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We’ve asked Tribeca staffers to pull together their Top Ten lists of 2011 movies, and boy oh boy, have they delivered. Our Netflix queue is growing as we type. Takeaways? Drive and Melancholia are so far the must-must-must-sees, according to these five… oh, and maybe The Tree of Life. And We Need to Talk About Kevin. But they’ve also got a lot of more obscure choices, too. Enjoy!
Development Officer, Tribeca Film Institute
(list in alphabetical order)
This was my favorite 3D movie experience of the year. Herzog is one of my favorite filmmakers, and he gives us rare access to the planet’s earliest art work.
Drive has an amazing cast (Gosling <3), style and soundtrack. I was also really blown away by Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Wending Refn, 2009).
A near perfect documentary.
The most fun I had at the movies all year was at the Sundance U.S.A. screening of Kaboom at BAM. Reunite with your college roommates to watch this one.
My 2012 end of the world party is going to be Melancholia-themed. Meet me in the stick teepee.
Twisted and gorgeous.
I have a little bit of a love/hate with this film. It’s ambitious and very well done and the child actors are incredible, there’s just a little too much whispering. Regardless, it’s clearly one of the best films that came out in 2011.
A blunt and humorous take on the female coming of age story. This was my favorite film at TFF 2011 and the winner of the Best Screenplay—Narrative Award.
WNTTAK = a trifecta of 3 amazing women: Lynne Ramsay + Lionel Shriver + Tilda Swinton.
Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival
(list in alphabetical order)
Candy for cinephiles.
A haunting, surreal, and beautiful impressionistic documentary.
Kristen Wiig is my hero.
Equal parts 80s action film, European arthouse, and smoldering Ryan Gosling.
More candy for cinephiles!
Michael Fassbender as a saucy Rochester in a gothic take on my all-time favorite book of all time.
The end of the world never looked so beautiful.
The most human story of the year.
Twisty and spooky and downright unbelievable.
An apocalyptic, intimate family drama.
Jose F. Rodriguez
Program Associate, Documentary Programming
Tribeca Film Institute
Because Lars von Trier has finally made an accessible film—and one that is both darkly comedic and beautiful. Oh yeah—and Kirsten Dunst is surprisingly good in it!
While definitely not his strongest, Payne still delivers a sad and poignant story about a father at an emotional crossroads. It’s Clooney at his most vulnerable!
Soderbergh’s take on the horror genre is riveting and chilling in its realism. It will also make you think twice about eating peanuts at a bar.
Pretentious? Yes. Did it really need that whole dinosaur sequence? Probably not, but this visual wonder of a film delivers an excellent performance from Jessica Chastain—and, in my opinion, Brad Pitt’s best role ever.
Totally terrifying. Tilda Swinton completely anchors this disturbing film—and Ramsay brilliantly tells the story through slick editing and moody, shocking visuals.
The man behind Hoop Dreams turns his focus on inner-city violence in Chicago—and delivers a super ambitious, epic-in-scope documentary that addresses complex social issues in a mature, unvarnished way.
Because first-time director Durkin knows how to create a palpable sense of fear and dread through eerie imagery and measured pacing (not to mention, unsettling performances from Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes).
This quiet yet haunting documentary moved me like no other film this year. Huezo profiles the survivors of the civil war in El Salvador via their heartbreaking and horrific narrations and poetic, dreamlike cinematography.
The film is pure and unadulterated in its execution of style and content, making it the most satisfying and entertaining film of the year. Also: besides Albert Brooks fantastic "against type" performance, the film also has one hell of a pulsating soundtrack.
Because, after years of traumatizing me with images of people being clubbed to death (and Pesci's face getting blown off), Scorsese has made me joyously tear up at a film of his. Marty—you magnificent bastard, you.
Sales & Event Coordinator, Tribeca Cinemas
This film looks at parenthood in a horrifying way and, possibly because I’m a new parent myself, it managed to scare the crap out of me. Director Lynne Ramsay doesn't let up the intensity in this darkly dramatic story of a woman who must deal with the emotional aftermath when her son orchestrates a Columbine-style high school massacre.
Lars Von Trier's sprawling sci-fi saga opens with some of the most beautiful onscreen imagery of his career, and closes by literally taking your breath away. Most of the attention has gone to Kirsten Dunst, but in my opinion, this film belongs to Charlotte Gainsbourg for her portrayal of quiet paranoia personified.
Seeing this film at the packed NYC premiere during last year's Tribeca Film Festival, I couldn't help but feel a mixture of sadness and exhilaration as we watched my favorite group discover their voice, only to implode under the weight of stardom and ego. Director Michael Rapaport captured this story through the eyes of a fan, and it serves the material well.
The only film on this list that actually made me angry. This documentary focuses on a case of infanticide, as we see a young father interrogated in the death of his 5-month-old son. The way in which the story is presented plays a major role in how we view the "facts," and it does a great job of getting the audience to question our own prejudices
The feature film debut of director Dee Rees expands on her dynamic short of the same name. The beautiful cinematography by Bradford Young, along with the strength of the supporting cast (including a revelatory performance from In Living Color's Kim Wayans) create a richly rendered world that smacks of realism.
This movie lands on my list mainly for the way that it handles its tonal shifts throughout. At turns dream-like, gritty, magical, and ultra-violent, director Nicolas Winding Refn gives us a film that ends up feeling entirely original. It leads us down a dark narrative road where fairytale romances and skull smashing can co-exist peacefully.
Mixing edgy humor with genuinely scary sci-fi, this film does a lot with just a little bit, and is a true testament to imagination and ingenuity.
This thriller stars Saiorse Ronan as the title character, a teenage girl living off the grid and training with her father, a deadly assassin. Eric Bana finally has a chance to work with some solid material here, and he shines. His and Hanna's violent set pieces are awesomely choreographed and shot. Like father, like daughter.
A documentary that follows the ascension of puppeteer Kevin Clash, creator of one of the most beloved Muppets of all time: Elmo. This story is one of passion and perseverance, and the documentary is so solid in its coverage of his development that it's priceless. It's a rare look at the creation of an iconic character, and it just leaves you feeling good... whether you're a Sesame Street fan or not.
The one film on my list that is a pure popcorn extravaganza. This summer, I was in need of an action fix and this film provided it. This film satisfied me in a way that Thor and Iron Man 2 just couldn't, and for once I didn't even mind the 3D gimmick. Now I'm ready for The Avengers in 2012.
Marketing Coordinator, Tribeca Film
Consummate visual storytelling—so quiet and with such a simple plot/set-up on the surface, but there’s an incredible tension to every frame that has you on the edge of your seat the whole time. And it’s a testament to the totality of the world Reichardt creates that she cast so many recognizable actors who never feel bigger than their characters. I used to love playing that Oregon Trail computer game when I was a kid, but I’ll never be able to look at it the same again.
I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t even know what to call it (Documentary? Drama? Docu-drama?), but in the end, I feel like I intimately know and care about a group of human beings I’ve only spent 90 minutes with. That’s about the most any movie can aspire to.
Sure, we’ve all seen this story before, but this is as charmingly executed as any movie you’ll see all year. Plus, it made me a little less ashamed to be from New Jersey just by being set there.
I feel like I know less about the characters in this movie by the end than I did (or at least thought I did) when they were first introduced—which I love. It’s on my list for the scene with John Hawkes singing to his followers alone.
Ever wondered what a stampede of flaming wild boar would look like? No? That’s why he’s Takashi Miike, and we’re not. Oh yeah, and there are samurai.
Runner-up to 13 Assassins for most epic, you’ve-gotta-see-this trailer of the year. The UK has way more great actors per capita than they have any right to. They should let us borrow some.
Some of the most criminally underrated performances of the year. I’ve never left a movie feeling so small and less in control of… well, anything.
Turned a book with no traditional narrative into one of the most transcendent and quietly profound character studies in American film. The Social Network for a different kind of nerd. And Spike Jonze should have an acting cameo in at least 3 films a year.
I’ve loved all his work—to me, his polarizing failures are more interesting than most directors’ more accessible successes—but this might have been his most visually stunning piece of filmmaking yet. And he finally managed to make a movie about depression that didn’t leave me feeling depressed.
Everything I said about Take Shelter applies here, but where that film makes humanity seem terrifyingly fragile and insignificant in the face of larger forces, The Tree of Life allows that admittedly humbling contextualization to elevate our existence, and manages to engender a sense of pride and wonder in the small place we hold. And the pictures are real pretty.
More to come as they roll in. We just had a staff screening of Hugo, so maybe others are just waiting to round out their viewing before making a list and checking it twice.
What's on YOUR list?