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December 15, 2011


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Excellent list, Glenn.

I couldn't agree with you more on 'The Descendants', 'The Tree of Life', 'Midnight In Paris', 'Cold Weather', 'Meek's Cutoff', 'Win/Win', 'J. Edgar', 'Tinker Tailor', and 'Rango'.

I'm very behind on many of the films on your list, and am looking forward to getting caught up.

But...where is 'The Artist' on your list? I thought you loved that one. Just kidding.


Glad to see the correct movie won the weighted MSN critics poll.

It only made the #2 spot in the S&S poll, so this is a win for MSN's critics over S&S's.

(My over/under on the number of Oscars® the correct movie wins is zero, give or take. Shame on Glenn's judgment for leaving it off completely.)

Not David Bordwell

The Voice has been dead to me since they ended Richard Goldstein's career. Fuckers.

Colin Zavitz

Great list Glenn. Still very excited to see "Meek's Cutoff". Nice to see Boonmee on there.

Glenn Kenny

I'm not anti-"Melancholia" by any stretch. I found it EXTREMELY watchable, for sure. A little lacking in the machoority department, though, which bugged me more than I had anticipated when it came down to brass tacks. Oh well.


"I'm not anti-"Melancholia" by any stretch. I found it EXTREMELY watchable, for sure."

That's kinda how I felt about The Tree of Life, which I wasn't crazy about by any means, but which still would've made my top 17 list...

"A little lacking in the machoority department, though, which bugged me more than I had anticipated when it came down to brass tacks."

Meh. Watch it again. It's fully formed, just way overwhelming on the first viewing. Once you get past the overwhelming, it's as machoor as anything Lars has ever done. (Of course, some folks think nothing Lars has ever done has been mature. In a weird way, he's our generation's Hitchcock. Everyone serious thinks the entire oeuvre is puerile, until they finally figure out what he's been up to.)


The only ones on your top 10 I haven't seen are TAKE SHELTER (which I will try to catch up with if it's still after Christmas) and MYSTERIES OF LISBON (which is coming out on DVD next month, so I'll watch it when our store gets it). I'm afraid I didn't find WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN as compelling as you did - I thought the actor playing Kevin was one-note, and John C. Reilly needs to stop playing amiable if somewhat clueless guys - but I liked all the others.

There are so many films I need to see before I can make a definitive top 10, including big movies like the two Spielberg films, CARNAGE, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and YOUNG ADULT, as well as foreign films like A SEPARATION, MANDA BALA, FLOWERS OF WAR, and the new Angelina Jolie film, but my tentative top 10 would be:



FWIW, here's something I found interesting about the S&S poll:

They polled 101 critics for a top 5 list. The Tree of Life and Melancholia ended up as #1 and #2 in the final tally, but only one out of the 101 ballots included both movies. That's a pretty improbable result.

My easy conclusion is that it's hard to find anyone who really liked both of the two. It's an either/or choice, for some reason that is likely explicable with many words.


My #1 is Poetry and #2 is Melancholia. So there's that. But the rest of your list is good. I also agree The Artist isn't top ten material. What do I know? People like homage pastiche films.


I really liked MELANCHOLIA and TREE OF LIFE. I doubt I'm all that rare a bird.


Any list with Uncle Boonmee and Mysteries of Lisbon higher than the damn Oscar favorites is OK in my book!


Great List! Have yet to see A Dangerous Method (opens tomorrow!) and Carnage and Kevin, and I missed Ruiz's final, but I completely dig most of the rest, the exception being, oddly, The Skin I Live In. But my number one film this year, I think, was Road To Nowhere, a film I found to be truly amazing and, as a Hellman fan, more than I could have ever hoped for.

Also, I'm kind of thrilled you have Cold Weather and Win/Win on there


Where's MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE? Other than that, good list, lots of ones I need to catch up on but this should shake out as a pretty damn good year for movies in the end.


This is a great list, but out of curiosity, what would you say about repertory programs? I would cite Minelli at BAM and Skolimowski at MOMI, were pretty eye-opening, just to name two...


Films that made my list (if I had a list) that did not, I think, make your list:
Into Eternity; Poetry; Le quattro volte; 3 Backyards; I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You; Cave of Forgotten Dreams; Le Havre; 4:44 Last Day on Earth; The Turin Horse; Night Shifts; Tomboy.

Films from your list that possibly could make my list (if I had a list):
Take Shelter; Uncle Boonmee; Mysteries of Lisbon; Certified Copy; Film Socialisme; Meek's Cutoff; A Separation; maybe Hugo, maybe Margaret, maybe Dangerous Method.

Films from your list that I did not like or actively despised (is this productive?):
The Descendants; The Tree of Life; Shame; Cold Weather; J.Edgar.


I'd be curious to hear your take on Le Quattro Volte (and also perhaps Poetry) as that is the big one from my (tenative) list that is absent from yours.


COLD WEATHER deserves a spot for Trieste Kelly Dunn's face alone.


Dunno if it truly qualifies in the category or not, but I'd include Mildred Pierce in my top 17 of the year. It's Todd Haynes best work since Superstar.

(They should've cut a 3 hour version for the cinema like Carlos did just to get it considered on lists like this.)


Glad to see RANGO sneaking in at the bottom there. I'm not sure if I've laughed so hard and so often at a movie since childhood (which wasn't THAT long ago, seeing as I was born in the late 1980s, but still, you get the idea.) Terrific list, Glenn.

@bill - I heard that, man.

Furthermore, I don't know if 2011 just happened to be an especially fertile cinematic year (not sure if I really subscribe to that notion - good movies come out every year), or if it's only that 2011 was my first full year living in a big city (Chicago) and consequently I was able to see EVERY. NEW. MOVIE. that came out, not to mention the various screenings of older films, which constitute a whole 'nother wealth of riches (After having grown up in a West Texas pitstain, the importance of this cannot be overstated) - BUT the point is: any year where we have new movies - great new movies! - from Jean-Luc Godard, Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog (two from Herzog!), Pedro Almodovar, Errol Morris, David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg (two from Spielberg! - and I haven't even seen 'em yet!), Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, John Landis, Lars von Trier, and on and on - well, it just gives me hope, is all I'm saying. It really does.

I beg pardon for the complete lack of concision, and probably coherence, of the above comments


It really was a good year for foreign films. Not so much for American productions, but I can't complain about any year that saw an abundance of great films like "Poetry," "Uncle Boonmee," "Certified Copy," "Mysteries of Lisbon," "A Separation" and so many more, not to mention several great ones that won't officially open until 2012. ("The Kid with a Bike," "Turin Horse," etc.)

@Petey Haven't seen it, but it would be nice to see "Mildred Pierce" on more lists if people really like it, just so more people are aware of it.

I was about to see "We Need to Talk About Kevin" tonight, but it's already left theaters (or rather the Angelika, the only place that had it in NYC). Apparently it was a one-week run, just to qualify for the Oscars - hopefully it'll have another, longer run soon.

Chris O.

I really want to see "Take Shelter" as well as Nichols' next one, "Mud," already. Sam Shepard, who's in "Mud," said it's a "beautiful script" and "there's no way you can improve upon it."


Really glad to see COLD WEATHER make the cut. It's a lot higher on my list and it's kind of been bumming me out to see that and MEEK'S CUTOFF getting so little attention from critics and supposedly-indieminded groups like the Spirit Awards.

Also great to see you leading off with A DANGEROUS METHOD and HUGO, both of which I loved far in excess of my expectations. (That reminds me - I should try to get to HUGO again before the 3D version disappears. Though I'm honestly curious to see how that one fares without the extra dimension...)

Bill Sorochan

Wonderful list Mr. Kenny! Something a bit off topic but I'm completely mystified why Alexander Zeldovich's "Target" has been completely ignored in all of the year end lists. It's an extraordinary work of art (that's very audience friendly) that speaks more of the world we live in (and the world to come) than any recent film I can think of. Sad that so few people know of a film that will probably be the best remembered film from 2011 in 2050.

Simon Abrams

Wait, what am I doing for you and your widow? I'm slow, humor me.


No TOMBOY? Slant writes of TAKE SHELTER in their top 25 list, "the devastating scene where [Chastain] and Shannon argue about whether or not they should open their cellar's storm doors is devastating." Hmm.

warren oates

Wow, I forgot you liked SHAME. I can't think of a bigger disappointment this year for me, being that I'm such a fan of McQueen's first feature HUNGER. But SHAME has to be one of the more excessively pretentious misfires I've ever seen. Amped up on it's own self-importance with a "you can't handle the truth" attitude toward the sex addiction subject matter, it forgets to create a relatable (I didn't say admirable or likeable, mind you) protagonist or give him any difficult choices to make, it mostly forgoes storytelling in favor of scene making and it equates having an inner life with jogging to J.S. Bach on one's iPod in a long take that looked way better and made more sense back when Chantal Akerman tried it first in a film like NEWS FROM HOME.

Also very disappointed with MEEK'S CUTOFF. I am usually so good about eating my cultural vegetables that they taste like streak to me (including, say, SOLARIS), but Kelly Reichardt's just not in the same league as the masters she's so clearly reaching after. I found her sense of time in this film to be not so much meditative as flat-out boring. And the script was especially awful, creating almost no dramatic conflict (by which I mean hard choices that drive a story, not big screaming scenes) in a situation where there ought to have been tons. Just one example is that they're supposed to be running really low on water and everyone is supposed to be close to succumbing from this. But nobody even looks remotely parched or does anything like faint or fall over until almost the end of the film. That kind of thing needs to happen in the first 20 minutes. I don't care what sort of film you think you're making. If the story depends on us believing your characters are running out of something crucial to life like water, they can't just chat about it. We have to see the effects for ourselves.

This is from a guy who loves Westerns, whose idea of a good time is rewatching still life painting procedurals like DREAM OF LIGHT, and who quite enjoyed most of the other art movies on Glenn's list. Did I really miss something in MEEK'S CUTOFF?

Chris O.

Curious your thoughts on "We Bought A Zoo" -- I imagine we may get a review this week -- particularly a sequence featuring a certain Chris Marker reference, which I thought worked effectively in context.

Kevyn Knox

Since you handed the ball over, my tentative top ten is as follows.

1. The Tree of Life (hands down, the best)
2. Melancholia (see, I liked both of them)
3. Super 8 (yeah, that's right)
4. Certified Copy (dizzy and fascinating)
5. Hugo (the first 3D movie to ever make my annual list)
6. Drive (Gotta love the Gosman)
7. Meek's Cutoff (the tastiest of veggies)
8. Moneyball (the romanticism of the game)
9. Kaboom (everybody seems to have ignored this one)
10. Midnight in Paris (close to the Woodman of old)

Now I say tentative because I live in Harrisburg PA and have not been able to make it to NYC lately (last trip was during the NYFF!?) in order to see some of the films that have not made it here yet, and therefore cannot conclude such a list without first seeing Shame, The Artist, Dragon Tattoo or The Skin I Live in. Once I see these films (not until Jan 13th or so unfortunately) then I will compile and present my list of the Best of 2011 (possibly knocking the two shakiest components of the above list, Paris and Kaboom, out of the top ten). This will make me late, but fashionably so.

But I ramble on enough. Great list Glenn.

Hollis Lime

Haven't seen everything notable, but this is pretty much the year of "The Tree Of Life" to me. The year is justified as a good year by virtue of it's existence, in my opinion, if you get what I'm saying.

Also glad to see the underrated "The Skin I Live In" on your list, Glenn. I think it's Almodovar's most despairing and ambiguous film of recent years. A deeply unsettling parable about life and identity in the 21st century west. And ya gotta love a movie that features a guy in a tiger suit treated almost nonchalantly.


@ Chris O. et al. - Do see TAKE SHELTER. SO SO glad I was able to catch it before it left the big screen here in NYC. There's so much to love about that film - it's definitely top 3 for me of the year. Excellent performances (Chastain is fantastic, we already knew Shannon as a major talent), and wonderful how Nichols weaves together classic slow-burn psychological horror with naturalistic small-town angst. It is truly a movie of the times, essential American cinema of this historical moment.

Make no mistake - Nichols is gonna be HUGE.

Overall my fave is still THE TREE OF LIFE. Truly, a kind of miracle that it exists. Has anyone else read the script that purports to be authentic? A fascinating read.

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