Travis’ List of Favorite Films from 2011
This year there have been some good movies in theaters but none were more outstanding for this cinephile than three American films whose titles all happen to begin with M.
I feel the state of American cinema is hard to define and yet these three pictures are somehow for me the perfect culmination of this particular point in filmmaking: an era on the brink of great change and reflection.
Here they are, which some short comments for each.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The most frightening American film since the original Cape Fear (unless you count British director’s terror take on backwoods America Deliverance), this story of a girl who becomes involved in a cult and her attempt to recover from the experience is true horror. Her induction in a rather attractive/believable cult, the descent into its darker motives, and her escape are covered in flashbacks as she readjusts to normal life at her sister’s home.
The brilliance of this movie is that whatever bizarre traditions and mind-controlling methods are used in the cult, the most frightening moments come from the girl’s inability to behave as a normal human being anymore. With a perfect performance by Elizabeth Olsen and direction from Sean Durkin, I think this is the most important movie to see this year.
Midnight in Paris
A movie about nostalgia, about people who are in love with the past, about Americans in Paris, about being able to appreciate your own time as much as another, about walking in the rain.
Woody Allen’s movie is a magnificent picture: fun for his recreation of Lost Generation icons Hemingway and more, perfect in his casting of Owen Wilson as the Woody-protagonist (the best anyone’s ever done), and just plain beautiful. It’s a movie I never wanted to end.
No movie this year has impressed me more than this one. Director Bennett Miller and actor Brad Pitt tell the relentless story of a modern American pioneer. Pitt’s baseball-manager is the most dynamic character of the year. His attempts to run and play the game differently than the norm reflected my personal goals for making cinema outside the industry, with less money and more creativity. This film felt close; I could not divide myself from it.
As good as storytelling gets.