Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 year in review : Top 10 films

Hello readers,

Let's bring in 2012 with style by listing Between the Seats' favourite films of 2011. I'm sure every single blog out there has written up a nice little prologue to their lists, so I figured we should just skip the pleasantries and get on with it, no? Without further ado:

10-Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Yes, this was a winner at the Cannes films festival in 2010, but not many people had the privilege to discover it before 2011. Weerasethakul offers you a dream-like landscape in which the real and the surreal combine effortlessly. It feels like that is the only way his worlds could possibly ever be. Have fun making out what is what and genuinely laughing at the sharp, warm comedy that abounds.

9-La vérité (Marc Bisaillon)
A film whose primary strength lies in building increasing suspense through the use of pure drama instead of cheap thrills. The pressures of keeping a terrible secret are almost too hard to bear for the protagonist, thus propelling him and the viewer into a drawn out struggle about what is right and wrong.

8-The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
When it comes to slow, near laborious, methodical, depressing dramas, it seems like no one really does it like Béla Tarr, most famous for his 7 hour Satantango. The Turin Horse thankfully does not ask as much time out of its viewers, but, fear not, still succeeds at delivering the goods he is known for: stunningly beautiful if very raw cinematography, delicately precise performances from the actors, and a metaphorical world in which mankind's fears and darkest questions are exposed. 

7-Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois)
Featuring an amazing cast of some of France's greatest actors, chief among them the incomparable Michael Lionsdale, Beauvois' slow, meditative study of how a group of Catholic priests come to terms with the reality of their situation in a war torn land is both harrowing and rewarding. Do they stay or do they abandon their mission? There really is no correct answer.

6-Contagion (Steven Soderbergh)
Proving his flexibility yet again as a director, Soderbergh brings movie lovers a film reminiscent of thrillers and horror stories of old, such the Andromeda Strain. Contagion brings together everything he is good at, like style, brains, a solid story, and a stunning cast who all put in thrilling performances. An excellent score heightens the prevailing sense of fear.

5-The Women (Lucky McKee)
One of the wildest films to come out of the Fantasia film festival this year, director McKee's allegorical story about the the frequent misogyny involved in male-female relationships actually benefits from not playing things in subtle manner, but rather being incredibly raw. Top notch performances by both leading actors, especially 'the woman' help make the film haunting, as well as schlocky. 

4-I Saw the Devil (Kim Ji-woon)
The flurry of disparate opinions regarding this film before its eventual limited theatrical release was enough to build the hype, and it did not disappoint. Kim's film is unforgiving and relentless in its stylish depiction of one man's mental, emotional and physical journey into evil. After all, in this sadistic world, only evil can defeat evil.

3-Super 8 (J. J. Abrams)
So much was written about how director Abrams made this film as a tribute to the Spielberg films of old, most notably E.T. Even after its release, that seemed to be all that was on people's minds. Between the Seats didn't care much for that aspect of behind the scenes material because, quite frankly, Abrams knocked this one out of the park. Great kid characters, great kid actors, and a compelling mystery to boot. This was the best thing that came out in the summer of '11. 

2-Vucut (Mustafa Nuri)
Arguably the best film in 2011 that almost nobody saw, except the few who took a chance on it at various film festivals (like the Festival des films in monde in Montréal). A thunderously emotional and complex directorial debut from Turk Mustafa Nuri, who explores the lives of one ageing porn star and one restless teenager when they crash into each other. Actress Hatice Haslan is phenomenal.

1-Moneyball (Bennett Miller)
It didn't seem possible for a baseball movie to really not be about baseball, yet here we are. Interestingly enough, the original plan was to have Soderbergh direct this brilliantly written and acted film about the drama that goes on beyond the pitch and inside the manager's office. One can wonder what that film might have turned out to be, but few can complain with what Bennett Miller gave us. You like good drama? This is for you. You like baseball? This is for you. You like witty dialogue? This is for you. You like strong characters that are fun to tag along with? This is for you. If you like...


Unknown said...

Wow - I don't have a single film in common with you, end-of-year-wise! A fascinating list though; I must check out Uncle Boonmee at some point.

Dan said...

I've only seen three of these so far, but I like the choices. Uncle Boonmee was great, and Super 8 and Moneyball were both strong. It's cool that you put Moneyball at the #1 spot (it was #3 for me). I'm looking forward to checking out a lot of the other movies on your list.

edgarchaput said...

@Multiplex: Uncle Boonmee is special. It's kind of like Tree of Life in way: It's filled with great little moments even though you're not exactly sure what it is you're watching.

@Dan: Moneyball had the best dialogue, some of the best acting, a fantastic visual style (handsome, but not overdone), and showed a stunning ability to create drama out of the tiniest of details, like a phone call between baseball managers. It's clever, it's rich in character... man, I love that movie.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen many of the foreign movies on your list but will certainly file them away in the back of my head for later viewing. "Of Gods and Men" didn't do much for me; I found it to be far too understated for my tastes. "Moneyball" and "Contagion" are two phenomenal movies that just missed my cut but I'm certain that repeat viewings will boost their standing in my mind.

Great recap!

The Taxi Driver said...

Brillanty list, nothing conventional about it. I didn't even know Bela Tarr had a new movie out. Need to put that one at the top of my to see list.

edgarchaput said... The foreign stuff on my list not only blew me away but are great films to invite others to see, despite the difficulties involved in trying to find them. Probably the easiest of the bunch is 'I Saw the Devil' which did receive a theatrical, DVD and blu-ray releases in North America and internationally.

@Mike: Yup, it made the rounds of the festival circuit in 2011. I expect it to get whatever release Bela Tarr typically films do in the coming year. said...

Where is Drive on your list is that at 0 or something? :-)

edgarchaput said...

@threeguys1movie: That's how strong 2011 was in my opinion. I loved Drive, it could not muster a spot in the top 10. It would be an honourable mention for sure though.

Wilde.Dash said...

Wait, does 'I Saw the Devil' count for 2011? Man...I feel like I need to add that to my honorable mentions now.

edgarchaput said...

@Wild Dash: The inclusion of 'I Saw the Devil' is tricky, I'll give you that much. It premiered at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) in 2010, which is why you might have seen it on some 'best of lists' published last year. Nonetheless earned a limited theatrical in 2011. As i recall, in the U.S. it was in March and where I live, Montréal, we got it in April. Plus, it's DVD/Blu-ray release was during the summer.

Courtney Small said...

I have only seen half of your list (e.g. Contagion, I Saw the Devil, Super 8, Moneyball, etc.) but I am glad to see Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives get some love. It came close to making my 2010 list. I really think more people should see that film. Dare I say I found it far moving on a spiritual level than Tree of Life.

edgarchaput said...

@CS: Oh, please dare. It is a more spiritual experience than 'Tree of Life', at least I thought it was.