Prepping today's Briefing, I realized that there's been such a deluge of year-end lists, awards and nominations for yet more awards that it's best to simply siphon them off into one entry.
The headliner today has to be the pair of "Best of 2011" lists from New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and AO Scott. You'll find both lists rattled off in alphabetical order at the bottom of this page following a conversation of their favorites and of the state of cinema in general. Two snippets from that conversation, the first from Manohla Dargis:
In recent years smaller distributors and studio subsidiaries have become hip to the Oscar-driven seasons and adjusted accordingly. Now some of the best films turn up in the late winter, early spring. If you lived in New York between January and April, you could have seen Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara); Cold Weather (Aaron Katz); Poetry (Lee Chang-dong); Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois); Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul); Foreign Parts (Véréna Paravel and JP Sniadecki); Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami); Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino); Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt); To Die Like a Man (João Pedro Rodrigues); A Screaming Man (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun); The Princess of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier); and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog).
Not all made my list of favorites, but many are so very good and are superior to some of the most prominent Oscar front-runners and favorites that are taking up so much of everyone's mental (and advertising) space.
And from AO Scott:
I am happy to have seen so many senior auteurs pushing themselves in ambitious and surprising new directions. A year with noteworthy new work from [Steven] Spielberg, [Martin] Scorsese, [Woody] Allen and Clint Eastwood — as well as Jean-Luc Godard (Film Socialisme), Pedro Almodóvar and Raúl Ruiz, who made more than 100 films in his life and saved one of his very best, Mysteries of Lisbon, for last — cannot be a bad year. And there was also a lot of ferment on the younger end of the generational spectrum, and quite a few exciting movies that were no less ambitious for being modestly scaled, intimately focused and absorbed in the present.
Steve McQueen's Shame, with the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender as a sex-addicted yuppie (is that still what they're called?), has received a lot of attention for its frankness, but I think it and its admirers confuse moralistic misery with honesty. I found more of that — more real tenderness, anguish, longing and humor — in Dee Rees's Pariah, about a Brooklyn teenager coming out; in Andrew Haigh's Weekend, about a one-night stand that turns into something more; and in Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas, about the catastrophic impact of adultery on a marriage. I like to be deceived by movies, to be beguiled by fantasies and seduced by magical thinking, but I also like movies that feel like they're telling the truth.
Time Out New York critics David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich have posted their top tens (and more) and have put together a slide show as well: "The 10 moments of 2011." But they don't stop there. In another slide show, they look forward to "30 movies to see this winter."
The individual top fives (plus one turkey each) from Time Out London's editors and contributors vary considerably, but their collective top five looks like this, in order: The Tree of Life, Le Quattro Volte, Margaret, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
"While hundreds of films were released in 2011, the same 25 or so are going to dominate most of these lists, and many worthy films that failed to make a splash during their theatrical release will sadly continue to go unrecognized as 2011 draws to a close." At Slate, Grady Hendrix revisits "10 movies, listed in no particular order, that deserve better."
Related viewing (9'45"). The AV Club discusses the "Unsung Films of 2011."
Playlist contributors list their "25 favorite moments from the movies in 2011."
For Anthony Kaufman, "the best movie of the year is Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas." Ben Sach's #6 is Manoel de Oliveira's The Strange Case of Angelica, "the work of a man at peace: every image is simple, harmonious, and essential."
Longform's picked its best reads of the year, and two of them have to do with movies: Lawrence Wright on Paul Haggis and the Church of Scientology in the New Yorker and Michael Idov's report on his visit to the set of Ilya Khrzhanovsky's Dau for GQ. I'll second both recommendations.
From Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes: "In something of a rough, pretty-much-like-this order, here's my top 10 list for 2011." De Kooning FTW.
Slant's "25 Best Singles of 2011."
And Time's Person of the Year:
Shepard Fairey discusses his design.
Awards. Seth Rogen will be hosting the Independent Spirit Awards, reports Anne Thompson.
The Toronto Film Critics Association has named The Tree of Life Best Picture and Terrence Malick Best Director; also scoring two TFCA awards is Take Shelter: Michael Shannon for Best Actor and Jessica Chastain for Best Supporting Actress.
"The Descendants has been crowned Best Picture with the Houston Film Critics Society," reports Kristopher Tapley. "Nicolas Winding Refn received his second Best Director prize of the day (following an award from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society) and Michael Fassbender was recognized for Shame." And he's got the full list. Speaking of the Las Vegas Critics, indieWIRE's Peter Knegt has their list of winners; Best Picture: The Artist.
More from Peter Knegt: "The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominations were announced this morning, with The Help leading the pack with four nominations total: best cast, and individual nods for Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer."
And then there are the nominations for the Critics Choice Awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
Jorn Rossing Jensen for Cineuropa: "Pernille Fischer Christensen's A Family, which was launched in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival to win the international critics' FIPRESCI prize, leads the race for Denmark's Robert awards, which will be presented at Copenhagen's Cirkusbygningen on February 5."