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Derek’s Top 10 Films of 2011

Derek's Top 10 Films of 2011

This is part of a series of year end lists here on The Lost Boys this week… Check back for more, and enjoy Derek’s best films of 2011 below:

Ending my abominable tardiness to make a blog post, here is a list of my top 10 films of 2011. Most of these are derived from the Toronto Film Festival I attended; some (like entry #10) were watched on Netflix under much lethargy.

10. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never:  I included this one just to accentuate the goodness of the latter movie To be explicit: I found this movie to be bad, not good. Never Say Never is a redundant, boring retelling of Bieber’s career, wrapped around segments leading up to a performance at Madison Square Gardens. The movie can be summed up in one instance; half-way through the entire narrative of the film stops. Suddenly a shot of Justin and his ultra-douchebag manager appear. They then begin to make painful references to the “audience.” They say to the camera, “Hey, are you paying attention? You in the back, quit texting stop making out!” And then the movie keeps playing.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: This would qualify as another semi-disliked movie by contrast. It’s not that I hated it, simply that I’ve outgrown its franchise. I watched it on the very last day it was playing in my city, sort of to satiate my nostalgia for the very last time. While I appreciated the stylistic direction and treatment of the story (splitting the book into two worked in its favor) there’s always been a mediocrity I find Harry Potter stinks of. Specifically, the series has stretched on for so many years that it feels to have lost its relevance, even to itself. I’d be interested in stringing all eight films together and seeing what coherency there might be.

8. Rango: Far and away my favorite animated film this year. The whole thing was quirky, awesome, and not a little trippy. There were certain lines in this thing that went fully beyond its childhood audience to the adult audience that had the treat of seeing it. Although the story is simple, a lizard landing up in a Western-style village and rallies with them to save their water supply, it is with flair and humor. The animation is palpable, dialogue terrific thanks to Johnny Depp, and enough charm to make it work.  

7. We Need To Talk About Kevin: From the highly contrasted cinematography, engaging storyline and out-standing acting on all fronts, the movie is commendable. One thing I found interesting when I watched it – most of the audience was laughing, hardily at that, at its subtle bouts of blackest-of-black humor, which I didn’t understand. For I found the movie almost sickening, in the way it captures some of the deepest and saddest truths about family life.

6. Wuthering Heights: Only a few of the succeeding movies impressed me more on a bare visual level. The entire film has a very blue sheen and it gives a perfect catalyst for the plotline. All the emotion and feeling in the movie is basked heavily in this basin, if you will, of color; it was enough to leave certain images imprinted on my mind. Wuthering Heights is a scanty, derisive movie filled gloom, and I dug it. Something to note; I’d never before heard of the classic novel by Emily Bronte, and understand this adaptation deviates heavily from it, and how commendable.

5. Cafe de Flore: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that incorporates music so well! Music was engrained into Café de Flores fabric, certain scenes felt almost like music videos. The opening sequence has “Speak to Me/Breathe” by Pink Floyd in it, and the shot which correlates made me reel. Yet an even more telling moment happened later on. The characters began to hum a certain song during one of the scenes; I noticed that I recognized the melody as one of my very favorite songs. They kept humming, and began thinking to myself, “No way! it can’t be Sven g Englar by Sigur Ros, it just can’t!” But then it is! The song in question streams forth, and a near-orgasmic experience, for all 9 minutes of the song, I then have. The rest of the movie followed suite.

4. The Turin Horse: The opening song and a shot of a horse; thus begins The Turin Horse. Here are some other sequences: A man cutting wood with an axe, that same man and his daughter eating potatoes (this happens three or four times). As these shots, presumably tedious, begin to accumulate, something special occurs. It is when a man joins this family and speaks to them about the evils of humanity, the end of the world. The entirety of the movie then takes on a truly, what’s the word, intrinsic? nature. These shots alone convey its message, without the need for dialogue or story, simply its black-and-white mood and remedial actions. It turns out to be a wholly affecting message at that.

3. Melancholia: Despite what I’d heard about Lars von Triar I knew little of Melancholia upon seeing it, so it was a fairly virgin experience. And the moment it began I was subdued – collapsing horses, Kirsten Dunst opening her eyelids, planets colliding like shattering glass. Though I could touch on the rest of the movie, I’ll pinpoint again at its ending. As the three characters brace themselves for apocalypse, the music’s theme then catapults – the theatre I was in got loud like nothing I’d felt before in one. As planet Melancholia collides, my heart pounded, my breathe was stolen. It was an experience I’ll ever forget. I’ve talked much with an acquaintance on how the ending made him feel, and his response was that it was relieving; in many ways I agree with him. And how von Triar is able achieve such a contrasting emotion for the end of the world I can only gawk at.  

2. The Tree of Life: It was after the fourth time seeing The Tree of Life that it finally clicked. All the previous viewings then made sense; all the images that had passed through my mind were now cohesive, enigmatic and masterful. I interpret how Malick filmed most of it as if he’s capturing memory itself; various scenes, or even specific snippets, remind me of my own childhood; its intensely powerful when this has happened. In contrast, though, I find the movie to be in fact quite simple – simple in its beauty. Shot after shot, sequence to sequence, it is all so touchingly pretty: Brothers tumbling in a field to “The Moldeau”; celestial bodies expanding majestically; Jessica Chastain floating in mid-air. (PS – I’ve once told Jessica Chastain how I particularly like that part of the movie.)

1. Faust:  I will justify this choice by explaining, in as much detail, the experience of watching Alexander Sokurov’s Faust in the theatre. A quarter of the way into the movie I stopped following the captions, because the dialogue I found incredibly strange. The way the characters were moving was  also really confusing to me; after a while I gave up on the storyline, too. It then became a singularly visual experience, seeing images without any context and verbal sounds without words. And as the movie continued I began to really grow bothered. Time began to stretch in the theatre; it felt like I’d been sitting there for three, four, five hours, sincerely. I began sighing, fidgeting; at one point I remember hoping that the film would end, that I could finally be released from it, in a way. Yet with all this, how is it that Faust is my very favorite film of the year? The answer to this lies in what happened after it ended. Leaving the theatre, I felt an immense transcendence; everything around me was vibrant and heightened. All the people and places I saw later in the night looked alien and curious, in a way that was as powerful as it was fucking absurd. This movie I’d just seen, that I’d protested throughout and understood nothing of, had affected me on a wholly human level; it’s nearly inexpressible. All I’m describing happened three months ago, yet I can recall it so easily, the feelings are still as omnipotent. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how very special watching the film Faust was. Upon much meditation, I’ve realized that this movie is an initiation for cinema-goers like me, on the avenues of not even cinema but art itself. And in that theatre, on that night three months ago, I was its pupil.


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