As the New Year has dawned and the end of the world is near, I feel it necessary to interrupt this journey through my top 100 to take a rest stop at my Top 11 films of 2011…
#11: The Tree of Life
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Ryan Gosling is so hot right now and Drive puts him in a role harkening back to Eastwood’s ‘Man with no name’ character. We are used to getting sex on a plate with Gosling, but in this action melodrama he’ll kill you before you can have a piece. Drive is like an 80’s action B-movie made with art-house sensibilities; imagine if Michael Mann directed Roadhouse. The result has been polarising amongst my peers, but for me it’s a dream. If you like introspective dramas with beautiful people and you don’t mind a bit of blood and gore, Drive in!
#9: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
I wasn’t expecting much more than a bit of fun with this prequel to the Planet of the Apes franchise, but what I got was a whole lot more. Why aren’t more action/sci-fi blockbusters this much fun? The greatest feet of the clumsily titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that it manages to make us root for the apes, thanks to very tight scripting and Andy Serkis’ performance as the lead ape, Caesar. It’s truly amazing how gripping and emotional this film is, Caesar and his posse of apes really convinced me to question my humanity and rip some shit up. More often than not, prequels can cheapen a film or a franchise by filling in the gaps for us, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes the plight of the original film all the more interesting. Join the revolution by watching this movie!
#8: The Artist
Director: Michael Hazanavicius
As we approach the end of the days of ‘film’ as a format, it is comforting to see some big films this year celebrating the art of early cinema. The Artist is a joyous comedy that explores the hardships of a great silent film star trying to survive in the rise of ‘talking pictures’. Shot as a silent picture, with some post-modern leeway in the last act, The Artist is a true delight for cinema enthusiasts.
Director: Lars von Trier
Melancholia is a breathtaking experience that explores the desires and concerns of a family at a wedding the night before the end of the world. Lars von Trier’s follow up to 2009’s Anti-Christ is all the more engrossing and boasts the most wonderful cinematography of the year and a stellar performance from the beloved Kirsten Dunst. If you’re a bit bummed out ‘cos you weren’t cool enough to be cordially invited to the Twilight wedding in 2011, you’re always welcome to Melancholia, the venue and the people are far more attractive and if you still don’t have a date by the end of the night, don’t worry, the world’s gonna end anyway.
#6: Super 8
Director: J.J. Abrams
Abrams does it again with yet another first class blockbuster, although not quite as successfully as his previous effort, Star Trek. Live-Action Blockbuster entertainment has been pretty rubbish since its golden era from the late 70’s right through to the early 90’s and Steven Spielberg was at the forefront of that movement with classics such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park. Abrams does his best to revitalize that magic with Super 8, with the help of Spielberg himself no less. It is refreshing to see a lead cast of kids in a serious blockbuster again and in this film the youngsters offer us an energy and chemistry we have not seen since Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me in 1986. The film’s major downfall is that Abrams spent all his efforts recreating the nostalgia of Spielbergia, but he didn’t leave enough room for a truly unique climax to this reminiscent story. Whilst I still enjoyed the last act of the film, I even teared up ‘cos I’m a massive pussy, it felt rushed and wasn’t as powerful as the first two thirds of the film. Super 8 is not the spectacle it should have been, but it is still a magical experience.
Director: Steve McQueen
Director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender’s follow up to Hunger (2008) is a mesmerizing character study of a sex addict trying to find his place in the world. Those looking to get their kicks on root 69 aren’t going to find such pleasure in Shame; as the sex, though graphic at times, is not shot in an erotic manner, although you do get quite a good look at Michael’s ‘Fassbender’…
Whilst sex addiction is a fascinating subject, and it is explored quite well in this film, Shame could have been about anything and it still would have been as gripping. The direction and performances are so spellbinding that you are absorbed into the world of the film for its duration – and I rarely say that about adult dramas.
Fassbender is surely the actor (or man?) of the year and this is him at the top of his game. Carey Mulligan is also one to watch and here we see her taking her skills to the next level as Fassbender’s needy sister.
Another virtue of this film is that it doesn’t shove any solid messages down our throats, the character backgrounds and motivations are quite ambiguous leaving a lot to the viewers’ imagination. This way the film stays in your mind and leaves you on your knees begging for more. Shame is the most beautifully crafted drama of the year, it would be such a shame to miss it.
#4: The Muppets
Director: James Bobin
This latest installment to The Muppets franchise, by actor/writer Jason Segel and Flight of the Conchords team James Bobin (director) and Bret McKenzie (song writer), is one of the best to date. Segel’s humour is evenly wholesome for kids and laced with references for grown-ups, whilst McKenzie’s ‘Conchordian’ styled songs truley match the spirit of The Muppets. Loaded with nostalgia for those who grew up with the early films and packed with fun for all, The Muppets is a joyous film that makes your heart leap and your eyes water.
#3: Attack the Block
Director: Joe Cornish
I’ve been watching a shitload of British TV lately and I truly believe that the BBC are giving HBO a run for their money. In the land of film, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are the champions of ‘genre comedy’ and Joe Cornish’s debut feature, Attack the Block, may be a sign that the UK is aiming a hand-cannon at the balls of the US! Well, maybe not, ‘cos no one in Australia saw this fucking movie! If you love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and you HAVEN’T seen Attack the Block, you’re missing the dynamite that’s gonna ignite your geek-spot. Attack the Block almost rivals the aforementioned films, and it absolutely blows Pegg and Frost’s Paul and Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World out of the water.
Attack the Block is a British Sci-Fi comedy that pits the chav hooligans of a South London estate against an onslaught of furry aliens that fall from the sky. The cast of unknown British youths are the balls of this film. I am usually enraged and disgusted by chavs but I fell in love with all of the lead thugs in Attack the Block. Any movie that makes you conscious of how much your mouth is open in a cinema is a true gem, and Attack the Block is a purely joyous experience.
Director: Martin Scorsese
The most magical cinematic experience of the year has no actual magic in it, it is actually all about Georges Melies and the magic of early cinema. In this age of CGI and self reflexive parodies, it is a miracle that Martin Scorsese has graced us with the beauty of ‘Hugo’, the kind of kids movie we would expect to come out in the early 90’s, the kind that kids today would have no interest in, which would explain the film’s lame fluffy trailer. This movie is very important and anyone who is the least bit interested in cinema should see it. I know 3D can be a bit off-putting, but as the film is all about the illusions of early cinema, what better way to bring such illusions to life than to use the illusions of modern technology? Scorsese utilizes 3D beautifully in ‘Hugo’ and you’d be a fool to opt for the 2D version; you’d actually be missing an element of the film. Don’t let my preaching fool you into thinking you’re up for some artsy-fartsy bullshit, Hugo is a light and extremely moving adventure for the whole family. Of all the films in this list Hugo is the one that made me cry the most.
Director: James Gunn
The only film of 2011 that has made it into my Top 100. Stay tuned to read more…
Rango, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, X-Men: First Class, Scream 4, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Paul & Bridesmaids
Yet to see…
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, Young Adult & Kung Fu Panda 2