2011 DVD “Best Of“...

or 13 movies that came out on dvd in 2011 that you might not have seen, but really should have.

The one thing each of these films has in common is that they each are outside each unique in use of story structure, symbolism, and movie cliches. In my opinion each one has aspects that would turn some viewers off altogether (violence, non linear narrative, or simply no "action". ) In my opinion though they all are interesting takes on familiar genres, stories that work better than any of their more famous cousins being all nominated for things and whatnot.

Also ignore the imdb ratings. those people are even less reliable than the dummies on rotten tomatoes.
Listen to me. I know what's good :p Maybe....

One of those movies that morphs from family drama to Crime film in all the best "Loachian" manners you could think of. Would make an awesome stage play in fact. The honeyed tones of British crime sing across your brain as the fim twists it's climax in between your ribs. Subtle and preposterous at the same time. England is harsh.

This year's winner of the "Free Range Kids of Yore" award. Leaving your precocious kid alone with her Auntie who's oh so likely to run off with any hoodlum who strolls past the farm isn't a good idea in any era apparently. But the kid muddles through, with help from some locals, she manages to survive a kind of horrific all summer "Home Alone" situation. Some amazing performances from young Swedes in this flick, and a strong story that embraces it's tropes rather than trip over them.... The Auntie for instance isn't just some floozy prop, in her brief scenes, there's an entire family history on display. Genius picture.

If The Cohen Brothers were Norwegian, this is what we might be seeing from them... Stellan Skarsgard plays a Stone faced career petty crook, who's finally had enough of the Jail after a long stint. The genius of this picture lies in every single figure on screen being somehow tragic and sympathetic, despite their on screen assholery. It includes the funniest sex scenes on film since Emma Thompson and Jeff Goldblums "Tall people sex destroying small bedrooms movie" - The Tall Guy", Skarsgard's deadpan expressions alone are worth the rental.

This film is from another planet called Turkey where a dad is just a wee bit overprotective. It has a story that will shock mostly due to the banality of the evil laid bare. It has humor that makes you ashamed to be laughing, (and again on my list this year performances that are of the most intensely nuanced that I've seen in ages. ) The ending is one of my favourites of the year.

Is quite simply the best documentary I've seen all year. One of those docs that sucks you in so quickly and fluidly that you forget it's a documentary. The narrative is that strong. Marwencol is the name of a town of toy soldiers set during WW2. The creator is a brain injured artist recovering from a small town bar ass kicking. As his story unfolds, he heals his physical and emotional trauma through stunning photos of his town of army dolls. Great story, great care taken not to exploit a very damaged, vulnerable person who as the film progresses becomes a fuller, more functional person than you could have imagined at the beginnings. See it now!

Was actually made a few years ago, but never got much of a release anywhere because Jim Carrey's character is "gay". Sad that an actor's best performance ever can be overshadowed by a bunch of bigots. But that's how the world works. Carrey is in my estimation pitch perfect as the bigger than life/real life con man Steven Russell. Knowing this is a true story makes it an even whackier tale. It's both a crazy comedy and a heart warming love story at the same time.

Speaking of films with well drawn queer characters, Rivers Wash Over Me is a very low budget Queer Indie film that needs to be more widely seen. It takes a few minutes to get past the initial shaky cam stuff and let the tensed up characters unwind and get comfortable with each other. A fish out of water story as the young proud black kid goes to the small hick town his parents came from when he's suddenly orphaned. He encounters the racism, homophobia you might expect, but he also finds love and friendship that is genuine and understanding. a very real story, if you get my drift.

Is a Thai film that casually follows Uncle, and other family members as they chat with and catch up with various ghosts, demons from their past (and past lives maybe) Another film on my list where hardly anything happens, yet somehow you (well me at least) are riveted. "Best film of the year that I almost fell asleep in, not once but twice"... is the category I invented for it.

Film making factory Takashi Miike strikes gold (for the first time in quite some time in my estimation) with his best effort since "The Bird People In China" . A straight up (mostly) Samurai picture of the "Old School" (mostly) ... 13 Assassins has the usual cast of weirdo Ronin/Samurai who come together to save the country from the current Evil Shogunate, so they can install their own. All the Chiches are hit with a gorgeously cast silver hammer. The end chase through a village is one of the best choreographed sequences I've seen in any Samurai (or any other violent chase scene genre) picture, ever. And I've seen a lot of them. Bloody Greatness.

Director Kelly Reichardt has composed yet another Genius film about people and how they act. Old Joy explored the world of hot spring Bros trying to re-kindle their Bro-ness. Wendy & Lucy is the best Girl & her Dog movie of all time. Meek's Cutoff is again in Oregon, but this time back in Wagon train days. Michelle Williams and the rest of the cast give Oscar (or any other acting award out there)  quality quiet performances... People stuck in their traditional roles seek a new life, and get it despite their best efforts at self sabotage. My other fave ending of the year. 

In an era where the alien invasion movie has kind of petered out, Attack The Block is a refreshing kick in the crotch. Aliens travelling by meteorite drop into the wrong end of London, and get a right kicking. Okay maybe the aliens are a bit tougher than that. But so are these South London kids. Played by mostly non-actors, the kids bluster their way through levels of face saving machismo, and eventually figure how to take out the very cleverly thought out Aliens. Good tension, great pace. unlikable characters that become people you like almost sort of by the end. Ripping flick!

Trolls are very real in this other great film from Norway. Apparently Norway is hilarious. Some annoying college kids are making a docu about poachers in the North. they come across someone they think is the "big poacher" of the area, but it turns out he's Norway's version of MIB. (small country, really only need the one guy) ... I keep saying how I hate the mockumentary style, but sometimes, like this time it's done right, and all you can do is laugh your ass off.

Easily "The Citizen Kane" of movies about old car tires. I went into this expecting it to get stupid fast... it does but in all the right ways. Again with the kinda sorta mockumentary style, but again it works, in such a way actually, that giving plot points works against spoiler-ing the flick. Look for wings Hauser to steal a few scenes, though, and some great editing that gives the old tire more depth that it deserves. Clever without being precious or too naive about the stupid story being told. 


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