Sunday, January 01, 2012

Black Sheep's Top 10 of 2011!

(Click on any highlighted film title for the original Black Sheep review.
Or any highlighted name for the Black Sheep interview.)

Happy New Year everybody! I always take it easy on New Year's Day and look back at the year that was, in film and in general for my life and career. This year was a fantastic year for film and for my career, as it turns out. The films are coming up a bit later but as for my career, I finally feel this year like a real film critic. I am published regularly in Hour Community in Montreal and in Ottawa Xpress. I have been invited to participate in podcasts and am regularly on the air on CJAD 800 Montreal, the city's leading English language talk radio station. I was once again granted accreditation to cover the Toronto International Film Festival, which not only led to a plethora of amazing interviews, but also allowed me to be within 5 feet of Madonna. We didn't speak. Next time.

I took this. On my phone. She was right there!
My job as a film critic is a freelance one. It does not pay my bills. I have a day job for that. In a bank. The opportunities afforded me in my life are not those of your typical banker, I assure you. One of the greatest perks is getting to sit with and speak to filmmakers I admire a great deal. This year I spoke to people I never imagined I would. I started the year speaking with Oscar nominee, Javier Bardem, about the dark and heartbreaking triumph, BIUTIFUL. I finished the year speaking with Oscar hopeful, Michael Fassbender, about the equally exquisite, SHAME. In between, I also spoke with Morgan Spurlock, Ryan Gosling, Elizabeth Olsen, Gus Van Sant, Matthew McConaughey, Antonio Banderas and the director of this year's Oscar front runner, THE ARTIST, Michel Hazanavicius, amongst many others. I think my favourite interview I did all year was with Mike Mills, about his touching film, BEGINNERS. To speak with him about the very personal story that inspired the film was an honour. He has a beautiful soul and clearly the bravery needed to share it with others so freely.

My interviews have even led to a number of cover features for Hour Community and Ottawa Xpress. Here is a sampling (soon to be found framed on my wall).

You may already be familiar with my Top 10 Films of 2011 list, as it was already published in Hour Community. I still had a few films left to see before the end of the year and thought maybe one of those might change the final results, but alas, no. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN sure came close but still, no. My Top 10 is a mixed bag of the big and the small, the tragic and the delightful, but most importantly, all ten of these pictures genuinely touched me in one way or another. They are all remarkable achievements in their own rights and it is my pleasure to share them with you.

In alphabetical order ... Here is Black Sheep's Top 10 of 2011!

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

THE ARTIST defies all current rule by adhering to the rules of another era. In doing so, it recaptures an innocence and sense of magic that is sorely lacking from most of today's movies. Seeing it embraced is so wonderful because I know that the warmth I felt watching it is being spread to many unsuspecting and appreciative filmgoers.

Directed by Mike Mills

I know I said my interview with Mike Mills was my favourite of the year but I assure you I was in love with BEGINNERS before I met him. His musings about love and history are so whimsical yet they hold an unexpected weight of understanding at the same time. A second viewing simply had me basking in what a special film it is.

Directed by Paul Feig

I never expected BRIDESMAIDS to make this list. I laughed when I saw it in theatres but was also torn about how realistically it portrayed the damage that permeates today's dating scene only to reinforce that love saves all in the end. I saw it again some time later. I don't know what kind of mood I was in the first time but this time, I lightened the F up and laughed my A off. My wig is off to Kristin!

Directed by Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne's first film in seven years, THE DESCENDANTS, is the stuff Best Picture Oscars are made of. Or at least they should be, in my humble opinion. Payne, with the great help of his talented ensemble, let by the schleppiest George Clooney I've ever seen, has found the perfect balance between Hollywood accessibility and independent heart. It is his finest film.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Watching DRIVE was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've had at the movie is my life. The trailer itself gave everything away but I had somehow managed to block all of that out before seeing it. This allowed me to soak in every little morsel of Nicolas Winding Refn's genius style and Ryan Gosling's smouldering intensity. It goes from quiet to completely disquieting in no time and it gets my motor running every time I see it.

Directed by Sean Durkin

Stop balking at the title and see this movie. Sean Durkin, a first time filmmaker has created a truly disturbing experience with MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE. The way he sees the story, in fractured pieces and bizarre but beautiful angles, draws our attention directly to the breakout performance of the year. Elizabeth Olsen is just mind-blowing in this. I could not stop looking at her nor did I want to.

Directed by Lars von Trier

This is another title I never expected to figure into this list. I have a complicated relationship with Lars von Trier. I am sure I'm not the only one either. All the same, MELANCHOLIA, which some might call his most accessible work to date, is absolutely breathtaking from beginning to end. It is masterful filmmaking and von Trier strikes an incredibly delicate balance between the bleak, the realistic and the unexpected humour that lies in between.

Directed by Steve McQueen

I was so moved by Steve McQueen's HUNGER that when I heard he had teamed up with Michael Fassbender again for his second feature about sex addiction, I was naturally very excited. SHAME isn't an easy experience but such are some people's stories. Fassbender's Brandon has a story some would scoff at but McQueen makes his addiction completely understandable. The fact that he does so without truly diving into Brandon's past is a compliment to Fassbender's incredible depth.

Directed by Terrence Malick

This year is full of surprises. Never have I seen a more polarizing film experience and when I first saw THE TREE OF LIFE, I fully understood both sides. It wasn't until a second viewing that I let the side of me that loved this film take full control and just let it rush over me. Not only is it the most gorgeous looking and sounding film I've seen all year but it is, in the right light, a beautiful poem of epic proportion. Oh, and it also gave us Jessica Chastain. For that reason alone! 

(I reviewed the film twice. The links above are to my most recent review. Click here to read the original review.)

Directed by Lynne Ramsay

I always have a hard time finding the words to describe WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. I definitely need to see it a second time before I can fully appreciate its beauty and depth. In the meantime though, I know how it made me feel, how it sucked me in and really kept me there throughout the film, wondering what had happened and why. Tilda Swinton does it again. That woman knows from cold.

TIFF Take 2 for me! Always unbelievable.
And that's 10, in case you lost count. Thanks for all your support this past year, with your sharing on Facebook and your tweeting and retweeting, and with just your reading of my work in general. I am truly grateful. Soon it will be your turn to tell me your favourites of the year for the Black Sheep Reviews Readers Choice Mouton d'Or Award so keep an eye out for that. The full Mouton d'Or Award nominations will be announced on January 22. In the meantime, I wish you all great success in 2012!

I leave you with a list of five more excellent films from 2011 that didn't quite make the Top 10. They do deserve honourable mention though.

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Directed by Dee Rees

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Directed by Paddy Considine


Unknown said...

Melancholia was my number one... sadly I haven't had the opportunity to see a few of these where I am; I'm particularly looking forward to Shame and The Artist.

Candice Frederick said...

nice list! i've been dying to see martha may and we need to talk about kevin.

Restaurant Bruges said...

fun and a amazing post

Jessica said...

While not all of your choices are on my top list, several are. I'm extra happy to see your love for Beginners. The only one of the movies I've seen (The Artist and We need to talk about Kevin won't come up until February) that I really have a different opinion abuot is Bridesmaids. It won't even make it into my top 40 list. But then again: it was a year with a LOT of good movies. It will get a honorable mentioning though.

Anna said...

I have a daunting feeling that when I finally catch Shame it will jump to my top ! So many great reviews, the mood feels like something I'd appreciate, McQueen and Fassbender are awesome. Can't wait.

Bridesmaids was not my favourite at all.

Black Sheep said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. I'm very happy with my list and I would agree that is was a pretty strong year indeed. Bridesmaids was not even a consideration for me until I saw it a second time and my Top 10 list is always partly influenced by the impact the film had on myself and the filmgoing public as a whole.

Here's hoping 2012 is even better!