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The Best Films Of 2011...So Far

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 21, 2011 at 4:05AM

Well, today is the first day of summer, more or less the midpoint of the year, and looking back over the the first six months of 2011, it’s definitely been a bit more of a scattershot movie year compared to the arthouse heavy start of 2010. We'll be honest, compiling this list wasn't exactly easy, the year has been uneven so far, but that said, it's certainly not without highlights: Terrence Malick finally delivered his long awaited film, Woody Allen flexed some of the old magic we love him for, and Michael Winterbottom found life and heart from a familiar comic pairing, while Joe Wright moved completely in a new, exciting direction. Over at the multiplex, big summer entertainment has already made that overpriced, greasy bag of popcorn worth the price with J.J. Abrams proving that genre thrills don't have to be empty, while one of the year’s best efforts unfolded beautifully on the small screen.
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Oops, as one of our readers points out, we forgot this excellent Abbas Kiarostami film. Probably because most of us saw it at Cannes 2010 and or the NYFF 2010, over a year ago for many of us, but that doesn't negate it's wonderfully enigmatic and evocative powers. Juliette Binoche is particularly luminous in the picture and William Shimell plays an excellent adversary in this opaque story of romance where reality and truth tend to bend a little around the edges.


Special Mention: "Mildred Pierce" -- One of the finest, most accomplished cinematic events of the year didn’t even make it to theaters, but is still one of the must see movies of the year. Todd Haynes' five part adaptation of James M. Cain’s “Mildred Pierce” is a swing-for-the-fences melodrama that hits on every level. The film centers on the titular Mildred (Kate Winslet in top form) who separates from her husband and decides to open a restaurant in order to support her children, an ambitious notion particularly in 1930s, Great Depression-era American. But her ambition is undercut by her vulnerability, as she tries to forever please her coiled snake of a daughter Veda (Evan Rachel Wood) -- who places all value on social standing -- while entering a torrid affair with the rakish gadabout Monty Beragon (a devilish Guy Pearce), a failing fruit magnate. Spread over five hours, director Todd Haynes gamely avoids any possibilities of the material stretching into camp and instead constructs a tragic character study with all the sweep of an opera. Anchored by some of the best turns of Winslet and Pearce’s careers, with strong supporting work from Melissa Leo, James LeGros and Mare Winningham, and with an Oscar worthy attention to detail, not only has Haynes made of the best movies of his career, HBO has staked themselves as the premiere outlet for the kind of material and movies traditional Hollywood studios refuse to make.

Around The Corner: Having hit Sundance, SXSW and Cannes this year, we’ve gotten a sneak peek at what's coming in the next six months and it’s very exciting, so here are some films to keep on your radar, with many likely to appear on our year end lists:

Nicolas Winding Refn’s intense, unique and unforgettable “Drive” is easily one of the most talked about films of the year so far; “Attack The Block” is slaying audiences in advance screenings and the distinctively British alien attack film could be a sleeper smash; Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” is big, beautiful valentine to silent movies; the stunning psychological drama “Take Shelter” will definitely leave audiences talking and scratching their heads; Lynne Ramsay’s return “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is devastating and beautiful in equal measure; the violent, indescribable “Kill List” will leave you gasping for air; Miranda July’s “The Future” reveals she’s not just a one trick pony with her latest surreal and winningly precious film, the eerie cult drama “Martha Marcy May Marlene” marks a breakout turn by Elizabeth Olsen and the Dardennes deliver again with “The Kid With A Bike.” In a few weeks that A Tribe Called Quest documentary, "Beats, Rhymes & Life" will likely be blowing your hair back too.

This article is related to: Films, Foreign Films, Super 8, The Tree Of Life, Meek's Cutoff, Jane Eyre, Bridesmaids, Midnight In Paris, Submarine, Hanna, Beginners, Mildred Pierce, The Trip, I Saw The Devil, Win Win


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