The Decade in Review: 2011

Catch up on our previous 2010 article right here!

Louise’s Pick: The Skin I Live In

Honourable Mentions: Final Destination 5, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Martha Marcy May Marlene

I went to see this movie on the same day that I saw Final Destination 5, so let’s be real: the fact that any other film topped out my pick for 2011 means it has to be something seriously special.

And, well, it is. I’ve been watching Pedro Almodovar’s films for the better part of a decade now – he was one of the first auteur directors that I got into, and remains one of my favorites to this day, mostly because his movies are so consistently and utterly unique. Even this year’s sublime Pain and Glory feels like it could have come from nobody but him, and that’s basically some wanky meta-reflection on his own career – like we haven’t had enough of them already.

But anyway: The Skin I Live In stands out in my mind as the film of this year because it is probably his most ambitious and discomforting work to date (and for anyone who’s seen Talk to Her, you know that means something). Pitched as a gore-free horror movie, The Skin I Live In stars Antonio Banderas like I promise you have never seen him before as a grieving father determined to recapture his daughter’s presence through terrifyingly extreme measures. A psycho-sexual drama thriller that plays with notions of gender, sexuality, autonomy, and identity, all pulled together under Almodocar’s idiosyncratic telenovela style, I have never seen a film like this – and frankly, hope I never do again. So what I’m saying is, I love it and think it’s the very best that this year had to offer!

Kevin’s Pick: Take Shelter

Honorable Mentions: The Raid, The Tree of Life, Another Earth

I promise that my 2012 pick will not be a film about someone losing their mind. To be fair, that is sort of my thing, and the continuation of this trend with my 2011 pick was a close call, considering the fact that The Raid is the best action film of all time, but I just can’t resist a well done psychological horror, and Take Shelter is definitely more than just that rubbish genre description.

Jeff Nichols has spent the decade making great character-driven films with sci-fi, horror, and some old American magic, but Take Shelter is his greatest achievement to date. Starring his close collaborator Michael Shannon, Take Shelter is the story of a man plagued by nightmares and hallucinations whose work and family life begin to deteriorate as a result. The tension here is whether these visions are divine warning or the first warning signs of schizophrenia, with neither option offering much relief for the superb central Shannon and an excellent supporting Jessica Chastain.

Take Shelter takes the character route, where the consequences of these visions are more impactful than the visions themselves. It’s an uncomfortable watch, one that forces confrontation with the uncomfortable reality of what mental illness can do to a person, but more than anything it’s an overlooked masterpiece from a filmmaker at the top of his game. Anyway – the next one will be more fun. I promise. Maybe.

By Louise MacGregor and Kevin Boyle

(header image via Film Comment)


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