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Our favorite movies of 2011


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#41 Darrel Manson

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 03:50 PM

Darrel's Dozen goes BOGO

#42 Overstreet

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 04:28 PM

Can't decide if this comment posted to my favorites list at Image is someone deliberately trying to provoke me, or if they're serious. I'm inclined to think they're serious.

Me and you certainly have different tastes in movies, because my absolute favorite film from last year was the final Harry Potter film, and Happy Feet 2, Cars 2, Dolphin Tale, Soul Surfer, and African Cats weren't far behind. For me 2011 was all about eye-popping animation, gorgeous scenery, touching inspirational tales, and in the case of Harry Potter the greatest film series of all-time coming to an emotionally challenging end.


Edited by Overstreet, 09 January 2012 - 04:28 PM.


#43 Timothy Zila

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 07:59 PM

Haven't Yet Seen:

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Certified Copy
The Mill and the Cross (comes to ABQ late January or early February).
Midnight in Paris
The Descendants
The Artist
Beginners
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Drive
Attack the Block


In the last week, I have seen "Beginners," "Attack the Block," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (which I forgot to put on there), and in the next week or so I plan to add "Certified Copy," The Mill and the Cross," "Drive," "Midnight in Paris," and "le havre" to the list. Most of the others remain inaccessible for the moment ("Martha Marcy May Marlene" doesn't come out on blu-ray until February, I think). Someone should give me a high-five or something.

#44 M. Leary

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 08:22 PM

Tuesday, After Christmas


On Netflix watch-it-now. It hasn't been my favorite from this squad of directors in recent memory, but worth watching.

#45 Persona

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 08:38 PM

Timothy, how are you seeing Le Havre? (That one I ask for myself, although it will be on a screen here in a few weeks.)

And (this one matters to the viewing itself) how are you seeing The Mill and the Cross?

#46 Timothy Zila

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 01:57 AM

Timothy, how are you seeing Le Havre? (That one I ask for myself, although it will be on a screen here in a few weeks.)

And (this one matters to the viewing itself) how are you seeing The Mill and the Cross?




I'll see both in the theater - The Mill and the Cross is here (Albuquerque) next week, and Le Havre is the first week of February.

#47 Overstreet

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 02:01 AM

I'm so glad you're seeing Mill and the Cross in a theatre. That's the only way to see that movie.

#48 Timothy Zila

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 03:55 AM

I'm so glad you're seeing Mill and the Cross in a theatre. That's the only way to see that movie.


A small theater, but a theater nevertheless (we just got new seats, though!) :)

Which brings up a more general question I've wondered about: What does independent cinema look like in bigger/more mid-size cities?

Here in Albuquerque, we only have one truly independent theater, which is a true theater in the sense that there is only one screen. The screen, I'd guess, is about 20-30 feet wide and (if this is any good as a reference) about 10% to 15% smaller than the small-size commercial screens here in ABQ. It's dwarfed by the big screens in commercial cinemas, but I quite like its quaintness

The Cinemark theater downtown picks up bigger independent films (The Tree of Life, Beginners, Tinker Tailor, Meeks' Cutoff for some reason), and the other commercial theaters do as well, although on a more limited scale.

The University of New Mexico also has a small theater that shows independent/foreign/classic cinema on the weekends (for example, they showed The Tree of Life and In a Better World last semester).

I relish the opportunity to see Mill and the Cross in a theater, and not on a 40" TV screen, but how big a screen did you get to see it on?

#49 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:08 AM

Timothy Zila wrote:
: I relish the opportunity to see Mill and the Cross in a theater, and not on a 40" TV screen, but how big a screen did you get to see it on?

Cinema 7 at the Empire Granville 7. One of the biggest screens in town. (Or at least, it was, before the stadium-style theatres came along. And it might still be, I don't know.) Woo-hoo!

#50 Persona

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 12:56 PM

I'll watch a good documentary on my iPod, I really don't care. In fact, the sound is better that way.

It's different with The Mill and the Cross though. I can understand a case being made that this film should only be seen in the theater.

I saw it on a good sized screen in a regular theater. The visuals blew me away. I'm a sucker for visuals, sometimes placing them as a higher priority than narrative - as is the case with Amer, one of the greatest horror movies to come out in the past several years.

But The Mill and the Cross stays with you not only because of the rich, mind-bending visuals, but because of the ideas in the film that are conveyed with those incredible shots.

Oh, and I wasn't picking on you. Sorry, didn't mean to come across that way. 40" will no doubt work. (edit: sorry, only saw the last two posts... didn't understand that your question was probably directed at Jeffrey, and didn't see that you were seeing it in a theater.)

I do wonder whether the film loses its power if not seen in the theater setting though.

Edited by Persona, 10 January 2012 - 01:00 PM.


#51 John

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 03:31 PM

I do wonder whether the film loses its power if not seen in the theater setting though.


I don't know about The Mill and the Cross, which I've yet to see in any format, but this is certainly generally true. A couple of months ago I saw Lubitsch's Ninotchka (which I've seen before--at home) at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and it was like I had never seen a Greta Garbo film before--or a Lubitsch film, for that matter. The size of the screen completely transformed the experience.

#52 Ryan H.

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 06:59 PM

It depends on the film, I'd suspect. I wager that, say, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY isn't too much better in the theater than it is on my home screen. (The audience could make a difference, but I doubt the scale of the screen would affect things too much.)

But I gotta say when I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY on a big screen--and I mean an enormous screen that almost overwhelmed my entire field of vision--it was like watching a whole different movie than the one I had seen so many times.

#53 Persona

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 12:43 AM

Heh. Blade Runner will be on the big screen in GR next week. After my (somewhat mild) reversal on the film last year, man, I'd really like to go...

#54 Timothy Zila

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 01:34 AM

It depends on the film, I'd suspect. I wager that, say, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY isn't too much better in the theater than it is on my home screen. (The audience could make a difference, but I doubt the scale of the screen would affect things too much.)

But I gotta say when I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY on a big screen--and I mean an enormous screen that almost overwhelmed my entire field of vision--it was like watching a whole different movie than the one I had seen so many times.


Incidentally, last night I was just thinking what an experience seeing 2001 in the cinema would be. Surely, in the age of fathom events (live opera, live concerts, one-night only showing of classic films, Mystery 3000, etc.) we can find an occasion to get 2001 back in theaters for a day or two.

#55 Lynn He

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:51 AM

I still have yet to see A Separation, Mysteries of Lisbon, and The Mill and the Cross (I couldn't get anyone to go see that one with me during the one week it was showing here in Portland) but I've seen everything else I wanted to see from 2011. This is my top ten list:

1. The Tree of Life (nothing else comes close, IMO)
2. War Horse
3. A Better Life
4. Moneyball
5. Midnight in Paris
6. Queen to Play
7. Senna
8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
9. Courageous
10. Of Gods And Men

#56 andrew_b_welch

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 07:53 PM

I'm a bit late to the party here, but my list includes:

Certified Copy
Drive
Midnight in Paris
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Of Gods and Men
Poetry
The Tree of Life
The Trip
War Horse
Win Win

And I would have to throw Terri and Young Adult in as my runners-up.

#57 SDG

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 12:36 AM

My 2011 write-up with Top 10, Runners Up and Honorable Mention

Top 10 (ranked)

  • Of Gods and Men
  • A Separation
  • The Mill & the Cross
  • Buck
  • The Conspirator
  • Moneyball
  • Mysteries of Lisbon
  • The Muppets
  • The Tree of Life
  • Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Runners-up (unranked)

  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Certified Copy
  • Hugo
  • The Interrupters
  • Jane Eyre
  • Le Quattro Volte
  • Midnight in Paris
  • No Greater Love
  • Win Win
  • Winnie the Pooh
Honorable Mention (unranked)

  • The Artist
  • Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
  • City of Life and Death
  • Contagion
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • My Perestroika
  • War Horse
  • The Way
  • We Bought a Zoo

Edited by SDG, 18 January 2012 - 09:56 AM.


#58 Joel Mayward

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:29 AM

I'll add mine to the mix. It's a top 20.


1. The Tree of Life
2. Drive
3. Take Shelter
4. Hugo
5. Midnight in Paris
6. Super 8
7. Of Gods and Men
8. Cold Weather
9. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
10. Attack the Block
11. Moneyball
12. Incendies
13. Jane Eyre
14. Certified Copy
15. 50/50
16. The Descendants
17. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
18. Win Win
19. Bridesmaids
20. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


And as an honorable mention: "Winnie the Pooh" was my son's first film seen in theaters, beginning what I hope will become a life-long passion for the cinema. And it's a wonderful little film, too.


You can read more detailed reasons for the choices here.

#59 Nathaniel

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 12:39 PM

For me, the year peaked early with the January rerelease (courtesy of IFC Films) of Shoah. The toughness of Claude Lanzmann's postmortem on the machineries of the Nazi death camps (to say nothing of the sheer length of it—a daunting nine-and-a-half hours) is a reminder of how wimpy nonfiction films have become. As a theater experience, nothing else in 2011 matched it.

Not too far behind, however, was a retrospective (thank you, Rialto Pictures) of Cavalcanti's Went the Day Well?, a criminally underseen (at least in this country) thriller from Britain's Ealing stable. Brilliantly placed eruptions of violence affirm the sobriety of the enterprise, yet it's also wickedly funny and occasionally surreal, a testament to both English pluck and wartime duplicity. (Criterion Collection, take note.)

On the Bowery is yet another dusted off old classic (much obliged, Milestone Films), and its bold mixture of documentary technique (nonprofessional actors, real locations) and polished cinematography are reminiscent of the pioneering work of Robert Flaherty. A subtle but devastating film about drunks and drinking, it's a strong showcase for Lionel Rogosin, a director ripe for reappraisal.

As far as rediscoveries go, I would be remiss if I didn't mention The White Shadow, a partially restored (by the National Film Preservation Foundation) 1923 Hitchcock effort—the earliest known credit for the legendary director. Though unimpressive on its own, there was a sense of excitement surrounding the discovery of several cans of unlabeled film in a New Zealand basement and their subsequent identification by film archivists, those watchdogs of cinema history.

That takes care of made-over old stuff, now here's my "real" list:

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Certified Copy
Essential Killing
Le Havre
Hugo
Mysteries of Lisbon
Of Gods and Men
Rango
The Strange Case of Angelica
The Trip


Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami) is almost good enough to make you forget that we are living in a post-Golden Age era for film. So, for that matter, is Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz), although few were fortunate enough to see all six hours of it. Both are dreamlike, large-themed puzzle narratives that demonstrate exquisite control over the medium. The Strange Case of Angelica is the handiwork of another old master (Manuel de Oliveira, 103 years of age and counting), and the beautiful, serene unfolding of its simple plotline is like a slow drink from a fresh stream. The same could be said for Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki), whose dry humor and gentle idealism amount to a personal vision.

Laughter is still the best medicine, and I am indebted to Gore Verbinski and Michael Winterbottom for providing it in such generous doses. Rango is a wittily animated Western parody and an encouraging reminder that in a year devoid of the Coen brothers, there are still American filmmakers who can provide a sophisticated chuckle. The Trip also fills a need and proves a point. Namely, that two well honed comedians (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) are sufficient to hold the screen if their characters are sharply defined and pitted against each other, as they are here.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Essential Killing are technically 2010 releases, having run for a full week in Los Angeles, but I wanted to include them here because they are still largely undiscovered by the masses. Werner Herzog makes sensible use of 3-D technology to give us a privileged glimpse into the distant past, while Jerzy Skolimowski delivers a virtually wordless survival story, gripping in its urgency and immediacy.

Hard won respect is also due Xavier Beauvoix, the director of Of Gods and Men, who approaches the seriousness of his subject with a corresponding seriousness of purpose, and a slowness wholly appropriate to the rhythms of the monastic life.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo, like the automaton contraption that figures into its narrative, takes some time to warm up, but when its central secret (namely, the identity of Ben Kingsley's character) is sprung, it takes on the smooth-flowing tempo of a well-oiled locomotive. Very subtle 3-D effects increase the intimacy of the experience.

Every top ten list needs runners up, and so I would tip my hat to The Artist, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, The Guard, Into the Abyss, Jane Eyre, Nuremburg: Its Lesson for Today, Road to Nowhere, A Separation, Sleeping Beauty (the most watchable Catherine Breillat to date), Take Shelter, Terri, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (an unsettling mixture of commanding mise en scene and cutesy-poo Eastern mysticism), Win Win and Young Adult.

List-making also means saying "no thanks" to such contenders as Carnage (a disappointingly slight change of pace from my favorite working director), Dogtooth, Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Ides of March, J. Edgar, Meek's Cutoff (as eerie a film as it is dramatically stagnant), Melancholia, Shame, The Skin I Live In, Tinker, Tailor, Boredom, Why?, War Horse, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

My conscience obliges me to reach a verdict on The Tree of Life, the most divisive must-see film of 2011. A second viewing of Terrence Malick's cosmic opus revealed few fresh insights. It merely called more attention to the director's epic indulgences, which have slowly withered his storytelling skills over the decades. Obscure symbolism alternates freely with postcard pictorialism. Will subsequent viewings yield richer returns? I'll wait a while to find out.

Edited by Nathaniel, 21 January 2012 - 05:50 PM.


#60 M. Leary

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 01:21 PM

That is a very nifty list.