I have been pining for weeks about what films I would choose for my best of list. We saw some really great films come out in 2011; it's really hard to choose. I actually like most of the critically acclaimed works like TREE OF LIFE, INTO THE ABYSS, GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, and THE ARTIST. Instead I have decided to discuss some films that may have flown under the radar. Here goes:
This was a documentary that came out a couple months ago. It's about a woman who became a tabloid sensation after kidnapping a man she was in love with and holding him hostage for three days basically as a sex slave. And you though Chad had some crazy girlfriends! The story is told by all the key players except the poor stiff who got kidnapped. He declined participation for obvious reasons. The woman charged with the crime is a former beauty queen and speaks quit eloquently with a charming southern accent. It's just an insane story that you have to watch for yourself to believe.
This got quite a bit of buzz during Cannes, mostly because of Michael Fassbender's well endowed appendages. Yes, this is true but it's not the only reason to watch SHAME. People have so many presumptions about sex addiction and it has become something society tends to throw around as an excuse when things begin to spiral out of control. This film may not answer all the questions we have about this medically recognized affliction, but it does show us what it feels like to suffer from it. I can't remember the last time I saw a film that felt so isolating and forsaken. I left the theatre feeling very shaken and slightly depressed. Had Michael Fassbender's character been a woman, I would have thought Lars Von Trier directed this.
Speaking of Lars Von Trier, he really put his foot in his mouth at Cannes this year but I still love him. He caused quite a stir with some Nazi jokes and come Oscar time no one will remember. Von Trier's controversy created much buzz around this film. I couldn't wait until November to see it so I watched a screener at home in anticipation of seeing it on the big screen. Kirsten Dunst's depression made me extremely uncomfortable to the point where I never got around to seeing it in the theater. I think anyone who has even remotely dealt with depression will feel uneasy about this film. On the other hand, MELANCHOLIA is the most optimistic film Von Trier has ever directed. It is an incredibly beautiful and gut wrenching film wrapped up in madness.
I love Hunter S. Thompson and I love Johnny Depp. This partnership worked wonderfully with FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. Most people thought this would work as well. I think it was a wonderful cast and a beautiful setting (Puerto Rico). However, the script fell a little short as well as the directing. Johnny Depp was ever so charming as was Aaron Eckhart. I have recently developed a bit of a crush on Amber Heard who is so delightful. However, I really think Giovanni Ribisi steals the show on this one. For all its weaknesses, I still think it was a good film and most likely better than the newest TWILIGHT bullshit.
I SAW THE DEVIL
Korea knows how to make a revenge film, plain and simple. A man puts his life on hold to seek revenge on a serial killer who murdered his pregnant wife. This was such an unbelievable film that it gives me anxiety every time I watch it. Without giving too much away, the lead is played by the handsome and charismatic Byung-hun Lee. The antagonist is Min-sik Choi who we know and love from the classic OLDBOY.
This film did not get great reviews. Here's the deal, the soundtrack kicks ass and I think JGL is a phenomenal actor. I will pretty much watch anything he's in. This film was unlike any other role he's ever played. It's really endearing, sad, and comical all at once. Give it a try, at least for Piper Laurie who’s wonderful as Grandma. You might actually like it. Also, the pre-show at the Alamo was scenes from HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT which you can never go wrong with.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
Elizabeth Olsen (the younger sister of the Trollson Twins) has been praised endlessly for her performance in this film. It is definitely well deserved. I don't think John Hawkes has been given enough credit as his eerie portrayal of the cult leader/Manson figure he plays so well. Yes, the ending is kind of ambiguous but what do you expect from such a disturbing story? To be honest, this film actually gave me nightmares which is a really hard thing to do.
THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Never have I ever had a bigger "what the fuck" moment than when I saw the latest film from Pedro Almodovar. It’s stylish, disturbing, mind-blowing, and sexy all at the same time. I really admire Almodovar’s passion for strong female characters. I guarantee this film is not like any he’s done before. I can’t really say anything about this film without giving away major plot lines, but the music is great. I will tell you it was loosely based on an old French film called EYES WITHOUT A FACE.
I love Guillermo Del Toro; I think he has made some of the best Spanish horror films of our time. This film caught my attention because he produced it. I had never heard of the director (Guillem Morales), but after seeing JULIA’S EYES, I watched his first film THE UNINVITED GUEST and was pleasantly surprised by his work. The main actress, Belen Rueda, is just as amazing in this as she was in THE ORPHANAGE. I was shocked to find that I was one of three people at a screening of this during Fantastic Fest. The message board trolls criticized the plot, but I thought it was pretty unique. The story centers on a woman going blind so at times the audience experiences POV shots. The story plays on our continuing fear of the unknown and darkness. There’s hardly any gore in this film, yet it’s still frightening. I can’t recommend it enough!
I’m pretty sure Takashi Miike can do no wrong. This film is a colossal masterpiece.
These are a couple films that were released prior to 2011, but not made available in the US until recently.
This is a wonderful documentary about art, life, perseverance, and the trash pickers in Brazil. This film really struck a chord in me no other on this list could.
This is another documentary about a man who builds models for a miniature town he made up called Marwenchol. This is a truly touching story about one man’s survival.
Did I miss any?