"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
December 29, 2011

Best Films Of 2011

I love watching films, writing about films and doing the whole geeky/nerdy thing of putting films in lists and trying to rank them. But, I always struggle writing a best films of the year post. Partly it’s because I don’t see anywhere as many films as I used to, or as many as you really […]

I love watching films, writing about films and doing the whole geeky/nerdy thing of putting films in lists and trying to rank them. But, I always struggle writing a best films of the year post.

Partly it’s because I don’t see anywhere as many films as I used to, or as many as you really need to see in order to have an authoritative opinion. My friend, James Marsh is a freelance film critic and he will end up seeing more than 675 films this year. Every year his top ten includes films I simply haven’t had the chance to see.

Moreover, it’s a tough task because films are not released around the world at the same time. Black Swan, Somewhere and The Fighter made a lot of top ten lists last year but were only screened in Hong Kong this year. Moreover, since moving to Singapore, I’ve been frustrated by the limited number of art-house films screened here (but delighted by the number of Bollywood blockbusters on show!)

So, I’m putting this list together without having seen Coriolanus, Hugo, Shame, Take Shelter, Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy or The Artist; all of which might have been a film of the year,

Anyway, here’s my list of the 11 best, from the films I did manage to see in 2011.

11.Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

The concept seems unpromising and the idea of subverting genres is so overdone. But, this is one of the funniest and most entertaining films of the year – in no small part because of Alan Tudyk’s performance.

10. Rango

Every year I like to include an animated feature amongst the best films of the year. Rango had such a flat and uninteresting trailer that I didn’t really expect much. But the film proved to be charming, funny and visually distinct. In fact, Rango has all the qualities I love in animated films.

9. Bridesmaids

Sure, a lot of the humour is in bad taste and you probably wouldn’t want to meet any of these people in real life. That said, Bridesmaids is really amusing, stands up to repeat viewing and is a great vehicle for Kristen Wiig. Moreover, in the incredibly male-centric world of American comedy Bridesmaids is proof that female leads can carry a comic film and be really, really funny.

8. Senna

Even though I’ve only seen this documentary on a small, in-flight screen, it’s impact was profound. Ayrton Senna was one of the best Formula 1 drivers of all time,. He died on a horrific weekend of racing in 1994. However, the controversy over his death and adulation for his feats on track continued for many years after. This film captures it all and brings the drama to life in the most compelling fashion.

7. The Trip

I was tempted to leave this film out of the top ten because: a. It was originally shot as a TV series and b. It works better as a TV series. But, it’s also a compelling, funny and darkly revealing film. Two comedians, on a road trip, with fiction and reality blending in slippery, biting and though provoking ways. And, it’s also hilarious!

6. Nostalgia For The Light

This documentary manages to succeed where other, similarly ideological films fail, because it keeps on the focus on the human emotion of the story. As the title implies, this is principally nostalgia and memory, which here functions as both a motivation and shield when uncovering the truth, of our cosmos and the recent political history of Chile.

5. Drive

Some films are great not because they attempt to do many amazing things, but because they manage to do a few things amazingly well. Drive draws obvious comparisons with Steve McQueen’s Bullit – with good reason. Both films are brilliant. I look forward to watching them as a double bill one day!

4. Bill Cunningham New York

I believe we are living in a golden age of documentary film making and Bill Cunningham New York is one of the best. A beautifully drawn portrait of a photographer whose work has been often imitated but seldom equalled. The pacing and editing of this film is exceptional as it reveals the uniquely important role Cunningham plays in the world of fashion and the life of a great city.

3. The Tree of Life

Yes, it’s a huge bloated work that doesn’t quite hang together. But, it’s also an epic piece of film-making that aims high and justifies itself in scene after scene. We will be re-watching, debating and thinking about this film for many years to come.

2. A Separation

There’s an almost operatic quality to this film; as it elevates everyday family problems and dilemmas and raises to the level of deep meditations about the role of family and the nature of modern life. Haunting, compelling and eye-opening.

1. Midnight In Paris

I love Woody Allen. But, his recent films have been disappointments (Vicky Christina Barcelona was only saved by the stellar performances of Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz). But, Midnight In Paris blew me away. It’s straight into my favourite Allen films of all time and there’s no film I’ve re-watched more often or quoted more widely this year than Midnight in Paris. A classic!

The Worst Film of the Year
And the worst? Well, I always reserve the most critical ire for films that were hyped, supported by giant marketing budgets and then turned out to be total rubbish. This year saw a lot of contenders for worst film of the year – Sucker Punch, Hangover 2, Contagion and Transformers: Dark of the Moon all come to mind.

But, Super 8 stood out as the most purile of the lot. It’s a trite story, poorly told, with a huge budget. That in and of itself is enough of a travesty. But, we were also shouted at through another huge, totally uncaptivating CGI monster while enduring the worst kind of retro-homage. Technical limitations are not art – and cannot mask poor craft. Lomo cameras and iphone apps can’t hide bad photography and, in the similar but far more expensive way, CGI and digital camera trickery can’t hide bad film-making.

Dwayne 12 years ago

Great list Fernando! Some that I’ve neverheard of that I’m encouraged to hunt out now. I loved ‘The Trip’ and was happy to see it in your list, as well as Senna and Tuck and Dale. Sadly we don’t agree on Midnight in Paris – I just found it dull – mind you, I havent really liked much Woody Allen since ‘The Sleeper’ (giving away my age there!!). I loved Tree, but I think thats more the visual side of me coming out and I thought Contagion had some interesting possibilities, but was a let down in the end.

Have a great new years mate! And thank for the 2012 shopping list!!!

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Thanks Dwayne. Glad I muscled through the redrafts to get this one out.

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