in order to meet the december print deadline, i was asked to submit my top ten to the skinny back in november. my personal selections and the skinny's ended up surprisingly similar, with six of my choices appearing in the final list. of course, the problem with writing a top ten so early is that it locks out worthy contenders - and since winter always contains the lion's share of award fodder, the chances of overlooking something truly great are high - as proven by my number one choice.
i am but one man, with one set of eyes and ears and a limited number of hours, so, naturally, plenty of films slipped by unseen. i didn't see tom boy, senna, weekend, jane eyre, archipelago, mysteries of lisbon, pina, tyrannosaur, attack the block, the guard and loads of other movies. i've also opted to include only those films that received a uk cinematic release in 2011 - ruling out bela tarr's masterful the turin horse, alex de la iglesioas' brilliantly bonkers the last circus, and gen takahashi's confessions of a dog, finished in 2006 and brought to the glasgow film festival back in february. my new rule does mean, however, that how i ended last summer - number 7 on last year's list - reappears.
1. the artist (dir. michel hazanavicius)
i'll have a more comprehensive write-up of the artist in the next few days, which i'll link back to then. it's on general release today, and i urge you to go and see it if you haven't alraedy done so.
2. tinker tailor soldier spy (dir. tomas alfredson)
this was initially my number one - a superb adaptation deserving of every superlative chucked its way.
3. project nim (dir. james marsh)
i aint ashamed to admit it: i cried. then i saw it again, and blubbed again. click here to read my five-star review.
4. the tree of life (dir. terence malick)
loved and loathed in seemingly equal measure, i fell firmly in the former camp. and not just because of the dinosaurs.
5. meek's cutoff (dir. kelly reichardt)
"As with most of Kelly Reichardt’s filmography, the triumphs of Meek’s Cutoff are as much in what it doesn’t do as what it does." i wrote for the skinny's december edition. "A female-focussed western that doesn’t involve saloon girls, anachronistic behaviour or a rootin’ tootin’ Doris Day is a rarity in itself, while the director’s typically measured pace has a hypnotic allure, drawing the audience deeper and deeper into screenwriter Jonathan Raymond’s tale of a diminished wagon-train’s fateful progress through the Oregon plains. But perhaps fateful isn’t the correct word; as desperation mounts, a careful ambiguity anti’s the climax just as tensions reach a head, ensuring it lingers long in the mind."
6. we need to talk about kevin (dir. lynne ramsay)
a tense and not entirely pleasant viewing experience, but so intricately and imaginatively structured that it's worth the discomfort - let's hope ramsay's next feature isn't quite so long coming.
7. drive (dir. nicholas winding refn)
a b-movie pitch with a-movie polish, imbued with sufficient smarts to win over both cool-loving teens and haughty cannes-crowds alike.
8. son of babylon (dir. mohamed al daradji)
"Mohamed Al Daradji follows Ahlaam’s flashbacks and dreams with a straightforward road movie of sorts." i wrote in my GFF11 review. "This devastating indictment of Saddam Hussein’s legacy – a million missing; 250,000 bodies dug from the earth thus far – is desperately sad, the soundtrack filled with the anguished ululating of grieving mothers and widows, the character’s journey a series of mass graves. But the sadness has purpose: visit the Iraq’s Missing campaign to find out how you can help."
9. le quattro volte (dir. michelangelo frammartino)
another one which i wrote about for the skinny's end-of-year write-up. "Taking inspiration from the Pythagorean concept that we each cycle through four lives – human, animal, vegetable and mineral – Michelangelo Frammartino’s second film studies the unhurried pastoralism of a remote Italian town to haunting effect" i reckoned. "As goat-herd cedes to goat, goat to tree, La Quattro Volte pares away causal relations until we’re left absorbed in simple scenes of branches in the breeze. Though the temporality of existence may seem a potentially uneventful theme, its treatment is never less than fascinating; Frammartino leavens his metaphysical meditation with beauty, grace and – in a single-take scene of collie-caused destruction – humour, and the result is unforgettable."
10. incendies (dir. denis villeneuve)
one of several films i wrote GFT programme notes for this year - read em here.
11. warrior (dir. gavin o'connor)
12. a separation (dir. asghar farhadi)
13. the deep blue sea (dir. terence davies)
14. melancholia (dir. lars von triers)
15. 127 hours (dir. danny boyle)
16. true grit (dir. joel and ethan coen)
17. the skin i live in (dir. pedro almodovar)
18. kaboom (dir. gregg araki)
19. the interrupters (dir. steve james)
20. black swan (dir. darren aronofsky)
21. midnight in paris (dir. woody allen)
22. animal kingdom (dir. david michod)
23. how i ended this summer (dir. aleksey popogrebskiy)
24. kill list (dir. ben wheatley)
25. poetry (dir. chang-dong lee)
right, i'm off to watch the artist again.