The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Monday, December 20, 2021
THE YEAR BEFORE THE YEAR THE WORLD ENDED: Let the other blogs pick the best flicks of 2021. Here at The Perpetual Three Dot Column, we'll let that question sit for a decade; instead, each December I list the best movies of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and so on.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 2011, it gave its Best Picture award to The Artist, a fair-to-middling arthouse hit. This wasn't a great year for movies, but even so, I can still think of 20 films that are better than that one:

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Written by Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear, from a novel by Lionel Shriver

A horror movie about the monster's mother.

2. It's Such a Beautiful Day
Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt

"He will learn more about life than any being in history. But death will forever be a stranger to him. People will come and go, until names lose all meaning, until people lose all meaning and vanish entirely from the world. And still, Bill will live on. He will befriend the next inhabitants of the earth, beings of light who revere him as a god. And Bill will outlive them all. For millions and millions of years. Exploring, learning, living, until the earth is swallowed beneath his feet. Until the sun is long since gone. Until time loses all meaning, and the moment comes that he knows only the positions of the stars, and sees them whether his eyes are closed or open, until he forgets his name, and the place where he'd once come from. He lives, and he lives, until all of the lights go out."

3. Tomboy
Written and directed by Céline Sciamma

This is just as gender-bent as the film at #5. But where that picture is a pulpy, sensationalist fantasy, this one is all low-key naturalism.

4. Bernie
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth, from an article by Hollandsworth

Jack Black's best gig since High Fidelity; Shirley MacLaine's best since Being There.

5. The Skin I Live In
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Written by Almodóvar, from a novel by Thierry Jonquet

Tie me up, tie me down, forcibly subject me to elaborate plastic surgeries.

6. The Muppets
Directed by James Bobin
Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller

There's a a character here who goes out one Halloween dressed as Kermit the Frog. Some other kids laugh at him, and one of them says something like, "What is this? 1978?" And out in the audience, sitting with our sons and daughters, are a bunch of aging parents who are happy to have Kermit back but who know it will never be 1978 again, and that one day when we're gone our grown children might stumble on this old movie called The Muppets and realize in a sad flash that it will never be 2011 again either.

7. Kill List
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Wheatley and Amy Jump

An initiation.

8. A Separation
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi

As in so many real-world conflicts, everyone here is at least somewhat sympathetic but no one invariably does the right thing.

9. Margaret
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan

A big, loose, sprawling movie where it feels like you could follow any secondary character offscreen and find youself in a different big, loose, sprawling movie.

10. Another Earth
Directed by Mike Cahill
Written by Cahill and Brit Marling

Like Margaret, this is about a teenager who feels responsible for someone's death. But it goes in, shall we say, a different direction.

Honorable mentions:

11. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
12. Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog)
13. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin)
14. The Interrupters (Steve James)
15. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
16. Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman)
17. Young Adult (Jason Reitman)
18. Fake It So Real (Robert Greene)
19. Kumaré (Vikram Gandhi)
20. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt)

The year's best puzzle-box: Sound of My Voice, a film carefully constructed to allow two different interpretations of just about everything you see.

The year's best fuck-you: This Is Not a Film, covertly recorded in the apartment of an Iranian director while he was under house arrest and banned from making movies. It was then smuggled to Cannes on a flash drive in a cake.

Finally, a shout-out to Take Shelter. People say this has an "ambiguous" ending, but the meaning of the final scene seems clear to me. Too bad: A genuinely ambiguous conclusion might have pulled the picture into the top 10. Instead the end feels literal-minded, and this otherwise excellent movie doesn't quite make it to the top 20.

Of the motion pictures of 2011 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Bron/Broen. Which is actually a TV series, but I have a broad understanding of the phrase "motion picture."

posted by Jesse 9:32 AM
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