Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy New Years! (TFR Top Ten of 2011)

Instead of the typical Top Ten, each entry is organized through thematic categories: (1) the presentation of the unconscious mind through cinema by the world's best Québécois directors, (2) Hitchcockian French thrillers starring the great Guillaume Canet, (3) late works by masters of American cinema, (4) these short films are precursors of what is to come out of Canadian cinema, (5) hybrid films that take the luster of mainstream movies, inflicting them with a singular and vibrant sensability, (6) horror, action and the supernatural reigns supreme, (7) some might call these middle-brow but they are undeniably well crafted and complex, (8) funny, smart, personal and full of feeling, (9) formally invigorating world cinema, (10) social activism, political documentary and anarchist films has been pushed to the margins of experimental cinema - these have been the most challenging.
Following the Top Ten there are a few other lists: best new film books, favorite local film critics, upcoming series etc...
I hope you've enjoyed reading Toronto Film Review and that you keep checking it out in 2012 - there is a lot more film coverage and book reviews to come. A special thanks goes out to everyone who contributed and helped. And make sure to check out the twitter account, TOFilmReview. - D.D.

"You know what, my films resemble more and more what children make in their rooms, when they make little expositions with rocks and seashells: I see more and more clearly my films, and more so the next one, like expositions of little things that I want to share." - Lars von Trier

Top Ten of 2011
 1.       Café de Flore (Jean-Marc Vallée)
          Curling (Denis Côté)
 2.       Espion(s) (Nicolas Saada)
          Une vie meilleure (Cédric Kahn)
 3.       Road to Nowhere (Monte Hellman)
          Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola)
          The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
 4.       The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar (Igor Drljača) 
          Coorow-Latham Road (Blake Williams)
          Up In Cottage Country (Simon Ennis)
          La Ronde (Sophie Goyette)
          Three Mothers (Rafal Sokolowski)
 5.       Melancholia (Lars von Trier)
          Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
          You Are Here (Daniel Cockburn)
          Hors Satan (Bruno Dumont) 
          Un été brûlant (Philippe Garrel)
 6.       Super 8 (J.J. Abrams)
          Scream 4 (Wes Craven)
          Le Gamin au vélo (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
          The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (Bill Condon)
          Attack the Block (Joe Cornish)
          Kill List (Ben Wheatley)
          Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
 7.       Restless (Gus Van Sant)
          The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar)
          Pina (Wim Wenders)
          Contagion (Steven Soderbergh)
          Shame (Steve McQueen)
          The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg)
 8.       Hall Pass (Bobby and Peter Farrelly)
          How Do You Know (James L. Brooks)
          Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
          Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
          We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe)
          The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
 9.       Ne change rien (Pedro Costa)
          To Die Like a Man (João Pedro Rodrigues)
          The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira)
          Mysteries of Lisbon (Raoul Ruiz)
          The Future (Miranda July)
          Le quattro volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)
          The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica)
 10.      Seeking the Monkey King (Ken Jacobs)
          The Forgotten Space (Allan Sekula and Noël Burch)
          Vapor Trail (Clark) (John Gianvito)
          This is not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi)
          Slow Action (Ben Rivers)
          We Can't Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray)
          Too Many Things (Donigan Cumming)
Best new and discovered film books and writing:
  • Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy by Saul Austerlitz (Chicago Review Press, 2010).
  • The Film Comedy Reader edited by Gregg Rickman (Limelight Editions, 2004).
  • Comment Woody Allen peut change votre vie by Éric Vartzbed (Éditions du Seuil, 2011).
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul edited by James Quandt (Austrian Film Museum, 2009).
  • Splitting the Choir – The Moving Images of Donigan Cumming edited by Scott Birdwise (Canadian Film Institute, 2011).
  • Pencil, Ashes, Matches & Dust by Donigan Cumming (Editions J’ai VU, 2009).
  • Trammel up the Consequences by Robin Wood (Lightstruck Film & Media Book, 2011).
  • Monte Hellman - Sympathy for the devil by Emmanuel Burdeau (Capricci, 2011).
  • Monte Hellman: His Life and Films by Brad Stevens (McFarland & Company, 2003).
  • Masters of Cinema: Francis Ford Coppola by Stéphane Delorme (Phaidon, 2010); as well as his writing and direction of Cahiers du cinéma.
  • When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade by Dave Kehr (University Of Chicago Press, 2011); as well as Kehr's weekly DVD review column in The New York Times.
  • The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 by Andrew Sarris (Da Capo Press, 1968).
  • Films And Feelings by Raymond Durgnat (MIT Press, 1971).
  • BFI Modern Classics - WR: Mysteries of the Organism by Raymond Durgnat (BFI, 2008).
  • Joseph L. Mankiewicz et son double by Vincent Amiel (Presses Universitaires de France, 2010).
  • World Film Locations: Tokyo edited by Chris MaGee (Intellect Ltd, 2011).
  • Optic Antics: The Cinema of Ken Jacobs edited by Michele Pierson, David E. James and Paul Arthur (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Best North American Repertory:
  • Anthology Film Archives.
Favorite local film critics:
  • Adam Nayman:
who writes for the Toronto alternative paper The Grid as well the more worthwhile Cineaste and Cinema Scope. His polemical pieces alongside his vocal position on certain kinds of filmmaking definitively elevates film criticism and the film critic to a higher plane. But more so then his writing, Adam's extracurricular activities like his classes at the Miles Nadal JCC have been one of the highlights of 2011. Who can forget the janitor cleaning the alleyway while the stragglers finished watching Goodbye, Dragon Inn or the ridiculously popular class on Woody Allen. More so then reading film criticism, the classes seemed like the next logical progression of it - the living incarnation. The classes are great as Adam's tone blends the informal and the academic and he illustrates the comments with film clips from a ripped DVD - everything seems to be light years ahead of the curriculum at the University of Ottawa. And going to The Pump and Shoeless Joe's after for pints with a group of people and friends is always a lot of fun. Adam's classes included New Wave Foreign Cinema Lectures In Nayman’s Terms and the two part series Love Em or Hate Em: Controversial Directors and MORE Controversial Directors. And Adam has a new class scheduled for the spring of 2012 at the JCC on Stanley Kubrick, with each class dedicated to a specific film. I know that I am speaking for more then myself when I say, we can't wait!

  • Andrew Parker:
  • for his writing at Criticize This! and Dork Shelf as well as his programming series Defending the Indefensible at the Toronto Underground Cinema. If you were to have told me a year ago that the state of Toronto's weekly film criticism is in good shape and that the best writing could be found on website's with silly names like Criticize This! and Dork Shelf, I would have probably laughed at you. But lo and behold, I was wrong. Andrew is the kind of guy that still writes his reviews longhand with an old pen and notepad. And Andrew's weekly reviews, which run around the one-thousand word mark, of the majority of new releases provides the most thorough readings of what is playing on Toronto's screens. With a special attention to the films that can gain from this critical support like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Beauty Day. As well he seems to be ahead of most trends as he can tell you why movies like Like Crazy and Margaret are terrific and his opinions stand out as he can also say why most commercial drivel is bad.

  • Along with Andrew's series Defending the Indefensible, there is also John Semley's (A.V. Club Toronto) new series Remake/Remodel, both of which I recommend and that I look forward to starting up again in the new year. As well there is a new class that seems interesting as part of the Media Mondays at the JCC, Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism presented by Kevin Courrier which will be running from January 16th to March 26th each Mondays starting at 7:00PM - except for February 20th and March 12th. As well, like always, there is Early Monthly Segments and Pleasure Dome for your experimental film fix, and the monthly film-blogger pub nights for some camaraderie. And while I am shouting people out, might as well bring up the Cinema Scope Twitter account CinemaScopeMag, which is a lot of fun too.
  • Most anticipated films of 2012:
    • Abel Ferrara's 4:44 Last Day on Earth and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. As well Kazik Radwanski and Antoine Bourges from Medium Density Fibreboard Films (MDFF) should hopefully have their current projects finished in the new year - I look forward to catching these two on the festival circuit.

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