Nothing left of 2011 but a couple of memories and some of them included movies. In a year where I wasn’t able to catch a lot of films selecting a Top 10 is without a doubt an even more subjective affair than in ‘regular’ years, but does that stop us? Of course not. The idea that we might not have even watched two dozens of recent movies proved wrong when compiling the list (however, what does it say if you can’t recall what you’ve just seen?). Choosing a winner proved to be a piece of cake, it’s the rest of the top 10 that was trickier to rank. Some serious shoehorning later, this is the result:
1. WINTER’S BONE
And the winner is… oh yeah, you already know. “Because Jennifer Lawrence, Ree in the movie, has a doe-like quality that […] wonderfully clashes with the toughness of her character and the film’s setting. They say nature can be relentless… well, so are the people who have to live in the woods. The movie is also excellently shot and almost every scene where the nature settings are present are small tableaus, but one where beneath the soft blowing of the wind danger seems to loom.” Full review: here
2. LE GAMIN AU VÉLO
Ultimately, what at the time seemed a flaw, has won us over. This may not have been the most logical film by the Dardennes, but life isn’t always easy to explain. For no apparent reason whatsoever, a woman takes a boy into her custody. Add some small time crooks and a huge amount of personal problems and you’ve got yourself a movie that is almost poignant as Rosetta, but easier to watch. (Original review here)
3. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.
Which movie should become the runner-up, CSL or Gamin? That was the hardest decision of this top 10, but this one finally bowed its head. Because for some reason a lot of movies with Ryan Gosling popped up in 2011? Because this blog shares a nationality with the Dardenne brothers? Possibly and no. Because the period at the end of the title is getting on our nerves? Perhaps… (welcome to the only blog where interpunction may cost you a spot) Fact is that this is one of the very few recent comedies that has no problem standing in the same pantheon as classic screwball comedies. And it would be a couples of bridges too far to rank Emma Stone‘s comment on Gosling’s six-pack (“Seriously, that’s not photoshopped?”) next to “Because I just went gay all of a sudden”, but it is one of the few movies that manages to pull off two climaxes, one of which is a teary-eyed Hollywood cliché book, but one with a nice twist at the end. (Full review)
How to take revenge at the school kids who’ve killed your daughter? Well, if you’re a teacher, it’s easy: confess you’ve spiked their milk with HIV-positive blood and enjoy the aftermath. Includes beautiful slow motion scenes and a couple of twists. A burning look at the human condition until the very end. Read more about it here.
5. BLUE VALENTINE
The mid-section of this top 10 is very much the cheeriest thing you’ll have read: if you’re not pleased with mentally torturing the murderers of your child, you may want to watch how a relationship dissolves. Blue Valentine might have ended up higher in the list, but the interweaving of how the relationship ends and the happier times didn’t grip us as much as it should have done. Starring Michelle Williams and a debuting actor called (wait, we’re looking this up) Ryan Gosling.
And what if we could tie the death of a relationship to the end of the world? Step forward Lars von Trier and Kirsten Dunst. There was something about a press conference on this film at some film festival where someone said something that didn’t really go down well with the rest of the world, but we forgot the details. Meanwhile, the mysterious 19th hole (a.k.a. the part where reality doesn’t make sense or ceases to exist) as well as the review itself were the most read and sought after items at the Avenue. We’ve already mentioned that this featured Dunst in great form, but we shouldn’t forget that the slow motion prequel to the movie were extremely beautiful to watch. Not the best film of the year, but the one with the most beautiful shots. (Full review: here)
More relationship joy? Polanski’s play on film ended up on the seventh spot. Why not higher? “Because the film was written by Yasmina Reza and it was based on her play Le Dieu de Carnage. And this film is very much a film version of a play. Is that bad? No, but throughout the film I wanted to see the reactions of the other people while someone was having a dialogue or monologue and here – by definition as it’s a film (unless you count experiments like Timecode by Figgis) – you’re bound to watch what’s happening through the vision of the director.” (Original review)
8. BLACK SWAN
We really should take some happy pills: more psychological destruction, but this time it’s self-inflicted. You all know about this Darren Aronofsky film starring Natalie Portman, so why bother with a lengthy review? Let’s just say this wasn’t as fulfulling as we’d hoped, but while this wasn’t the case, it didn’t disappoint enough to keep it out of the top 10.
9. SIMON WERNER A DISPARU
School outcasts, a mysterious disappearance, the nineties and a soundtrack by Sonic Youth. “Cult fans (especially those who’ve watched a giallo or two) will not be surprised that it isn’t always the most likely suspect who’s responsible for a (possible) crime. If that worries you, Simon Werner says more about you than about the 1990s. There’s lots of gossiping in the film and eccentric or asocial characters are just ready to be served as scapegoats. (Just like Alice seems born for the role of femme fatale.) And that is the true story behind Simon Werner’s disappearance. A simple whodunit, this is not. Good movie, good soundtrack and a fair bit of nostalgia for the previous century. Are we content? Yes, we are.” (Read more here)
After fifteen minutes you find out the couple that has just moved in don’t have a boy and a girl, but two girls. Gender confusion galore as Laure (Zoé Héran) pretends to be Michaël. Things don’t improve when Lisa falls in love with “him” and after a fight Laure’s mother thinks the best option to show everyone Michaël doesn’t exist is by forcing Laure into a dress. The second movie written and directed by Céline Sciamma, whose Naissance des pieuvres (Water Lilies) we still fondly remember.
Ten movies and between four to six to remember. Probably more, but time wasn’t on our hands, so for now, we’ll have to do with just the reputation of Rundskop, Never Let Me Go and The Artist. Maybe next year?
Two movies that didn’t make it into the top 10, but deserve a mention:
The Ides of March