Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Movies 2011

I watched more movies this year than in any year in the last ten. So, naturally, choosing ten is tough. But due to the fact that my top three were so easy I figured I would go ahead and name my top ten in order. But the next ten after that are in alphabetical order. It was another terrific year in film. [I think they all are]. Here are my favorites.

1. Poetry - devastating
2. A Separation - heartbreaking
3. Melancholia - exhilarating
4. A Dangerous Method - intellectual
5. Win Win - nuanced
6. The Princess of Montpensier - impressive
7. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall... - theological
8. Seena - dynamic
9. Le quattro volte - authentic
10. Sucker Punch - audacious

The next eleven.
The Descendents
Le Havre
Meek's Cutoff
Midnight in Paris
Source Code
Tree of Life

A few of others I liked:
Bill Cunningham: New York
The Conspirators
Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
Mysteries of Lisbon
Nostalgia For The Light
Of Gods and Men
Point Blank
Project Nim
Sarah's Key
Source Code
The Strange Case of Angelica
X-Men First Class
A bunch of movies I have yet to see from 2011...

Updated: 9/21/12

Friday, December 23, 2011

Older Film Discoveries 2011

Here are 10 great films I finally caught up with or discovered in 2011.

Pandora and The Flying Dutchman [Albert Lewin, 1951] - I'd always avoided this film because of the title and because it seemed to have that psychological drama soap thing I dislike about a lot of 50's cinema. But when I realized is was shot by Jack Cardiff I realized it was time to see it. On Blu-ray it looks delicious.

By The Bluest of Seas [Boris Barnet, 1936] & The House of Trubnaya Square [Boris Barnet, 1928 - Soviet films are always so darn serious but Barnet's films are a real treat for film lovers; he makes high art delightful and fun while still maintaining the social themes that were required by the USSR.

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor - aka An Actor's Revenge [Kon Ichikawa, 1963] - Ichikawa is one of the great Japanese filmmakers yet his films remain a tad out of reach [read cold] because his themes and his filmic structures don't try to entertain us. This film is self reflexsive and deep - can I use that word?

The African Queen [John Huston, 1951] - Yes, I know this falls under the 'I can't believe you had never seen' this category. Years ago I was busy cutting my teeth on Fassbinder and Fellini and I passed Huston by. Glad I am finally catching up with his work.

Il momento della verità - aka The Moment of Truth [Francesco Rosi, 1965] - I reviewed this a couple months back. It's one of Rosi's rawest yet truest films. Brutal, beautiful and full of life and death. It is not easily forgotten.

The Man Who Could Work Miracles [Lothar Mendes, 1936] - This [sort of] falls into the quota quickly category for which the Brits excelled in the 1930's. It's solid fun from start to finish as a man finds he has enough power to run the world - until he tries.

The Phantom of Liberty [Luis Buñuel,1974] - Yes, this terrific and crazy Buñuel film still remained on my 'to see' list. I'm like the cat who leaves a little food in the bowl because I don't want there to be a last bite. I can't bear to have no more new Buñuel films to discover.

The Spy in Black [Michael Powell, 1939] - The first of the Powell / Pressburger films is a wonderful picture that had me guessing all the way to the end. Most remarkable, perhaps, is that the lead character is German. This during a time of war.

Love and Pain and The Whole Damn Thing [Alan J Pakula, 1973] - How do you make awkward endearing? This film is full of cringe-worthy scenes and performances but by the end you realize how refreshing it is to see a movie that is a lot closer to who we are rather than who we think we are when we see perfect movie stars in relationships.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Man Deer and Drinking

This news item caught my eye:

Cops: Drunk tried driving hurt deer to NY hospital

But the comments were especially humorous:

He tried to buck the system. Instead, he'll have to cough up some doe.

He's gonna have to hoof it for awhile with that DUI sentence.

That's going to cost him a few bucks

It's nothing to fawn over.

Oh deer

Monday, December 19, 2011

IndieWire vs Film Comment polls

It's year-end, which means movie polls!

Here's the Film Comment list of 50 best films of the year. The poll included 120 film journalists and critics.

Here's the IndieWire list of 150 [or so] best films of the year. The poll included 162 film critics.

Here's the Village Voice List polls 95 critics.

Of note:
#4 on IW
#22 on FC
#9 on VV

#11 on IW
#21 on FC
#19 on VV

The Artist
#13 on IW
#27 on FC
#17 on VV

Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
#15 on IW
#35 on FC
#13 on VV

A Dangerous Method
#16 on IW
# 5 on FC
#12 on VV

We Need To Talk About Kevin
#18 on IW
NOT ON FC top 50
#32 on VV

#21on IW
#10 on FC
#18 on VV

Le Havre
#30 on IW
#12 on FC
#34 on VV

Why the differences?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hugo Okay...

Martin Scorsese has made a film love letter to the world of film he reveres and to film fans everywhere.

However, when Scorsese gets out of his element his films tend to be rather flat and very safe. Much like Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Age of Innocence and Kundun Hugo hits all the narrative points it needs to to be a successful film but it doesn't soar when it should.

That is not to say it is an usuccessful film. I love that it highlights the career of Georges Méliès. And it's cool that the two kids sneak into Safety Last*, and that it has an melancholic automaton that holds the secret that spurs the narrative forward. But despite all of this - as well as the fine 3D quality - the film really feels like it is by-the-numbers filmmaking. It is also a tad slow for the type of film that it is. The film's pace is slack when it should be charging forward. Much like The Artist too - the other homage to film - the story is fairly simplistic. And, yes, it is based on a kids book but watching it, it didn't feel like a kids film. It instead felt like a kids film made for adults.

Look, it's not like my opinion matters much anyway; Hugo has a whopping 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is definitely worth seeing. But I wish Scorsese could have tweaked it a bit to make it more exciting and more memorable.

* Note that Safety Last came out in 1923 yet Hugo takes place in 1930. I can only guess they were sneaking into a revival screening of a silent film.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Denby vs Rudin

I'm on the side of common sense with regards to the David Denby, Scott Rudin ,The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo farce. Which is to say I mainly side with Denby.

If a producer / distributor screens a movie for critics with the hope of winning a critic's award then they are, essentially, asking for a review from all the critics who will then write on their ballot their list of the year's best films. So you should not then be upset when a critic writes an actual review of the film.

Sure, Denby should keep his word however the 'embargo' for expressing an opinion ended the very minute the film was screened for the critics.

Rudin has to know this. But he wants to control the media because he knows that some day he may release a lousy movie that could get killed at the box office if it receives early negative reviews. I am guessing, too, he is upset that the film did not win the New York Critics Circle Award for best film and his only recourse is to call Denby 'immoral' for writing what is, in fact, a positive review.


Friday, December 02, 2011

The Artist

Dial down your expectations for The Artist. Yes, it is good - as well as rather impressive that the director star, Michel Hazanavicius, manages to pull off a black-and-white silent film in an era that is ready to shift into 3-D. But it is not the best film of the year per the New York Film Critics. For one thing, it is too simplistic and lightweight to have any real lasting impact on the audience. It's a movie movie that certainly can and will charm film buffs.  The film is, if anything, an ode to the silent era and at times feels like a stunt to see if the filmmaker could make a silent film. He can. Bravo. But being that the movie seems to only exist as an artifact to prove a point it ends up feeling rather thin.

There are many things I found lacking about the film... suffice it to say if it were 60 minutes long it might work better. I'll also add that there is one sequence that is brilliant to the point that if the film followed that particular narrative twist it would have put the film into a fun gonzo orbit somewhere in the realm of Being John Malkovich. But, alas, what we have is a fairly entertaining and unique film with some nice - albeit predictable - moments. But nothing more.