Saturday, June 30, 2012


 You've asked for it (or maybe you didn't)

Previously I've made a list of my favorite films of 2011 back in February prior to the Oscars and I felt it was a list of Best Films I've seen so far. You can click right here to see for yourself, but now after catching up with the many reviewers who've made their lists on December or January, I think I'm ready. Why did it take me this long to gather up this list? Good question:

A) I'm a busy guy who's supposed to be ready for the final year of high school (or am I?)
B) Because some of these movies released in 2011 take months for it to be released in Australia and some end up getting a 2012 date. Most of them are out in art-house theaters that are 60 miles from my nearest cinema and I cannot be bothered to take a trip (I don't drive actually).
C) It takes a while to see every movie that is so critically acclaimed so I either rented the movie, watched it online or at a theater.

Please keep in mind that I haven't watched every film released in 2011 and some of them include Margin Call, Contagion, 13 Assassins, The Skin I Live In, The Guard, Carnage, movies I've heard from some people as some of the best of the year. And also note that the films listed are not actually my personal favorites nor are they the best. The films I listed have certain qualities that are remarkable and compelling to the point where I want to watch and think about them again and again. Some of these movies are flawed so you may ask "Why is it in there when you didn't liked it the first time you saw it?". Most of these movies are some that you may have never heard of, but then again it doesn't really matter whether or not it's mainstream. 

Also don't complain what's is and not on the list and yell at me "Adrian, why isn't The Descendants in this list. Or Martha Marcy May Marlene, Harry Potter and the... yada, yada. It's either because it may not be as great as the consensus say it is or it didn't made the cut. And now that's out of the way, let's see what are the best films of the year that are better than The Artist. 

So this is the movie that just made the cut, a month after seeing The Artist. Most teen comedies these days are raunchy to where they try too hard to push the limit featuring the most horniest boys who cannot wait to get laid for the first time in their lives (see Superbad, The Inbetweeners Movie and American Pie). It's pretty much the same plot all over and over. But Submarine is much gentler and more quirkier than them. From The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade, it's basically a Wes Anderson imitation I would have to admit. But if you look away from that, then it comes neatly with an almost nostalgic look at our youth (or perhaps 70s youth) that is remarkably subtle. Craig Roberts as the pretend genius Oliver Tate is someone who is perhaps the most charming pseudo-intellectual we would want to root all the way.

Greatest Moment: The kiss between Tate and Jasmin is given to the public.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. David Fincher's retake is superior than the Swedish original. From his visual flair that makes the family in Cluedo look like The Brady Bunch in comparison to the star making performance from Rooney Mara as the damaged Lisbeth Salander. But what makes it superior is not only is this perfect material for a Fincher film where the message is everyone has a dark side, but it's the best adaptation Stieg Larson could ever want improving most of the problems I had with the original. It is also very addictive and I am looking forward to seeing it again on Blu Ray.

Greatest Moment: The best rape revenge scene since I Spit on Your Grave

I can understand that this film is not for everyone, and I can see how flawed this film was. But what wasn't out of my mind was how incredibly cathartic it is and I've never experience such that is huge in a film like this. It's a journey through childhood and as a vast whole, the life cycle of the universe. That's how I looked at it. Terrence Malick's film may never be profound to the casual viewer or anyone who tries so hard to understand every bit of detail, but he shares his sense of grandeur that is visually eye popping ranging from the gorgeous cinematography from Emmanuel Lebinski to operatic openings of the cosmos. Brad Pitt gives possibly one of the best performances of his career while this film gives Jessica Chastain a chance to breakout I can't recommend it to anybody who isn't patient enough to know what it's about, but the repeat viewings makes it better to experience the same amount of emotional cleansing you'll get from this film

Greatest Moment: Jessica Chastain floats like an angel... no seriously.

With this and Drive, arthouse action had emerged as a subgenre of the eponymous genre. A combination of Run Lola Run, The Professional and Bourne Identity and... The Wizard of Oz, Hanna is a thrilling yet cold thriller featuring an unlikely kick ass girl in Saoirse Ronan, that is inexplicably small scaled. Carried by a heart pumping score from The Chemical Brothers, exciting combat and a pace that's the speed of writing fast until your five minutes are up this is what Sucker Punch should have been (for me at least)

Greatest Moment: Tracking shot of Eric Bana take out baddies in a subway

As far as performances go, Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman deliver a rawness within their characters I've never seen before since Raging Bull. I mean, imagine that movie going through reverse psychology. This directorial debut from Paddy Considine balances redemption and self-destruction that makes it heartbreaking and heartwarming from the beginning to the end. When the movie introduces Mullan as an angry alcoholic who destroys something that was with him all the time and also introduces Colman with a lying husband, there's something special when these two meet together.

Greatest Moment: Between the first and final minutes of the film, I can't decide

Even though this film was critically acclaimed, has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has some champions in the reviewing community, the film is actively bashed by the public. Here's the deal guys: any film that reminds you of the creamy and vivid memories of Cinema Paradiso is doing good for you. Since the 3D is excellent along with the art direction and cinematography, this may be a one-time enjoyment but Scorsese enjoys going back and preserving films as a treasure. If Cinema Paradiso is about moving forward after film, then Hugo is about looking back. Though people may have the problem with the acting of Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz, but to me, they expressed an amount of maturity to children never seen in a movie about them before.

Greatest Moment: Sudden train crash

A feature that would certainly fit the bipolar double bill with The Tree of Life, Lars von Trier's film about a wedding leading up to the end of the world is not for everyone, but I really digged it. In terms of content, it's his most accessable movie to date despite von Trier filming it in his trademark camerawork and at the end every female character is degraded without fault.The realities and fantasies of depression is placed adjacently together with two parts featuring a wedding and an apocalypse. Though it is however a journey into the mind of Von Trier whose depression certainly and his old fashioned 'stone on the shoe' approach better executed here. Justine, the melancholic bride-to-be is excellent played by Kirsten Dunst and there are great. And it's a warning for anyone who tends to ruin weddings who plan on going.

Greatest Moment: The first and final scenes are just as glum as glue

Having somewhat of an interest for MMA, Warrior is possibly the best movie ever made around it. Sharing elements from The Wrestler and The Fighter, carrying and balancing its weight of family and redemption with the sport, we may have well seen it a million of times. This is a film that not only showcases great performances from Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte and deciphers who there are, but also pay a huge amount of respect to the sport thanks to many brutal fighting scenes which will make you want to jump out of your seat and cheer for them. So I didn't really mind if it was tad predictable with its story or that it is two and a half hours long. This is by far the best crowd pleaser of the year.

Greatest Moment: Brother v. Brother

If there was any gripe I have for this film, it's that it isn't a movie that plays off earlier movies from Steven Spielberg like The Goonies as everybody describes it (note: he didn't direct it, but you get my point). But that accounts to about 98% on what I feel about Attack the Block because this is an enjoyable gem from Joe Cornish that is fully sick. Continuing on with what I said, the film felt like Alien meets Boyz in the Hood colliding the two vibes with science fiction horror and street smart attitudes. A gang of rowdy youths hanging out in the Council Estate would be the most unlikeliest heroes to fend off an alien invasion. And that what works. As well as the political message and progressive character that manages to make you care about these people even if (Spoiler!!) they mugged a lady before they were invaded. Casting unknown kids who have never acted in their life but know the language of British youth is a stroke of genius with John Boyeya as the ringleader who becomes more caring for the rest of the film. And I forgot to mention the soundtrack from Basement Jaxx which is truly listenable even when you're not watching the movie. Given its low budget this play as a influence for amateur filmmaking.

Greatest Moment: Believe!

For a documentary that takes a very niche interest in Formula One racing, Senna is one that is fascinating on so many levels. Not only do we get to know the gifts of possibly the greatest racer in the sport's history, but we also delve deep into the politics of F1 that had gave his colorful career an impact to the sport and his home country Brazil which treats him as a national icon. With some top notch editing involving almost 99% archival footage, this doco will excite you, bring you in tears and most importantly pays a huge respect to auto racing in general.

Greatest Moment: His fall from grace will leave you in tears

Provocative and stylish, Shame is a movie where sexuality is the raw mask of our loneliness and despair leading to a path of self-destruction. In my review this is what I wrote about it:
Looking back from all the films I've seen from 2011, this is pretty much the most original since we've never had a subject matter like this explored in film with so much explicit subtlety and really its focal point is Michael Fassbender whose performance carries the film with so much density. For most of us, this film would've been much better had it looked in further detail of sex addiction in which the film is primarily about. But for me, that is quite about enough.  It's also about self-destruction, failure, the abuse of our bodies and the traps that lead to our isolation. I might have the balls to see it again and for me, Shame sets a high standard to films which would display sex in a dark and psychological manner... and it rarely is sexy.
Michael Fassbender is absolutely magnetic to watch in this film. I have a pretty hard time taking sex scenes seriously in the film, but the film's scenes have a purpose - to depict the downward spiral of a loner who is suffering from an addiction.

Greatest Moment: McQueen takes a long take of Fassbender taking a jog in New York city whilst Bach plays along
Nicolas Winding Refn's foray into the mainstream contains seductive and addictive roots, from Ryan Gosling who plays an unforgettable character that would make Clint Eastwood blush, to the neo-noir B movie both of which collides with each other. This is what makes Drive phenomenal, to the person who cannot think too much of the latest Fast and Furious movie. With a magnetic 80s soundtrack, some stunning cinematography and a chilling performance from Albert Brooks, this is something that either John Hughes and David Lynch would collaborate and direct. If you want a film inspired by other great films, this is it. Drive has a dozen scenes I would remember in my entire life. Bar none. Along with Fassbender's Shame, Gosling owns this film that ultimately raises the bar in current mainstream acting standards.

Greatest Moment: The first fifteen minutes featuring The Chromatics' Tick of the Clock is easily crafted as an action scene

Initially I planned on the film as the number four film in the list, but when I've watched it twice in a day (with myself, then with the family) it is more enjoyable with repeated viewings. Woody Allen is back in form and sends out a magnificent love letter to the city of Paris and its beauty, similar to his previously outstanding entry Manhattan. It's about going back to what you love and where you belong. There you will see Allen-esque trademarks that are brought along in such a witty and humanly manner. Normally I never enjoyed nostalgia in films unless it's treated subtly, but Allen follows that tangent directing a film about being in a best mood you've actually felt, but it means to be heavily distant to society. Sure it's an illusion, but if you had it with all the shallow people in the world, then do it.

Greatest Moment: "I see rhinoceros!"

When Tilda Swinton is in a film, she will stand out as the main highlight regardless of what you feel about that movie. When she isn't nominated for an Oscar for that film, you feel that something is left out. Swinton delivers such a sublime performance that would leave you harrowing while Ezra Miller plays a son taking her hostage. There are moments of foreshadowing that becomes haunting particularly the first five minutes featuring Swinton . Lynne Ramsay brings the finest adaptation of Lionel Schiver's best selling novel taking only one perspective of a fractured mother into light of a life-destroying event her son caused to such a devastating effect.

Greatest Moment: Tilda Swinton is soaked in the La Tomatina foreshadowing the entire film
I don't know what words to say about this other than it putting Iran on the map of world cinema. While The Artist is the movie that represents the year for film in 2011, A Separation is the real best picture. Like almost all of the list here, I saw this film from what I've heard from reviewers (the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, AV Club) as one or if not the best film of the year along with The Tree of Life. I first heard of it from Roger Ebert who placed it as the best film of 2011 and this is where I got really interested. As it received many accolades including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, my interest grew more.

This is a densely layered, fine and briskly paced movie from Asghar Farhardi that places every bit of humanity at its most gripping. Featuring excellent performances that evokes heavy realism this is a film that masquerades as a commentary of a modern Iran simultaneously digging deeper into family life, the legal system within and our morality making most of the characters tolerable even if they have personal flaws. People will see this as a courtroom drama outside of a courtroom featuring a two bickering families, but it extends to us, the audience, and what we would do in these scenarios. It's about the story and about the people played in complex situations. I wouldn't find it flawless as I have a few nitpicks here and there, but I found it including moving and more admirable than any other film of the year.

Greatest Moment: The first five minutes speaks to you; the audience.

So there you have it. Those are my top films of 2011. And in case you haven't seen any of these films, go to Netflix and look for these films. I am not saying these films will change the world. These are my personal favorites and the movies I would want to watch more than once.

Recapping off, here's the list

1. A Separation
2. We Need to Talk About Kevin
3. Midnight in Paris
4. Drive
5. Shame
6. Senna
7. Attack the Block
8. Warrior
9. Melancholia
10. Hugo
11. Tyrannosaur
12. Hanna
13. The Tree of Life
14. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
15. Submarine

Honourable Mentions/Movies that almost made the cut:

The Artist - Though its Best Picture win somewhat wore off its artistic merit, Michel Havanicius' throw back to the golden era of Hollywood is almost breathless.

Take Shelter - It it wasn't for the film's coda, then the film would have made the list. But Jeff Nichol's use of visual imagery, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain's tour de force performances on screen just destroys it all.

Thanks for reading!  

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