Margin Midnight Mara Marlene: Louis's 10 Favorite Films of 2011
I realize I may have given away some of these choices with my utterly correct listing of the year's ten best performances, but no matter! 2011's finest cinema, specifically the top three choices on my list, gifted us with bleak, but comprehensive glimpses into personal isolation. I love when a movie is resolutely grim -- reminds me of home. Here are my top ten films of 2011.
10. Win Win
Director Thomas McCarthy's understated, thoughtful look at a suburban wrestling coach's (Paul Giamatti) dubious business dealings dredges up your pity and empathy at different moments, but it mostly acquaints you with one of the best teenage performances of the past few years in newcomer and real-life wrestling prodigy Alex Shaffer. It helps that his character is well-written too. As McCarthy explained to us about the emotional lives of teenagers, "They're struggling with all kinds of things -- who they are, what they are, what they want to be. That, for many of those kids, is a very private and scary struggle. A lot of times how that manifests itself is a very deadpan approach to the world: 'I'm not going to let you see what I'm feeling until I'm ready to really show that.'" When Shaffer is ready to show, it's a poignant sight.
9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I knew I was in for a treat the minute I heard Trent Reznor and Karen O's cover of "Immigrant Song," but David Fincher's Dragon Tattoo so improves upon the original Swedish film trilogy thanks to two fantastic assets: blisteringly chilly cinematography and the commanding work of Rooney Mara as well-pierced heroine Lisbeth Salander. It may drag in parts, but Mara's conviction merits a 160-minute runtime.
Tom Cullen and Chris New play the most insightful lovers of the year in Andrew Haigh's low-key story of one lonely gay man's short affair with a candid, self-possessed artist. The movie is especially incisive in its depiction of two men who relate both romantically and -- in an empathetic way -- fraternally. There's not a pretentious or cloying moment in this wholly believable story.
7. Midnight in Paris
Whimsy: I'm usually not a fan! But Midnight in Paris's droll journey back to the heyday of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Salvador Dali makes a wonderful protagonist out of Owen Wilson, a gorgeous backdrop for Marion Cotillard's all-consuming charisma, and a weirdly perfect scene for the film's moral. You either go with this movie's kooky historical lark or you don't, but every actor in that post-midnight time portal is just so fun. My favorite: Kathy Bates as a staunchly supportive Gertrude Stein.
6. Young Adult
Forget the hype about "unlikable" heroine Mavis Gary, the grizzled authoress Charlize Theron plays in the new Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody joint Young Adult -- She's an imperturbable, amazingly deluded woman-child whose self-assured mania is more engrossing and "likable" than most characters you'll encounter this year. I'd like to offer a new tagline for this cranky, suburban comedy: Assholes are Awesome.
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