Top 10 of 2011 – Brandi’s Picks

I think Top 10 lists are fun. Many critics write beleaguered sorts of “I don’t really want to be doing this and it’s stupid and rankings are meaningless” disclaimers at the beginning of their lists. Ugh. Look, it should go without saying that any list (or review) is a reflection of the writer’s personality and their un-duplicate-able individual experience. If you’ve read the rest of my writing this year, you will not be shocked by my list. What I’d like to say before I dive in I don’t consider to be a disclaimer, but just necessary context: the films I didn’t/couldn’t see that are on my mind anyway.

Top 5 films of 2011 I didn’t/couldn’t see:

5. Hugo (my own failure entirely)
4. Melancholia (ditto in the extreme…I could have gone yesterday but I watched Sherlock on Netflix instead because it was stormy outside)
3. A Separation (no screenings in Seattle yet)
2. Pariah (same)
1. We Need to Talk About Kevin (same; and you can believe me that I’ll have plenty to say about this film in due time when it finally fucking opens)

Now! My Second Annual Top Ten. Thanks for reading.

10. Beginners
written and directed by Mike Mills

Ewan McGregor was in another film this year, which I saw at SIFF and loved, that hasn’t been officially released yet: the apocalyptic romance Perfect Sense. With that film and Beginners, I remembered what a phenomenal actor he can be. Pair him with Mélanie Laurent, my intense girl-crush of the present, and I was primed to be invested in their characters’ story. Mills gives each an uncommon but compelling issue to deal with (McGregor’s Oliver has just seen his elderly father come out, live an honest life for a few years, then die—a situation based on Mills’s real life; Laurent’s Anna is a jet-setting actress who cannot reconcile her circumstances with building committed relationships). Their first clicking conversation during silly Halloween festivities is the sort that I as a single person fantasize about with every party attended. Their problems afterward are real. Mills does a wonderful job with the story, told in a quirky fashion with flashbacks to Oliver’s father’s coming out (Christopher Plummer is lovely in the role) and with interludes of Oliver wondering how his melancholy life now compares to his parents’ when they were young. A charming film.

9. Weekend
written and directed by Andrew Haigh

Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) end up going home together after circling each other until last call at the bar. After a pleasant, supposed one-night stand, morning conversation turns deeper, unveiling potential for something more. But, since neither went into the encounter searching for a boyfriend, and other circumstances may complicate matters, they have a brief window of time to decide what they mean to each other. This British indie is a film of conversations, funny and bold ones that take the characters seriously and showcase actors who prove that you don’t need to be loud or acrobatic for wordplay to perfectly play off of a scene partner. The film can be described as “small”; what is experienced by the characters cannot.


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Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

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  • Allen

    A very unique list. This is why I always wonder when people generalize and say that a certain year is a “bad” year. Was it really that bad when all of these solid films came out?

  • Spencer Fornaciari

    I think a lot of people forget films from the first half of the year until they sit down and list all the movies that came out. Generally all years feel about the same to me. Some good releases, some bad ones, and a lot of stuff in-between.

    It must be a solid year if a Harry Potter fan doesn’t even include the final Harry Potter movie.

  • Allen

    Yeah, the Harry Potter thing is kind of interesting. When Return of the King came out it swept the Oscars. It can be argued that Harry Potter is just as big (if not bigger) of a franchise and it’s getting very little buzz.

  • Spencer Fornaciari

    I think it is different though because Harry Potter has been going on so long. Everything is so spread out that it is hard to encapsulate everything like Return of the King did for Lord of the Rings.

    And while I think it is good I don’t think Harry Potter really ever was pushing the envelope in terms of visual effects quite the way Return of the King.

  • Brandi

    I liked the last HP film a lot but it wasn’t as impressive to me as a standalone piece as Part 1 was–though the final battle is fantastic. If they had done one four hour long film, I’d be swooning all over it.

    There are other great films I had to leave off, as well–Martha Marcy May Marlene was a tough one, for example. I thought it was a very solid year for films even if the “Best Picture types” seem a little thin compared to last year.

  • Spencer Fornaciari

    Because I wasn’t a hardcore fan but I liked the last Harry Potter film more than Part 1. I found it easier to follow for the most part…and the battle was pretty cool.

    Martha Marcy May Marlene will be on my top list…definitely one of my faves of the year.