My Favorite Non-2011 Films Seen in 2011

All of our favorite 2011 films are posted here as a series of top ten lists, and we’re all busily discussing this year’s Oscar nominations, but there are, of course, plenty of films we watched in 2011 that were released in all kinds of other years. These are some of my favorites of the films I saw for the first time in 2011, regardless of what year they were originally released. Not limited to a specific number, nor specifically ranked, though films I liked the best are closer to the top.

What are some of the best things you saw in 2011, regardless of release date?

Le cercle rouge (1967)

I had a feeling I was going to like this film, just based on how much I’ve liked Jean-Pierre Melville’s other films, especially Le samourai, which, if I recall correctly, topped my favorites list in 2010. I had no idea I’d like it as much as I did. Melville weaves several plotlines together, involving a criminal just out of prison, the mob he steals money from, a detective chasing a different escaped con, a former sharpshooter cop who’s now an alcoholic, and more. Each of them has their own narrative rise and fall, and each character has their own arc, but they all interplay in an incredibly intricate way, as different ones join up on a heist (one of the best heist sequences in cinema) and others try to track them down for their own reasons. It’s hard to explain, but very easy and clear to watch. Brilliant work on all levels.

Blue Valentine (2010)

This film just missed my 2010 best of list (I saw it mere days after last year’s posts were made), but it would’ve ended up about #4 on that list. It might be even higher now. The film parallels the beginning and end of a single romance, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams (both in career-best performances), juxtaposing the courtship and the break-up of this couple to incredible emotional effect. Despite the temporal contrivance, the film is incredibly raw and realistic, with no easy answers for what causes a couple who seem so perfect for each other to hit the skids so badly. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Why in the world did it take me this long to watch this movie? That phrase actually applies to the next two as well, but the prestige of those two be darned, this is the one that I can’t get out of my head. The tales surrounding it are as legendary as the film itself, playing on the long-standing bitter rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who here play two aging showbiz sisters who have a long-standing bitter rivalry. It may be high camp, but this is quite possibly Bette Davis’s best performance – it’s mean and grotesque and pitiful and naive. And the movie itself is quite possibly the best example of Hollywood gothic, yes, even giving Sunset Boulevard a run for its money.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

There is a reason I’d been avoiding watching this classic must-see. I’m not a big Brando fan. I’d seen On the Waterfront, Sayonara, The Godfather, and more, and I just didn’t really get the whole Brando thing. But I finally sat down with this one and suddenly GOT IT. He’s utterly magnetic here, and the film is far more stylistically interesting than I’d expected. It wears its stage origins on its sleeve, but in a heightened way that works, and the clash of Leigh’s old-school Hollywood acting with Brando’s muttering animalism is palpable. Now I want to go rewatch all those other Brando films – I bet I’ll like them more.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

And the reason I’d been avoiding this one was simply that I figured it’d be depressing and Important Movie-esque. (Also I dislike Steinbeck based on “The Red Pony” traumatizing me as a child.) Wrong on both counts. It’s certainly not a happy peppy movie, and a ton of bad things happen to this Dust Bowl family, but I wasn’t prepared for how gorgeously this is shot (Gregg Toland, should’ve known) and how intense it can be, sharing in this family’s troubles and little joys, as well as dealing with the subplot of Tom Joad’s fugitive status. His final speech is justly praised, but the whole thing is pretty great.

The Cat and the Canary (1927)

Often cited as one of the prime examples of the haunted house mystery comedy, a genre that was apparently prominent in the silent era, and rightly so. Simply a ton of fun from start to finish, as a group of people gather in a long-deserted mansion to read the will of their crotchety old relative. There are threats of insanity, a murderer running rampant, an asylum escapee on the loose, plus various positive and negative interpersonal interactions among the varied potential heirs. Moody cinematography counterbalances the humor in the plot.

For a Few Dollars More (1965)

I watched the Man with No Name trilogy all out of order (I’d already seen the other two…yeah, backwards), but my husband wasn’t about to let me get away with not having seen this one, which is his favorite. I still like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly more, but there’s a lot I did like about this one, especially the way the story really follows Lee Van Cleef instead of Clint Eastwood – that was an interesting touch. Also, the bank robbery segment is just awesome. Next up – watching all three of these actually in order. :)

The Godless Girl (1929)

I always enjoy Cinefamily’s Silent Treatment nights because I get to see films that are rarely if ever screened and aren’t on DVD, plus learn a bunch about silent cinema and 1920s Hollywood and chat with film archivists. I’m always appreciative of the films I see, but to be honest, a lot of times, they’re mostly of historical significance. This is an exception, because this film is gangbusters fun. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, it’s the story of a clashing set of teenagers – one the leader of a group of young Christians, the other the leader of a group of Atheists. After the groups get in a riotous fight, they’re carted off to reform school, where they get to know each other. Frankly, there are like five or six sections of story (and tones!). But they’re all crazy and fun, and it ends with a massive escape/chase sequence followed by a climactic fire, which is very technically impressive.

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

Seems like every year a film I’ve never heard of wins Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, upsetting one I either wanted to win or thought was a shoo-in. And then every year when I get around to seeing the actual winner, I’m blown away. This is an extremely solid mystery/character study of a detective flashing back to that one case, you know that one he never quite managed to solve. It’s tough to find the balance between mystery and character in films, but this one does it wonderfully, and with a lot of style to boot – just wait for the seemingly one-take stadium shot. It’s incredible.

The Naked Island (1960)

I happened to be volunteering on a night when Cinefamily screened this film, which I’d never heard of and knew nothing about – I hadn’t even read the blurb on the Cinefamily schedule. I stuck around to watch it anyway, and I’m certainly glad I did. An almost silent picture, depicting the day-to-day lives of a family struggling to maintain their farm on an unwelcoming island. Much of the film is just watching them cart water from the mainland, carry it up a treacherous hill, and water their crops one at a time. Sounds boring, but it isn’t, and when larger events do happen, they hit you like a ton of bricks.

The Illusionist (2010)

A sweet and simple ode to the entertainments of the past, the pleasures that progress has robbed us of in search of bigger, faster, louder thrills. The main character, once a popular vaudeville magician, finds himself less and less wanted as rock bands and television replace his craft – all except for one little girl, entranced by his magic. Like Sylvain Chomet’s previous film The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist is almost silent – as befits its origin as an unproduced script from Jacques Tati. Charming, simple, warm, and wistful.

Love in the Afternoon (1972)

Also known as Chloe in the Afternoon, this is one of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales films, and so far, I think it’s my favorite. Each of these films presents some sort of moral dilemma, but not in a didactic way – in this case a happily married man daydreams about other women, with no intention of taking action – until his friend Chloe decides to seduce him. Like most French New Wave films, it’s emotionally aloof in such a way that you actually end up supplying the emotions yourself, and this one presents its characters without judgement, but with a great deal of fairness and empathy. I love New Wave noncommital-ness, and this is right in my ballpark.

Night Train to Munich (1940)

I already knew director Carol Reed was more than just The Third Man, from having seen The Fallen Idol, but this would’ve clenched it – Night Train to Munich is a WWII spy story with double agents, concentration camps, undercover espionage, and daring mountaintop chases, all of which it does with a wit and panache that set it apart from most other spy films. It’s classy and silly and genuinely thrilling. Also, and this is not unimportant, it knows when to stop and doesn’t clutter everything up with needless denoument and codas.

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)

Frank Sinatra may have already won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity two years earlier, but with this film he really cemented his standing as an actor. Pushing the envelope of the Production Code, the film tells of Frankie Machine, a card dealer and drug addict who just wants to get clean and play the drums, but he can’t get out of the gambling game – tied in by debts and drugs and a shrew of a wife. It’s not always easy to watch, and it does have an old-school social realism melodrama angle, but when it’s on, boy is it on. The withdrawal scene gave ME the DTs.

The Descent (2005)

Director Neil Marshall continually impresses me with his genre films, and this one was no different – a group of girlfriends tries to reconnect after one of them experiences tragedy by going spelunking. But in an unknown cave, anything can happen, and everything does. This film is great on every level, with the dangers of the cave itself creating enough intensity, but the film is hardly content to stop with that. The pacing, the use of sound design, and the thematic content all raise this film above your standard horror thriller.

My Winnipeg (2007)

Easily the most accessible Guy Maddin film I’ve seen so far, and thus my favorite, at least until I get more accustomed to his extremely unique style of filmmaking – this time he takes us on an idiosyncratic tour of his hometown of Winnipeg, a surreal blending of his childhood, his attempts at recreating his childhood to deal with past trauma, and legends and stories of the town itself. It’s associative, bizarre, dreamlike, and definitely an experience.

Wayne’s World (1992)

I totally did not expect to enjoy this film as much as I did – I had it mentally lumped in with a bunch of other early ’90s comedies that just struck me as stupid and juvenile, but my husband convinced me to watch it, and yeah. This one is much smarter than it seems on the surface, with a lot of clever writing and meta humor that worked like gangbusters for me. He already quoted this one a bunch (leaving me shrugging my shoulders in ignorance), but now we’re quoting it together ALL THE TIME. We even did a joint blog post about it.

Changing Husbands (1924)

Another hit from the Silent Treatment folks at Cinefamily, this one has Leatrice Joy (no, I’d never heard of her) in a double role as a bored rich housewife who wants to be an actress and a poor browbeated actress who just wants some peace and rest. Yep, you guessed it, they run into each other and decide to switch places for a bit, since the rich woman’s husband is out of town anyway. Surprise, he comes back and wants to take his “wife” on holiday. More mix-ups ensue, with a lot of sly innuendo and some great comic timing from all involved. It’s frothy, but great fun, and one of my favorite new-to-me silents of the year.

Batman: The Movie (1966)

I hesitate to put this movie (a big-screen film to go along with the campy ’60s TV show) into the “so bad it’s good” category, because I think the people who made it knew exactly what they were making, and did it all – the cheesy line readings, the over-abundance of villains, the ridiculous plot elements – totally on purpose. There’s no way they didn’t, there are too many self-referential jokes (“some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb”). If you go into this with the same kind of pure enjoyment of ridiculousity that they did, you’ll have fun. I sure did.

Woman in the Window (1944) / Scarlet Street (1945)

I’m lumping these two together because it’s hard not to. In 1944, Fritz Lang got together with Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, and made a quiet little noir film about a middle-aged man who falls for a younger woman and gets drawn into a crime because of her. It worked out so well, they all got together and did the same thing the next year. The details of the plot are different of course, but that trajectory is the same. Both films are solid noirs; it’s hard to rank them against each other, though, because WitW has a better and more interesting plot overall, but has a serious cop-out ending, while SS follows through on the ending beautifully, but has a less interesting/believable plot throughout. Both worthwhile, though, especially for noir fans.

Loves of a Blonde (1965)

Cinefamily did a series on the Czech New Wave a couple of years ago, but either they didn’t play this Milos Forman entry, or I missed that night. But seeing a few of those definitely gave me a taste for them, and I went into Loves of a Blonde with high hopes – which were not misplaced. With definite French New Wave influences, the film basically follows a young girl in a rural factory town in Czechoslovakia, who eschews the middle-aged men who remain in the town after most young men have been conscripted in favor of a pianist from Prague. But the story is less important than the individual scenes, vignettes like three leches macking on girls at a factory-sponsored dance, the girl getting lectured on propriety back at her hostel, and the encounter with the boy’s parents when she arrives unannounced on his doorstep. Take the focus on the youthtful and mundane from the Nouvelle Vague and add in a specifically Czech-under-communism austerity, and that’s this film.

49 Up (2005)

This can kind of stand in for the entire Up series of documentaries – it’s difficult to judge them separately, and this is the most recent one (though if they stay on schedule, 56 Up would be out this year). The premise of the series is that in 1964, a TV production team got a group of fourteen British 7-year-olds from different regions and class backgrounds and interviewed them on various topics. Every seven years they’ve gone back and interviewed the same people (though not all of them have agreed to be in every episode). It’s fascinating, both in the ways it upholds the original premise that a child’s future is set by the age of seven, in terms of societal status, and the ways it subverts those expectations – not to mention how it delves into the nature of documentary filmmaking itself. I don’t like documentaries that much, and this one is largely talking heads, but it is absolutely entrancing.

Vagabond (1985)

After being a huge fan of Agnès Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 last year, I wanted more Varda, but I put off seeing this one for a good while, largely because it just looked freaking depressing. And yeah, it kind of is. It’s about a twenty-something girl who roams the roads, hitchhiking, sleeping wherever she can, working for a while or living with people as she’s able. But the film opens with her dead in a ditch, then backtracks to how she got there, so you know it isn’t going to romanticize the life of the open road. Even though this was made long after the New Wave’s heyday, it does have that same kind of non-committal sympathy that works so well for me – Varda isn’t going to manipulate you into feeling sorry for the girl, she’s just going to show you want happened and allow your feelings to grow naturally. She’s not always an attractive character – often being rude or dismissive to those who would help her, until it’s too late – yet Varda’s technique works. It’s a really powerful, often hard to watch, but very rewarding film.

Robin Hood (1922)

I couldn’t pass up a chance to see a bunch of Douglas Fairbanks silents at Cinefamily earlier this year, and I think this was my favorite of the lot – it tells a good bit of the backstory to Robin Hood, depicting Robin of Locksley’s friendship with King Richard and his falling for Maid Marion before Richard ever went off to the Crusades, allowing Prince John to oppress the people and create the need for Robin Hood. Some of that gets a little long, but it’s a nice setup that most versions of Robin Hood skip over. After that, it’s really pretty similar to the Errol Flynn The Adventures of Robin Hood, but Fairbanks is even more athletic and exuberant than Flynn.

Zazie dans le metro (1960)

I still don’t quite know what to make of this early Louis Malle film, but I know I enjoyed watching it, and will likely enjoy it even more on future rewatches. Taken from a Raymond Queneau book (he was a prominent literary experimenter), the film is delightfully absurd, with basically no plot stringing along its series of nonsensical vignettes. The absurd sensibility definitely appeals to me a lot, but I’m sure there are also satirical elements that slipped by me entirely. Even so, it was a whole lot of fun.

Carrie (1976)

Finally got around to this horror classic this October, after meaning to for the past two Octobers and failing. Despite knowing all about the bullying and the prom scene already, this film was a LOT different than I was expecting. The crazy mother, for one thing, and then the whole ending that went on much past the prom scene and complicates it a lot. In some ways, I didn’t like where the ending went, but I am highly intrigued by it and wish people would talk about it more, rather than just accepting the film as a pro-feminist revenge-on-bullies story. In any case, the film is really effective at putting us on Carrie’s side through Spacek’s wide-eyed performance and the agonizing yet lovely leadup to the climax at the prom, even if DePalma does overdo the visual flamboyance when he doesn’t really need to.

A Man Escaped (1956)

I have a love-hate relationship with Robert Bresson. I love Pickpocket, but really dislike Lancelot du Lac and felt pretty ambivalent towards Diary of a Country Priest. This one seemed more on the Pickpocket wavelength, and sure enough, it joins the “love” side of Bresson’s filmography for me. The film takes its time, as the main character is member of the French resistance imprisoned by Nazi forces, who works carefully and patiently to plan and execute an escape. Despite the slow pace, though (something Bresson is known for generally), this film maintains tension perfectly, and doesn’t get dull at all.

Back to the Future II (1989)

When my husband found out I had only seen the first Back to the Future film and that I hardly remembered any of that, he sat me down with the whole trilogy almost immediately. Not only did I enjoy the first one a lot more than I initially had, but Part II instantly joined the ranks of sequels that are better than the originals. The way that II coils back on I with amazing intricacy is great, but I was also really taken by the future world (which is NOW, by the way, if you work the dates out…I’d say we failed to progress in certain areas quite as much as expected, but maybe we’re better off in other ways). Of course, being the history nut that I am, I also really enjoyed Part III, but not quite enough for it to make this list. It’s hovering right below it.

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Long before David Lynch (Blue Velvet) or Sam Mendes (American Beauty) satirized the underbelly of American suburbia, Nicholas Ray brought this scathing attack against suburban values – or the veneer that suburbia tries to uphold to hide the darker things lying beneath. Here James Mason secretly works two jobs to support his family, but a malicious disease takes its toll on him, the only thing that helps being large doses of painkillers – which he becomes addicted to. He eventually devolves into madness, and yes, there’s quite a bit of melodrama in the film, but if you go along with its excesses, you’ll find one of the darkest films about the ’50s ever made.

Born to Kill (1947)

I’d never heard of this noir film until a friend lent it to me, but hey, Robert Wise usually makes good pictures, right? Right. The always-impressive Claire Trevor leaves town after she finds a friend murdered, not wanting to get involved, but unbeknownst to her, the murderer (her friend’s jealous boyfriend) is insinuating himself into her life, ALSO not knowing that she knew the victim. It’s a crazy mess of fate, mutual attraction and repulsion, double-crosses, and both a femme fatale AND an homme fatale. Plus, Elisha Cook Jr. in a meaty supporting role. A lesser-known noir this may be, but that’s a mistake – it’s definitely one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen.

Taking Off (1971)

After making a splash with the Czech New Wave (see Loves of a Blonde, above), Milos Forman made his way to Hollywood success with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus. But first he did this little-known film, his first in the United States, about a teenage girl who runs away to be part of a group of hippies, and her parents trying to find her. It’s got its ridiculous parts (which have a strange tendency to turn sublime, like the scene where all the parents learn how to smoke a joint to try to understand their children better), but it’s ultimately a quite moving and wistful portrait of two generations, and the longing of both to find meaning and connection.

The Constant Nymph (1943)

Long kept out of circulation due to rights issues, TCM finally got it worked out to show this Oscar-nominated Joan Fontaine film at the TCM Film Festival this year, and it was pretty great to see it with a whole crowd of people who’ve been waiting for it for a very long time. It’s a bit of an unusual film, though, with Fontaine a spright of a girl who breathlessly falls in love with a family friend who still thinks of her as a child. It’s chockfull of melodrama, but Fontaine plays it all with such eager naivete that it’s impossible not to like her, despite the underlying ick factor their ages make kind of hard to ignore.

This is the Night (1932)

Hyped up at the TCM Festival for being Cary Grant’s debut feature, there’s a lot more than that here to like. Basically playing second lead to Roland Young’s hapless gentleman, Grant is an athlete whose wife Thelma Todd is stepping out with Young (no, it’s not believable, just go with it), but in order to keep Grant from finding out, Young hires an actress to pretend to be his wife. It’s convoluted, but thanks to a stellar lead and supporting cast and a solid script, it’s as witty and charming as any 1930s movie – it’s unfortunate that it’s so little known. Definitely deserves a look.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Silly and nonsensical story? Check. Ridiculous line readings? Check. Cheesy stop-motion effects? Check. Actually, the special effects are kind of awesome, I love watching stop-motion animation. It’s not believable, but it has a tactile charm that CGI loses along the way. The story here is basic fantasy adventure stuff with sorcerers and princesses and giant monsters, but it’s all in good fun, and I had a great time watching it.

Good Morning (1959)

I’ve tried to watch Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (generally touted as his best/most important film) at least two or three times and always failed, getting bogged down in my lack of knowledge of Japanese culture and the film’s deliberate pacing. A friend suggested I start with Good Morning instead to get into Ozu, and that was an excellent suggestion. This is a sunny, funny film, the loose plot centered on a pair of kids who want a television more than anything, but with plenty of time given to other vignettes around their apartment area. Charming and breezy.

Gremlins (1984)

I mostly snuck this one in here just because I was shocked at how much fun this film is – I thought it was just gonna be a horror film (and I knew the basic “don’t feed them after midnight” premise), but it’s REALLY goofy, and that’s what I liked about it. I loved all the inventions, I loved the gremlins having fun at the movies, I thought all that stuff was great – even more so because I had no idea all those parts existed.





44 comments

  1. Jericho Slim

    Jandy, great post! I always do this for myself – I thought I was being original, but I guess not.

    Baby Jane is awesome – I saw it on TCM a couple of years ago for the first time and was blown away.

    Secret in Their Eyes is on my all time top 20 movies. The neat thing about Secret is that – at least to me – it is shot like a 3D movie. There are so many ordinary scenes of dialogue that have incredible depth and framing. It gets better with rewatch.

    Also, a suggestion, if you don’t mind. I don’t know if you’ve seen the 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie, but it is incredible. (The 1941 movie is good, too.)

    • I’ve only done it for a couple of years – I think I didn’t post it last year, just had it hidden away on a page on my personal blog. Figured that was kind of a waste. :)

      I’ve probably posted about, commented on, and mentioned Baby Jane more than any other movie I saw last year, for reals. It’s pretty awesome. I guess I gotta see Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte next, but I don’t think it can possibly measure up.

      Interesting thought on Secret in Their Eyes. Thinking back about it, I can see that. I’ll have to look for that specifically on rewatch.

      I have seen both those versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – good suggestions! I don’t find too many people who’ve seen, much less liked, the 1941 version. I don’t think it’s as good as the 1931 version, but it’s pretty fascinating how Spencer Tracy does the transformation with basically no makeup at all. Compared to Frederic March’s version, which uses TONS of makeup to make Hyde. Interesting to compare the two.

      • Jericho Slim

        The ’31 version is definitely better. I think I have a soft spot for the ’41 version because of Ingrid Bergman. I just find her and Marilyn the most striking leading ladies I’ve ever seen on screen.

        (On that note, I have the just released Notorious and Spellbound blu-rays being delivered from Amazon today. I’m such a nerd.)

        • I’d LOVE to get Notorious on Blu-ray. (I like Spellbound, too, but not quite as much.) I might have to pick that up before long. I was pissed the Criterion edition went out of print before I had a chance to get it – let us know how the transfer is on this Blu-ray.

  2. I saw Le cercle rouge in december and I got to say I was riveted! an awesome movie

    • Yeah, I was a little worried going into it because of the length of it, but that two and a half hours FLEW by. I saw it at a festival, and it literally felt shorter than everything else I saw. Not a moment is wasted.

  3. I’m seeing Le Cercle Rouge on the big screen in about 3 weeks. After Le Samourai, I’m totally stoked.

    I also saw Batman for the first time this year. It was way better than I expected. Easily the best comedy I saw in 2011.

    Isn’t “The Secret in Her Eyes” great!? I need to rewatch that again soon. I don’t remember much other than the showy, uncut shot. But I remember loving the shit out of it.

    I’ve never seen/heard of Vagabond. Your description and that screen shot has me extremely intrigued.

    • Has anyone else seen Le Silence de la Mer by Melville that I reviewed last week? I thought it was incredible. I’ve not seen many of his other films yet (only Bob Le Flambeur which I liked but didn’t love), but I believe this is quite different from his gangster pictures.

      • I haven’t, but I do really want to. I’ve liked or loved everything I’ve seen by him – I agree with you on Bob le flambeur, I liked it a lot, but didn’t quite love it. Check out Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge, you won’t be disappointed. I also hear great things about Army of Shadows, which I’m planning to watch sometime this year. And I also haven’t seen Un flic, but it has Alain Delon as well, so I want to check that out.

        • Haven’t seen Silence de la Mer David, but your review absolutely makes me want to – even if it didn’t, it’s Melville, so I’d want to see it.

          The Only Melville I don’t particularly like is Les Enfants Terribles (the one he made with Jean Cocteau). You think it would be a great marriage of talents, but it frustrated me throughout much of it.

          However, Army Of Shadows is fantastic. As is Le Doulos – highly, highly recommended. Le Douxieme Souffle is also very good, but probably a notch lower. I really like Un Flic even though many consider it minor – it just moves along effortlessly.

          Andrew, you should really dig Le Cercle Rouge.

        • Yeah I’ve got most of those together in a box-set but haven’t worked my way through it yet. I’m glad you’ve said you weren’t blown away by Bob Le Flambeur though as that makes me want to crack open the others a lot more now.

    • TOTALLY worth it. It’s a bit more conventional than Le samourai, more of a crime/heist film without a lot of the existential elements in Le samourai, but it is SOLID. Plus, Alain Delon.

      Yeah, I figured Batman for throwaway fun, and it kind of is, but in the most awesome way. I wish they’d release the TV series on DVD.

      I think you did a post like this last year, didn’t you, with The Secret in Their Eyes at the top? Probably one of the things that spurred me to get around to seeing it. So, thanks! :) That stadium shot is fantastic. I tried really hard to get it into that Tracking Shots post I did a while back, but Sony was adamant about blocking the clip from YouTube. A shame, because it’s great marketing for the movie.

      I think I had Vagabond in a Movies We Watched post, but I didn’t say much there I didn’t here. It’s kind of a touch watch, but really, really worth it. It’s haunted me since I saw it.

      • Yea, Agnes Varda! Vagabond is terrific. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I love all the shots that track the girl, but when she stops or enters a building, the camera simply continues on without her for a bit – like she was irrelevant…Dive into her documentaries Jandy – in particular The Gleaners And I and her very personal film about her life Les Plages D’Agnes (with lots of Jacques Demy). I believe it’s called The Beaches Of Agnes in English.

  4. Great post – I saw Naked Island towards the end of 2010 and it took me a bit of getting into – all the repetition was driving me crazy, but once tragedy strikes it all falls in place and becomes devastating.

    As for my Non-2011 favourites of 2011 (the top four stood out the most, after that it’s in order of watching them):

    Harakiri – absolutely blew me away
    Sunrise – possibly the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen – why had I waited so long?
    Ballad of Narayama – God bless Masters of Cinema and their introducing me to forgotten gems like this. I saw loads of Imamura films thanks to MoC and this was the best
    Battleship Potempkin – can’t believe it’s taken me so long to see this – the editing is still mind-blowing

    A Prophet – lived up to all the hype for me
    Catfish – see above
    Wages of Fear – masterfully tense
    The Good The Bad The Weird – finally caught up with it – awesome
    Showdown in Little Tokyo – guilty pleasure, but I enjoyed the hell out of it
    The General – pure genius
    Red Road – keeps the audience one-step behind to regularly knock you for six
    The Red Shoes – utterly gorgeous
    The Innocents – scared the crap out of me

    • Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have made it through The Naked Island at home. My attention span is much stronger in theatres. I actually grew to like even the steady repetition after a while, and almost would’ve been fine without the tragedy, but yeah, when tragedy hits, it’s visceral.

      I’ve got to catch up with some more Japanese film; might start with Harakiri, since both you and Bob praised it last year. Ballad of Narayama, too, I guess – or would you suggest starting with a different Imamura film? That one wasn’t the first you reviewed here, as I recall. Sunrise is one of my all-time favorites – absolutely gorgeous. Potemkin has some great sequences for sure, but it also has some overlong and kinda boring parts. I rewatched it this year, and it’s impressive, but I only found it compelling in fits and starts.

      There are still a bunch of those I need to see, but I wholeheartedly agree with you on the ones I have seen: The Good, The Bad, the Weird, The General, Red Road, The Red Shoes, The Innocents. Those are all fantastic films. I just got the Criterion blu-ray of The Red Shoes a few months back. Need to rewatch that one stat. You had a great year of films, too, sounds like!

      • Harakiri is Top 20 all-time for me. Masaki Kobayashi the director also did the brilliant Samurai Rebellion and the gorgeous Kwaidan. Dude had some talent…B-) He also did the 9-hour The Human Condition which I have sitting on my shelf uncracked – I need to tackle it this year.

        I saw a bunch of Imamura a few years ago and Ballad was probably my favourite as well with Vengeance Is Mine and Intentions Of Murder running neck and neck for second place. Until I saw The Eel that is, which is probably tied with Balled as my top Imamura (it has the great Koji Yakusho in the lead).

        Sunrise kinda makes me swoon. It’s that wonderful.

      • Yeah I’ve been working my way through some classics I’ve missed on top of all the Masters of Cinema titles I’ve been sent so it’s been a great year.

        I think Narayama is a good starting point for Imamura as some of his others can either be a little too abstract or over-long to instantly grab you. Narayama has enough poignancy to keep it grounded. Vengeance is Mine is good too, but it’s pretty brutal and a bit slow at times. I’ve not seen the Eel. I’ve been sent Insect Woman to review, which is supposed to be good. Keep your eyes out for a review over the next month.

  5. I love that Gremlins and Batman are included on this list, Jandy. Some of the films that would make my list include:

    Bicycle Thieves
    I Am Cuba
    Head-On
    8 1/2
    Vertigo
    Faces
    Dear Zachary
    Pusher II and Pusher III (enjoyed Pusher but not as much as these two)
    The Killing
    On the Waterfront

    • Hey, I love me some goofy films. :)

      Those are great ones, CS! The ones I’ve seen, anyway. Bicycle Thieves, Vertigo, and The Killing are big favorites of mine. I need to get to the other two Pusher films – I’ve only seen the first one, which I liked, but I think I might like the others more, too. I’ve been wanting to see I Am Cuba since I ran across that one tracking shot (over a funeral) – looks pretty awesome.

      • Dang, I really need to catch up with Head-On since I like Fatih Akin’s films a great deal. Otherwise your list is fantastic Courtney – though I’d drop On The Waterfront down a bit below the rest.

        For those that love Drive, do yourselves a favour and catch up with the Pusher trilogy. Certainly not the same beasts as Drive, but each one of the three is just dripping with tension – in particular Pusher III which is the most insane day-in-the-life story ever.

        I Am Cuba is propaganda writ huge, but it’s so phenomenally gorgeous that you are totally fine with that. The stories are still interesting, but the acting is somewhat stilted and slows things down a bit. Still, you can totally see why Scorsese lost his mind over it.

  6. Fantastic post, Jandy! Glad you dug The Descent, that’s probably my favourite horror film after The Shining. Masterful mix of suspense, gory horror and character drama.

    I saw A LOT of films in 2011 I haven’t seen before, but just a selection of those that are on my list:

    Gone With the Wind – Totally lived up to its amazing reputation.
    Shallow Grave – I wasn’t as enamoured with this as some are but still unsettling and compelling stuff from Boyle.
    Peeping Tom – Fantastic film, a great companion-piece to Psycho which was released the same year.
    THX 1138 – Massive disappointment. It was interesting but you can really feel it was a short film stretched out.
    Harold and Maude – An instant favourite. Have watched it about 6 or 7 times since.
    High Fidelity – Played to my tastes so much because I love making lists (clearly ;).
    Hausu – One of the weirdest films ever made. And a lot of fun.

    Here’s my entire list of everything I watched in 2011 :)http://www.listal.com/list/movies-watched-in-2011-rosstmiller

    • I may have to give Gone With the Wind another chance. Maybe I’ll like it better since my sensibilities have obviously changed since college. But when I saw it then I found it extremely boring. I’ll give it another go-round one day.

    • I’ve only liked The Descent more since I watched it. It was a lot stronger on character and theme than I expected. And the suspense was fantastic – even just them being lost in the cave before running across the creatures was pretty intense. I hear to steer clear of the sequel, though.

      I’m generally a fan of GWTW – there are some magnificent things in there. The crane shot over the field of wounded soldiers gets me every time. Shallow Grave is one of the few Boyle films I haven’t seen – I want to get around to it, though, for sure. I feel exactly the same way about THX 1138. I should probably give it another go, but I was rather unimpressed. Hausu is…….yeah. It is. I own the Criterion Blu-ray – just waiting for the right time to unleash it on some unsuspecting friends. :)

  7. Thanks to the wonders of the Bell Lightbox I saw many classic films for this first time last year. The ones that stick out in my head include Bonnie and Clyde, Rosemary’s Baby, West Side Story (in 70mm), Dial M for Murder, and Marnie.

    • Bonnie and Clyde is my #2 movie of all time. :) West Side Story is up there, too, and I bet it’s fantastic in 70mm. It’s played in 70mm here at the American Cinematheque a couple of times, but always when I wasn’t able to get there. Frustrating. Some day, I’ll get to it, though.

      I’ve never been that big a fan of Dial M for Murder out of Hitchcock’s filmography (not that it’s bad – even a middle-of-the-road film for Hitch is pretty awesome), but I think Marnie is better than most people give it credit for. It’s got some hokeyness, but it’s also got some relatively shocking stuff, especially for its time.

  8. Yes, my name just changed mid-thread. I’m working on switching everywhere online over to my married name. Carry on.

    • Ha, awesome. It’s weird the whole name-change thing – it took me a while to get used to Anna adding Brook to her name.

      Congrats again, hope you had a wonderful day.

  9. Grapes Of Wrath is way overdue for me too – for pretty much the same reasons you gave.

    I’ve put off Streetcar for too long as well – I have to say I’ve never felt compelled to give it a view.

    Some great looking silents there – I’ve seen The Cat And The Canary version from 1979 (which was pretty darn entertaining) and the others look great. I always hope that screenings lead to DVD releases. The Fontaine and Grant pictures look fun as well.

    The Illusionist! My fave from 2010…

    I really enjoyed Chloe In The Afternoon as well, but My Night At Maud’s is still tops out of the Rohmer films I’ve seen (only half the Six Moral Tales plus Pauline At The Beach). I have to see more by him…

    Wayne’s World is next on the list to show my son…He’s pushing for more of the current 14A comedies (and really wants to see Horrible Bosses…Sigh), so I’m gonna show him something that is just plain silly. It is indeed stupid and juvenile – but in the most intelligent way.

    A Man Escaped is my fave Bresson so far. Like you, I couldn’t quite get into Diary Of A Country Priest, though the first half was somewhat spellbinding. I never quite found an entry point to Au Hazard Balthazar, but I really should try to see that again. If you like A Man Escaped, you should watch Le Trou by Jacques Becker – another fantastic prison escape film.

    Great post!

    • Hey Bob, maybe he’s ready for Bill and Ted? One of the best comedies like ever, dude!

      • We’ve already watched Bill & Ted (about a year or so ago I think) – he was on the floor busting a gut…So yeah, that one was a keeper. B-) Bogus Journey didn’t quite grab him as much, but it had its moments for him.

        He loves silly. The watermelon crashing down on the table in “Airplane” just about did him in for the rest of the movie. Dude has a good sense of humour…

    • I liked both Streetcar and Grapes of Wrath a lot more than I expected to, I’ll say that for sure.

      Of the silents – Cat and the Canary is definitely on DVD (I saw it on Netflix Instant). The others are less easily available – The Silent Treatment folks specifically try to screen rare stuff that’s hard to find elsewhere. The Godless Girl is in this box set (http://amzn.to/AAtaJL), but I wouldn’t hold my breath for Changing Husbands, unfortunately. It was a ton of fun, though – hopefully it’ll eventually find a release. Both This is the Night and The Constant Nymph have been playing on TCM now, and I think The Constant Nymph is a recent Warner Archive release.

      Oh, My Night at Maud’s is wonderful, too. Close race for favorite between those two. I also saw Claire’s Knee when Cinefamily was playing all six Moral Tales, but I didn’t get much out of that one. I do like the short The Bakery Girl of Monceau quite a lot. I think La collectioneuse is the only one I haven’t seen yet. And I haven’t seen any of Rohmer’s other stuff at all. Yet. :) As I was heading to Cinefamily last night to see Pierrot le fou, I passed by the New Beverly Cinema and they were showing two of Rohmer’s “season” films. It was an all-New Wave night at LA rep cinemas, apparently!

      Wayne’s World was awesome. He better love it. :)

      Have you seen Pickpocket? I think I still like it a tad more than A Man Escaped, if only because I’m a huge fan of Crime and Punishment, which Pickpocket owes a lot to, but they’re both very much in the same vein. I think Balthazar is up next for me as far as Bresson goes, but I’m afraid it’s going to be tough for me, like Country Priest. We’ll see.

  10. Wow, impressive list and that is so mighty fine viewing over the year. I usually do a list like this but I think I forgot this year! oops :)

  11. I couldn’t resist pulling a list together…

    Festival Films:
    2 Frogs in the West
    Father’s Day
    Harvest / Stadt Land Fluss
    OFF BEAT
    Raid
    Redline
    Simple Rhythm, A
    Sleepless Night / Nuit Blanche
    Snowtown
    Tyrannosaur
    Weekend (directed by Andrew Haigh)

    Older films:
    Discovering Hamlet (documentary)
    Enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot
    Enter the Void
    Mystère Picasso, Le / The Mystery of Picasso
    Perfect Getaway, A
    Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
    Sharktopus

    I didn’t see many classics this year, usually a few sneak in to the list. I think I’ll culled through most of the ‘must-see’ lists already!

    • Props for A Perfect Getaway! I saw that a couple of years ago, I think, and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I definitely enjoyed Redline and Snowtown (okay, “enjoyed” is not the right word for Snowtown, but it is mighty impressive filmmaking) of your festival lists, and I’m DYING to see The Raid. A few of the other ones I need to catch up with, too – the Clouzot and Picasso ones, plus Rare Exports I still haven’t gotten around to seeing. Even more good films in my future, I see. :)

  12. For me I caught up with Sidney Lumet, first-time watch of both 12 Angry Men and Fail-Safe, both incredible.

    That and I have almost finished the Kurosawa centenary box-set from Criterion, but from that, some of the big discoveries

    Stray Dog (Fincher had to be inspired by this movie)
    One Fine Sunday
    Dersu Uzala
    The Bad Sleep Well
    Throne of Blood

    • I’ve still got to watch Fail-Safe. Jonathan (Hardesty) tells me it’s basically the same story as Dr. Strangelove, except done seriously.

      My Kurosawa is still as limited as ever, but one year I’ll rectify that. Stray Dog and Throne of Blood are definitely top of my want-to-watch list.

  13. Stray Dog reminds me a lot of Zodiac, perhaps it is the first procedural crime film? It is great.

    Jonathan is right but I always assumed Fail-Safe was the straight story, but it is in itself pretty innovative and affecting. Fail-Safe is essentially United 93, again, procedural. Would make a great double-bill with Stray Dog

  14. The idea of someone not seeing Back to the Future Part II until they’re in their twenties is so bizarre to me — I can’t conceive of anyone not growing up with that film. And that in itself feels so bizarre to say. Or write. Weird. I think I just regard the trilogy as films you’re required to see as a child. You have to love the fact that its best scene is an exposition dump.

    By the way, Jandy, did you just up and get married? Or change your last name for the hell of it? Anyway, congrats!

    • I had an unusual cinematic childhood, Nat – mostly classics and older films until I was in my late teens. I grew up thinking it was weird when people hadn’t seen all the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies. :) I could name off a whole litany of surprising ’80s and early ’90s films I didn’t see until I was at least 15 or 16, and I’ve still got a long list yet to see.

      And yes, I did indeed get married about two weeks ago. Just now getting around to getting my name changed everywhere. Such a hassle. I could’ve left it here as a “pen name,” but seeing the new one everywhere is helping me get used to it. :) The most problematic part here is I keep thinking my husband is leaving comments (he does comment here frequently), but in fact, they’re mine and I get disappointed.

      • True — though, like I said, it just seems strange to me. Then again, I saw King Ralph in the theater when I was nine and apparently understood the concept of a strip club back then. I’m not sure I do now.

        By the way, how do you know Jeff Smith? I was checking out his profile on Facebook recently, and I noticed your name on his friends sidebar. I know him through Shannon and my cousin in KC.

        Oh, and here’s a wedding present: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46Qpub-qYUM

        • I only know Jeff from interactions online – we were both active on a site called FriendFeed for a long while and got to be friends there.

          Thanks for the video! He still had it, even in his 70s. Coincidentally enough, I’ve seen Cavett’s interview with Jean-Luc Godard about five times recently as the theatre I volunteer for has been running it before all the shows of a Godard retrospective going on. I didn’t know who he was (Cavett), but thanks to your clip, now I do! (Looks like YouTube has the Godard interview, too, starting here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93HCeGy6vzk)

          • Cavett (even though he’s heavily mocked for self-references) is the best interviewer of the 1970s. That may sound esoteric (well, what the Hell, it is), but he did the most fascinating interviews of Hitchcock, Welles, John Huston and a smorgasborg of Mel Brooks, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovichm, and Frank Capra I’ve ever seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipt_REXKGA4

            His interview with Woody Allen is flat-out hilarious; as is Bill Cosby and Jack Benny (Benny falling over his chair with laughter is among the greatest comedic cathareses of all time); and there’s Groucho, too (though I never found those that funny, he comes off as kind of a dick.)

            And there’s this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8m9vDRe8fw

            Bottom line: Dick Cavett is amazing.

          • Agreement on Cavett being amazing (great clips Nat!) – I love those old interviews. Take a look at Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer arguing and insulting each other –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8m9vDRe8fw. Not only does Cavett not stop it, he joins in…I simply can’t imagine this kind of stuff on TV these days.

            He’s also the subject of one of my favourite SCTV parodies ever.

  15. Whoa! Alain Delon on Dick Cavett!. He is one damn good looking human specimen…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


three + = 4

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>