I saw a number of fine films in 2011. Here, I talk about the great ones and what I thank them for.
Beginners, for Christopher Plummer’s exuberance as a recently-out elderly gay man; for Ewan McGregor’s hopeful melancholia as his perpetual bachelor son, and for this exchange between them: “HAL: Well, let’s say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait but the lion doesn’t come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe. OLIVER: I’d wait for the lion.”
The Tree of Life, for having more questions than answers; for the depicting the creation of the cosmos; for daring us to believe; for the Job references; and for this quote: “The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
Midnight in Paris, for delighting my English major self; for getting Woody back on track; for Corey Stoll’s Hemingway adapting the writer’s writing style for speech perfectly; for your light and warmhearted touch; and for teaching me about the temporal.
Martha Marcy May Marlene, for making me feel the quietly terrifying atmosphere Elizabeth Olsen’s dazed cult escapee feels; and for a talented Olsen sister.
The Descendants, for Alexander Payne’s surefire writing and style, for tween actors who can actually act, and for George Clooney’s on-camera talents once again trumping his off-camera smugness.
Win Win & 50/50, for putting Paul Giamatti and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, and for finding comedy in the tragic and lessons in our own shortcomings.
The Muppets & The Artist, for your unabashed optimism and anachronistic humor, which modern cynics won’t like but need anyway.
X-Men: First Class, for being a first-class reboot/prequel/whatever you are; for Michael Fassbender’s and James McAvoy’s anchoring your greater meaning with gravitas and bravado.
Meek’s Cutoff, for letting Michelle Williams disappear; and for your unforgiving stare into the mysterious soul of the American West.
Attack the Block, for knowing exactly what you are and never straying from that; for employing kids who can actually act; and for surprising me for the better.
Warrior, for Nick Nolte’s Paddy Conlon giving an otherwise conventional sports story some achingly real meaning.
[Note: I still need to see Certified Copy, A Separation, Take Shelter, and Barney’s Version, among other films, but this is where the list stands currently.]