Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Francisco Salazar Best of 2011 Top Ten films

As I look forward to 2012's films I want to take a moment and look back at 2011. Without a doubt 2011 was a year of progress, experimenting and nostalgia. Out of hundreds of films that were released I was fortunate enough to experience a plethora of them. Still I missed many of the great films and that is the reason you may not see some of your favorites on this list. However out of the all the films I did see, picking a top ten was extremely difficult. The following films represent films that were on the fringe line of my top ten.

If you missed my honorable mentions, here they are:

for more on the honorable mentions click here
So without further ado, here are my top 10 films of 2011

10. A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg

Subtle, Sporadic, Talky, Engaging and Messy are only a few words to describe David Cronenberg's latest endeavor. The film is by no means perfect and by my review most will feel I disliked it. However after digesting it, it remains one of the most unforgettable films this year. It's subject matter is provocative and Viggo Mortensen's and Keira Knightley's performances add flair to what I believe it one of the most underrated films this year. 

Read my review 

9. Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen

I think everyone can agree that Woody Allen has become an inconsistent director and writer at best. However Woody Allen has created a masterpiece with "Midnight in Paris", perhaps his best film in almost 20 years. His inventive, funny and magical film was able to captivate audiences worldwide making it his most successful film to date. With great characters, good drama and a fabulous ensemble, Woody Allen created one of the most diverting films I have seen in years. 

8. The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodovar

It can be said that once a director has created his masterpieces, he is allowed to take risks. Almodovar does so in this film with a fractured narrative and a twist so compelling it will get under your skin (excuse the pun). Almodovar reunites with Antonio Banderas in what I believe to be their most successful collaboration to date. Banderas gives a performance filled with anguish and hate coupled with Elena Anaya's flirtatious and desperate character. In addition to all these elements the film's production is impeccable and filled with Almodovar's spectacle yet more subdued than ever. One of the standout's of this film is without a doubt Alberto Iglesias' score filled with melancholy, yearning and desperation. While some may call it torture porn, I would call Almodovar's latest a diabolical masterpiece. 

7. War Horse by Steven Spielberg

Spielberg's film may be filled with contrivances but what makes this film great is the nostalgia factor. Spielberg does the impossible making his main character a horse and his experiment works making it the best animal performance of the year. Spielberg's flair, story and beautiful visuals created by Janusz Kaminski recall the golden age of Hollywood. Only if you are able to see it as a sentimental and nostalgic journey can one see through the imperfections of War Horse. 

6. Hugo by Martin Scorsese

When I first heard about this film I immediately neglected it as another failed experiment of Scorsese. As I stated in my review it took Scorsese a whole decade to return to form as he experimented with different genres. None of those experiments worked quite well except for "The Departed." As a result I believed Hugo would most likely be a debacle. However, Hugo turned out to be in my opinion a masterpiece. Hugo is a compelling and a thrilling movie that appeals for children and adults. It brings the nostalgia factor like Spielberg but does in a more genuine way. It's touching and unforgettable.

Read my review

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by Tomas Alfredson

Tomas Alfredson's latest endeavor is one of the most tense films I saw this year. Dense in structure and characters, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is compelling and calculated and a film one must pay attention to at all times. Technically it is one of the best looking films this year. It not only features the best ensemble in my opinion this year but Gary Oldman gives a fabulous performance so subtle one must pay attention to every movement he makes. 

4. The Artist By Michel Hazanavicius

I generally don't like silent films, but The Artist was engaging in every way. While it may tell your typical biopic story and some may call it a gimmicky film, I would say it is beautiful and emotionally fascinating. Ludovic Bource's score is radiant and one of the best scores I have heard in years. Jean Dujardin is touching and Berenice Bejo is brilliant. However the real scene stealer is Uggie the loyal dog who goes beyond the boundaries for his master. Michel Hazanavicius makes us recall the 1920s as his film is not only in black and white and silent but it is also filmed in 4:3 and the beautiful cinematography recalls the early age of cinema.    

3. Melancholia by Lars Von Triers

Philosophically dense, Lars Von Trier's film is depressing and enigmatic. Apocalyptic in story, Lars Von Trier's visceral and profound vision is dramatic and risky. Kirsten Dunst gives the best female performance of the year coupled with a wonderful Charlotte Gainsbourg. Manuel Alberto Claro's dogma 95 style cinematography is haunting and raw. The prelude to Tristan und Isolde heightens the film and brings the films to another dimension one that is intoxicating and engaging.

2. Shame by Steve McQueen

Unflinching and daring, Shame is the riskiest film of the year. Director Steve McQueen's use of long takes brings realism to the extreme, emphasizing the raw emotions of his characters. Harry Escott's incessant score fixates on one melody that captures the lustful and addictive nature of the film. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan shine in their demanding roles. Abi Morgan's script is so powerful it unnerves the audience. Rated NC-17 the film has turned so many people off. However, after having seen this film, it became the most unforgettable experience of the year even if it was at times unpleasant.

1. The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick

Entrancing is the one word that describes this highly experimental film. It pulls you in, in such a way that no other film is capable of doing. It explores all the phases of life, from death, birth, growth to beauty, ugliness and destruction. The Tree of Life may be called a stream of consciousness, or a dream but the beauty of it is one can interpret the film in so many ways. Terrence Malick and Emanuel Lubezki have created some of the most beautiful images that scholars will still be talking about in years. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain bring their presence with their expressive voices and their improvisational skills. The use of music enhances the story and brings some of the most unforgettable sequences in movie history. The Tree of Life represents my best film of the year as it combines  the risk, nostalgia, fractured structure and messiness that all directors brought to their films. It is by all means the most uplifting film you will encounter this year.

For my brother David's top ten films of the year click here.

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