What? Sorry. Seeing The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 and Jack and Jill within the space of a single week apparently inflicted significant noggin damage. The following films of 2011 are a clean, white bandage to the head.
The Tree Of Life
Cosmic. Only Terrence Malick could connect the Big Bang, dinosaurs, the meaning of life, childhood, fatherhood, failure, and, natch, death all in one exquisite film. It's essentially a religious vision of small-town America at the end of the '50s, with Brad Pitt beautifully playing a grownup, ordinary and fallible, for the first time.
Whoa, double cosmic. It's apocalypse now and the end of the world as we know it in Danish agitator Lars von Trier's riveting, mad masterwork of gloom, doom, humour, and ecstasy. Get out your telescope, build a cool fort, and hold tight to the mesmerizingly entangled sisters played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Midnight In Paris
Oh, Woody, your brain may be your second-favourite organ but it's definitely our first. Allen's fanciful, funny-as-hell time-travelling trip through the Paris of Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (all hilariously portrayed) temporarily made us forget our fear of death and lobsters.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We can't resist an old-fashioned spy thriller any more than we can hold up under torture involving electric-prong thingies. John le Carré's classic Cold War novel about those obsessive, secretive, treacherous Brits makes a brilliantly devious big-screen puzzle for Twitter-shrunken IQs. Plus, even playing quiet, chilly intelligence agent George Smiley, Gary Oldman always, weirdly, gets us hot and bothered.
Despite mad girl crush on Kristen Wiig, must file suit against filmmakers over the laughing equivalent of Tourette syndrome still lingering seven months after initial Bridesmaids viewing. Is cowriter Wiig's film one of the most hysterical displays of raunchy, funny, vulnerable women ever? Does a bride shit in the woods? I mean, street?
Call this arty, pulpy, bloody crime flick of bad men and a couple of fast cars the auto-erotic thrill of the year. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn crawls into L.A.'s ultraviolent underbelly à la Michael Mann; Ryan Gosling channels Steve McQueen; and Albert Brooks is reborn. Don't forget to untie the plastic dry-cleaning bag from around your face afterward.
Feeling le shits? Our man in Finland, Aki Kaurismäki, makes it all better with his sly, deadpan-charming modern French fairy story. An illegal African lad, a compassionate shoeshine man, radical-minded neighbours, good wine, a middle-finger flip to authority, and all is right with the world.
The screenwriter born Brook Busey earns her Diablo Cody nom de plume with this devilishly dark, witty tale by creating a perfectly unlikable protagonist and refusing to reel her in for hugging or learning. As the emotionally stunted woman-child, Charlize Theron is freakishly brave and believable. We're not letting her near our boyfriends or our puppy dogs.
The Chemical Brothers stir the brain cells while the adorable, albino teenage assassin goes in for the decisive noggin twist. (Lucky it's not 3-D!) All eyeballs are glued to the bewitching Saoirse Ronan as the sweet yet deadly sprite at the centre of this heart-whomping, surreal action thriller—until Cate Blanchett as a wacko, Dubya-in-a-dress CIA agent hits the screen.
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