Sunday, January 1, 2012

:::: FILMS OF 2011 ::::


Raúl Ruiz "Mysteries of Lisbon" (Portugal)
Terrence Malick "The Tree of Life" (United States)
Pedro Almodóvar "The Skin I Live In" (Spain)
Lars Von Trier "Melancholia" (Sweden)
Takashi Miike "13 Assassins" (Japan)
Hiromasa Yonebayashi "Arrietty: The Borrower" (Japan)
Andrew Ross "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times" (United States)
Göran Hugo Olsson "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975" (Sweden)
Tomas Alfredson "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Sweden/United Kingdom)
Werner Herzog "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (Germany/France)
Masahiro Shinoda "Pale Flower" Restored/Re-released (Japan)
David Cronenberg "A Dangerous Method" (Canada)
Patricio Guzmán "Nostalgia for the Light" (Chile)
Michael Madsen "Into Eternity" (Finland)
Martin Scorsese "Hugo" (United States)
Rafi Pitts "The Hunter" (Iran)

The past 12 months again yielded great discoveries outside the expected sources and return artists creating works outside their established form, a year of finding new record labels and film distributors, authors of choice returning with some of their finest writing to-date, making connections between screenplay, director and soundtrack that were previously inconceivable; 2011 was a good one. Some of these combinations generated exciting, unexpected new hybrids of styles, genres, sensorial vocabulary and narrative voice. Malick returned from his usual hiatus of many years with one of his greatest visual and sonic narratives ever constructed, though highly imbalanced in it's chapter-content, "Tree of Life" still stood as a work of moving-pictures storytelling of a nature that just about nobody in american cinema even attempts. Lars Von Trier returned with a stunning, cosmic, spectacle of nihilistic wish fulfillment in the form of "Melancholia" and Raul Ruiz' final film, a labyrinth of timelines, characters, intrigue, history, class struggle and the world imbued with magical possibility as seen by a child in the 19th Century period piece that was the masterwork "Mysteries of Lisbon" ...and Takashi Miike reigned in some of his more absurd indulgences and delivered what is easily one of the most powerful, visually precise, yet traditional of Samurai films of the past couple decades in "13 Assassins". And lastly, who could have predicted that Scorsese would make not only a children's fantasy in the form of the adaptation of the young-adult novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" but that it would be a holiday hit ranking in attendance alongside the glut of CG-fart jokes, cynicism and video game tie-ins flooding the market as the standard in offerings for the younger set. So thank him and the consistently artful, richly complex moral/emotional beauty of Studio Ghibli and their "Arrietty" for offering genuine stories about the world in which we live, as the fantastic.

As it has for the past few decades, Scarecrow Video played an invaluable role as a source for moving pictures from around the globe, an especially considerable resource for those of us enabled by all-zone/region Blu-Ray players. This year's Seattle International Film Festival hosted only one or two of the films listed above, as opposed to previous years, where SIFF dominated the field by screening most of the best films of the year during the course of the festival. By contrast, SIFF's offerings were their weakest this year of many a decade, so good thing for the independent cinemas here picking up the slack. With indie cinemas closing around the nation, it was that much more important to support the local theater opportunities such as the (newly expanded to four screens!) SIFF Cinema the Landmark Theatre chain, the Grand Illusion Cinema and what's proven itself to be the paramount indie screen in Seattle, Northwest Film Forum. Many of the best films seen this year, when they did come to the theater, had runs that lasted no more than a week. Others were never to return to the cinema again or as a domestic DVD/Blu-Ray release or even online in any digital context, official, bootleg or otherwise. Again proving the wisdom of getting out there, seeing the city and prioritizing the art/music/film that we're fortunate to have in our urban cultural crossroads.

Lastly, the unseen films by a few directors of note that never made it over here distributed stateside (at least not 'yet') or even made a less-desirable appearance as an online release. I suspect a number of these would have made the list, if I had an opportunity to see them:

Sion Sono "Himizu" (Japan)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (Turkey)
Jafar Panahi "This is Not a Film" (Iran)
Pema Tseden "Old Dog" (Tibet)
Béla Tarr "The Turin Horse" (Hungary)
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne "The Kid with a Bike" (France)
Steve McQueen "Shame" (United Kingdom)
Guy Maddin "Keyhole" (Canada)
Masahiro Kobayashi "Haru's Journey" (Japan)
Huang Weikei "Disorder" (China)
Alexander Sokurov "Faust" (Russia)
Asghar Farhadi "A Separation" (Iran)
Gerardo Naranjo "Miss Bala" (Mexico)
Julia Loktev "The Loneliest Planet" (United States)