PW Film Critics Discuss Their Favorite Films of 2011

By Sean Burns and Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 27, 2011

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Elder statesmen Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese both grappled with nostalgia this year. Allen’s deceptively frothy Midnight in Paris served as something of a rebuke to the auteur’s well-worn hard-on for the good old days, at last finally admitting that they were probably never all that great. Meanwhile Scorsese plowed forward, embracing cutting edge digital effects and breathtaking 3-D technology in an ode to cinema’s past that simultaneously embraces every opportunity for the medium’s future, presenting film history as an ever-evolving continuum.

But personally, I still loved Drive the most.

Nicholas Winding Refn’s pulp fantasia—with the iconic Ryan Gosling sporting a cheesy scorpion jacket, a toothpick and a lack of dialogue unrivaled since Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns—reminded me just how much I love movies. Refn’s boldly artificial flourishes, graphic violence and swoony romanticism conjured an alternate universe I adored basking in, over and over. Throw in Albert Brooks as the villain, and I don’t want to admit how many times I went back to see it again.

Scorsese’s Hugo was dedicated to all the dreamers in the dark. For me, Drive was that dream.

 

Matt Prigge’s Top 10

10. Tuesday, After Christmas

9. Martha Marcy May Marlene

8. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

7. Rubber

6. Certified Copy

5. The Tree of Life

4. Drive

3. A Separation

2. Margaret

1. House of Pleasures

My favorite movie moment of 2011 happened on Twitter. In the fall, Margaret —playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s truant follow-up to You Can Count On Me, filmed in 2005 and the subject of numerous vague legal and editorial kerfuffles since—was abruptly dumped into theaters. Most of the reviews pegged it as a frustrating mess. No one came. The end.

But then a funny thing happened on cyberspace. Critics and cinephiles, myself included, began reporting that it wasn’t a mess but an intentional mess. To its fans, Lonergan had conceived a genuinely new kind of cinema, one that bottled up the tumult of life and keenly reflected it through the underformed anxieties of a teenager (Anna Paquin, when she could pass for one). A film about the imprecision of life, of emotions, of the systems that govern us; it wasn’t jagged and imperfect by accident, but on purpose.

On Twitter, there erupted a proliferation of support. The inevitable hashtag #TeamMargaret was born. When distributor Fox Searchlight—understandably apathetic over a film that grossed a paltry $46,495—refused to release screeners or set up screenings for awards season (many had—and still have—not seen it), critic Jaime N. Christley set up a petition on change.org. It amassed 685 names, including Margaret supporting actor Mark Ruffalo.

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