Sunday, January 1, 2012

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Some of these films premiered in the US in 2010, but didn't make
their way to Seattle until this year, in which case I deferred to lo-
cal release dates. Some missed the city altogether, in which case I
caught up via DVD, Blu-ray, or download. Altogether, I saw over
250 titles, and wrote about most of them for Amazon, Siffblog,
Line Out, and Video Librarian (the links lead to my reviews).

Just as my 2011 music list revolves around post-punk, a post-
punk vibe runs through many of these films. Animals also a-
bound, as do animalistic human beings, like Ryan Gosling's
with his scorpion jacket (a clue to his true nature).

The Tops:
1. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
2. Poetry (Lee Chang-dong)
3. Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
4. Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki)
5. Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga)
6. Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
7. The Skin I Live In / La Piel Que Habito (Pedro Almodóvar)
8. Project Nim (James Marsh)
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt)
10. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives /
Loong Boonmee Raleuk Chat (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

1. The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
2. Attack the Block (Joe Cornish)
3. A Screaming Man / Un Homme
Qui Crie
(Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)

4. The Help (Tate Taylor)
5. Beginners (Mike Mills)
6. Weekend (Alexander Haigh)
7. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
8. Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)
9. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
10. The Time That Remains (Elia Suleiman)

Note: I enjoyed The Help. I realize I'm supposed to hate it, but
I can't stand it when people do my thinking for me or assume that
I don't know anything about African or African American cinema.

I can like The Help and I can like A Screaming Man, too. The thing
is: Tate Taylor's mainstream movie got to me in a way Mahamat-Saleh
Haroun's art house entry
didn't. Which doesn't make it the superior
picture; just one that had more personal resonance. I live for '50s-style
melodramas about ordinary women, especially those who triumph
over their small-minded oppressors, whether they're white, black, or
red-eyed space aliens. The critical opprobrium heaped on this film
carried a trace of misogyny that made me deeply uncomfortable.

Apparently, I'm not supposed to like The Artist either, in part because
Harvey Weinstein produced it. But he didn't direct it, and the story
centers on a man who refuses to compromise or to impose his will on
others--un-Harvey-like qualities. In the film, he triumphs over adver-
sity. In real life, it doesn't always work that way, but The Artist and
Hugo are movies about movies and their makers. Not their producers.

Second Runners-up:
1. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Moneyball (Bennett Miller)
3. The Princess of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier)
4. Norwegian Wood (Tran Anh Hung)
5. Hanna (Joe Wright)
6. Melancholia (Lars Von Trier)
7. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson)
9. The Yellow Sea (Na Hong-jin)
10. Winnie the Pooh (Don Hall and Stephen J. Anderson)

Openings: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens at the Metro Cinemas
(and other theaters) on 1/6 and A Separation on 2/3 (venue TBA).

Worthy of note: 50/50 (Jonathan Levine), The Arbor (Clio Barnard),  
Aurora (Cristi Puiu), Bellflower (Evan Glodell), Carancho (Pablo Trapero),
Circumstance (Maryam Keshavarz), Contagion (Steven Soderbergh),  
Curling (Denis Côté), Gods / Dioses (Josué Méndez), The Guard (John 
Michael McDonagh), Henry's Crime (Malcolm Venville), The Girl / Flickan
(Fredrik Edfeldt), Hideaway / Le Refuge (François Ozon), The Ides of 
March (George Clooney), Kaboom (Gregg Araki), The Piano in a Fac-
tory (Zhang Meng), Putty Hill (Matt Porterfield), The Rum Diary (Bruce
Robinson), Submarine (Richard Ayoade), Toast (S.J. Clarkson), The Tree
(Julie Bertuccelli), Vampire*, Vanishing on 7th Street (Brad Anderson),  
The War Horse (Steven Spielberg), Warrior (Gavin O'Connor), Win Win
(T. McCarthy), X-Men: 1st Class (M. Vaughn), Young Adult (J. Reitman).

* I left out the director and don't want to reformat the whole paragraph. Vampire
is the first English-language effort from All About Lily Chou Chou's Shunji Iwai.

They've done better: A Dangerous Method (David Cron-
enberg), The Future (Miranda July), My Week with Marilyn
(Richard Curtis), The Sleeping Beauty (Catherine Breillat), Take
(Jeff Nichols), and The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick).

Top documentaries:
1. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of
a Tribe Called Quest
(Michael Rapaport)
2. How to Die in Oregon (Peter D. Richardson)
3. Tabloid (Errol Morris)
4. Page One: Inside the New York Times (Andrew Rossi)
5. Tie: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
and Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog)
6. The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis)
7. Ne Chien Range (Pedro Costa)
8. Nénette (Nicolas Philibert)
9. Public Speaking (Martin Scorsese)
10. Bobby Fischer Against the World (Liz Garbus)

Worthy of note: Bill Cunningham New York (Richard Press),
Broken Doors (Goro Toshima), Color Me Obsessed (
Gorman Be-
chard), Crooked Beauty (Ken Paul Rosenthal), Girls on the Wall
(Heather Ross), (POM Wonderful Presents) The Greatest Movie
Ever Sold
(Morgan Spurlock), Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today 

(Stuart Schulberg), Pearl Jam Twenty (Cameron Crowe), Rachel
(Simone Bitton), Silver Girls / Frauenzimmer (Saara Alia Waas-
ner), Sin by Silence (Olivia Klaus), Still Bill (Damani Baker and
Alex Vlack), The Weird World of Blowfly (Jonathan Furmanski).

Reissues and Rediscoveries:
1. Kuroneko - The Criterion Collection (Kaneto Shindo)
2. Cronos - The Criterion Collection (Guillermo del Toro)
3. Videodrome - Criterion Collection (David Cronenberg)
4. Raging Bull - 30th Anniversary Edition (Martin Scorsese)
5. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
6. Kes - The Criterion Collection (Ken Loach)
7. Prowler (Joseph Losey)
8. The Soft Skin (François Truffaut)
9. Four Nights with Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski)
10. Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories (David Kaplan)

Odds and sods:
Bal /Honey (Semih Kaplanoğlu), Boardwalk
Empire - The Complete First Season
, The Double Life of Véron-
ique - The Criterion Collection
(Krzysztof Kieslowski), Master-
piece Classic - Downton Abbey
, Hamilton (Matt Porterfield),
The Hour, Season One, and Mildred Pierce (Todd Haynes).

Missed (or haven't seen yet): 13 Assassins (Takashi Miike), A
Brighter Summer Day
/ Gu Ling Jie Shao Nian Sha Ren Shi Jian
(Edward Yang), The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg), Cap-
tain America
(Joe Johnston), Carnage (Roman Polanski), Cedar
(Miguel Arteta), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David
Fincher), Incendies (Denis Villeneuve), The Interrupters (Steve
James), J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood), Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan),
Margin Call
(J.C. Chandor), The Muppets (James Frawley), Mys-
teries of Lisbon
(Raul Ruiz), Nostalgia for the Light / Nostalgia de
la Luz
(Patricio Guzmán),
Shame (Steve McQueen), Source Code
(Duncan Jones), Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder), Terri (Azazel Jac-
obs), Tomboy (Céline Sciamma), The Trip (Michael Winterbot-
), and We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay).

Note: Tomboy, which played the 2011 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, opens at SIFF Cinema on 1/6. Certified Copy, Nostalgia for the Light, and Of Gods and Men made my 2010 "missed" list...and I haven't caught up with them yet. Looking forward to it.

Yes, I did see...Bridesmaids. And I didn't laugh much, but I'm glad that  
Jill Clayburgh, well cast as Kristin Wiig's mother, went out with a hit. Clay-
burgh's daughter (with David Rabe), Lily Rabe, who also got her start on the stage, proves her own mettle in Christopher Munch's Letters from the Big Man, an animal-oriented film almost as strange as Uncle Boonmee.

A final thought: Shame on The New Yorker's David Denby
for breaking the review embargo regarding Fincher's The Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo
--but more so for his spoiler regard-
ing The Skin I Live In. And shame on his colleague, Richard
, for spreading the disease by quoting from Denby's Skin
review (though I still enjoyed Brody's comments about Tom
Cruise in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). Critics!

Endnote: Cross-posted here. Drive image from Collider.