best film: I’m pretty confident that Tree of Life is Malick’s greatest workIf it is, it makes it one of of the best 50 films of all-time and as highly as I think of The Turin Horse, Bela Tarr’s work quite touch this (at least after one viewing and I’m itching for #2). It’s ambitious and expansive in scope. It’s luminously photographed and edited so rhythmically. I mean think about the editing and beauty of the film. It’s one of the better, of both categories, in any era.

 most underrated:  Joachim Trier’s Oslo,, August 31st is ranked 36th on the TSPDT 2011 list and that’s about 30 slots low. It’s a very exhaustive film and the late great Roger Ebert said “Oslo, August 31st” is quietly, profoundly, one of the most observant and sympathetic films I’ve seen”. It proves, also, that Trier is no one-hit wonder with his debut Reprise.

 most overrated: There are a bunch of overrated films from 2011. The top 10 of the TSPDT is littered with them. They have the top 4 right (or close) with tree of life, melancholia, turin horse and A Separation but they have Once Upon a Time in Anatolia as 5th, Hugo as 6th and The Artist as 7th and I don’t have any of those three near my top 10.

 

gem I want to spotlight: Drive slapped me acros the face back in 2011. It brought Refn to my attention (shame on me for overlooking him prior) and it’s yet another coup for Gosling in lead. The score and 80’s nostalgia color palate (and mise-en-scene costume design) are a big win as well. It’s Refn’s greatest combination of visuals and narrative to date.

trends and notables: Malick’s bomb here is the big story for sure. Before his passing Ebert put it in his top 10 of all-time. I’m not there (at least yet) but it’s a massive achievement. I can mention it more in 2012 but may also be the death of Malick as we’d know it since his work since tree of life hasn’t been up to snuff (at least by his crazy standards and average movie rating).  Prior to 2011 Malick took so much time off (prior to this it was 2005’s The New World) so it’s a big year from the Kubrick/infrequency metric as well. The stars were really aligned in 2011 because we also have a Bela Tarr film—and a great one. This is Tarr’s 8th feature (and sadly, at least according to what he says, his last) since 1979. I might have said this with 2007’s Assassination of Jesse James but 2011 may be peak Brad Pitt. He’s spectacular in The Tree of Life and was probably robbed of an oscar win (amongst the nominees) for best actor for Moneyball. It’s a big year. He isn’t at his peak yet but 2011 is the begging of Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence and “The McConaissance”. He’s in Killer Joe and Bernie. As far as big firsts it’s a massive year and arrival for Jessica Chastain. She’s in Tree of life, Take Shelter and Coriolanus. Oscar Isaac arrives on the scene with a very good performance in Drive.

best performance male:  Michael Shannon is the choice here for his brilliant work in Take Shelter. It’s a strong performance throughout in an excellent film but his explosion in the church, that scene, is breathtaking. Behind him we have the aforementioned Brad Pitt (here with combined work in Tree of Life and Moneyball). Gosling keeps his hot streak alive in Refn’s Drive. Michael Fassbender is certainly worthy of praise in Shame.  My last two mentions are for Payman Maadi in Farhadi’s A Separation and Anders Danielsen Lie in Oslo, August 31.

 

best performance female: This is a loaded category once again in 2011. This is a really tough call for the top slot. I think I’d take Carey Mulligan’s combined work in Drive and Shame over anyone else but Kirstin Dunst is superb in Melancholia so it’s a tough choice. In her debut year Chastain makes a strong bid with her work, mainly here for our purposes, in tree of life. Elizabeth Olsen is terrific in Martha Marcy May Marlene as is Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea and Leila Hatami in A Separation. Lastly, yes I know it’s loaded, Though I don’t have the film quite as high as the others here I can’t ignore just how damn good Anna Paquin is in Margaret.

 

top 10

  1. The Tree of Life
  2. The Turin Horse
  3. Melancholia
  4. Take Shelter
  5. Drive
  6. Shame
  7. Oslo, August 31st
  8. A Separation
  9. Midnight in Paris
  10. Martha Marcy May Marlene

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Dangerous Method- Cronenberg R
A Separation- Farhadi HR
Alps-  Lanthimos R
Bernie- Linklater R
Cedar Rapids-Arteta R
Contagion- Soderbergh R
Coriolanus R
Drive- Refn MS
Elena- Zvyagintsev R
Footnote R
Hanna- J. Wright R
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai R
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2- R
Haywire- Soderbergh R
Headhunters R
Hugo- Scorsese R
Jane Eyre- Fukunaga R
Killer Joe- Friedkin R
Le Havre- Kaursmaki R
Margaret- Lonergan HR
Margin Call- Chandor HR
Martha Marcy May Marlene MS
Melancholia- Von Trier MS
Midnight in Paris- Allen R
Moneyball- B. Miller R
My Week With Marilyn R
Once Upon a Time in Antolia- Ceylan R
Oslo, August 31st- Trier MS
Rise of the Planet of the Apes R
Shame- McQueen MS
Sleepless Night R
Super  8- Abrams R
Take Shelter- J. Nichols MS
The Artist R
The Cabin in the Woods R
The Deep Blue Sea- Davies HR
The Descendants- Payne R
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- Fincher R
The Guard R
The Kid With a Bike- Dardenne HR
The Raid: Redemption R
The Skin I Live In- Almodovar R
The Tree of Life- Malick MP
The Turin Horse- Tarr MS
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy HR
Warrior R
Young Adult- Reitman R

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives