Saturday, January 14, 2012

Best of 2011 -->> eleven through fifteen

#15 Another Year (dir. Mike Leigh):

The small victories of an aging English couple are contrasted against the miserable lives of their friends.  It isn't that Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) have everything; their successes are modest: occupations that feed them intellectually and spiritually, the emotional support of each other, and a adult son whose company they enjoy.  But placed against Mary's (Lesley Manville) complete inability to navigate the daily grind, theirs are lives that work.

A true actor's piece where everyone completely inhabits their roles.  This may be my favorite Mike Leigh film since Life is Sweet.

#14 Tabloid (dir. Errol Morris):

Errol Morris returns to the valley of the freaks with this one.  The film relays the exploits of Joyce McKinney, a woman who, after being dumped, assumed her boyfriend had been brainwashed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  So, what's a girl to do?  Allegedly, Joyce's solution was to kidnap, drug and rape the man out of his religious convictions.
Morris is a master documentary filmmaker; one of our best.  Here he plays both sides of the story, letting Joyce, her accusers and those caught in the fray the opportunity to tell their version of the truth. 

#13 Into the Abyss (dir. Werner Herzog):

An admission: during first 15 minutes or so, I was disappointed that this film features none of Herzog's characteristically downcast narration. This, however, was before I understood what he was trying to craft here.  Simply put, this documentary is Herzog's most mature work to date.  Accordingly,  he keeps himself (mostly) out of the picture, choosing instead to focus on the story of a triple homicide and the people involved.

Herzog's version of Texas is one where everyone has experienced loss, often violently, leading us to believe that the central crime of the narrative is just a more heightened version of business as usual. Of course, post-screening, one must square the facts presented with Herzog's own notion of ecstatic truth, at which point the portrait of Texas does become questionable, as does the sequence where Herzog shows us the bullet-ridden cars that "testify" to various acts of violence. But the impact of the film remains.

#12 Senna (dir. Asif Kapadia):

The simultaneously thrilling and tragic tale of Aryton Senna, the best Formula One racing driver of his generation, is told almost entirely through frenetically-charged, archival materials. As such, it is a documentary of pure immediacy, a historical portrait that plays out in the present tense most of the time. A tension-filled masterpiece capable of captivating even viewers who know nothing (or care nothing) of the sport that its subject dominated.

#11 Meek's Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt):

Kelly Reichardt's third collaboration with screenwriter Jon Raymond finds the duo moving even further away from explanatory exposition than in their previous films. Meek's Cutoff is more about what is left unspoken.
Hit the link to read what I had to say about it in March.


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