I am well aware that everybody else posted their ‘Best Of 2011’ lists at, well, the end of 2011 or back in January, but I wanted to be a little different. Mainly because I still had a fair few films to catch up on and because I wanted to compare my list to what the Academy deemed ‘fit’ and what eventually won.
So, finally, I present to you my Top Ten Films Of 2011. And when I say ‘Top Ten’, I mean what I enjoyed most as opposed to what I think I should say to be congratulated on. No, this is my Top Ten and simply that. And I’m pretty sure a lot of you won’t see my #1 coming – unless you follow me on Twitter (@iamnotwaynegale) in which case you’ve probably known for a while!
So, as usual, please leave comments if you want to argue this thing out – you’ll definitely realise I’m a sucker for big performances as opposed to big films – and check out my Top Ten below, starting with the films that didn’t quite make the cut:
Honourable Mentions (UK Release Dates):
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn for being a game changer; Albatross for introducing more people to Jessica Brown Findlay; The Artist for being completely delightful; Attack The Block for being a tangible alien flick; The Fighter for Christian Bale; The Future for being an unexpected treasure; Midnight In Paris for its incredibly well utilised cast; Submarine for Craig Roberts; Super for having a bit of everything in it; Super 8 for Spielberg nostalgia; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for not being scared of taking its time; Troll Hunter for making me smile like a goon; Tyrannosaur for making Olivia Colman a superstar; The Way for being a geographical beauty; We Need To Talk About Kevin for leaving me breathless.
My Top Ten (UK Release Dates):
Zoe Heran blew my tiny little mind during this beautiful and extremely understated French film from Celine Sciamma. Playing the Tomboy in question, we step into Laure’s life, watching as she pretends she’s a boy named Michael. Carefree and beautifully shot, you must seek out this film, if only to marvel at Heran’s phenomenally natural performance. And, when combined with younger sister Jeanne (Malonn Levana), we are presented with quite possibly the most adorable pairing ever committed to screen.
#9: THE SKIN I LIVE IN
An Almodovar virgin, I went into The Skin I Live In without quite knowing what to expect. And I felt slightly violated on the film’s close – but in a very, very good way. See what I had to say here.
#8: BLUE VALENTINE
Every time I watch Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, a little part of me dies. And I know most people will agree with me there. There’s just something about the way we are left to fill in the blanks that absolutely breaks your heart. Gosling and Williams are in turn happy-go-lucky, fragile and intimate, but never allow us to feel like we’ve seen it all before. But it’s not all doom and gloom – who else can happily snap from the depths of despair to give us glorious little moments like this?
I laugh like this all the time, for the record.
#7: ANOTHER EARTH
Another Earth is a curious beast, but it’s one that’s undoubtedly catapulted Brit Marling into stardom. And rightly so. Although William ‘Ethan from Lost/Tom Cruise’s cousin’ Mapother doesn’t necessarily seem to fit as effortlessly as others, the pairing of him and Marling is fascinating to watch unravel, especially when the audience know a lot more than he does. A simple, yet very well thought-out concept, the ending may leave some frustrated, but it’s all about the impact.
#6: TAKE SHELTER
We’ve done the ‘Tilda was robbed! Fassbender was robbed!’ spiel a million times now and it’s not going to change anything. But Shannon was robbed! Take Shelter wouldn’t be half the film it is if it wasn’t for the beautiful relationship between Shannon and Chastain, with all the supporting players slotting in rather nicely indeed. An apocalyptic film with a twist, the mental health elements of the film are handled sensitively, yet we never quite know what lows we are going to be presented with. This film is heartbreaking and, simply, beautiful.
#5: BLACK SWAN
Back at the start of 2011, a rather pregnant Natalie Portman took to the stage to receive her Academy Award for Black Swan. That all seems like an age ago, but this film is still very much under my skin. Whether it’s because I love Aronofsky (The Fountain is an all-time favourite), have danced all my life or because the Academy rewarded something ‘different’ (in their eyes), Black Swan is undoubtedly one of the best releases of last year. And I’m putting that all down to Aronofsky.
#4: THE TREE OF LIFE
When leaving the cinema after watching The Tree Of Life, I felt completely at peace with everything and practically floated home. Affecting me far more than I’m likely to let on, Malick’s film is nothing short of a work of art. Plus Brad Pitt’s never been better. Check out what I had to say here.
As much as I adored The Tree Of Life (and I really, really, really did), Mike Mills’ Beginners is a film I have already watched about ten times since its June release. It’s one of those films which truly did, forgive the cliché, speak to me and I fell in love with it right from the start. Its main achievement, however, is getting me to like Ewan McGregor which, until this film, I never did. With Melanie Laurent adorable, Christopher Plummer hilarious and Arthur the dog a wondrous intellect, everything about this film just works for me. Its got a whole lotta quirk and a whole lotta heart.
Now, I know I might be in a whole heap of trouble from a lot of you for putting Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece in second position, but it doesn’t mean I love it any less. A cult classic in the making, from soundtrack to lack of dialogue to Ryan Gosling’s beautiful face, everything about this film just screams cool. But it never burdens you with it. It may also be my most fun experience in a cinema, speakers pumping with electronic goodness. Check out my full review here.
Yeah, I went there. I chose Tom Hardy over Ryan Gosling.
Everyone knows Tom Hardy is going to be huge, there’s no two ways about it, but in Warrior we’re given his most impressive role to date. His Tommy is broken, relentless and at times a bully, but is in equal measure a role model, lifesaver and lost little boy. He’s a walking paradox, quite frankly. I really enjoyed The Fighter and it’s A-list fodder obviously had me looking forward to it well before release. But with Warrior, it was only Hardy’s inclusion that quite honestly made me care. Its marketing didn’t help, with its trailers coming off as a made for television movie when it was worthy of far, far more – it’s a far superior movie to The Fighter and was worthy of a great deal of Oscar buzz. Yes, Nolte was nominated, but that was looking like a longshot for a very long time.
Warrior was also the most emotional experience I’ve ever had in the cinema, with practically every single member of the audience (I was one of the only women, may I add) wiping the tears from their eyes by the film’s incredible climax, aided by the brilliant use of The National’s About Today.
While Drive is the film that will go down in history, ultimately the cooler choice and the one which will be, quite bluntly, remembered, Warrior is undoubtedly my favourite film of 2011. Click here to find out why.