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One More Time

A striking image from Lupu Pick’s cautionary New Year’s Eve tale of 1924, “Sylvester: Tragödie einer Nacht,” reminds us that the hour is upon us to compile our ten best lists for 2011. My ten best is more like a two best — I don’t think I saw anything better than Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and (to my own astonishment) Jason Reitman’s caustic and courageously unlikable “Young Adult.” But I missed a lot in the last twelve months and I’m open to suggestions, which I hope you folks will submit in great profusion.

308 comments to One More Time

  • Happy new year Mr Kehr!
    Relatively, I see 2010 as a good year for cinema. Surprises were not few and new explorations of the medium had a tight connection with what’s happening around us in a very troubled year, socially, economically, and politically. I’d love to mention: Mysteries of Lisbon, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Essential Killing, Film socialisme, Nostalgia for the Light, Las acacias, Two Years at Sea, A Separation, The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

  • Thanks for the heads up on YA, something that definitely wasn’t on my radar. My ten favorite new movies to first play Chicago in 2011 (though some debuted elsewhere last year and the year before):

    10. Midnight in Paris (Allen)
    9. Poetry (Lee)
    8. Change Nothing (Costa)
    7. J. Edgar (Eastwood)
    6. The Turin Horse (Tarr)
    5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Ceylan)
    4. A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg)
    3. Mysteries of Lisbon (Ruiz)
    2. Film Socialisme (Godard)
    1. The Strange Case of Angelica (de Oliveira)

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Much to catch up with, but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Poetry (2011 US release) and Hugo along with Melancholia are my top four so far.

  • Brad Stevens

    It seemed to me a rather disappointing year, probably because I have so far failed to catch up with several important films (only seen one of the titles on Michael’s list). Here’s my top ten:

    1- Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard)
    2- 36 vues du Pic Saint Loup (Jacques Rivette)
    3- Hereafter (Clint Eastwood)
    4- You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Woody Allen)
    5- A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
    6- The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
    7- The Hunter (Rafi Pitts)
    8- Cattivi Guagliuni (99 Posse video by Abel Ferrara)
    9- The Conspirator (Robert Redford)
    10- Burke and Hare (John Landis)

  • Paul Mollica

    Jia Zhangke’s I WISH I KNEW played a single date in NYC this year – that, and Thom Andersen’s GET OUT OF THE CAR, were my two favorite new films (though both, technically, bear 2010 production dates). Agree with Michael G. Smith’s 1-3, 5-6, 8-9, supra, yet have not seen his other titles. Agree also that YOUNG ADULT is leagues better than JUNO, though my favorite U.S. theatrical feature was the similarly uncomfortable TERRI. I agree with those, also, who named Alex Ross Perry’s THE COLOR WHEEL one of the best of the unreleased features.

  • I hope to post my list later today at my blog.

  • I posted my annotated and illustrated choices over on my list site Ten Best Films yesterday: It seems that DRIVE is my most controversial choice this year, succeeding UNSTOPPABLE in that honor from one year ago. I suspect there’s a bit of a pattern there. (On the other hand, no one has complained yet about ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA or THIS IS NOT A FILM.)

    I would also be interested to hear Mr. Kehr’s snap judgement on J. EDGAR, which perhaps I missed when it came out, and which made both Mr. Smith’s list and mine (@ #10; I suspect others will supplant it when I see more and more from 2011). I was expecting everyone to get on me for that choice, but so far it hasn’t happened. (My guess is that more than a few of my readers didn’t get around to seeing it.)

  • Dave, a few years ago you recommended Johnnie To’s SPARROW here at the blog. I quietly filed away the suggestion and finally caught up with it last week. What a sharp and lovely film! Thank you for turning me on to it. Let me now recommend one of Johnnie To’s recent films that I saw this year (at his pace I’m never sure which film is his newest): LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE, a comic thriller about the financial crisis. It’s not earth-shaking but it’s quite good, well worth a look. Happy new year to you.

  • Well, I don’t know how you count “year,” but the best film I saw in 2011, aside from Melancholia was Good Bye by Mohammad Rasoulof.

  • Going by IMDb dates (as opposed to silly polling rules, which stipulate a film must’ve had at least a 1-week theatrical run in the US), my favorite films of 2011. The list represents what a strange year it was for me: I didn’t expect to find greatness or near-greatness in Woody Allen, Alexander Payne, Tomas Alfredson, a Harry Potter film, but I did.

    1 THIS IS NOT A FILM (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi)
    2 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Woody Allen)
    3 A DANGEROUS METHOD (David Cronenberg)
    5 THE KID WITH A BIKE (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
    6 LOUIE, Season 2 (Louis C.K.)
    7 THE DESCENDANTS (Alexander Payne)
    8 TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Tomas Alfredson)
    9 THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Paul W.S. Anderson)
    11 THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Pedro Almodovar)
    12 J. EDGAR (Clint Eastwood)
    13 THE IDES OF MARCH (George Clooney)
    14 THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
    15 DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn)
    16 CARNAGE (Roman Polanski)
    17 HANNA (Joe Wright)

    If I used polling rules to qualify 2010 films as being year-stamped as 2011 instead, CERTIFIED COPY and MYSTERIES OF LISBON would be my ironclad #1 and #2, respectively.

    Best old films I saw for the first time in 2011 (no order):

    FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER (Robert Bresson, 1971)
    MINISTRY OF FEAR (Fritz Lang, 1944)
    WESTERN UNION (Fritz Lang, 1941)
    DADDY LONG LEGS (Jean Negulesco, 1955)
    LET’S MAKE LOVE (George Cukor, 1960)
    DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY (Jim McBride, 1967)
    PALE RIDER (Clint Eastwood, 1985)

  • Interesting lists, Michael, Brad and Jaime.

    By far my favorite new release of 2011 is Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Café de Flore”. Vallée’s “C.R.A.Z.Y.” was ambitiously stylish in its look at the changing mores in a working-class Montreal suburb between 1960 to the 1980s during the Quiet Revolution. And “The Young Victoria” is one of the more stylish and spellbinding royalty period films, as it tells the story of Queen Alexandrina Victoria and her marriage to Prince Albert. But “Café de Flore” is just something else. Two different love stories that are mysteriously connected. It has the spirituality that you might find in an “Uncle Boonmee”, the intense cinematography of a “The Tree of Life”, and the heartfelt romance of a “Un été brûlant”. Go see it if you have the chance.

    I wrote more about my favorite movies and film books of the year over at my website too, if anyone is interested. Where I also shout out a few Dave Kehr forum contributors.

  • jbryant

    It’s just impossible for me to keep up the way I used to, so I can never make a timely top ten list. The best I’ve seen so far are MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and DEATHLY HALLOWS PT. 2. I had a lot of fun with CAPTAIN AMERICA, and also liked BRIDESMAIDS, HANNA, DRIVE, CONTAGION, 50/50, PAUL and – cough – THE HELP.

    Favorite older films first seen in ’11 include Mother (Naruse, 1952); Gunman’s Walk (Karlson, 1958); The Raid (Fregonese, 1954); Hell’s Highway (Brown, 1932); The Devil is a Woman (Sternberg, 1935); Captain Horatio Hornblower (Walsh, 1951); The Nickel Ride (Mulligan, 1974); Hell’s Half Acre (Auer, 1954); Private Hell 36 (Siegel, 1954); Waterloo Bridge (Whale, 1931); Fat City (Huston, 1972); Les Bonnes Femmes (Chabrol, 1960); No Man of Her Own (Leisen, 1950); Saddle Tramp (Fregonese, 1950); The Browning Version (Asquith, 1951); That Brennan Girl (Santell, 1946); Skippy (Taurog, 1931); Hula Girls (Lee, 2006); Danger Route (Holt, 1967); City Island (De Felitta, 2009); Drive a Crooked Road (Quine, 1954); Vigilante Force (Armitage, 1976); The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (Lourie, 1953).

  • If we’re counting 2011 US releases of 2010 films, I’d throw in “Film Socialisme,” “Poetry” and “Mysteries of Lisbon” as well (though I’ve only seen the longer TV version). I’m always eager to catch up with a new J-To, so thanks for the heads-up on “Life without Principle,” Girish — the last one I saw was his lightweight but fun New Year’s comedy “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” And I definitely need to see the Panahi and the Jia Zhangke. Michael, I have to say “J. Edgar” left me pretty cold — looked like some by-the-numbers direction from a very trite screenplay from where I was sitting. Glad to see some affection for Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Three Musketeers” — probably the most thoughtful and dynamic use of 3-D this year, though to appreciate it you had to overlook a pretty appalling cast (with the exception of the sublime Milla, of course).

  • Oliver_C

    Holiday cheer has been much provided by the Criterion/Eclipse Leningrad Cowboys boxset — Kaurismaki amusingly and successfully exporting his auteurism, while Wong War-Wai and von Donnersmarck (to name but two) only embarrassed themselves — as well as the weighty and worthy Saul Bass illustrated biography.

  • jbryant

    2011 US releases on Netflix Instant that are turning up on top ten lists include CERTIFIED COPY, POETRY, TUESDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS and COLD WEATHER.

  • I forgot to mention a few older films that were among my favorites last year: Hugo Fregonese’s APACHE DRUMS (the last but certainly not the least of Val Lewton’s productions), Tatsumi Kumashiro’s THE WOMAN WITH RED HAIR, Peter Collinson’s THE ITALIAN JOB, which is as terrifically entertaining as its reputation would suggest, Robert Parrish’s THE PURPLE PLAIN (thanks Blake Lucas!), Alberto Lattuada’s MAFIOSO, John Ford’s THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT, Bretherton & Keighley’s LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT, and Whale’s WATERLOO BRIDGE. I think I saw Renoir’s THE TESTAMENT OF DR. CORDELIER in 2011, but I can’t remember. Loved it in any case.

    Dave, early on in THE THREE MUSKETEERS I was of a mind that the cons were outweighing the pros, but my irritation mostly had to do with the dialogue, which is largely un-actable. Of the cast, only Logan Lerman seemed truly outclassed. As for Milla Jovovich, I voted for her in both the Village Voice and Indiewire polls for Supporting actress!

    Here are some more 2011 films that seem to be held in very high esteem by cinephiles: Kenneth Lonergan’s MARGARET, Asghar Farhadi’s A SEPARATION, and Bela Tarr’s THE TURIN HORSE. I’m dying to see Sokurov’s FAUST, which won the Venice Golden Lion, but curiously failed to turn up at the 2011 NYFF.

  • bill sorochan

    Haven’t see as much as the fine individuals who participate in this forum-but I found these 10 films to be well worth the effort to seek out.

    1) Target (Mishen)
    2) Autobiography of Nicolau Ceascau
    3) Essential Killing
    4) Cave of Forgotten Dreams
    5) Midnight in Paris
    6) The Two Escobars
    7) Oil City Confidential
    8) Of Gods and Men
    9) All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
    10) The Troll Hunter

    I still can’t figure out why a film as profound as Alexander Zeldovich’s Target remains completely unknown. It speaks more to the world of 2012 (and its subsequent future) than any other film I’ve seen in a long time. My guess is that 50 years from now this will be the film that will be remembered from 2011.

    Health, Happiness and Harmony to all in 2012!

  • Shawn Stone

    10. Midnight in Paris
    9. The Skin I Live In
    8. Young Adult
    7. Super 8
    6. Tabloid
    5. Moneyball
    4. Martha Marcy May Marlene
    3. Meek’s Cutoff
    2. Contagion
    1. Melancholia

    Also liked 50/50, J. Edgar, The Three Musketeers, Hugo, A Very Merry Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

  • david hare

    1. Melancholia
    2. Misterios de LiSboa
    3. Le Quattro Volte
    3. Of Gods and Men
    4. Mildred Pierce
    5. The Turin Horse
    6. Film Socialisme
    7. Drive
    8. Tomboy
    9. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
    10. Midnight in Paris

    There are many many more I havent seen this year but what I did see this year made me very happy. Melancholia is staggeringly beautiful, profound, mature (!!) It’s the film I had given up hoping von Trier was capable of making.
    I did the usual annual top ten dvds and Blu Rays for dvdBVeaver – these are them:
    SD DVD
    1. Misterios de Lisboa (PAL R2 Leopardo Filmes/Fnac 5 disc set)
    2.Stars in my Crown 1950 (Warner Archive)
    3.The Letter JEAN DE LIMUR 1929 (Warner Archive)
    4.Yolanda and the Thief (Warner Archive)
    5.Woman on the Beach (Warner Archive)
    6.Landmarks of Early Soviet Film BORIS BARNET, FEDOR OTSEP, EISENSTEIN 1920-1929 (Flicker Alley 5 discs)
    7.Mollenard 1938 (Gaumont a la demande PAL no subs)
    8.Antoine et Antoinette (Gaumont R2 PAL no subs)
    9.Dainah la Metisse JEAN GREMILLON 1932 (Gaumont a la Demande PAL no subs)
    10. The Constant Nymph 1943 Warner Archive
    Blu Ray
    1 Touch of Evil (Masters of Cinema RB)
    2. The Complete Vigo (Criterion RA)
    3. La Signora Senza Camelie (MoC RB)
    4.Un Condamne a mort s’est echappe (Gaumont RB)
    5.le Quattro Volte (Lorber ALL)
    6. Ben Hur (Warner ALL)
    7.You Only Live Once/Sono Innocente! (Eagle Pictures Italia RB/C)
    8.An Affair to Remember (Fox ALL)
    9.YiYi EDWARD YANG 2000 (Criterion RA)
    10.Design for Living ERNST LUBITSCH 1933 (Criterion RA)

  • Alex

    Too much to catch up on for a top ten, but my favorite footage from 2011 films is from two I’m not sure I’d include on any top ten list:
    1. The domestic portions of “The Tree of Life”;
    2. The cosmic bookends to Melancholia-11.

    “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Young Adult,” “Tintin,” “Contagion,” “Margin Call,” “Mildred Pierce” (2011) and “Limitless” were all … terrific.

    I guess “A Dangerous Method” might be as well, but its just such a regression in inventiveness and such an overstep in Cornenberg’s long cinematic journey toward a conventional lucidity — marked in Cornenberg’s last two films by great inventiveness– that… I just don’t know.

    Can’t wait to see “Mysteries of Lisbon,” “Poetry,” “Tinker, Tailer…,” and “Bridemaids.”

  • jbryant

    LIMITLESS is on Netflix Instant too. Guess I should check that out.

    I should’ve mentioned THE THREE MUSKETEERS as well. Like Jaime, I felt it’s flaws were mostly confined to the truly dire dialogue.

    Jaime also mentioned Fregonese’s APACHE DRUMS, which I missed, but his great THE RAID and SADDLE TRAMP are on my list above, and I also enjoyed, to a lesser extent, UNTAMED FRONTIER. Glad to have “discovered” him last year thanks to this blog!

  • Jaems

    My alphabetical Top Ten for 2011:

    Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
    Faust (Alexander Sokurov)
    The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
    Mildred Pierce (Todd Haynes)
    Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz)
    Pina 3D (Wim Wenders)
    Tabloid (Errol Morris)
    Tomboy (Celine Sciamma)
    The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
    Villain (Lee Sang-il)

    Have yet to see “Melancholia” or “Young Adult”

  • dan

    I love it that Mr. Brad Stevens have included HEREAFTER in his top 10. It is such a mysterious little film, and in many ways i found it to be also Eastwood’s most satisfying film of the last couple of years, together with LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and GRAN TORINO. I haven’t seen J EDGAR yet, but Dave’s comment about it made me a little less escstatic to do so.

    For me, this year was ruled over by MYSTERIES OF LISBON, THE KID WITH A BIKE (it’s up there with ROSETTA and LE FILS, i swear to god!), HORS SATAN, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, Hong-Sang soo’s THE DAY HE ARRIVES, James L. Brooks criminally underrated HOW DO YOU KNOW, Blier’s THE CLINK OF ICE, Akerman’s ALMAYER’S FOLLY, Sokurov’s FAUST and EL SICARIO by Gianfranco Rossi.

    Anyway the best thing i’ve seen all year wasn’t even a film but a work made for television – Adam Curtis’ new documentry series ALL WATCHED OVER BY MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE. A masterpiece for the ages.

  • David Cohen

    Like others on this list, I have much to catch up on but my favorite of 2011 was something no one else has mentioned, The Adjustment Bureau.

    My favorite film experience of the year was catching up on a couple Von Sternberg films I had never seen, Underworld and Docks of New York.

  • Michael Kastner

    So far, my favorites for 2011 are from 2010. Film Socialisme (number 1 for 2 years in a row & maybe 2012), Certified Copy (my favorite A.K since Cherry) Poetry(thats 2 nearly great films for Lee).
    Of more general films, Midnight in Paris was a real joy. The Mcadams character was a bit harsh but the rest of it was a thrill. 34 years after Annie Hall, Allen finally got Bunuel into his film.I also really enjoyed Source Code but make no claims to greatness for it.
    dan, thanks for the heads up on Adam Curtis, one of the better filmmakers around. My copy is on the way.
    Hereafter would be here if it wasn’t on my 2010 list.I find it grows with repeated viewing & has some nice tie ins with Eastwoods cannon.
    The absolute best film I saw for the year was Kuleshov’s Great Consoler.
    Decades ahead of it’s time, it was one amazing scene after another. Four viewings in three weeks has it sitting as possibly my favorite russian film.

  • Well I really liked J EDGAR and it’s definitely a must-see. My favorite since LETTERS, actually. Here’s my review for Slant:

  • Michael has made me very curious for the Kuleshov. Personally, my favorite Russian filmmakers are Sokurov and Bauer.

  • Scott

    Happy New Year to everyone!

    Excluding wonderful 2010 titles like “Certified Copy”, “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Uncle Boonmee”, these are ten films that premiered in 2011 that I enjoyed a great deal, in no particular order:

    The Turin Horse (Tarr)
    Margaret (Lonergan)
    A Separation (Farhadi)
    House of Pleasures (Bonello)
    The Kid with a Bike (Dardennes)
    Weekend (Haigh)
    The Deep Blue Sea (Davies)
    A Simple Life (Hui)
    This is Not a Film (Panahi)
    Sleeping Sickness (Köhler)

    Like Alex, I thought parts of “Melancholia” and “The Tree of Life” were staggering and deserve mention, but I had problems with both films as a whole, which prevents me from advocating them wholeheartedly.

    Though, the movie-going experience that gave me more surprise and pleasure than any other was my partial viewing of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” in Los Angeles last year. I only stayed for a couple of hours, so I’m not sure I completely grasped the full measure of Marclay’s project (which, for those who don’t know, is a 24-hour video installation), but I was delighted by what I saw. If nothing else, it’s a marvel of editing and sound editing. I’m hoping it comes to my neck of the woods at some point. Did anyone here catch it as well?

    I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Mr. Kehr and his colleagues at the National Society of Film Critics choose for their awards, which I gather should come any day now. Some great films and performances have gone virtually unnoticed by the major critics awards, so I’m hoping the NSFC will live up to its discerning reputation! 😉

  • Johan Andreasson

    Top 10 of 2011, alphabetical order, Swedish release dates and including television and documentaries:

    “A Dangerous Method” (David Cronenberg)
    “Black Swan” (Darren Aronofsky)
    “Bobby Fischer Against The World” (Liz Garbus)
    “Headhunters” (Morten Tyldum)
    “Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait” (Neil Crombie)
    “Le Havre” (Aki Kaurismäki)
    “Mad Men, Season 4” (Matthew Weiner)
    “Midnight In Paris” (Woody Allen)
    “Sons of Anarchy, Season 2” (Kurt Sutter)
    “Winter’s Bone” (Debra Granik)

    Best film I’ve seen in a movie theatre this year: “City Girl” (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) with Matti Bye on piano (don’t miss his score on the Criterion “Phantom Carriage”).

    Nicest surprise of the year: “The Adventures of Tintin” (Steven Spielberg)

    Most valued suggestion of 2011 from people posting on this site: The silents of Cecil B. De Mille and Scott Eyman’s excellent biography “Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille”.

  • Studying international top ten lists I regret to realize that most of the best quality films no longer get cinema distribution in Finland. From 1896 until the 1980s Helsinki was an excellent cinema city, but now the first-run cinema supply has hit an all-time historical low. We need to do something about this soon.

    Nader and Simin: A Separation, D: Asghar Farhadi.
    The King’s Speech, D: Tom Hooper.
    Des hommes et des dieux / Of Gods and Men, D: Xavier Beauvois.
    Another Year, D: Mike Leigh.
    Miral, D: Julian Schnabel.

    Le Havre, D: Aki Kaurismäki. A volte-face: the protagonist transcends himself.
    Pussikaljaelokuva [Bag Beer Movie], D: Ville Jankeri. A fresh entry in the I vitelloni tradition.
    Ella & Aleksi – yllätyssynttärit [Ella & Aleksi – a Surprise Birthday Party], D: Juuso Syrjä. Joy of animation.
    Matka Edeniin [Journey to Eden], D: Rax Rinnekangas. The best cinematography in a Finnish movie.

    Ilmianto [The Informers], D: Milla Pelkonen.
    Miten marjoja poimitaan [How to Pick Berries], D: Elina Talvensaari.
    Erään hyönteisen tuho [The Death of an Insect], D: Hannes Vartiainen, Pekka Veikkolainen.

    The Tree of Life, D: Terrence Malick. My favourite Malick, perhaps a bit too slick to my taste, but I like the rhythm of the editing.
    Melancholia, D: Lars von Trier, although he always reminds me of Andersen’s tale of the emperor’s new clothes.
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, D: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, but this form of slow cinema I feel I have already experienced once too often.
    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, D: Apichatpong Weerasethakul: I’m getting to understand the pantheistic-mythical approach, but I need to see more of his work.
    Drive, D: Nicolas Winding Refn: very well made, but perhaps I’m overfamiliar with this tradition; I saw Michael Mann’s debut movie Thief this year, too.

    The Skin I Live In, D: Pedro Almodóvar.
    Midnight in Paris, D: Woody Allen.

    The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, directed by Bill Condon with a chilly assurance. The more you think what it means the scarier it grows. There are strange parallels with the Harry Potter finale. The protagonists are strangers in their own lives, overwhelmed by magic, and demonic, satanic powers. The joy of life is missing, and in Twilight, there is no Van Helsing anymore. Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue is but an empty emblem like in the opening of La dolce vita.

    Ukrainian retrospective with three remarkable discoveries: A Spring for the Thirsty / Krinitsja dlja spraglih (1965), D: Yuri Ilyenko. – The Stone Cross / Kaminni hrest (1968), D: Leonid Osyka. – Famine-33 / Holod-33 (1991), D: Oles Jantchuk.

    The Ilyich Gate / Zastava Ilyicha (1962), D: Marlen Khutsiev, the 197 min 1988-1990 reconstruction from Gosfilmofond. The other side of Russia during the Cold War: the life-loving youth enjoying the period of the cultural thaw before the freedom was crushed again in the Eastern bloc during the regime of Brezhnev.

    Abbas Kiarostami’s intriguing Copie conforme I had seen the year before. I started to get excited by movies by Jia Zhang-ke and need to go deeper into them. I admire Clint Eastwood who gave us yet another surprise with J. Edgar. It would make an interesting double bill with the Stasi exposé The Lives of Others.

  • The stuff I liked which received a U.S. release, in alphabetical order:

    The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica)
    Extraordinary Stories (Mariano Llinas)
    House of Pleasures (aka L’Apollonide, Bertrand Bonello)
    Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
    I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon)
    Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz)
    The Three Musketeers (Paul W.S. Anderson)
    The Tree of Life (Terence Malick)
    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
    The Yellow Sea (Na Hong-jin)

    If we go by worldwide premieres in 2011, I’d swap the old ones out for the following:

    Dreileben (Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhausler)
    It’s the Earth, Not the Moon (Goncalo Tocha)
    This Is Not a Film(Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi)
    The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr)
    Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers)
    Words of Mercury (Jerome Hiler)

  • Gregg Rickman

    Speaking of Clint Eastwood, I’ve been dipping into the RAWHIDE marathon on Encore Westerns today, and have seen interesting episodes by George Sherman and Stuart Heisler, who I know have fans in these parts. Does Mike Grost or another of our TV western experts have any particular recommendations from this series? I gather Encore will be rerunning RAWHIDE in its entirety (217 episodes, it says here!).

    I wouldn’t be the first to point out how Eastwood was saturated in late classical style, just by standing around and observing directors like Sherman and Heisler while at work in the series, not to mention from following their direction. (This of course carried over into his early films, where he worked with directors like Ted Post and the recently-discussed John Sturges.) I think his reputation as a director is based to some degree on how he has carried that tradition into our way-post-classical era; in the country of the blind, et cetera. Of course when he’s in synch with a project he has made some very good films. One striking aspect of J. EDGAR are the links between Hoover and some of Eastwood’s several other “bad executives” (eg Gene Hackman’s sheriff in UNFORGIVEN). I would propose that Eastwood is advancing on the explorations of male professionalism in Hawks and Seigel by exploring what happens when leadership goes awry. I guess all the episodes where Rowdy Yates has it out with his trail boss Gil Favor will have to be parsed for this theme.

    Occasional board contributor Jonathan Rosenbaum has good words for occasional board contributor Joe Dante, at

  • jbryant

    Gregg: I caught a few RAWHIDE episodes today, too; episodes 3, 4 and 5 of Season 1, to be exact. Charles Marquis Warren, Ted Post and Andrew V. McLaglen, respectively, were the directors. The Post episode was the most interesting in terms of the theme you mention, with Rowdy running afoul of Favor when he encounters a woman who needs money to escape from her overbearing husband, the town sheriff. Eastwood gives quite a good performance in this, particularly in a very long take with Favor at a saloon bar.

    I thought HEREAFTER was quite provocative and moving, and it has a good shot at my 2010 list, which I’ll probably finish compiling by 2015.

  • Robert Garrick

    Gregg, thanks for the link to the Rosenbaum piece on Joe Dante. It’s gratifying to see “Matinee” recognized by J.R. as a “masterpiece” (a favored word around here). The comparisons to Tashlin are interesting too, and apt, particularly the example of “Son of Paleface” as a sequel that threw out the story in favor of non-stop gags.

  • Robert Garrick

    It’s interesting that no one has mentioned “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” directed by David Fincher, who is much admired around here. I haven’t seen it yet; perhaps no one else has either.

    A less surprising omission is “The Artist,” this year’s critical darling and the current odds-on favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar. (It’s more than twice as likely to win as the runner-up, “The Descendants,” according to the futures traders at

    Finally, I’m wondering about Dave K’s “astonishment” over the quality of “Young Adult.” I’m a big fan of “Up in the Air” (2009), which I thought was extraordinarily well done, and as subversive as a Sirk film.

  • My favorite film of 2011 was Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life”

    I have never seen anything like it. It is a beautifully-made elegy to the soul of humanity. It begins by portraying the entire history and evolution of the universe, from The Big Bang through the age of the dinosaurs (yes . . . dinosaurs!) and then shrinks it down to the memories of a boy growing up in Texas whose entire universe seemed to end at the edge of the driveway.

    What makes the film so amazing is the way that Malick encompasses both of these elements into a poetic film that is not always easily understood, but is never-the-less moving and very entertaining.

    The Tree of Life is not for everyone. It is, at times, baffling and other times just plain incomprehensible. I like that about it, I like that it leaves me with something to discover. Not since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has there been a film that considers how minuscule we are on this planet in relation to the rest of our cosmos. I am going to become a student of this film, just as I have been with “2001”, watching it again and again and trying to unlock its vast and baffling mysteries. Here is a film the considers the enormity of our universe and relates it to the tiny spaces in our memories. What a wonderful movie.

  • Brad Stevens

    “I love it that Mr. Brad Stevens have included HEREAFTER in his top 10. It is such a mysterious little film, and in many ways i found it to be also Eastwood’s most satisfying film of the last couple of years”

    I was struck by the intelligence of Eastwood’s mise en scene, his ability to make the abstract concrete (the opposite of Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE, which makes the concrete abstract), the film’s concern with the spiritual area of transition between life and death being accompanied by a visual emphasis on more worldly areas of transition (doorways, corridors, stairs, tunnels).

  • dan

    I couldn’t agree with you more on that, Brad. I also want to praise Matt Damon’s performance. His character must be one of the most peculiar and original creations in recent years. He succeeded in giving Peter Morgan’s loony, melancholic mentalist a profound platform for identification without sacrificing its deeply mysterious, uncertain inner world. If i had to find any faults in the film (and i really can’t see why so many people bothered to do just that), it seems to me those would have to be related to Morgan’s screenplay. Having said that, i also count HEREAFTER as Morgan’s best effort to date (not that he created anything of value that i know of, but still…). As soapy, over written and too naive screenplay that it is, it still works because it rings as extremely honest, don’t you think?

  • It looks like Eastwood is going to a pull a Jay-Z as though he has announced after “Gran Torino” that he will be giving up acting , apparently he will be returning in front of the camera on the first film of his producer Robert Lorenz, “Trouble with the Curve”, where he will be playing the father of Sandra Bullock.
    Over in France, the French Cinematheque is currently doing a big Eastwood retrospective. Their programming and the directors comments on his blog are always so fascinating :

  • I watched Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult” last night after the recommendation. It is playing first-run here at the Lightbox – which is even on Reitman square! The directing seems very workman, a lot of medium shots and shot-reverseshots. Though it seemed more ingenious then something like Noah Baumbach’s pseudo-arty “Greenberg”. Reitman gets very good performances out of Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, who have a real chemistry between each other. And the dialogue has Diablo Cody’s signature stylistic flourishes. I liked how severely critical and sarcastic Mavis is towards the people from the small town and how the ending conversations shows how both the rural folk and the city types are somewhat envious of one another, while at the same time they feel a kind of lost. It has a Billy Wilder type flair, I saw similarities to “Kiss Me, Stupid” and “Double Indemnity”. In Toronto, the local boy Reitman is not really liked by the film-critics, who would rather endorse more challenging less commercial Canadian fare.

    Wow, “Hereafter”, that movie came out here over two years ago. I remember at the time the film critic Bill Krohn had a really good piece on it in Cahiers du Cinema. He was able to find references to John Ford, D.W. Griffith and Charles Dickens in the film. While in the new January issue of Cahiers, they champion “J. Edgar”. Here is the editorial:,1989.html

    Now can someone please explain to me why that new Harry Potter movie is making its way on a lot of serious yearly Top Ten lists?

  • mark gross

    Hello everyone and Happy New Year! My favorite film experience of the past year was watching (for the first time) on DVD a Universal serial from 1941, Ford Bebe & John Rawlins’ THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES BACK. These fifteen episodes, that are somehow strangely post-modern in their extended expository master takes, where characters in impoverished sets talk about what one has already seen in prior episodes(think Jacques Rivette’s OUT ONE or Jean-Marie Straub’s HISTORY LESSONS) while in their action sequences skirt a cheesy haphazardness (a house style at Universal)to reach a kind of mysterious poetry of light and shadow. I came upon this title rather circuitously, because of a comment Joe Dante made on this site recommending NIGHT MONSTER. I liked the film so much I searched for other works by the director Ford Bebe, and came upon this title, which I ordered from Amazon. Although I completely understand Raul Ruiz’s enthusiasm for the aesthetic disparities and strange subliminal beauty of Bebe’s FLASH GORDON, I think THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES BACK is even better, and more to the point, seems to this viewer to stand outside of the typical Universal serial of the period, as something more personal and eccentric in both its rhythms and strange anarchic vision.

  • pat graham

    like robert g. i’m a little taken aback at the (apparent) lack of love out there for fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO–on an abstract level it’s simply incredible: the rhythm of the edits, the rhyming of the shots, an exact classical opposite to malick’s mystical/romantic THE TREE OF LIFE, which also i admire … too bad the material essentially sucks * also a shout-out to marilyn f.’s mentioning rasoulof’s GOOD BYE–not at the top of my list, but yes, it really is a superior piece of work * and now on to 2011 … or do i mean 2010?

    1. THE ILLUSIONIST, Sylvain Chomet, France/UK
    2. THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA, Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal
    3. THE TREE OF LIFE, Terrence Malick, USA
    4. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, Apichatpong Weerasethakul,
    5. SECRET SUNSHINE, Lee Chang-dong, South Korea
    7. SILENT SOULS, Aleksei Fedorchenko, Russia
    8. MYSTERIES OF LISBON, Raúl Ruiz, Portugal/France
    9. POETRY, Lee Chang-dong, South Korea
    10. LE QUATTRO VOLTE, Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy
    BEST INTENTIONS, Adrian Sitaru, Romania
    GOOD BYE, Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran

    honorable mention also to: LE HAVRE, Aki Kaurismaki, France/Finland, ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey, HABEMUS PAPAM, Nanni Moretti, Italy/France, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, Pedro Almodovar, Spain, FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA, Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, Sean Durkin, USA,
    CERTIFIED COPY, Abbas Kiarostami, France/Italy, ANOTHER YEAR, Mike Leigh, UK, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, Tomas Alfredson, UK/France, THE TRIP, Michael Winterbottom, UK, HIGHER GROUND, Vera Farmiga, USA, HANNAH, Joe Wright, USA

    as for, ahem, performances, my annual milla jovovich awards (hey folks, i’ve been on to her for a while now!: go this year to keira knightley in A DANGEROUS METHOD, with vera farmiga in HIGHER GROUND not far behind (she should direct herself more often), while on the testosterone side there’s leo di caprio–ineffably, incredibly–in J. EDGAR; forget about the makeup, just watch what he does behaviorally with the eponym’s creeping decrepitude, an especially adept impersonation of age that hardly seems an impersonation at all …

  • Brad Stevens

    I’m amazed that nobody has mentioned Monte Hellman’s ROAD TO NOWHERE. Did everyone see this in 2010?

  • Alex

    Jason Reitman strikes me as a very intelligent, stylistically classical film maker with a particularly strong talent for witty comedy that has been somewhat poorly served by the melancholia of Walter Kirn’s source material for “Up in the Air” and the AA didacticism of Diablo Cody’s latest script (as bad as the cutsie didacticism of Cody’s dialogue for Juno MacGuff). He was at his best with the sharp wit of Christopher Buckley’s material for “Thank You for Smoking,” a film that Dave K. incisively compared to the work of Sturges, but I guess he’s no Srurges, indeed no auteur, if he not only can’t write original scripts but won’t fixate on the sort of material might fully bring his talent to life.

    For a monomaniacal sex addict stacking the a stiff on a high school regression trip, give me Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild.” Okay with me if Mavis Gary’s finally gonna get her act together, but I’d have felt better about her prosects for “a better life” had Reitman provided one little indication that the world would nor henceforth be forever deprived of her snootily devilish leer. (Wilder did let the AA-ish thrust of “Lost Weekend” deprive Milland’s Don Birnam of his a departing glimmer of life, albeit at the thought of a scheme that might yet yield another bottle.)

    Good film, to be sure.. but I hear McQueen’s “Shame” is at least less patly resolved.

  • “Now can someone please explain to me why that new Harry Potter movie is making its way on a lot of serious yearly Top Ten lists?”

    Because it’s a really good film – to my eyes, one of the most elegant, and elegantly-directed, films of 2011. If you had asked me back in 2001 – or even 2008, I would scarcely have entertained the idea. But I think David Yates, who was hired to direct the last four installments (i.e. the last three books), really has something.

    And I think he might’ve needed the franchise to get there. Out of curiosity I checked out his 2005 TV movie, THE GIRL IN THE CAFE. There’s a visual intelligence on display there but it’s eventually done in by Richard Curtis’s disastrous script.

    THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is okay and has some good images but you really get the idea that he’s a “yes man” after the rebellious Alfonso Cuaron and the wobbly Mike Newell (not to mention the lethally incompetent Chris Columbus). THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is much more lovely, visually, and was rightfully nominated for a cinematography Oscar. The first installment of THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is arguably the least disciplined, in terms of structure, but it has an amazing middle section that sees the three main characters on a seemingly endless road trip that is almost ceaselessly underscored by the whine of a cursed object. And

    But THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 is a genuinely great “total film” and I would stand it next to any film…at least in the lower half of my Top 10 for the year. Anyway, as an auteurist-friendly board, I hope none of us is put off by subject matter alone. I look forward to what Yates does next. To me he is a Real Director.

  • Larry Kart

    The fondness expressed by several here for Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD puzzles me. Among the few moments IMO where the film unintentionally (?) came to life was when Jung tells Freud a dream in which Jung is hauling around a log by a chain, and Freud’s response (probably not an exact quote) is something like: “I venture to say that the log is your penis.”

    Can someone point me to a thoughtful enthusiastic review of the film or provide such a response himself/herself?

  • I loved A DANGEROUS METHOD, Larry. I hope my review for Fandor’s Keyframe blog will help you with your puzzlement:

    (I did not choose the headline)

  • Robert Garrick

    Mark Gross, I believe I was the one who recommended “Night Monster” back at, in a thread that also involved Joe Dante. Coincidentally, I spent New Years Day watching some things on old VHS tapes, including “Night Monster” (1942) and “Night of Terror” (1933) (and also 1953’s “Wicked Woman”). Dignity, always dignity.

    “Night Monster” holds up well. It looks great, with an uncharacteristic (for Universal) delicate, lacey black-and-white look, almost like one of those Lewton films shot by Nicholas Musuraca or Roy Hunt. It’s well paced, and it’s also scary. When I was a kid, it was just about the only Universal film from the ’30s and ’40s that truly frightened me.

  • jbryant

    mark gross: If you have Turner Classic Movies, you may be interested to know that beginning this Saturday they will be showing some Bomba the Elephant Boy adventures written and directed by Ford Beebe in the 50s. First up is ELEPHANT STAMPEDE (1/7), followed by AFRICAN TREASURE (1/14), BOMBA AND THE JUNGLE GIRL (1/21) and SAFARI DRUMS (1/28).

    Others among us will be happy to know that on Monday, Jan. 9, TCM has a back-to-back morning showing of two Gordon Douglas westerns, GOLD OF THE SEVEN SAINTS and FORT DOBBS, finally letterboxed (Encore Westerns always shows them full frame). And later that night, none other than recently mentioned THE SATAN BUG (Sturges)!

    Other recently mentioned titles that will be showing up in January include KIND LADY, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, ELMER GANTRY and THE CONSTANT NYMPH. There are also evenings devoted to Max Ophuls (all his American films plus LA RONDE and MADAME DE…) and James Whale (including the rarely shown THE GREAT GARRICK and ONE MORE RIVER).

    And on Jan. 29, they have a Jack Webb double feature of THE D.I. and -30-, the latter of which has been nearly impossible to see for years.

  • pat graham

    jamie–actually the “august” christopher hampton’s more the robert bolt type, whose screenwriter’s midas touch immediately turns everything to lead, so if cronenberg’s aspiring to be the next roland joffe, A DANGEROUS METHOD may be his inauspicious first step (or second … or third) * as for viggo mortenson’s stuffed owl–“a woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke,” right, doctor?–arguably it’s the worst thing he’s done since … oh, i dunno: give me G.I. JANE any day …