While looking over yesterday’s Ten 2011 Films: Part 1: The Bad post I quickly realized how many more terrible films I could have added to the list and began to get worried that maybe I didn’t see any movies I liked from January to May of this year at all. So I thought on it all day and finally came up with 5 films that I thought other people should strive to see. While all might not be perfect, they remain thought-provoking, entertaining and often times both. Again, these appear in chronological viewing order.
1. Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Some really great performances from an outstanding cast made this film feel very real. I believed in the difficult lives that were transpiring before me and I wanted the characters to pull through for each other. My only wish is that it had been a shorter film and had some of its numerous plots edited out, leaving more room for the dynamic of the family to unfold without being pressured from plot details that were unnecessary. I believed that the family loved each other and were trying to make their lives work in the face of the illness that was slowly, and cruelly, taking away one of their members. The film made me sad; it made me care. It reminded me of how fleeting life can be and how it is sometimes difficult to reconcile that notion in order to go on for the people around you.
2. Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga)
A fairly strong adaption that seemed to appreciate and acknowledge how ghostly and dark the novel really is. Quite well cast with good cinematography, the film examines exactly how proud Jane is when faced with life, how never backing down from your morals can help you win in the end. She is played not as a love-sick girl but instead as a strong woman looking to make her way in the world without compromising herself or her values. While I really enjoyed this movie I felt it had some holes that could have been filled, and which would have made it a really great telling of the novel. The main problem with the film lies in the fact that Mr. Rochester isn’t around nearly enough and the relationship and similarities between Jane and Bertha aren’t delved into as deep as they could have been.
3. Win Win (Thomas McCarthy)
Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is struggling to pay bills, keep his job and stay healthy when an opportunity presents itself that he believes will solve most of his problems. The thing I liked most about this movie was how mundane and nonchalant Flaherty was when he makes the decision that will ultimately have all those associated with him very upset. The film never makes him seem like a great guy doing a terrible thing; instead it presents him as an average guy who becomes slightly above average as the film progresses. A funny film that doesn`t leave its characters behind, Win Win takes a look at just how far one man will go to keep up a lie when to him the truth seems like the more difficult subject to broach.
4. 13 Assassins (Takashi Miike)
Proving that samurai warrior movies still make for great entertainment, 13 Assassins pays homage to all of the best of in its genre while showing that this style of cinema still has a place. The plot follows a band of samurai assassins who are tasked with killing a nihilistic young Lord who has absolutely no remorse for any of his actions and leaves behind a trail of blood and carnage. This is a story about righting wrongs and honour, a story about duty and devotion to a craft that is quickly fading into obscurity. You find yourself cheering for the samurai who are ready to die for their cause and you are rarely disappointed as the film progresses. The cinematography looks great and the acting is top notch. It reminded me of why I liked samurai cinema and how great it could be.
5. Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
I wish more people had already seen Meek’s Cutoff so that I had a slew of people I could talk to endlessly about how great it is. It is near perfect in its slow, deliberate pacing, characters and style. There is no wasted dialogue in this film, it is beautifully crafted. I loved it right down to the costumes, the long drawn-out shots of the characters walking across along the Oregon Trail tensely not speaking to each other, and the drought that seemed endless. It provides a glimpse into the lives of people struggling to trust each other after being stranded together for too long; making their way to a place that they are beginning to doubt even exists. It made me curious as to how many of the emigrants who crossed America were forced to abandon dead weight along the way and what that forfeiting of belongs and relationships cost them in the end.