Favorite New Movies of 2011

1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
Sorry so obvious.

2. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami)
The only one on the list that I watched twice.

3. Finisterrae (Sergio Caballero)
4. Essential Killing (Jerzy Skolimowski)
5. The Four Times (Michelangelo Frammartino)
I was glad to see these last two on so many year-end lists, because at the time I watched them they felt like secrets – in Atlanta, at least. Finisterrae is still a secret.

6. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr)
7. Tabloid (Errol Morris)
8. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raoul Ruiz)
9. Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (Bromberg, Medrea & Clouzot)
10. And Everything Is Going Fine (Steven Soderbergh)
11. Attack the Block (Joe Cornish)
12. Melancholia (Lars Von Trier)

Runners-up:
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar)
Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
The Muppets (James Bobin)
True Grit (Coens)
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Best Local Film: The Little Death (Bret Wood)

Best New Horror: Red State (Kevin Smith)

The Hobo With a Shotgun Award
for the most entertaining fake-grindhouse feature of the year goes to:
Machete by Robert Rodriguez
Runner-up: Hobo With a Shotgun

Favorite Movies watched on video in 2011

1. Three by Raoul Ruiz: City of Pirates (1984), Manuel on the Island of Wonders (1985), and That Day (2003)
City of Pirates has been the one to beat since I watched it this summer. I can’t say Manuel beats it exactly, but they are highly complimentary (both concern islands, pirates, children with identity issues, etc). The other (and of course Mysteries of Lisbon) is happy proof that Ruiz never stopped making brilliant work to the end of his life. I look forward to catching up with all the rest.

2. Three by Bergman: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Magician (1958) and The Virgin Spring (1960)
I didn’t even think I liked Bergman very much until I saw Monika at Emory early this year. Then I watched each of these expecting to be let down, but I never was. So I’m grudgingly redefining myself as a huge Bergman fan.

3. Four by Josef von Sternberg: Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928), Docks of New York (1928) and Dishonored (1931)

4. Russian Silents: Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein), By the Law (Kuleshov), Mother (Pudovkin) and Arsenal (Dovzhenko)

5. A Tale of the Wind (1988, Ivens & Loridan)
6. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, William Wyler)

7. Victor Sjostrom: The Phantom Carriage (1921) and He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

8. The Wind Will Carry Us (1999, Abbas Kiarostami)

9. Renoir in the 1930′s: La Chienne, Night at the Crossroads, Boudu Saved From Drowning and Toni
I didn’t get to Grand Illusion in time.

10. Kaneto Shindo horrors: Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968)

I don’t care if it’s cheating to put 25 titles in my top-10.

11. Finis Terrae (1929, Jean Epstein)
12. Nostalghia (1983, Andrei Tarkovsky)
13. I Was a Male War Bride (1949, Howard Hawks)

14. Two by Alain Resnais: Love Unto Death (1984) and Melo (1986)
Too bad about I Want To Go Home.

15. Century of the Self (2002, Adam Curtis)
16. For All Mankind (1989, Al Reinert)
Two extremely different documentaries.

17. Bigger Than Life (1956, Nicholas Ray)
18. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)
19. La Pointe-courte (1956, Agnes Varda)
20. Withnail & I (1986, Bruce Robinson)

21. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937, Leo McCarey)
22. Center Stage (1991, Stanley Kwan)
23. Powell & Pressburger: A Canterbury Tale and Gone to Earth
24. Hail the Conquering Hero (1944, Preston Sturges)
25. Gothic (1986, Ken Russell)
26. The Crowd (1928, King Vidor)

Runners-up:
My Life to Live (1962, Jean-Luc Godard)
The Last Bolshevik (1992, Chris Marker)
L’Assassinat du Père Noël (1941, Christian-Jaque)
The Marquise of O (1976, Eric Rohmer)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970, Werner Herzog)
The Last Mistress (2007, Catherine Breillat)

Finally, because his films don’t like to mingle with the others,
Jacques Rivette of the year: L’Amour Fou (1969)

Favorite Classic Movies watched in theaters in 2011

1. Monika (1953, Ingmar Bergman)
Didn’t used to think I was a Bergman fan.

2. Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)
Didn’t used to think I was a big Polanski fan either, until watching this on the big screen at Emory.

3. Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
Cheating: I had this same movie on the same list six years ago.

4. The Dead (1987, John Huston)
5. Knife in the Water (1962, Roman Polanski)
6. Bound (1996, Wachowskis)
7. The Lady from Shanghai (1947, Orson Welles)
8. Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder)
The previous eight films were all shown at Emory on 35mm, for which I am grateful.

9. The Gate (1987, Tibor Takacs)
One of these things is not like the others… a low-profile 80′s horror flick at the Plaza, an old fave from childhood HBO screenings seen for the first time on the big screen.

10. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, Nicolas Roeg)

Bonus mentions to The Mark of Zorro (1920, Fred Niblo) for the nice presentation (including a live organ score) at the Fox, and to The Lion King (1994) for looking pretty sweet in 3-D and making my wife so happy.

Favorite Shorts in 2011

I didn’t watch a ton of shorts, not like I did a couple years ago.
But these were all excellent.

1. The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1998, Sylvain Chomet)
This totally made up for The Illusionist.

2. The Chorus (1982, Abbas Kiarostami)
3. Toby Dammit (1968, Federico Fellini)
4. The House Is Black (1963, Forugh Farrokhzad)
5. The Way to Shadow Garden (1954, Stan Brakhage)
The only Brakhage I watched this year. I rented the second Criterion set but wasn’t sure if I should watch it or hold out for the blu-ray. Of course there’s no reason to delay ’cause I can always watch the films a second time…

6. Plastic Bag (2009, Ramin Bahrani)
7. Land Without Bread (1933, Luis Buñuel)
After reading about this for years, I felt like I’d seen it before I saw it.

8. Monsieur Fantomas (1937, Ernst Moerman)
9. Three by Agnes Varda: 7p., cuis., s. de b. (1984), Ydessa, The Bears and etc. (2004) and Le Lion volatil (2003)
10. Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (2001, Simonsson & Nilsson)
The short – not the feature, which was overbaked.

Some 2011 Movies To Watch

2011 Movies I Obviously Need To See:

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
The Artist
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Carnage
Contagion and Haywire
Crazy Horse
A Dangerous Method
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Remake
Harakiri
Into the Abyss
Insidious
Keyhole
Pina
The Rum Diary
Super 8
Take Shelter
This is Not a Film

2011 Movies I Need To See, according to many critics:

The Arbor
The Deep Blue Sea
Elena
Faust
The Guard
Le Havre
Kid with a Bike
Kill List
Margaret
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Nostalgia for the Light
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Poetry
The Portuguese Nun
A Separation
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
To Die Like a Man
Two Years at Sea and Slow Action
Tyrannosaur
We Can’t Go Home Again
We Have a Pope
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Weekend

2011 Movies I Need To See, according to a single, highly convincing critic:

Attenberg (Cinema Scope)
The Catechism Cataclysm (Grady Hendrix)
Confessions (Pamela Jahn)
Coriolanus (Demetrios Matheou)
Disorder (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
Dreams of a Life (Peter Bradshaw)
The Forgotten Space (Sukhdev Sandhu)
The Future (AV Club)
Impardonnables (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
The Interrupters (A.A. Dowd & Ben Kenigsberg)
Kaboom (John Waters)
Kinyarwanda (Roger Ebert)
Margin Call (JR Jones)
My Joy (Nick Roddick)
Photographic Memory (David Jenkins)
Post Mortem (Frances Morgan)
Red White and Blue (Virginie Selavy)
El Sicario, Room 164 (Chuck Bowen)
Super (Grady Hendrix)
The Yellow Sea (Wendy Ide)

2011: The Movie Year in Review

Another good movie year. Lists to follow.

Progress on my massive must-see lists: I’ve now watched some 61% of the They Shoot Pictures list (up from 55 last year), approx. 50% of Rosenbaum’s list (46 last year), and about 57% of Criterion movies (was 54 and I watched a ton, but they just keep releasing ‘em).

Normally I have a long list I’d made myself a year before of specific movies I intended to watch this year, and I can disappointedly point out how few of them I ended up watching, but I didn’t do that this year, so no disappointment!

Movies I only watched in part:
Late Spring – will surely try this again
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – we’ll pick this up again, too
Uncle Meat – meant to watch a half hour at a time, but never returned.
The Prisoner – meant to watch on treadmill, but working out is hard
Bells of St. Mary’s – still plotting to finish, but I fell asleep a half hour before Katy turned it off, so our resume-points are out of sync.
A Christmas Carol – The Jim Carrey motion-capture version. Not planning to finish this ever, since its one of the worst movies we’ve ever (half) watched – a mishmash of visual styles, all of them ugly.

Anyway… on with the lists!

Burke and Hare (2011, John Landis)

Perfect example of a movie that works in theory, but lacks something essential. Strong performances by good comic actors (I was happily surprised by Andy Serkis), funny situations and dialogue, strong historical interest, and good energy. So why is it such an average movie? Blame Landis?

Simon “Burke” Pegg tries to buy the favor of feminist actress Isla Fisher, while Hare is content with his wife Lucky (Spaced star Jessica Hynes). The intrigue revolves around head doctors at competing medical schools – old-school Tim Curry, who gets the law on his side, and Tom Wilkinson, who resorts to hiring our heroes to provide him bodies on which to experiment (leading to the undignified death of poor Christopher Lee). Bill Bailey plays a narrating executioner and David Hayman is a gangster who wants protection money but ends up dead in the operating theater. Movie closes on a present-day shot of Burke’s skeleton, still preserved in Edinburgh – perfect ending to a historical black comedy.

I haven’t much to say, so thought I’d end by stealing a native Edinburgh perspective from Shadowplay, but damn it, they haven’t watched this one yet.

Buy from Amazon:
Burke & Hare DVD

Submarine (2010, Richard Ayoade)

As a rule, I don’t like movies about precocious, lovestruck schoolkids. But I like Richard Ayoade and this got good reviews and Rushmore comparisons, so I checked it out. Extremely well-done – funny and atmospheric, two things that rarely go together. It’s Wes Andersonian without seeming derivative.

Oliver Tate worries that his parents (Sally Hawkins of Happy-Go-Lucky and Noah Taylor, appropriately of The Life Aquatic) aren’t getting along, pines after a classmate named Jordana, and envisions his own life in that sweetly megalomaniacal manner that teenagers do.

Drama: Oliver gets the girl, then loses her when he panics and doesn’t come to the hospital on the day of her mother’s cancer surgery. And Oliver’s mom might be cheating with the next-door neighbor (new-age spokesman Paddy Considine). For a movie starring a kid, it works out its conflicts in a refreshingly mature way.

Oliver checks up on his parents:

Paddy Considine:

Buy from Amazon:
Submarine blu-ray

L’assassinat du Père Noël (1941, Christian-Jaque)

An unexpectedly excellent Christmas movie (Katy was suspicious of the title) that turned out far better than Good Sam. The movie expertly sets up a series of eccentric characters in a secluded mountain town, building suspense as Christmas draws near because two major characters wear the santa suit and we know from the title that one of them will die. But instead a third santa is killed, plus the local church’s prize jewel is stolen from the nativity exhibit, and the movie becomes a somewhat lighthearted murder-mystery.

It’s just not Christmas without a crazy cat lady:

Cornusse (Harry Baur, star of Raymond Bernard’s Les Miserables, tortured to death by the Gestapo a couple years after this movie) is a globe-maker whose daughter Catherine (Renee Faure, star of Bresson’s Les anges du peche) suffers from Disney Princess Syndrome. A Baron (Raymond Rouleau) returns to his castle after a decade-long tour of the world, stricken with leprosy. Villard (Robert Le Vigan of Duvivier’s remake of The Phantom Carriage) is an athiest schoolteacher planning his annual fireworks assault on the church during Christmas services. Mother Michel (Marie-Helene Daste – wife of Jean, appropriate since the teacher/student rapport was bringing Zero de Conduite to mind) is a crazy woman who wanders the town asking about her long-dead (and stuffed) cat.

Globe-maker and daughter:

Villard is trying to win Catherine’s heart, but he’s too ordinary for her – she pines after the mysterious baron. She sneaks off to his castle while her father Cornusse plays Santa throughout town. When Santa comes to the castle looking for the three kids of the groundskeeper (one of whom is sick in bed and grumping about Christmas), the Baron lets him fall asleep then takes the suit.

Great scene: Villard whirls about in celebration with the other pub denizens, the camera whirling with him, alternating with shots rotating around broken-hearted Catherine

But when Santa shows up murdered it’s neither of the men – a stranger. Turns out Jean Brochard (of Diabolique and I Vitelloni) hired the man to steal the diamond, then killed him and planned to flee town alone. Mystery solved, jewelry returned, and the Baron never had leprosy (he’s just antisocial) so he and Catherine live happily ever after.