A few weeks ago, I wrote a raving, hyped-up couple of paragraphs about Senna, in which I asserted that it was one of the best films of 2011, and I gave evidence of my ability to say so by listing all of the important films I had seen from 2011. Of course, I did not mention Martha Marcy May Marlene or The Artist, which I certainly had no overlooked. No, I was just saving them for January and February when there are no good films to see and DON’TTELLMETHATIMISSEDAFEWOFTHEBESTFILMSFROM2011BECAUSEI’MWAYTOOSMARTANDCURRENTTODOTHAT.
Moving along, I did see Martha Marcy May Marlene last week at Laurelhurst theater, and it was phantasmagorical (look it up, don’t hate). The dreamy, mind-bending match-cut cinematography was perfectly used, and Elisabeth Olsen (younger Olsen sister! can’t believe it…) and John Hawkes were both phenomenal in their roles. I loved the sparse use of music in the film, as well. In summation, it was in the top five films from 2011, in my not humble and always right no matter what you have to say opinion.
In my saving of the best films of the year for last, I saw The Artist last night.
On a totally unrelated side note, I wanted to share a story about why Andria is so great. After finishing yoga last night, we killed a few minutes by grabbing a quick cocktail. After buying tickets to The Artist at the Regal Fox Tower, we popped into a dump convenience store a few blocks away to buy 22s of Mexican beer and some M&Ms, all of which we stuffed into her huge purse and packed into the theater. Because who in their right mind wants to go see a film without beers and candy? Certainly not anyone who cares about rules and laws about alcohol consumption in non-licensed venues. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because damn The Man. To be totally honest, this was not really much of a rebellious act, and I sound like a big-time dork here. Oh man, Kris, what a cool guy— you took beers into a theater? Wow. So legit. What a tough guy. I actually have no idea what I’m trying to say here.
Moving on, The Artist was fantastic. I’d heard a lot of good things from friends, and read many positive reviews, as well as seeing the film on best of the year lists. The accolades are well deserved; The Artist is a beautiful and enchanting film start to finish, despite and because of its scarce use of sound. There were many moments of intense pathos that were completely silent. Somehow, these moments managed to grip my attention so tautly, leaving me powerfully affected and hoping that it would happen again.
The strength of the silence led me to analyze whether or not the silent film style was a gimmick or simply a legitimate re-invention of an obsolete film style. I mean, the film worked very well. The acting was wonderful, and the actors did an excellent job re-creating silent film star technique. The music was great, which was a must since it drove most of the film. I loved the cinematography, black and white palette, and soft focus shots, all of which flawlessly hearkened back to films of the silent era. Because of the film-within-a-film structure, and the story of a silent film star within a silent film, the lack of audio was clearly part of the film’s structure and story. Gimmick? Maybe not. Though at times it bordered on gimmick-y, it ended up working really well.
In summation, go check it out, should you be fortunate enough to be near a theater that is actually showing it.
Nada Pode Me Separar Do Amor de Deus
2011 was a hit-or-miss year for film, from my perspective.
There were great films: Take Shelter, Drive, Hesher; mediocre ones: Another Earth, Midnight in Paris, Cave of Forgotten Dreams; much-hyped and ultimately disappointing ones: The Tree of Life, Melancholia; and just bad ones (let’s not go there, shall we not? No? Okay. Good talk.).
In the end, one of my favorite film genres had a banner year. I love well made documentaries for their stunning power, real drama, and connected portrayals of subject matter. 2011 gave us Conan O’Brien Can’t Be Stopped (one of my favorites), Bill Cunningham New York, Bobby Fischer Against the World, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, the aforementioned Herzog slog Cave of Forgotten Dreams, snowboard film The Art of Flight (which— despite its massive energy drink ad budget— was a joy to watch), and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (which I still haven’t seen). One that I missed, that I am so happy to say I finally saw, is Senna.
I had read positive reviews of this dramatic documentary, which focuses on the Formula One career of Ayrton Senna, and his mercurial rise to fame in the F1 world. Before seeing it, I could say with all certainty that F1 racing was something I have never given any though or care. It always had seemed to me bloated, political, filled with immense budgets from cigarette companies, rife with pretentious drivers, and based upon racing machines that cost more money than most people will make in their lifetime. So how could a documentary about a Brazilian F1 driver hold my attention?
Because it is a heart wrenching, adrenaline filled, visceral, brutal, and completely touching film about bitter rivalries, intense and dramatic races, and a humble and down to earth driver’s love for the sport and his country.
Senna is the best film I have seen from 2011. It now sits in the number one spot, tied with Man on Wire, as the best documentary I have ever seen. It is incredible.
And it is streaming on Netflix. If you have Netflix instant and you’re wondering what you want to take in tonight while you decompress, watch Senna. If you think for an instant that it may not be your cup of tea, forget that and watch it. It is not a film about F1. It is a film about a very complex character and his humble emotional connection that he formed with people all around him. The cinematography is beautiful archived footage from races and interviews with Senna and his rival, the dialog is deeply affecting, and the subject is truly fascinating and gripping. It is difficult not to be swept up in the passion of the Brazilian crowds as they cheer, chant “Ayrton Senna!” with gusto, and weep to cameras saying “In Brazil, we need education, we need food, we need health, but we have joy, Senna brings us that joy!” And Ayrton, though coming from wealth and privilege of Brazil, is compassionate and humble. He loves Brazil, and Brazil loves him. He races for Brazil, he wins for Brazil. And that is the heart of the story, its whole reason for being. His relationship with Brazil is enrapturing.
This film is a must see.
"In the New Year" - You & Me - The Walkmen
I’m not the most sentimental person. I also tend to not care at all about New Year’s Eve (aka the douchepocolypse), New Year’s Day, or the entire fiesta that surrounds the two days and their meaning in our modern culture. Mostly, I can’t stand dumb people using NYE as an excuse to get wasted and act like irresponsible jackasses with no consideration for others (read: what usually goes down/did go down in Portland).
That being said, I thought I’d kick the new year off right here at TMP with this track from the Walkmen’s album You & Me (which, if you haven’t listened to it, you should definitely do so).
So there you have it. Happy new year. May 2011 not suck like 2010 kinda did.