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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Movies of (My) Year 2011

A week before closing 2011 is a good moment to rank the best movies seen this year. Maybe in a different country the list would have looked like a proper summary of the year releases, but in Spain theatres and distributors "work in a different way" (ironic mode on), so some of the films listed have not even being released here yet. That's why the (My) of the title. Enjoy!

10. Synecdoche, New York
Creating a play of your life, as complex and detailed as your life. It has to be excruciating. Almost as hard as making a movie of that play. For what reason? Because you want to find an answer to existence, which is impossible. Except for Charlie Kaufman. In  "Synecdoche, New York", the world is a vast stage in which we all play an exclusive, starring role: our life. His first directing attempt was a megalomaniac, abysmal, somewhat failed masterpiece, but also the bravest film ever attempted to be made.

9. The Fighter
A boxing background excuse for a story of underdogs with real, flesh and bone characters and terrific playing from Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. In "The Fighter" the combat is not in the ring. Is against the filthiness of a life that seems fated to desolation, the need for survival and family curses that demand a lot of courage to confront. Loads of honesty and care for characters in the script and direction.

8. The Take
Another world is possible, but it won't happen without action. Argentinian workers decided to fight for their futures through a change of the economic system after "el corralito", becoming the workers and owners of the factories ruined thanks to the wild capitalism and the tyranny of the markets. Activist Naomi Klein and director Avi Lewis were there to film it and show us, that we need a global "The Take" today. That would be the real revolution.

7. Fish Tank
Desperation and bleak realism, combined with a tremendous hunger for life. Following the tradition of social British cinema (Ken Loach, Mike Leigh) "Fish Tank" hits hard and compels, thanks to the strikingly powerful character of Mia (extraordinary acting from newcomer Katie Jarvis) and the sharp script and direction of Andrea Arnold

6. Submarine
Meet Oliver Tate, a very peculiar kid facing his coming-of-age in a tragicomic and surreal ride. Enveloped in a wonderfully creative visual display, Richard Ayoade, on his directing debut, is able to capture the confusion and fun of Joe Dunthorne's book (currently reading) that surrounds the growing up Oliver with genuine charm. Add the amazing tunes of Alex Turner's soundtrack and the result is obvious. "Submarine" is our indie crush of the year.

5. Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon
The best music documentary seen on 2011 is not about KOL, a band which I don't particularly like, but as about their demons. And they have quite a few. The band trip to stardom clashing with a traditional family meeting. The universal success and its consequences battling with their roots. A past they cannot leave behind. "Talihina Sky" is an absorbing film about four people trying to deal with their contradictions.

4. Midnight in Paris
And when we thought we had lost him, the best Woody Allen returned. In "Midnight in Paris", the city and its romanticism, an overused topic with a very high risk of becoming a cliché, is used by our favourite neurotic to insufflate a much needed dose of magic to a tale where dreams and nostalgia can be haunting, but has to be overcome for a real desire to live the life we have in our hand. Prepare yourself to laugh and fall in love with the NY genius again.

3. Beginners
What a pleasant, loveable surprise this movie was. Director Mike Mills achieves a very rare feature with "Beginners". He created a bewitching story of love, loss and discovery, profoundly personal and with a peculiar structure that, at the same time, is capable of captivating and affecting the viewer thanks to a trio of leading characters so well constructed (and brilliantly acted) that their quest to find their own identities becomes something to empathise with.

2. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Documentary? Deep reflection on what's art today? Or just the best hoax ever filmed? Whatever your choice is, the result is invariable: a total triumph. As street-artist Banksy, the mastermind behind "Exit Through the Gift Shop" says during the film, this is "Basically the story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed." True, but nothing is what it seems. Who knew that sentence would hide so many, and amusing, meanings?

1. Blue Valentine
On top of the ranking, this raw and compelling dissection of a relationship. I saw the movie in July, and I'm still scared by the brutal, devastating deconstruction of a couple dynamiting their love. There's no way to hide in "Blue Valentine", no loopholes for pain relief. Even the good moments stress how awful will be the fall. This deep, to the bottom study-character could only work with two great actors capable of carrying Dean and Cindy in their shoulders. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams gave the best of their amazing talent, making every bit of their complex, human, fierce and sad relation credible and painful. Masterpiece.  

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