The Velvet Café’s top list of 2011
So I made a list after all. I’ve talked about my frustrations regarding list making, but watching everyone else’s top 10 lists, I was caught by the bug too.
After some more pondering I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t take the process of list making so serious. It’s just a piece of fun that gives me a reason to mention my favorite movies from the past year yet another time. And it also tells something about me. It’s as if I’m letting you into myliving room, checking out my bookshelves.
About the list
This list is made from a Swedish perspective, following the Swedish release schedule. It consists of movies that I’ve seen in a theatre or watched on a DVD, which all were released during 2011.
This means that there are quite a few movies on the list that others will consider 2010 movies. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch movies that other consider essentials of 2011, such as The Artist, Hugo, 50/50, Take Shelter or We Need to Talk about Kevin.
As I made this list I was baffled at the amount of wonderful movies I’ve seen this year. It was ridiculously hard to decide which ones to put in the top 10. Eventually I cheated and made them eleven, excusing myself with that my Idol Mark Kermode did the very same thing.
But I didn’t settle for just those eleven. I’ve also listed about fifty other movies from this year, and I’d dare say every single one of those are well worth watching. The movies that didn’t make it into the top eleven have been sorted into three groups, but not ranked within the groups. And mind you, even if they’re further down, they’re really good. I could easily have made another couple of top 10s.
I would lie if I said that it was easy to rank the movies. I’ve kept switching them around, over and and over again, and I’m even switching it as I’m finalizing this post, to the very end. But at some point you need to say stop and just go for it. Even I probably will have changed my mind once again tomorrow.
But we’ve talked enough. Let’s go and have a look at The Velvet Café’s top list of movies from 2011!
1. Never Let Me Go
This dystopian science fiction drama, bittersweet with the emphasis on bitter, put up some good questions about what it means to be a human being. I watched it in the beginning of the year, but the final image – an empty field, a piece of plastic stuck at a barbed wire blowing in the wind – has stayed in my memory over the year and will stay with me forever. It was a perfect ending of a thoroughly saddening movie that reminded us of how fragile and volatile a life is.
2. The Skin I Live In
A quote from my review:
“The last few days I’ve been walking around with an inward, content smile, the kind of smile you will see from someone who just has finished a gourmet dinner or had an amazing sexual experience. It’s not that the film is uplifting, because frankly, it isn’t. But it has everything I possible could want. It’s pretty, elegant, intriguing, gripping, challenging and entertaining at the same time.”
“As I made my way home in the dark night, I urged for company, laughter, light and a single malt whisky – anything to reset my faith in humanity before I would even consider trying to go to sleep.
And yet, while it made me feel awful, this was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
It sounds weird when I think of it. Why does misery attract me? Why don’t I just stick to the fun ones? And I can’t tell for sure. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that the shadows and the darkness in life won’t disappear just because you pretend it’s not there. You need to throw a glance at them once in a while, give them some attention, or they’ll just keep growing until they’re out of control. Like raging fires.”
Based on a true story it’s a movie about a son whose father comes out as gay at the age of 75 after the death of his mother. I will remember it as the movie of 2011 that made me cry most, but thanks to its humor I also find myself smiling through my veil of tears.
I can’t remember last time I was so taken by an ending as after watching Melancholia. This was a bit remarkable considering that we got spoilers in the very introduction and knew perfectly well exactly how it would end. And yet there was something in those images that captured me on an emotional level. For being a movie about depression it was strangely upliftning. And Kirsten Dunst did a remarkable performance in the leading role.
6. Animal Kingdom
This Australian crime drama had some amazing acting performances. Strangely enough it never made it into a theatre in Sweden outside of the festival scene.
7. Winter’s Bone
There were a lot of superlatives on the cover. But it wasn’t a hype. This movie deserved every piece of praise that it got.
8. Black Swan
Dark, powerful and very, very visual. It’s almost a year since I watched it but it stays strong in my memory. One of my daughters watched it four times and then she asked me to bring her to see The Swan Lake live. I can’t blame her for being fascinated.
It was so violent that I wanted to hide behind my seat, but at the same time it was so well crafted and stylish that I can’t but admire it.
10. The King’s Speech
OK, I admit it, I’m an anglophile at heart and Colin Firth is one of my favourite actors. I’ve heard very little love for this one in the blogosphere. I attribute this to that people were sulking over that The Social Network didn’t get the Oscar for best movie. Regardless of this, I’m a fan.
12-21 in alphabetical order
As always there’s an almost documentary feeling in this Mike Leigh movie, which must be one of his more optimistic. It felt oddly refreshing to for once see an older couple in a relationship that actually worked fine after many years of marriage.
Hanna – with a fast and furious pace, a wonderful heroine and one of the best soundtracks of the year.
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows (1+) 2
I was fortunate enough to watch the final HP movie one after each other the same evening, which is how I think they should be watched. I can imagine the frustration of someone watching just part 1 the previous year, ending up seeing nothing but a long build-up. In any case, while the HP movies haven’t always been brilliant, I think they made a worthy ending to the series. Even though they could have cut out the final scene and spare us some giggles.
Of Gods and Men – based on true events, about a group of French monks who died in Algeria in 1996 when they refused to evacuate their monastery when their life was put at danger. Very moving with great acting performances.
Oslo, August 31st – A Norwegian blues. Louis Malle has made this before but sometimes remakes can be justified.
Shame – Michael Fassbender makes an unforgettable portray of a sex addict.
This is Not a Film
I watched this as a political act but was happily surprised at how good it actually was.
The Tree of Life – More of poetry than a movie, but some of the poems were fantastic. I might make more of it if I watch it a second time.
True Grit – I’m usually not a western fan, but I enjoyed this one.
22-40, alphabetical order
3 – Tom Tykwer’s unconventional love story about a ménage a trois
A Separation – has made it into many top 10 lists of this year. For me it was an eye-opener about the situation in Iran and the difficulties that secularized intellectual face, giving them no option but to leave, separating from their country.
Blue Valentine – about two people falling out of love. A little slow but with a very good acting performance by Ryan Gosling, who has had an amazing year by the way, appearing in many of the movies on my top list.
Contagion – perhaps more scientifically correct than a cinematically perfect
Headhunters – a well crafted thriller from Norway
The Ides of March – while it probably doesn’t beat West Wing, it had an ambiguous ending that I liked.
The Illusionist – my favorite animated movie of this year.
Le Havre – Kaurismäki brought us a sweet fairytale.
Midnight in Paris – sweet and lightweight. Not one of Allen’s best movies, but still enjoyable if you’re a fan like me.
Moneyball – I watched this only recently and haven’t written a review yet. But baseball noob as I am, I enjoyed it a lot.
Rabbit Hole – John Cameron Mitchell’s portray of a couple mourning their child was very gripping.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – gave us my favorite line of the year: “NO”. And yet another impressive motion capture act by Andy Serkis.
Source Code – because I love this type of science fiction stories. Not as good as Duncan Jones previous film Moon, but still a good effort.
Submarine – too much indie quirk, according to some. But not according to me. I thought it was funny and charming. One of the very few movies this year that made me laugh.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – like a puzzle with half of the pieces missing. But very stylish and well made.
Trollhunter – a found footage film from Norway that totally won me over
Turn Me On, Dammit – A Sweet and joyful Norwegian take on young sexuality
At Night I Fly – a Swedish documentary about an art program in an American prison that noone else has seen. I hope it gets more attention.
Attenberg – An odd little movie from Greece. My strongest impression was the weird dances made by two girls who imitated what they’d seen on Sir David Attenborough programs.
Bridesmaids – contained a spectacular poo scene. But I don’t think it brought anything new to the view on women, despite the marketing. Funny at times though and gave me some laughs.
Certified Copy – a darling among the critics that didn’t quite convince me when I watched it. I find it hard to digest all the lecturing about art philosophy and the values of copies and originals. However after having it explained to me, I could very well appreciate it better at a second viewing.
Crazy Stupid Love – the movie that made us realize that Gosling looks photoshopped.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – well crafted, but I hope Fincher will move over to make something else now
The Hedgehog – a French, quite sweet little story about a suicidal 11 year old and a grumpy janitor of her house.
Jane Eyre – Wonderful costumes, wonderful setting and cinematography, although this novel might not be ideal to make movies on. A lot needed to be sacrificed.
Limitless – as entertaining as it was forgettable. I think it got more crap than it deserved.
Norwegian Wood– while feeling a little empty, there were some beautiful shots from the Japanese countryside
Super 8 – The kids were wonderful, but we had to take the monster as well with the bargain, which pulled it down. Very entertaining as long as it lasted though.