Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 In Film

A few things worth mentioning: there are several movies I have not yet seen, which I am looking forward to, including Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen's Shame, and a few others. Also, I saw a lot of places including Love Exposure on their year-end lists, which is a fantastic epic Japanese melodrama that I included in my '09 list.


The Descendants

Saw this in theaters with a friend and I walked out 10 minutes before the end. A lot of people heralded this as Clooney's 'best role,' but that award goes to his perfomance in Michael Clayton (or maybe the neurotic dude in Burn After Reading). Sideways is great, but this is a stinky turd. Sid was funny at times, but not enough to salvage a sappy cliche-ridden train wreck. Some of the dialogue was so painfully unnatural that it made me cringe. Avoid like the plague.

The Last Circus

I wanted this to be good, I really did. I hoped it would be, I thought it would be. The trailer even made it out to be, but the movie itself was pretty awful. The first half was fine and quite sexy even, but the last half was an utter atrocity. A lot of good ideas wasted with boring execution, especially near the end.


We Need to Talk About Kevin

Recently, Tilda Swinton seems to be getting cast as these crazy, on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown female roles (Julia, Michael Clayton) but it is very, very hard for a sane person to accurately play an insane person no matter how good of an actor/actress they may be. However, Lynne Ramsay’s keen directing makes this one of the best portrayals of schizophrenia I’ve ever seen. The problem is that, sadly, despite some wonderful scenes, it is not that good of a movie. Kevin’s delinquency is so ridiculous and over the top that it’s almost comedic at times. The ADD alternating between present and exposition/flashback is at times too much to keep up with. Part of me feels it should have been called ‘Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly play the world’s most inadequate parents’

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Another movie centered around a schizophrenic character (I still need to see Take Shelter, because I've heard nothing but good things). I was really enjoying this until the end, where it just lost its way and came to an abrupt halt. To clarify, I do not have a problem with loose or open endings. Dogtooth is an example of this being done well. I have a problem with a film who is so unsure of itself that it relies on them out of necessity, which is the case here. Still, a pretty good psychological thriller, just don't expect too much.


Thematically, this was somewhat similar to Antichrist (sub castration anxiety for annihilation anxiety), but just not nearly as effective or powerful. Antichrist is so disturbing and confrontational that I'll probably never watch it again. With a title like 'Melancholia' I was expecting something as psychologically brutal as such a name suggests. Instead, I left feeling unaffected and indifferent and thus the title is simply pretentious, not appropriate. Melancholia's biggest failure, however, was in the area of atmosphere. For a film about the psychological dealings the end of the world, I expected something startlingly ominous and foreboding. I never got such a mood. Also, both Justine and Claire's behavior was inconsistent, unpredictable and ultimately unbelievable. In Antichrist the characters' mental states gradually declined, becoming more and more isolated and neurotic. There were causes and effects for their behavior. Justine often goes from being fragile to lethargic to spiteful to motherly and kind. Not even people with severe manias act so erratic and contradictory. Even beyond these failings I just felt it was a poorly written film. Not terrible by any means, but as I said before, wholly unremarkable.

The Tree of Life

This big beautiful film's biggest error was that it was too ambitious for it's own good. I might even say it's the most ambitious movie ever made in terms of what it tries to achieve. Mallick is a brilliant artist, but his work is better suited for more intimate and restrained environments ala The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven (which are still both rightfully ambitious, just with a smaller scope, ie. not trying to poetically convey life in a 3 hour movie)


Felt a bit hollow to me, although very stylish and really well made, like all of Refn's films. The villains were completely uninteresting. Gosling's character was cool and all, but I wish he would've been more developed. Anyways, I enjoyed it though; definitely a well put together film and the soundtrack is awesome.

The Future

I saw this only a month ago, but oddly enough I can't remember much about it.
Miranda July makes, what, like one movie ever five years? I had forgotten how abstract the narrative in Me, You, and Everyone We Know Was and The Future is the same way. I really liked this, but as with many movies I saw this year, was expecting a little more.


A witty, angsty, existential bildungsroman in the form of a British comedy or rather a British comedy in the form of a witty, angsty, existential bildungsroman. Would probably be my 6th favorite film of the year if I did a top 10 instead of 5. Like many on this list, another one I need to revisit soon.


A classic example of style over substance, but I'll be goddamned if this wasn't one of the most beautiful animated movies I've ever seen. Fan-service (boobies, violence) galore, and the ending theme (featured in the trailer below) is so so so good. Fun, but far from flawless.

Midnight in Paris

Yet another case where it's been awhile since I've seen this but I remember liking it a lot. The 'psuedo-intellectual' was such a hilariously obnoxious character. A lot of people didn't like the portrayals of Hemingway and some of the other immortalized authors, but I thought they are pretty good exaggerated comedic fictionalizations. Not a big Owen Wilson fan, and I would have cast someone different, but he's at least tolerable here.


5. Tyrannosaur

This year's Breathless, albeit not quite as good. A bone-raw character study about two people worn down by life, and how they interact and relate with each other.

4. The Borrower Arrietty

I'm breaking the rules, yet again. This came out in Japan in 2010, and isn't due out here in the states until early 2012. However, I saw the British release which came out this year, so I'm including here. Another magical tale from Studio Ghibli which I would best describe as Spirited Away meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and their most visually captivating film to date.

3. Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater

Probably my new all time favorite stand up special and a few separate segments made me laugh so hard I couldn't breath. The way he ties jokes together is just perfect - they just flow so nicely and bleed together into one continuous joke, there are no pauses between like many comedians. Also, he starts off relatively tame and works his way into the funny bits and it progresses. The clip below is just an outtake, but the actual special is golden.

2. Bellflower

I was originally quite hyperbolic in my initial write-up of this movie, so I'd like to re-watch it and see how it holds up. It's a modern Fight Club only on acid, and with far less Hollywood flash. Starts off quirky and cute, then turns into a horrifying nightmare. The use of sound design in one scene during the climax might induce a panic attack, so be forewarned.

1. Beginners

The day after I first watched this, I asked a friend of mine to 'please come watch this movie with me.' But after I said that, I realized how it silly it was to be asking that. It would be similar to asking her to 'please eat this delicious ice cream sunday' or 'please let Brad Pitt go down on you for an hour' or 'please have all these free drugs,' so I just said, "look, its really good. Either come over and watch it or don't." It made her laugh, cry, and become gravely silent. We talked about it for an hour afterwards, and we both agree it's the best movie released in 2011.


  1. C'mon. Melancholia was fucking brilliant! The end felt a bit anti-climatic. Could have used something with less bang and more 'OVER'. But that being said, it moved me deeply.

  2. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt because everyone I talked to about it and loved it saw it in theaters and I watched a shitty screener copy. Its just that The Idiots is one of my favorite films ever, and I have written extensively about the depth of Antichrist, so on the heels of such a complex, powerful film as that, I was naturally disappointed.