2011 Top tens, bottom fives, part 2


 Here "The Artist" impressively scores number one on three more lists. I feel so bad that's it's not my favorite movie. More divisive are "J. Edgar," "War Horse," and "Melancholia, which have been showing up on both best and worst lists. Sometimes from the same critic.

Sheila Johnston


1. "The Artist"
2. "The Descendants"
3. "Dreams of a Life"
4. "Margaret"
5. "Project Nim"
6. "A Separation"
7. "The Skin I Live In"
8. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
9. "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
10. "Wuthering Heights"


 It would be so easy to pick "New Year's Eve" or "The Hangover Part II." But a degree of failed ambition is required for a film to make my "five worst" list.

1. "Anonymous"
2. "The Awakening"
3. "J. Edgar"

4. "Melancholia
5. "War Horse"


Monica Castillo


1.       "The Artist"

2.       "Hugo"

3.       "Drive"

4.       "A Separation"  

5.       "Midnight in Paris"

6.       "Attack the Block"

7.        "Weekend"

8.        "Carnage"

9.        "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

10.      "13 Assassins"


1.        "Catechism Cataclysm"

2.        "What's Your Number"

3.       "Johnny English Reborn"

4.       "Seven Days in Utopia"

5.        "Zookeeper"


Harlan Jacobson

1. "The Artist"                      

The story of the year, really. Michel Hazanavicius, a Belgian light comedy director, makes a black & white silent film that debuts at Cannes. People give it no chance to succeed in the US market. And Harvey Weinstein, who quietly brought the film to Cannes, makes a splash by publicly buying it and makes clear to everyone that there's a path straight to the Oscars for this modern silent film.

     Great story that starts in 1927: a rising young starlet played by Berenice Bejo picks a failed male matinee idol played by Jean Dujardin out of the dumpster of history where studio boss John Goodman has chucked him. The Artist is a romantic comedy about the first great technological hurdle: the coming of sound to motion pictures..

2 "City of Life and Death"     


This absolutely heart-stopping 2009 film almost never made it out of China after its showing in Cannes and Toronto. The Chinese government disapproved of its moral irony about the infamous rape of Nanking, the former capital of China, by the Japanese imperial Army during the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. You're transported to a different world, where the everyday horror of a different holocaust makes your jaw drop and your eye weep. A wonderfully shot and acted film. Another release.

3. "Melancholia"  (Lars Von Trier)    


     A depressive's brilliant revenge fantasy about the end of the world

4. "Le Havre"  (Aki Kaurismaki)                

     A simply wonderful take on the old French spirit in her northern port city.

5. " The Descendants" (Alexander Payne)              

     Set in Hawaii, AP continues his pursuit of truth in paradise with George Clooney

6.  "Iron Lady"                               

Phyllida Lloyd continues her unexpected good time liaison with Meryl Streep-they last made "Mama Mia" together - to challenge received opinion about Margaret Thatcher, who tacked Britain to the right as Prime Minister for an unprecedented three terms over nearly a dozen years starting in 1979.

     Maggie Thatcher busted unions, sold off British Rail and other nationalized industries, slashed spending at a time when Britain was in the same recessionary jam as Greece is today, sought a flat tax that sparked riots, opposed a common Euro currency, and beat the pants off Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

     Abi Morgan's script toggles back and forth between Thatcher's young womanhood as Margaret Roberts and her dotage, marked by some form of dementia, while detailing her long marriage to Dennis Thatcher - played here by that British gentleman specialist Jim Broadbent.

     The film also finds deep admiration for her highly resisted rise to top of the Conservative party and thence Prime Ministership.

     "The Iron Lady," I am advised by people who know better than I, takes liberty with some of the facts, and perhaps doesn't contextualize the times well enough. But it never fails to thrill.

7. "Tuesday, After Christmas"   

     A small gem from Romanian director Radu Muntean about a man having an affair with a dental assistant who works on his daughter's misaligned bite. He's got to leave either his wife or his lover by Christmas. From Cannes 2010, and perfectly done for our adulterous age. You can find this on DVD from KinoLorber films online.

8. "Incendies"       

French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's never less than riveting story that whips back and forth between a Middle Eastern country that is reminiscent of Lebanon and its civil war of the 1980s and present day Montreal. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

9. "J. Edgar"  (Clint Eastwood)                           

Gay screenwriter, lefty producer, righty director, and a pretty damn good set of performances - by Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, and Armie Hammer as his faithful servant. I go back and forth on this one, but it was one of two biopics this year-the other is coming up-that made monsters human, i.e.

10. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Tomas Alfredson)

A remake of the 1979 version of John Le Carre's George Smiley spy novel. That one starred Alec Guiness, who was very nearly invisible onscreen, and this one Gary Oldman, whom a film critic friend of mine says makes Guinness look like a ham. I disagree, but pretty darn great performance by Oldman but without the urgency that anything is at stake save a bit of pride.

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