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30 December 2011

My Top 5 Movies of 2011

I broke the 100 barrier again this year, movie-wise, watching a total of 109 films in 2011, a few more than last year's 95. It was easy to narrow down my top three but ordering the movies proved more difficult. In any case, here are my top five:

1. We Need To Talk About Kevin. It seems like the 2012 Academy Award for best actress will fiercely contested but Tilda Swinton, playing the mother of the eponymous Kevin, definitely stands a good chance. We Need To Talk About Kevin is bleak and uncomfortable to watch. It's also a brilliant film, although definitely not good first-date (or any date) material.

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. As with last year's list, my #2 film is the only one I saw twice, enjoying it just as much--if not more--second time around. With great performances from Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and the rest of the ensemble cast (even if there were too many blonde-ish mullets), beautiful cinematography and a plot filled with plenty of complicated espionage and betrayal. The only disappointment was that a few of the lines from the 1979 TV series that my father recorded onto one of his many audio-compilation-of-TV-shows-and-movies tapes and played ad nauseam, ad infinitum throughout my youth didn't appear in the script (you can watch them here, starting at 1:35; "Officially, you're absent without leave...").

3. The Skin I Live in. I was hooked on this one as soon as I saw the trailer and although it isn't perfect, Almodóvar's film is dark, twisted and compelling, with Antonio Banderas starring as Robert Ledgard, the charismatic but troubled plastic surgeon who, among other things, is trying to create an extremely resilient synthetic skin without pissing off "the scientific community." (I work for a scientific publisher--which is thanked in the credits for providing journals for Ledgard's office, incidentally--and was amused by the characters' main concern about Ledgard's more ethically dubious research was what "the scientific community" would think, rather than, say, the police.) Almodóvar is definitely at his bonkers best in The Skin I Live in.

4. The Descendants. Sure, part of the fun of watching Alexander Payne's latest film was spotting George Clooney on the red carpet and watching him, Payne and the young co-star Shailene Woodley (who was great) talking about the movie on stage at the London Film Festival. But The Descendants is an interesting film in its own right and it's always fun to see Clooney acting against type (this time playing the family man).

5. The Artist. It's a little unfair for me to include this film in my top five over  The King's Speech, when I only saw the former this afternoon and I watched the latter almost a year ago. But The Artist definitely lived up to the hype and engaged even me--a real stickler for good dialogue--despite having almost no dialogue and very little sounds at all, apart from the musical score. I'd recommend The Artist for cinéphiles and lovers of early cinema in particular but the sweet, if sometimes a little melodramatic (intentionally so) story of a silent movie actor who refuses to adapt to the arrival of the talkies. A longer review will follow.

Honourable mention: Senna. This is my token documentary entry and although it didn't quite make my top five, I really enjoyed it, despite knowing little and caring less about motor racing.

  • The Next Three Days
  • Paranormal Activity (DVD)
  • The Killer Inside Me (DVD)
  • The Children's Hour
  • 127 Hours
  • The Young Victoria (TV)
  • The Boat That Rocked (TV)
  • The King's Speech
  • Morning Glory
  • The Fighter
  • Ocean's Eleven (1960; TV)
  • The Mechanic
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Hereafter
  • Primal Fear (DVD)
  • Jagged Edge (DVD)
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • A Few Good Men (DVD)
  • Archipelago
  • The Rainmaker (DVD)
  • Another Year (DVD)
  • Fair Game
  • Route Irish
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Source Code
  • Submarine
  • Scream 4
  • Oranges and Sunshine
  • The Color of Money (DVD)
  • Rosemary's Baby (DVD)
  • Let the Right One in (DVD)
  • Water for Elephants
  • Let's Scare Jessica to Death
  • Thor
  • Badlands (DVD)
  • Hanna
  • Along Came a Spider (TV)
  • Kiss the Girls (TV)
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Les Ojos de Julia
  • The Contender (DVD)
  • Unforgiven (DVD)
  • Gli Angeli del Male
  • Senna
  • Killing Bono (TV)
  • Potiche
  • The Messenger
  • Taken (TV)
  • Incendies
  • Bridesmaids
  • Date Night (DVD)
  • Gone Baby Gone (DVD)
  • A Separation
  • Trust
  • La Princesse de Montpensier
  • The Philadelphia Story (DVD)
  • The Big Picture
  • Beginners
  • Witness for the Prosecution (DVD)
  • All the President's Men (DVD)
  • The Tree of Life
  • Mr Nice (DVD)
  • Project Nim
  • Sarah's Key
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • TRON Legacy (DVD)
  • One Day
  • The Skin I Live In
  • Limitless (DVD)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968; DVD)
  • X-Men (TV)
  • Jane Eyre
  • Kill List
  • Last Night (plane)
  • Midnight in Paris (plane)
  • Super 8 (plane)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Drive
  • Warrior
  • Red State
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats (DVD)
  • The Help
  • Like Crazy
  • The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  • The Ides of March
  • The Descendants
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Damsels in Distress
  • Anonymous
  • Contagion
  • Miss Bala
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • The Name of the Rose (TV)
  • Tabloid
  • The Weather Man (TV)
  • The Awakening
  • The Deep Blue Sea
  • My Week with Marilyn
  • The Other Man (TV)
  • In Time (DVD)
  • Ponyo (TV)
  • Margaret
  • Shame
  • Defiance (TV)
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  • A Dangerous Method
  • Hugo (sadly in 2D, thanks to the Cannes cinema)
  • The General's Daughter (DVD)
  • The Artist


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