Charles H. Meyer’s Top Ten Films of 2011

1. “Melancholia” wins the top prize from me for its sublimely beautiful representation of the destruction of all life in the universe. If melancholy is the enjoyment of sadness, then Lars von Trier has produced the most colossal orgasm of despair ever to explode all over the screen.

2. “The Descendants” perfectly accomplishes two exceedingly difficult feats: depicting an intensely emotional family drama free of both sentimentality and cynicism, and using Hawaii as a setting while neither hiding nor exoticizing its beauty.

3. “A Dangerous Method” may be the first David Cronenberg film without any glimpses of flesh horrifically gashed open to reveal the insides of the body. Yet Keira Knightley’s Oscar-nomination-worthy performance brings us a new, equally powerful, at times even grotesque, glimpse into an interior—not of the body, though, but of the mind. However, while “A Dangerous Method” may be more cerebral than visceral, it is as erotically charged as Cronenberg’s films have always been.

4. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was the most disturbing psychological horror film of the year; ridding the “evil child” horror subgenre of the supernatural, it makes extreme sociopathy feel far more frightening than the creaky old chills delivered by “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Omen.”

5. “The Artist” proved that the silent cinema could be brought wondrously, winningly back to life without making any concessions to today’s cinematic conventions. It’s a French love letter to Hollywood, and the Academy is much too vain not to be flattered to pieces by it, so much so that there is serious talk of “The Artist” winning Best Picture.

6. “The Skin I Live In” is the most seductively gorgeous film of the year. Pedro Almodóvar is perhaps more capable than any other director working today of skillfully and seamlessly bringing together seemingly disparate elements of mystery, suspense, horror, romance, eroticism, black comedy, and intergenerational family drama.

7. “House of Pleasures” manages, in spite of being written and directed by a man, to focus principally on the women working—rather than on the men playing—in a circa-1900 Paris brothel. It’s the most humanistic depiction of prostitution that I’ve ever seen.

8. “Carnage” has been accused by more than a few people of being “too stagy”; and yet Polanski’s camera captures every angle of the Brooklyn apartment in which the film is set, making us feel as trapped as the characters, who—for all we know—still haven’t left. To suggest that Polanski should have “opened up” Yasmina Reza’s play is really just to ask for a different play; but to my ears, Reza’s bitterly funny script is spot on, and the film’s four-person cast does a marvelous job bringing that script to maddening, exasperating, obstreperous life.

9. “Drive” pushed my 1980s nostalgia into high gear with its hot pink title and synthesizer music; and no one looked cooler on the big screen this year than Ryan Gosling did in this movie.

10. “The Last Circus” is a strange little gem—a darkly comic, extremely grotesque horror/drama that should have been much more popular this year than it was. I hope that it slowly but surely accrues a massive cult following.

 


Publications



"Ratting Out Big Tobacco." Cinespect. December 12, 2011.

"House of Pain." Cinespect. December 10, 2011.

"Rediscovering the French New Wave." Cinespect. December 5, 2011.

"Fifteen Minutes with You." Cinespect. November 21, 2011.

"Silent Cinema Reborn." Cinespect. November 21, 2011.

"See You Next Year: SFF Journal, Entry Fourteen." Cinespect. November 15, 2011.

"Paterfamilias in a Pinch." Cinespect. November 15, 2011.

"The Work of Love: SFF Journal, Entry Thirteen." Cinespect. November 14, 2011.

"The Duplass Era: SFF Journal, Entry Twelve." Cinespect. November 12, 2011.

"End of Story." Cinespect. November 11, 2011.

"Down into Hatch: SFF Journal, Entry Eleven." Cinespect. November 9, 2011.

"Mooring as Metaphor: SFF Journal, Entry Ten." Cinespect. November 9, 2011.

"Electrate Youth: SFF Journal, Entry Nine." Cinespect. November 7, 2011.

"Spread the Word: SFF Journal, Entry Eight." Cinespect. November 6, 2011.

"Arch Madness: SFF Journal, Entry Seven." Cinespect. November 3, 2011.

"Eau Crap: SFF Journal, Entry Six." Cinespect. November 2, 2011.

"The Wrath of Ralph: SFF Journal, Entry Five." Cinespect. November 1, 2011.

"Unbearable Brightness: SFF Journal, Entry Four." Cinespect. November 1, 2011.

"Wedding Bell Blues: SFF Journal, Entry Three." Cinespect. October 31, 2011.

"The Dueling Life: SFF Journal, Entry Two." Cinespect. October 31, 2011.

"Homeward Bound: SFF Journal, Entry One." Cinespect. October 28, 2011.

"Yawning at the Margin." Cinespect. October 20, 2011.

Film reviews of "Corman's World," "Goodbye First Love," "The Artist," and "The Descendants." Cinespect. October 14, 2011.

"Forget 'The Way.'" Cinespect. October 7, 2011.

"Pop Marx." Cinespect. October 5, 2011.

Film review of "Carnage." Cinespect. September 30, 2011.

"Baking Pans for Nigel." Cinespect. September 26, 2011.

"Cabin Fever Dream." Cinespect. September 22, 2011.

"There and Back Again." Cinespect. September 9, 2011.

"The Kid's Not All Right." Cinespect. September 2, 2011.

"Tokyo, Mon Amour." Cinespect. August 26, 2011.

"Cinespect's Guide to 'William Lustig Presents.'" Cinespect. July 15, 2011.

"Q&A with Filmmaker and Anthology Film Archives Guest Curator William Lustig." Cinespect. July 12, 2011.

"Got Freedom?" Cinespect. July 7, 2011.

"Against All Odds." Cinespect. June 23, 2011.

"A Filmable Feast." Cinespect. May 19, 2011.

"Double Trouble: Cannes Journal, Entry Five." Cinespect. May 18, 2011.

"Childhood's End, Part Two: Cannes Journal, Entry Four." Cinespect. May 14, 2011.

"Childhood's End, Part One: Cannes Journal, Entry Three." Cinespect. May 13, 2011.

"Fairy Tales for Adults: Cannes Journal, Entry Two." Cinespect. May 12, 2011.

"Setting the Scene: Cannes Journal, Entry One." Cinespect. May 11, 2011.

"The Insane Natural: An Unconscious Film Trilogy." Cinespect. February 23, 2011.

"Cubicle Rebellion, or Three Ordinary Guys with Nothing to Lose: An Unconscious Film Trilogy." Cinespect. February 7, 2011.

"The Elusive but Wonderful Films of Patricia Gozzi." Cinespect. February 4, 2011.

“La bicyclette bleue: A Gainesville-Paris Research Project.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 11: November 5, 2008. pp. 14-15.

“Punch-Drunk Cinéphilia: A Review of Evan McIntyre’s Paintings at Sharab Lounge.” The Fine Print. Vol. 1, No. 3: November/December 2008. p. 10.

“Urine, Feces, and Art: A Urinary/Intestinal/Historical Tract.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 9: September 3, 2008. pp. 22-23.

“The Persistence of Cookie Tins: A Review of John Patterson’s Collages at Volta Coffee.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 7: July 2, 2008. pp. 15 & 21.