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Best of 2011

January 21, 2012

Better late than never. This annual task seemed especially hard this year, happily thanks to an embarrassment of riches (a situation exacerbated by my going to Cannes for the first time). As usual my list doesn’t hew to any international release patterns, it’s just the best of the new films I saw in 2011, even though some of them, including #1, aren’t coming out until this year (and some may not get a release at all). And it doesn’t include some 2011 releases (like The Arbor, Uncle Boonmee and Bill Cunningham New York) that I saw in 2010. The order of these (except for #1) has changed many times during the compiling, so don’t read too much into the difference between a place or two, and plenty of the runners-up (Drive, Shame, Play, Kill List) could have edged into the top ten in a lesser year.

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 2011

1. THE TURIN HORSE (Bela Tarr, Hungary)
2. HUGO (Martin Scorsese, USA)
3. LE QUATTRO VOLTE (Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy)
4. ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
5. THIS IS NOT A FILM (Jafar Panahi, Iran)

6. TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS (Radu Muntean, Romania)
7. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick, USA)
8. MYSTERIES OF LISBON (Raoul Ruiz, Portugal)
9. PINA (Wim Wenders, Germany)
10. HOUSE OF PLEASURES (Bertrand Bonello, France)

20 runners-up (fiction), in alphabetical order:
BRIDESMAIDS (Paul Feig, USA); DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn, USA); ELENA (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia); KILL LIST (Ben Wheatley, UK); MARGARET (Kenneth Lonnergan, USA); MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Sean Durkin, USA); MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt, USA); the first ten minutes of MELANCHOLIA (Lars von Trier, Denmark); MICHAEL (Markus Schleinzer, Austria); THE MILL AND THE CROSS (Lech Majewski, Poland); MISS BALA (Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico); OF GODS AND MEN (Xavier Beauvois, France); PATER (Alain Cavalier, France); PLAY (Ruben Osterland, Sweden); A SEPARATION (Asghar Farhadi, Iran); SHAME (Steve McQueen, USA); SLEEPING SICKNESS (Ulrich Köhler, Germany); TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Tomas Alfredson, UK); THE TRIP (Michael Winterbottom, UK); WEEKEND (Andrew Haigh, UK)

10 runners-up (documentary), in alphabetical order:
ARMADILLO (Janus Metz Pedersen, Denmark); BEING ELMO (Constance Marks, USA); CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog, Germany/France); THE INTERRUPTERS (Steve James, USA); MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (Matthew Akers, USA); MOUTH OF THE WOLF (Pietro Marcello, Italy); PROJECT NIM (James Marsh, UK); SENNA (Asif Kapadia, UK); EL SICARIO, ROOM 164 (Gianfranco Rosi, Mexico); THE SWELL SEASON (Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins & Carlo Mirabella-Davis, USA)

Guilty Pleasures:
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (George Nolfi, USA); LIMITLESS (Neil Burger, USA); WAR HORSE (Steven Spielberg, USA)

Guilty Displeasures (films I wish I’d liked more):
MELANCHOLIA (Lars von Trier, Denmark); A DANGEROUS METHOD (David Cronenberg, Canada)

2010 releases I’m glad I caught up with in 2011:
MONSTERS (Gareth Edwards, UK); NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ (Henry Joost & Jody Lee Lipes); WINNEBAGO MAN (Ben Steinbauer, USA)

Best old films seen for the first time in 2011:

1. POSSESSION (Andrzej Zulawski, Poland/Germany, 1981)
2. THE CLOCK  (Vincente Minnelli, USA, 1945)
3. BABY FACE (Alfred E. Green, USA, 1933)
4. CLUNY BROWN (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1946)
5. LA SFIDA/THE CHALLENGE (Francsco Rosi, Italy, 1958)

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