Friday, January 6, 2012

Top 10 Films of 2011

Yes, there are so many of these lists out there right now that you don't know who you should trust. For the most part they are going to have the same overlap, at least for the films that have been released so far. I say 'for the most part' because I don't think many lists will include Justin Bieber's documentary Never Say Never like in John Waters' list. Anyway, I hope you enjoy and agree on my wonderful choices!

The List
1. The Tree of Life. From the intriguing (to some, superfluous) flame that frames the film (say that five times fast!) to the intense familial relationship and characterization, the audience is constantly engaged and is asked to consider the greater meaning of life. The cinematography is out of this world!
Check out my 100 word blog of the film here:

2. Melancholia. Another earth-shattering film that questions the existence of life as the planet Melancholia is headed towards Earth. Superb performances by the two main actresses (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) and wonderfully rounded supporting cast make the themes resonate even deeper by creating a juxtaposed tension between the family itself. An overall melancholy film that is more about dealing with life's difficulties before an impending death and less about the end of the world (obviously occurring this December). The prologue alone is well worth the ticket cost, with Wagner's Tristan and Isolde conducting the slow motion frames that capture the wonder and beauty of the apocalypse and character struggles all at once. Astounding!

3. Hugo. A fantastic film adapted from a surely creative children's book that explodes with imagination and Scorcese-auteur-style. The setting- train station and Paris- is beautifully crafted and the story captures George Melies, one of cinema's first filmmakers, as a hopeful and creative artist that simply wants to spark joy throughout the world. And as he says in the film, "Films have the power to capture dreams," don't they? Hugo is one of the greatest and truest family films ever made.

4. Midnight in Paris. Another Parisian film that captures the remarkable essence of the City of Love at a time when love and hope seemed to endure forever. Read my previous blog from June about this film that exudes my love even more!

5.Win Win. This film opened at Sundance last year and is a subtle but overall satisfying film in every way. A talented wrestling son and a lost husband/failing wrestling coach cross paths and change each other's lives for the better. I left quite happy and peaceful; this is one film where not being thought-provoked is 100% OK.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. This series finale was tear-jerking and left me wanting so much more. No, this is not disappointing; instead, I was finally happy with how the film was constructed with such detail and purpose. The special effects, acting (Alan Rickman, you will always be the only Snape in my heart. Your first 5 seconds of the film could have lasted 2 hours for me and I still would have been emotionally-drained.) and mostly-novel-following plot made this an unforgettable experience.  Check out my 100 word movie review here:

7. My Week with Marilyn. An inside look at Marilyn's acting career as she plays opposite the fantastic Lawrence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) in England, 1957. The beautiful Michelle Williams shows a truly vulnerable Monroe as she battles depression and a love life that never seems to hold steady (she is married to Arthur Miller at this point but the movie's POV is from Colin Clark, with whom she has the telling affair). The art direction draws parallels to The King's Speech and the cast (including Emma Watson!) is well-rounded (notice a pattern?).

8. Beginners. A son and father have mid/end-life crises of relationship anxiety and sexual orientation, respectively. The cutest Jack Russell costars as Ewan McGregor's counterpart, Arthur, and gives great advice to the weary. Director Mike Mills instills a minimalist style that highlights the finer things in life. Just check out all of my 100 word blogs, including one for Beginners here:

9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This has great potential to be the Best Adapted Screenplay this year as it consistently follows the Stieg Larsson novel. Rooney Mara is freakishly successful in her portrayal of the reclusive Lisbeth Salander (previously played in the Swedish trilogy by the impeccably brilliant Noomi Rapace). Fincher delivers across the board just like with last year's The Social Network (along with the score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Roth): similar style, camera techniques and design. This mature tale is inventive, mysterious, suspenseful, and repulsive- aka mind blowing fun!

10. Like Crazy. The young actors show much potential in this long distance relationship drama. The constant back-and-forth motion leaves the ending highly anticipated and unpredictable. Doremus makes some Felicity Jones (and her British accent) will be the new go-to girl soon, Anton Yelchin will continue to look unaged, the flawless and effortless Jennifer Lawrence debuted in last year's Winter's Bone and will soon be featured in The Hunger Games, and Charlie Bewley will be the newest teen heartthrob- wait, he was in Twilight...Scratch that.

Honorable Mention (in no specific order)

1. Poetry. Another Korean film that fails to disappoint the mysterious and subtly-stimulating style of its predecessors. A grandmother embarks on a moral journey after she discovers her grandson participated in raping a schoolgirl who later commits suicide. Also, she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's and is determined to learn how to write poetry. The thick story, metaphors of poetry and craft of filmmaking show that anything is possible and a lack of truly unique ideas are far off.

2. Bellflower. Sex, drugs, violence, explosions. Blood. A hardcore film that transforms from love story to much much more. The ending blew me away and the

3. Drive. Two great actors that will undoubtedly go on to even more success in the future, Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling, create an awkward relationship but fill the characters' shoes with grace and passion. Nicholas Winding Refn's style is quite effective and noticeable and gives Gosling the perfect atmosphere to perform.

4. Contagion. A surprising hit that makes a profound statement about disease in the modern world. Finally a film with an all-star cast that takes advantage of each actor's potential! Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow shine along with Matt Damon, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, and Bryan Cranston (and that's not everybody!).

5. Red State. A harrowing tale of three sex-crazed teens that alludes to the harsh anti-gay beliefs of the Westboro Baptism Church. Definitely not one for the light of heart, but a film that is creatively evil and features an ending nobody will expect. I can still picture John Goodman's reaction as I remember that resounding noise...

6. Another Earth. An impressive independent film that challenges a gifted student (Brit Marling) to embark on an unforeseen and difficult life path. In the meantime, Earth 2 is discovered close-by and is inhabited with human parallels of ourselves. A great performance by the main actress Marling creates a believable story to a theory that will forever perturb human minds: a world out there with an alternate you that decided to make better choices in life.

7. Martha Marcy May Marlene. I still don't know how I feel about this film. Yes, it is completely unsettling and Elizabeth Olsen's acting is magnificent. And for first-timer Sean Durkin this was a very ambitious endeavor. On the other hand, the ending averted another possible climax even though the film had lead the audience to believe only one possibility. I am THE connoisseur for open-ended endings, but this was disappointingly too open. Maybe you felt the same way.

8. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. This sequel brings a whole new level of action, thrill and jaw-dropping intensity to the mastermind Sherlock Holmes. The plot stems fluidly from the conclusion of the first film as a confrontation with Professor Moriarty is highly anticipated. (Moriarty smarter than Holmes?!) The regulars from the first film return (one is bid adieu too soon) while newcomer Noomi Rapace rapidly and comfortably warms up the screen. Director Guy Ritchie continues to excite audiences in this possible series, but to keep this up he'll need to think of just as great- or better- of an idea.

Films That I Have Not Seen But I Know Would Be On My List
Take Shelter
A Separation
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Artist
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Breakfast Energy Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup orange juice 
  • 4 to 6 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 banana 
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu (about 3 ounces).  Instead of tofu, try adding a handful of granola. It sounds weird at first but it's a healthy, hearty and tasty addition!
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar 
  • ice cubes

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