A Top Ten! The best of 2011

2011 was the best year for film since I really started caring about the medium. I feel as though I should get that out of the way to start with, as I’ve been reading in some places people talking about the year in less than glowing terms. Perhaps my perspective is different from others – there have been very few mainstream hits of the likes of No Country for Old Men or The Hurt Locker which garner both critical admiration and box office success – but underneath the mainstream there’s been a groundswell of creativity.

Established directors like Terence Malick, Pedro Almodovar and Lars von Trier have created their best films in years, while newer voices like Kelly Reichardt and Asghar Farhadi have emerged with their strongest statements of intent thus far. Films that have been left off this list – Drive, Take Shelter, Kill List – would have been near the top any other year, and that’s before considering the great films I saw this year that haven’t yet been give a UK release date.

Anyway, here it is! In reverse order:



Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)


It’s hard to talk about Margaret without mentioning the story behind the scenes. The subject of endless legal disputes, it was shot in 2005, completed in 2008 and finally released just now, with some apparent embarrassment from Searchlight, to just a handful of screens across the world. In the UK, it was released at just one screen in one shitty cinema for just one week. But, of course, you all know about this. Almost all the critics who have seen it have been shouting about it as loud as they can on blogs and twitter (where #TeamMargaret has been trending for a while now), and they’ve managed to make it into as big a hit as it can be: after achieving the highest screen average for a film in the country, it’s being shown in six screens across London this week and – fingers crossed – a wider release might be on the cards. This is because, regardless of what its distributors would have you believe, Margaret is astonishing.



Bellflower (Glodell, 2011) and The Woman (McKee, 2011)

To me, this year in film has been defined by ambivalence. More than ever, it seems, I’ve found myself having no idea how to feel about the movie I’ve just watched as the credits roll. The Tree of Life was breathtaking when hurtling through space and time, but rote when focusing on its central family; Melancholia was fascinating and unique when inflating its characters emotions to apocalyptic proportions, but tone deaf when dealing with its ensemble interactions; The Skin I Live In was delightfully fucked up in the abstract but a little dry in its execution. For the most part, though, I’d much rather a film be flawed and interesting than proficient and dull – all of the aforementioned films have made it into my top ten of the year. However, two films recently have left me completely stumped: Evan Glodell’s Bellflower and Lucky McKee’s The Woman.


I Saw Six Films at the LFF and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post


So, The London Film Festival. Or LFF. Or, The London Festival of Film!

In a way, LFF seems to me to be a “greatest hits” of all the festivals that came before it. I mean, no one really cares about it in the way that they care about Cannes, or TIFF, or Venice, but it’s here and it’s showing a lot of potentially good films and we all should probably take as much advantage of it as we can.

Of course, the amount of advantage that I could take of it wasn’t that much compared to some. My purse strings stretched to six films, all of which I was fairly certain would be great, and considering I was only really disappointed by one, I’d say that’s pretty good going. It’s hardly comprehensive coverage of the festival, but here they all are. As you can probably tell from these reviews, Weekend was my clear favourite of the festival. It’s hard to express the impact it had on me without it sounding like hyperbole, especially for a film so slight, but it’ll be staying with me for some time and has shot to somewhere very high up on my favourite films ever list. However, if I was going to recommend you go and see any of these films, I’d probably have to pick The Loneliest Planet. It may have plenty of flaws, but it’s story is so unique, and the way it tells it so fascinating, that I really want more people to see it than inevitably will.

These were all originally posted as I saw them on www.mostlyfilm.com, which had pretty excellent LFF coverage across the board from a whole bunch of people who seem to really care and think about film, so you should totally mosey on over and check them out.


Melancholia (von Trier, 2011)

Lars von Trier is an interesting director. His films are never less than projects – full-blown, high-concept, often dazzlingly audacious and over-the-top things, almost to the point of absurdity. The problem is, I’m never quite sure whether he’s made a genuinely good film. He’s made a bunch of very interesting ones, sure, and Melancholia is no exception: There are some moments in it that are so staggeringly good that I was left quite literally breathless, and there are moments that left me almost completely cold. What we have here is a companion piece to 2009’s Antichrist without half of that film’s histrionics, and it’s probably von Trier’s best film since his magnum opus, 2003’s Dogville. But whether it’s actually good rightly remains open to debate.