Full Dweeb

The results of Sight & Sound‘s annual film critics’ poll will be online next week, but In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has posted the top 11. 100 elite film critics (Peter Bradshaw, “Harmin’ Armond” White, etc.) were asked to tally a list of 2011’s five “best, favorite or most important” films.

Lodge says it was “a foregone conclusion” that Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life would be #1, and that it got way more votes that the runner-up, Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation.

1. The Tree of Life (d: Malick). Wells comment: First hour is deeply moving, beautiful, and at times astonishing. The second hour not so much. Things come apart, the center cannot hold.

2. A Separation (d Asghar Farhadi). Wells comment: A fascinating window into family and community values, not just as they exist in present-day Tehran but pretty much anywhere when you boil it all down. The combination of Farhadi’s simple, direct shooting style and the deeply compelling performances are blended with a story that hits on a riveting moral-ethical issue. The upshot is a dividend that is socially and psychologically revealing in a way that is truly exceptional.

3. The Kid With a Bike (d: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne). Wells comment: A minor Dardennes film and nothing to do cartwheels over. I disliked the obstinate-woodpecker personality and the dogged, loon-like tone in the voice of Thomas Doret, the red-haired lead character called Cyrill.

4. Melancholia (d: Lars von Trier). Wells comment: A morose, meditative in-and-outer that begins stunningly if not ecstatically and concludes…well, as you might expect a film about the end of the world to wrap up.

5. The Artist (d: Michel Hazanavicius). Wells comment: A delightful bauble and a valentine to silent silver-screen cinema. A necessary thing to see and be delighted about for any serious film fan. But it has no real soul or undercurrent of its own. It’s all borrowed, all referenced.

6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (d: Nuri Bilge Ceylan). Still haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told it’s a fairly trying sit that will play best with Ceylan faithfuls.

6 or 7. [Tied for sixth place]. The Turin Horse (d: Bela Tarr). Haven’t seen it.

8. We Need to Talk About Kevin (d: Lynne Ramsay). Wells comment: A beautifully painted, radiantly colored, anti-verbal horror film about a sociopathic monster. Emotional rat poison.

9. Le Quattro Volte (d: Michelangelo Frammartino). Haven’t seen it.

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (d: Tomas Alfredson). Wells comment: Ambiguous and clean and masterful in the manner of a slowed-down pulse. It’s a furrowed-brow spy film, cautious and probing and undashing, submerged in a world of half-clues and telling looks and indications…London fog and brain matter and ’70s technology…it’s just atmospherically dead-on.

9 or 10 [Tied for 10th]. This Is Not a Film (d: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmash). Haven’t seen it.

  • Matthew Starr

    It’s either Dweeb or Joe Popcorn. No happy medium here at Hollywood Elsewhere.

  • George Prager

    I want to see White’s list. Something tells me ZOOKEEPER is on it.

  • Colin

    @George

    That’s just the thing. White writes these gushy reviews of dreck here in the states, but goes completely professional for Sight and Sound.

  • Eloi Wrath

    The Tree of Life is great. I loved it at the time, but love it even more now. Like all Malick films, it gets better on repeat viewings and absolutely sticks in your mind in a way very few others do.

  • Alexander

    A Separation is indeed something of a masterpiece and one of the year’s best films. Farhadi has emerged as one of the truly fine humanist filmmakers of this period.

  • kingofnails

    Hmm, interesting list, surprised A SEPARATION ranked as highly as it did, though it is certainly a very fine movie and one that I look forward to revisiting. Where is MEEK’S CUTOFF? Where is CERTIFIED COPY? Two of the years best and nowhere to be seen.

  • a_loco

    Jeff, I really don’t get your various critiques of Tree of Life. The way you talk about how it “comes apart” or “the center cannot hold”. You’re critiquing it like it’s not a completely idiosyncratic art film from an auteur with a very unique style that doesn’t, to me, mesh with the type of criticism you offer.

    I don’t really understand how one can criticize the pacing, or the focus of a Malick film (with the exception, maybe, of Badlands), or suggest that the first hour of patient beautiful shots of nature are better than the second hour of patient beautiful shots of nature. Bringing those sorts of talking points to them seems to me to be a futile endeavour.

    I’m not trying to say the film is above criticism, I have my own set of problems with the last half hour or so, but they have less to do with form and more to do with content. I just don’t really get how you can go about discussing a rather unique work with the same critical tools as you would a film that features a three-act structure and a classical style.

  • J. Ho

    Jeff, you are dead wrong about The Tree of Life. Its the second half of the film (well everything after the creation stuff – and excluding the last 10 minutes) that’s deeply moving, beautiful and astonishing.

    I don’t see how it falls apart, maybe you mean the ending – ok fine, but the main part – with the children – is the best film of the year by far.

  • Colin

    No mention of Take Shelter takes me back a little. I have it as my favorite film of the year. Shannon gives a performance that is so emotionally exhausting I don’t know how he did it.

  • Tristan Eldritch2

    Loved Tree of Life up the last ten minutes, which I felt Malick completely and inexplicably botched. It’s wasn’t the content of the conclusion so much as how he did it – I mean, what made him think that image of Penn going through the door in the desert would be impressive to anyone? It was like something Stone might have considered getting Kilmer to do during the peyote scene in The Doors, before rejecting it as too student-filmy and on the nose. Still a great film, though.

  • Chase Kahn

    kingofnails…I’m not certain, but I would be willing to bet that the Sight and Sound boys either included “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Certified Copy” in last year’s list, or were so disconnected as to what year those two films officially came out that they fell through the cracks, because both of them premiered last summer.

    And I fucking loved “Melancholia”. It contains probably the most overwhelming visual and aural climax that I’ve ever encountered in a movie theater. Plus I fucking love Dunst in Part Two. “I think [that plan] is a piece of shit.”

  • Alexander

    Le Quattro Volte was a modestly successful experiment in my view, but some of the reactions in the cinema toward it were rather cruel. During the dust particles shot, a guy two rows in front of me groaned and put buried his face into his hands. Several people walked out (which happened to Drive as well). A noble attempt with a most ambitious subject matter.

  • K. Bowen

    Yay, Team Dweeb!

    Yay, Team Tree of Life!

    Hopefully this is a good omen for tomorrow.

  • DiscoNap

    Tree of Life has been a foregone conclusion for these guys since 2009. Don’t tell me that doesn’t have something to do with the over-praise.

    P.S. How many of these are fake movies? I’m saying 4.

  • Sasha Stone

    MEH.

  • LexG

    Tree of Douche.

  • Colin

    I’m with DiscoNap. How many of these foreign films were picked with a blindfolded chimp and a dartboard?

  • Bob Violence

    Here’s Armond’s list:

    Incendies

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    Attack the Block

    Paul

    Film Socialisme

  • Bob Violence

    the lack of line breaks there was deliberate I swear

  • Luke Y. Thompson

    “I want to see White’s list. Something tells me ZOOKEEPER is on it.”

    Nahh. More likely to have JACK AND JILL in the top spot.

  • LexG

    No bullshit, JACK AND JILL is actually really good. Sandler’s best since ZOHAN, if not HAPPY GILMORE. I saw it the same week as three other mega-hyped Oscar movies, and enjoyed Jack and Jill every bit as much. It’s also a Pacino tour de force. It’s certainly better than A Dangerous Method in terms of what it promises and delivers.

  • Rashad

    Why is there no push for Drive? The director won at Cannes beating the golden calf in Malick. The movie did well for itself at the box office, and critics loved it. What’s the deal?

  • chinawholesale

    The Tree of Life is great. I loved it at the time, but love it even more now. Like all Malick films, it gets better on repeat viewings and absolutely sticks in your mind in a way very few others do. x360 glitch

  • LexG

    I WANT SOME WHITE PUSSY

    WHITE WOMEN WITH BLONDE HAIR ONLY, fuck all Asians and Latinas with their BRUNETTE HAIR….

    I WANT A BLONDE WOMAN WITH NO LIVING RELATIVES WHO WILL BORROW MY MONEY I want WHITE WHITE WHITE with FETCHING BLONDE HAIR and SMALL TITS and FLAT ASSES who are like 19 years old.

    LOS ANGELES IS A WHITE-FREE ZONE.

    Get me laid, bitch.

  • Bob Violence

    The director won at Cannes beating the golden calf in Malick.

    this isn’t much of a victory over Malick given that he won the Palme — there’s no rule against winning both, but it’s also incredibly rare (two times in the history of the festival, for Barton Fink and Elephant) and virtually everyone thinks it’s redundant

    I also want to emphasize that the Armond list I posted above is completely real, why would I make up something like that

  • LexG

    DRIVE is cool but it’s kind of a THE LIMEY-sized minor B-triumph… I loved it but even an Oscars-scoffing douche like me would think it was kind of LOW RENT to be representing as a BIG ACADEMY MOVIE ABOUT ALL THAT IS RIGHT ABOUT CINEMA…. It’s not even within a thousand miles of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or FRENCH CONNECTION in terms of import of stylistic innovation…

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s AWESOME and cool and exciting and kicks ass and I’ll watch it 10,000 times on Cinemax before I ever think about watching THE ARTIST or HUGO a second time… but it’s a fun B-movie with shotguns blowing off faces and Ron Perlman doing a wigger imitation and a twenty-second car chase when the car chases in the ’70s would last 14 minutes…. It’s “cool,” but it’s a self-conscious “Thief” homage with a lead character who is a TOTAL STALKER SOCIOPATH PATHETIC LOSER that for some reason movie bloggers think is romantic.

    It’s like the best AWESOME MOVIE of the year, but it’s REALLY not the kind of bullshit that gets Academy attention. Did TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA get nominated for fucking anything? Then why would this?

  • Rashad

    It’s better than To Live and Die in LA, which has the silliest beginning in film history. I swear, I have no clue how that guy could climb up the side of that building at not even get a scratch as the guy with bomb blew up. And why would Chance even think about putting his gun down? The guy was strapped with a bomb, not holding a hostage.

    Don’t care about what’s their taste. Drive is no different than The Departed in its delivery of pulpy crime fun. Even compared to The Artist or Hugo, I’d rather watch this homage to the past again than those.

  • KRF

    Where’s “The Descendants” on this list. Great movie.

  • EDouglasCS

    Oh, goody… it’s the pretentious “we went to Cannes and we won’t select any movie that didn’t premiere there” list.

  • Bob Violence

    except for the four they did select

  • bill weber

    How dare these fucking dweebs list shit that has nothing to do with industry trade shows or isn’t about a rich white lawyer doing the “right thing” for his descendants, tsk tsk. Who is Bela Tarr, anyway? Doesn’t roll off the tongue like Winding Refn.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    I really, really, really want to love ‘Drive.” The music’s the other side of a pillow, Gosling’s borderline iconic, and Refn is such a pervert for violence behind the camera. But there’s so much of it that’s suffused with “air quotes” that, months later, I kinda want to hate it.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    Also, Armond White’s got a badass list. Man sticks to his convictions. And “Attack The Block” is the SHIT.

  • http://www.franklin-et-marshall.net franklin marshall

    Don’t care about what’s their taste. Drive is no different than The Departed in its delivery of pulpy crime fun. Even compared to The Artist or Hugo, I’d rather watch this homage to the past again than those.

  • Eloi Wrath

    “Tree of Life has been a foregone conclusion for these guys since 2009. Don’t tell me that doesn’t have something to do with the over-praise.”

    Malick’s reputation affects reviews both ways, though. There are certainly those who’ll praise everything he does sight-unseen, but there are also those who are desperate for him to fail. Remember there were boos at the end of the first Cannes screening. For every rave there’s always someone making cracks about it being a “feature-length nature documentary” or “perfume commercial” or saying it’s just about leaves and grass and birds.

  • raygo

    Hated Tree of Life. Every pretentious second of it. There. I said it.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    And a fucking gold star to you.

  • raygo

    Is that a real gold star, or a “fuck you” gold star? I’ve been reading Tree of Life reviews for weeks, looking fior some insight into what I’m missing here. I know what the film is missing … narrative, structure, dialog. At the end of the day, I need more than “hey, it’s Malick” to get me on board.

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    Hated Tree of Life. Every pretentious second of it. There. I said it.

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  • http://www.ndscardstore.com/ chinawholesale

    How dare these fucking dweebs list shit that has nothing to do with industry trade shows or isn’t about a rich white lawyer doing the “right thing” for his descendants, tsk tsk. Who is Bela Tarr, anyway? Doesn’t roll off the tongue like Winding Refn. sexy clothes