and one of the most believable onscreen depictions of post-addiction depression I've ever seen.
JM: A stirring follow-up to his debut Reprise, this film is a perfect storm of acting, writing, and direction with a nuanced portrayal of depression. From its opening montage of disjointed voices reminiscing about home to its powerful finale, this is a melancholic goodbye shows the price of happiness through one man no longer willing to pay it.
Beginners - d. Mike Mills (29 pts)
CS: The most underrated film of the year? It's possible. Christopher Plummer is the highlight, but I didn't find the Ewan romance story trite at all. This is a warm, human film, and a great one.
JM: A charming depiction of life both whimsical and sad as relationships blossom and the past haunts. It's a rebirth of soul with a guiding spirit to lead the way and no matter how cutesy moments can be between McGregor and Laurent, every second resonates to bring a smile to your face.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - d. Tomas Alfredson (36 pts)
CS: I expected big things from Alfredson after Let the Right One In, and he delivered. Gary Oldman gives his most subtle peformance ever as George Smiley, and I've rarely been as pleased with a final shot. The best spy film in years.
JM: Complex, heady, methodical, and dripping with 70s aesthetic, this is the kind of film that makes me wish I lived in Britain so I could talk with friends until the early morning about cinematic interpretation and the details hidden in the cracks. Brilliantly taut, it begs for attention if only you're willing to be engulfed by its mystery.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin [A Separation] - d. Asghar Farhadi (37 pts)
CS: I called this quite possibly the most morally complex film ever made, but what I love most is the utter feeling of surprise I felt when watching it. I had no sense of where it was going, and where it took me was utterly profound.
JM: Admittedly leaving me a tad cold by the end, it was only after hours of contemplation that I understood the morality at play underneath its rather simple story. With the rules of Islam so intertwined by terrorism in our world like it is today, seeing them play out inside the home with regular people trying to survive an unjust world puts a strikingly human face to what so many would rather ignore.
Melancholia - d. Lars von Trier (46 pts)
CS: A friend said the critics who praised this "must have never seen a Bergman film." Uh, no. They've realized this is a unique hybrid of genres, and a modern classic. If you end up viewing this at home, let me quote Bob Dylan (minus the expletive): Play it loud.
JM: A tour de force of cinematic splendor that spans static images, grandiose pomp, and the sullen realization we've all failed to save existence, Melancholia will shatter your soul and make you wonder when we let circumstance stop dreams. The facade of happiness is destroyed by reality proving our ability to be safe is impossible and words mean less than nothing.
Shame - d. Steve McQueen (48 pts)
CS: New York Magazine voted this the sixth worst film of 2011, and it’s been interesting to see some of my favorite critics misjudge it so severely. Shame is about one man’s addiction, not all addictions. Why can’t it be judged on that basis? Perhaps folks have a hard time taking a movie with so much frontal nudity seriously? Whatever—for me, there wasn't a more involving film in 2011.
JM: I'll see any film Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen decide to collaborate on because they both go for broke and never look back at what anyone may say. Fearless is a word thrown about often, but there is no film more deserving of its use. There is no more human depiction of a man than when he's defeated and unable to exist as anything but a lie not even he can believe.
The Tree of Life - d. Terrence Malick (49 pts)
CS: Here is that rarity: a film that fulfilled all expectation. I'm done defending it. Either it grabs you, or it doesn't. If it does, it's the most amibitious film in many years. Bravo to Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and especially Terrence Malick.
JM: A religious experience of the best kind, Malick has been working towards this form of visual poetry for decades now. Stripping existence bare to its most elemental state, the story told is bigger than any character it could ever contain. Immortality is put on display as death breeds life and the tree grows taller.
|Jared's Top 25||Chris's Top 25|
25. Jane Eyre