There weren’t as many foreign language and independent films I’ve seen this year. The reasons are too many I can assure you, but too mundane to explain because it has always boils down to one thing: my lack of financial resources to fund my movie-watching sprees. Then again, the technological cosmos and its geniuses made it feasible for me to watch films that were released from festivals such as the Festival de Cannes and the TIFF, before they could come out on the Philippine shores – after the Academy awards. There are movies I have yet to see, such as Shame by Steve McQueen and The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius, that were also included in the roster of the 2011 films and are critically acclaimed, but I haven’t been able to do so. They would have been here on this list, but I'm simply unable to watch them. In respect of the movies I've missed I've decided to narrow down my list to five instead of 10.
I’ll be looking forward to a more fruitful 2012, now that I have made some contacts with fellow cinephiles through Facebook, which I’m sure would help me develop and redefine my taste in good cinema. More discoveries to come! But for now, to delay you no further here are my top 5 favorite movies of 2011.
1. Melancholia (Lars von Trier)
2. Beginners (Mike Mills)
"Beginners" is Mike Mills's touching semi-autobiographical ouvre told in interconnected flashbacks. Ewan McGregor is Oliver (Mills's surrogate). The movie explores his relationship with his father, played gracefully by Christopher Plummer, a 75 year old museum curator, who, after his wife's death, came out as gay and has decided "to do something about it," and was later diagnosed with stage four cancer. Second, his relationship with Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress, whom he met in a costume party, following his father's death.
If there is one thing true about the films that came out this 2011, just like what Peter Howell of The Star have said, "they didn't necessarily hit you right between the eyes." For me, my experience with 'Beginners' is no different to the time that I've seen 'The Tree of Life', it required me a second viewing to fully take the beauty all-in. 'Beginners' is a film that mixes both comedy and drama, which is something uniquely true about life. It may not be overly complicated, but it has the basic ingredients irresistible for everyone. It is a movie meant for you and me - as "everything is made for love".
In spite of age -- it did not stop Hal from living his life to the fullest. It did not also hinder him from becoming the person he had always wanted to be. He lived in positivity, delight and color. Oliver did otherwise. In his aim not to become like his parents - he avoided serious relationships and "always have some very good reasons" for remaining single.
As Karina Longworth perfectly pointed out, "Hal’s late-in-life liberation and Oliver’s late-thirtysomething romantic awakening, the film is haunted by that notion—that it can take an entire lifetime to figure out how to be fully alive."
I always believe, especially now, that genuine happiness can only come from true honesty. Being true to yourself, knowing what you want and grabbing it tight with both hands, enables you to love others. Just by being honest to himself, Hal, becomes his own person and had forged a much closer relationship with his son. When Hal was being ascertained that his illness was beyond cure, with a sad eyes and indiscernible look, those were the moments in which I've found myself crying my eyes out because this movie has injected something that it ever able me to be.
3. The Tree of Life (Terrence Mallick)
This film has its perfections and imperfections. An ambiguous project about the beginning and end of life. Though this film had induced me some moments of sleep, it's sheer and perennial beauty and idea of creation and of life in the universe is irresistible. Probably the most stunning portrait and depiction of heaven I've ever seen on the celluloid. To fully appreciate the moments of grace repeated viewings is highly recommended.
4. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
Midnight in Paris has all the Woody Allen ingredients to it, an interesting plot, a witty screenplay, impressive direction, a brilliant cast, memorable mood music, and last but not the least, an amazing location, which has become a staple of him for the last ten years. His last five films, including this one, are all filmed on location in Europe. A feast and a delight for the eyes, his movies is the Lonely Planet of the celluloid, a travel packet for those unable to travel the world. But unlike his European comedies Scoop and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Midnight in Paris is not to be missed and is nothing short of great.
A love letter for the golden years of the Parisian 20s Woody Allen throws us into some philosophical truths about nostalgia, time travel and why some of us view a generation or a decade that once was through rose-tinted glasses, and why some chose to believe that life is better or lived better back then.
5. Drive (Nicolas Winding-Refn)
Reminiscent of the 80s action drama films Drive is not a feel good movie that you can watch with your children on a movie night, rather, it has an eerie quality that strikes a chord to David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”, but minus the surrealism. What lingers on however are the acting chops of the cast, Ryan Gosling, in particular. The Driver (Gosling) is the unsung hero of the movie – both deadly behind the wheels and capable of executing violence by the mere use of his hands.
Although it doesn’t have the apocalyptic foreplays of The Tree of Life and Melancholia – Drive’s luscious cinematography – both in daylight and nighttime also has a story that grows in you by repeat and has an array of performances that reinforces its concrete footing. It is the psyche of the inner killer in all of us – that more or less – tells its viewers to be on the lookout for those quiet and suffer-in-silence types as they are the more dangerous one’s, most of all – when their buttons are pushed to the limit.