Archive for Top Films of 2011

Top 10 Films of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 31, 2011 by Will Link
Considering the last time I posted a blog was last year for my top films list, it shows how my grand idea of blogging didn’t really take. Between working on multiple scripts, working multiple jobs and trying to maintain some sort of social/sex life…blogging fell by the waste side. Maybe I’ll return to it. But for now here is my list of the best films from 2011!
Another year has passed and another list of my favorite films needs to be made. This year at times was a bit of a slog. Even the Pixar film was meh, and for the first time in three years Pixar didn’t crack the list. But as always great films rise to the top. My favorites of this year I will hold up against any year. As was my trend last year, smaller films dominated.This year was all about two things, nostalgia and balls. There were films that captured the past with both substance and style. There were ballsy films that forced us into out there and sometimes ugly situations. 2012 is already looking like a year of potentially great studio films with The Hobbit, Dark Knight and Prometheus all getting me excited. We will see if my recent trend is reversed. But as for now:

Top Ten Films Of 2011
1. Drive

No film excited me from start to finish like Drive. I’ve seen it three times and I can’t wait to see it a fourth. It’s Taxi Driver with the Driver attempting to save a woman he loves and become a real human being…and a real hero. It’s about a man who learns to truly feel for the first time. But this quest unleashes a violence that we’re shown in a slow burn. Although themes of humanity abound, the style is part of the substance. It screams thriller of the 1980’s, the kind of smart action we don’t see in today’s studio films. It’s visually mysterious and tense. The opening sequence was the most edge of your seat scene of the year. Drive is the best film of 2011.

2. The Artist

In a year of films built around nostalgia The Artist was the most magical. From frame one I had a huge smile on my face and it didn’t leave until the credits rolled. It’s beyond charming…it’s true movie magic. The world of the silent era is perfectly created with homage’s to the films of it’s time. Much like with Drive the style is part of he substance. At its heart the film isn’t just about George Valentin’s fall in the industry, it’s about the industry itself. It’s about the romanticization of old Hollywood.

3. Midnight in Paris

If this was a year about nostalgia of a bygone era than Midnight in Paris was the film to deal with that idea directly. So many films are nostalgic but in this the idea of dreaming and idealizing the past is actually discussed. And in the most magical of ways. The moments involving Hemingway and Dali are some of the funniest Woody Allen has ever written. Much like in Manhattan (in which the opening clearly borrows from) Allen has crafted a love letter to one of the worlds great cities. This is the most inventive and intelligent script of the year. Hopefully we will be seeing (or not seeing) Allen finally accept another Oscar.

4. Young Adult

This is a bitter little film that has the audacity to have us follow an unlikable materialistic, narcissistic and alcoholic writer as she tries to break up the marriage of an old flame. It doesn’t pull punches. Charlize Theron gives a funny and real performance as Mavis Gary and Patton Oswalt is truly touching. This is Jason Reitman’s fourth film and he has become a master of subtle cynicism. I’ve loved all his work and with the exception of Juno, they are all tough pills to swallow. Diablo Cody proves that Juno was in fact no fluke. In the end there is a speech which is both upsetting but also horribly true about the nature of Mavis and ourselves. This is a ballsy film.

5. The Future

Miranda July seems to make films that capture where I am in that moment of my life better than anyone. The Future expresses the idea of being creatively and emotionally stalled in life. It’s bittersweet. It conveys the sad thought of what if we are waiting for something that will never happen. What if we are delaying the inevitable about life? It’s a small film with grand notions. July is wise to feed them to us in sweet inventive ways that on paper sound out there (the stopping of time, the narration of a cat) but end up showing us how cruel and beautiful life can be.

6. We Need To Talk About Kevin

No film this year got under my skin more than We Need To Talk About Kevin*. It’s beyond The Bad Seed. It’s about the fear that every mother must have at some point. What if I hate my child? What if my child hates me? We see the violence coming. We watch as Kevin becomes more and more of a sociopath and much like his mother, are powerless to stop him. A true horror film. Tilda Swinton gives the best performance of the year. There is a scene at a Christmas party in which she allows herself a brief and overdue moment of joy. When it is taken away from her, her face, her whole demeanor becomes as heartbreaking as any emotional change I’ve seen on film.

7. Shame

The other great performance this year was Michael Fassbender in Shame. Steve McQueen is wise to hold the camera for long takes just on Fassbender’s face. It forces us into his head. Makes us him in a sad, disturbing way. This is as good a film about addiction and compulsion as Requiem For A Dream. But Shame is a more human film. Like many of this years best it offers no easy answers. It also has my favorite shot of the year. A desperate/frustrated Fassbender jogging at night in a long sustained tracking shot through the streets of the loneliest Manhattan I’ve ever seen.

8. 50/50

This film surprised and moved me far more than I ever expected. It is sweet without being sappy and funny without being overbearing. Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt give their finest and most genuine performances in a film that explores what friendship truly is. What being there for someone in their darkest moments truly is about. There is more heart in 50/50 than any film I saw this year.
9. Super

There are moments in Super that made me laugh harder than any film this year. Most of them coming from the brilliant Ellen Page who gives one of the most hysterically psychotic performances I have ever seen. But this film has a Travis Bickle hero as well in Rainn Wilson. He gives a deceptively deep performance I wasn’t expecting, making Super about more than just laughs.   

10. The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In is a film that has everything. It’s Frankenstein and Vertigo. It’s a typical beautiful Almodovar melodrama that turns into the strangest mystery I may have seen on film. Not to repeat previous statements but this film gets under your skin and is ballsy as hell. Few times does my mouth actually drop while watching a film. This was one of them.

Special Jury Prize:

X-Men: First Class

I wanted to highlight one last film that didn’t make the cut but was close. X-Men is a big budget action film but it’s also the best super hero story since The Dark Knight. After years of average to awful X-Men films we finally got a story that was about the heart of the franchise. About the civil rights of mutants. About the different approaches of Xavier and Magneto. And most of all about a team…not just Wolverine. At times the story takes a world traveling Bondian approach that is lots of fun. Setting the story in the 60’s, the time of the real civil rights movement, is smart and inspiring. The best tent pole of the year.

*If I were to be honest Dogtooth was the film I saw this year that got under my skin the most. I dreamt about it. I kept rationalizing it over and over in my head. I went from annoyed by it to thinking it’s the smartest film in years. Unfortunately it came out last year. If I had seen it then it could have been my number one, or at least in the conversation. Nevertheless it deserves a shout out.