Derek's Top 10 Films of 2011

by Derek Marchewka
December 27, 2011 2:31 PM
8 Comments
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This is part of a series of year end lists here on The Lost Boys this week... Check back for more, and enjoy Derek's best films of 2011 below:

Ending my abominable tardiness to make a blog post, here is a list of my top 10 films of 2011. Most of these are derived from the Toronto Film Festival I attended; some (like entry #10) were watched on Netflix under much lethargy.

10. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never:  I included this one just to accentuate the goodness of the latter movie To be explicit: I found this movie to be bad, not good. Never Say Never is a redundant, boring retelling of Bieber’s career, wrapped around segments leading up to a performance at Madison Square Gardens. The movie can be summed up in one instance; half-way through the entire narrative of the film stops. Suddenly a shot of Justin and his ultra-douchebag manager appear. They then begin to make painful references to the “audience.” They say to the camera, “Hey, are you paying attention? You in the back, quit texting stop making out!” And then the movie keeps playing.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: This would qualify as another semi-disliked movie by contrast. It’s not that I hated it, simply that I’ve outgrown its franchise. I watched it on the very last day it was playing in my city, sort of to satiate my nostalgia for the very last time. While I appreciated the stylistic direction and treatment of the story (splitting the book into two worked in its favor) there’s always been a mediocrity I find Harry Potter stinks of. Specifically, the series has stretched on for so many years that it feels to have lost its relevance, even to itself. I’d be interested in stringing all eight films together and seeing what coherency there might be.

8. Rango: Far and away my favorite animated film this year. The whole thing was quirky, awesome, and not a little trippy. There were certain lines in this thing that went fully beyond its childhood audience to the adult audience that had the treat of seeing it. Although the story is simple, a lizard landing up in a Western-style village and rallies with them to save their water supply, it is with flair and humor. The animation is palpable, dialogue terrific thanks to Johnny Depp, and enough charm to make it work.  

7. We Need To Talk About Kevin: From the highly contrasted cinematography, engaging storyline and out-standing acting on all fronts, the movie is commendable. One thing I found interesting when I watched it – most of the audience was laughing, hardily at that, at its subtle bouts of blackest-of-black humor, which I didn’t understand. For I found the movie almost sickening, in the way it captures some of the deepest and saddest truths about family life.

6. Wuthering Heights: Only a few of the succeeding movies impressed me more on a bare visual level. The entire film has a very blue sheen and it gives a perfect catalyst for the plotline. All the emotion and feeling in the movie is basked heavily in this basin, if you will, of color; it was enough to leave certain images imprinted on my mind. Wuthering Heights is a scanty, derisive movie filled gloom, and I dug it. Something to note; I’d never before heard of the classic novel by Emily Bronte, and understand this adaptation deviates heavily from it, and how commendable.

5. Cafe de Flore: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that incorporates music so well! Music was engrained into Café de Flores fabric, certain scenes felt almost like music videos. The opening sequence has “Speak to Me/Breathe” by Pink Floyd in it, and the shot which correlates made me reel. Yet an even more telling moment happened later on. The characters began to hum a certain song during one of the scenes; I noticed that I recognized the melody as one of my very favorite songs. They kept humming, and began thinking to myself, “No way! it can’t be Sven g Englar by Sigur Ros, it just can’t!” But then it is! The song in question streams forth, and a near-orgasmic experience, for all 9 minutes of the song, I then have. The rest of the movie followed suite.

4. The Turin Horse: The opening song and a shot of a horse; thus begins The Turin Horse. Here are some other sequences: A man cutting wood with an axe, that same man and his daughter eating potatoes (this happens three or four times). As these shots, presumably tedious, begin to accumulate, something special occurs. It is when a man joins this family and speaks to them about the evils of humanity, the end of the world. The entirety of the movie then takes on a truly, what’s the word, intrinsic? nature. These shots alone convey its message, without the need for dialogue or story, simply its black-and-white mood and remedial actions. It turns out to be a wholly affecting message at that.

3. Melancholia: Despite what I’d heard about Lars von Triar I knew little of Melancholia upon seeing it, so it was a fairly virgin experience. And the moment it began I was subdued - collapsing horses, Kirsten Dunst opening her eyelids, planets colliding like shattering glass. Though I could touch on the rest of the movie, I’ll pinpoint again at its ending. As the three characters brace themselves for apocalypse, the music’s theme then catapults – the theatre I was in got loud like nothing I’d felt before in one. As planet Melancholia collides, my heart pounded, my breathe was stolen. It was an experience I’ll ever forget. I’ve talked much with an acquaintance on how the ending made him feel, and his response was that it was relieving; in many ways I agree with him. And how von Triar is able achieve such a contrasting emotion for the end of the world I can only gawk at.  

2. The Tree of Life: It was after the fourth time seeing The Tree of Life that it finally clicked. All the previous viewings then made sense; all the images that had passed through my mind were now cohesive, enigmatic and masterful. I interpret how Malick filmed most of it as if he’s capturing memory itself; various scenes, or even specific snippets, remind me of my own childhood; its intensely powerful when this has happened. In contrast, though, I find the movie to be in fact quite simple – simple in its beauty. Shot after shot, sequence to sequence, it is all so touchingly pretty: Brothers tumbling in a field to “The Moldeau”; celestial bodies expanding majestically; Jessica Chastain floating in mid-air. (PS – I’ve once told Jessica Chastain how I particularly like that part of the movie.)

1. Faust:  I will justify this choice by explaining, in as much detail, the experience of watching Alexander Sokurov’s Faust in the theatre. A quarter of the way into the movie I stopped following the captions, because the dialogue I found incredibly strange. The way the characters were moving was  also really confusing to me; after a while I gave up on the storyline, too. It then became a singularly visual experience, seeing images without any context and verbal sounds without words. And as the movie continued I began to really grow bothered. Time began to stretch in the theatre; it felt like I’d been sitting there for three, four, five hours, sincerely. I began sighing, fidgeting; at one point I remember hoping that the film would end, that I could finally be released from it, in a way. Yet with all this, how is it that Faust is my very favorite film of the year? The answer to this lies in what happened after it ended. Leaving the theatre, I felt an immense transcendence; everything around me was vibrant and heightened. All the people and places I saw later in the night looked alien and curious, in a way that was as powerful as it was fucking absurd. This movie I’d just seen, that I’d protested throughout and understood nothing of, had affected me on a wholly human level; it’s nearly inexpressible. All I’m describing happened three months ago, yet I can recall it so easily, the feelings are still as omnipotent. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how very special watching the film Faust was. Upon much meditation, I’ve realized that this movie is an initiation for cinema-goers like me, on the avenues of not even cinema but art itself. And in that theatre, on that night three months ago, I was its pupil.

"Faust."
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8 Comments

  • tomsacold | January 14, 2012 6:02 PMReply

    great list. I think harry potter fans should be satisfied with the place in history that the franchise will inevitably receive. Whether or not they were an achievement in filmmaking they were certainly an achievement in film. Despite the often vacant acting from its leads, the wildly inconsistent quality of writing and its flagrant disregard for the audience's ability to clock lazy post production (the ADR in the final movie was beyond-belief-bad at times) these are historic films and they don't need awards to prove that. Well thats what I think anyway.

  • OCO 300 | December 28, 2011 6:28 AMReply

    I meant being snubbed at the Golden Globes and the Oscars for Best Picture

  • Amanda | December 27, 2011 10:31 PMReply

    @ANN, whether it was Scooter or Ryan or whatever, it doesn't matter. That's irrelevent to what Derek was talking about in this list - which was giving a critique on the top films of 2011. Just because he got the name wrong, it doesn't mean that Derek is suddenly going to like Never Say Never, which by the way, was an absolute shame for the world of films. Better luck next time... ANN.

    @OCO300 Yes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was awesome. However, a film that was a global success, meaning ranking high in the box offices, does not mean that it is a critically acclaimed film. Some films that have failed at the box offices are considered one of the most critically acclaimed films ever. It's about the substance of the film, not the money it reels in. Don't get me wrong, I love Harry Potter, but when you critique films, you have to be as neutral as you can be. Your fireback at Derek was purely at a subjective stance.

    @Derek I enjoyed reading your list. The same thing happened with me when it came to watching The Tree of Life, but that's Terrence Malick for us. Cafe de Flore was stunning with the music. By the way, have you seen C.R.A.Z.Y.? That's where the beauty of Jean-Marc Vallé's work truly starts- I instantly forgot about the subtitles because I was so enamoured with how the music (a touch of Patsy Cline, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones etc.) was crafted so beautifully with the plot of the story. Here's to next year for films!

  • OCO 300 | December 28, 2011 6:31 AM

    Actually HP: Deathly Hallows Part 2 does have universal critical acclaim, I mean check wikipedia, it shows a list of reviews that people said about the movie under Reception.

  • Ann | December 27, 2011 7:35 PMReply

    Hey, dumbass. Yeah, I'm talking to you DEREK MARCHEWKA. Before you make your snide remarks, remember to check your facts first. The "ultra-douchebag manager" you mentioned in a clip from the movie? That wasn't his manager. His manager is Scott (i.e., Scooter) Braun. The man in the clip is Ryan Good. Better luck next time.

  • Derek | December 27, 2011 10:00 PM

    I guess I just wasn't inspired enough by his appearance to verify.

  • OCO 300 | December 27, 2011 3:59 PMReply

    I mean snubbing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 out of those state critcs awards is one thing, but at the BFCA Awards and the Golden Globe Awards that unfair and pathetic.

    Look I might get banned for saying this but this is the truth, I mean sure Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris are great movies and have critical acclaim but was either 2 voted best movie of the summer….no it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; it’s not only a global box office success but it broke records, had universal critical acclaim, and had maybe higher grades and more reviewes than any film this year….it has a 100% among top and professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes and got a 93% [Critics Choice] by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (higher than film this year) and no disrespect to Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, Hugo, The Artist, Drive, and War Horse; and to me those movies also should be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

    Maybe it’s not a silent film/a film based on a president or the stock market/independant film/may not have a famous movie actor being the star of the movie/ not go by a few things written in the Harry Potter books/and it maybe to only a few critics a kids film. You see HP:DH 2 should not be known as a film known buy a visual tech stuff; it’s like maybe all the other HP films (however it was their last one) it will never be forgotten, had many respect from not only critcs but socially, and has done many things probably no film from England has never done, turned rookie kid stars to fantastic well respected and famous movies stars like Daniel Radcliffe. And i don’t think this movie and film franchise will never be forgotten; I mean for the past 10 years I see kids/teenagers/a few adults dressed as wizards/students/and a quidditch team with broom sticks (even in a few tv shows or movies) and did they hated all those Harry Potter films….no they didn’t they loved or really like it like either Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

    To a few movie critics the only award show that respects this movie is MTV Movie Awards….they’re right and wrong. To me this movie has what it takes to not only be nominated for those Tech stuff, but to be nominated for Best Picture (like Avatar and Lord of the Rings), maybe it might not win an Oscar but you got a give this movie and all those Harry Potter films lots of credit for trying.

    Harry Potter Forever

  • Derek | December 27, 2011 4:13 PM

    That's very interesting but I suppose how I chose this list was simply by gauging my experience of seeing each of these movies; Harry Potter I found just wasn't as powerful. I mean, one can analyze all the different context and awards and what-got-snubbed and anything else to with a movie but the movie itself; but I'd rather not. Then again, I'm not sure if all you say has much to do with the list anyways...

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