Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2011

Paul and I rambled on and on about our favorites of 2011 in our second season finale, but that isn’t gonna stop us from rambling some more. This is the first in a series of top 10s that will be spread out over the next couple weeks; the rest will concern television, albums, and comic books.

But first, a word about lists. Paul has described my obsession with list-making as a “sickness,” and that’s probably close to the truth. However, even one such as I, beholden to rating and ranking everything known to man, know that these kinds of things are imperfect, to put it lightly. For one, no matter how all-inclusive you try to be, there’s always going to be a movie (or show, or comic, etc.) that you somehow missed; for example, as of this writing, neither Paul nor I have seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shame, or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, just to name a few. And more importantly, lists are always subject to how their makers feel at the moment they’re making them. Each of our top 10s represent the movies we love right now, and with the exception of our #1 choices, their order could be fluid, changing from day to day, mood to mood.

Right now, though? These are the films we adore, and which we feel exemplify 2011.

~ AJ

PAUL: 10. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (dir. Rupert Wyatt)

The summer blockbuster that was better than any of us had any right to expect. Not only a remarkably capable relaunch/reboot of a beloved but dated franchise, but also just a damned good popcorn flick in its own right. Andy Serkis brings heart and humanity (pun intended) to the “inhuman” protagonist. It’s Pinocchio and Moses and Che Guevara.

AJ: 10. GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (dir. Martin Scorsese)

It has been lazy shorthand for decades to refer to George Harrison as the “quiet Beatle,” and though that might have a kernel of truth to it, the man himself was far more complex. Publicly, he was quiet because he desperately hated fame; professionally, he was quiet during the Beatle years because John and Paul vetoed his material, and later, because he was content with tending to his family and to his garden. Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home definitively captured that 60s icon’s brilliance and enigma, and while Living in the Material World doesn’t quite do the same for this 60s icon, it comes close enough. In the first part of this two-part doc, the entire life cycle of The Beatles is rehashed yet again, though considering it’s Scorsese at the helm, it remains of interest. It’s in the second part, however, when things truly come alive. By telling of his unsung career as a film producer, enticing candid stories from a number of those closest to him, and showing private home movies, Scorsese paints a portrait of Harrison as a man perpetually struggling to reconcile his spirituality with his materialism, caught between divinity and mortality.

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Lars von Trier Initiates World Annihilation with ‘Melancholia’ Trailer

The trailer for Lars von Trier’s next film, Melancholia, has been unveiled. Von Trier, the infamous Danish filmmaker whose movies cast a dim light on the future well-being of people’s genitals, finds himself dabbling in science fiction with Melancholia, about a wedding which coincides with the discovery of a hidden planet behind the sun. Von Trier has said the film will begin with the destruction of planet Earth, explaining, “In this way, you don’t have to sit and form theories about what will happen, but can delve down into some other levels and become interested in the pictures and the universe–that’s what I imagine.”

Here’s a peek at this latest missive from von Trier’s dark imagination (slightly NSFW for some brief nudity):

Kirsten Dunst, an underrated actress whose talents haven’t always matched the mainstream Hollywood fare she’s been shoehorned into, has excelled at quiet, resigned doom in the Sofia Coppola films Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides, and looks to be bringing some of that same, er, “magic” to the bride in Melancholia. Because basically, when von Trier is casting a female lead, “Quiet, Resigned Doom” is probably the only box he’s looking to check. Just ask her co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg, who spent Antichrist‘s two hours grieving for her dead child and doing some nasty things to her naughty bits. Also glimpsed in the trailer are John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgård as Dunst’s groom, an awkward Charlotte Rampling, and Kiefer Sutherland, whose presence in a project like this surprises me after years of shooting kneecaps and taking names on 24.

The film is likely to premiere at Cannes next month, with an as-yet-unannounced U.S. release date.