Year in Review: Kenneth Turan's best film picks of 2011
The best film of 2011 was technically not a film at all. It never played in a commercial theater and likely never will. But those fortunate enough to have seen “The Clock” during its all-too-brief run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art know how remarkable an event it was.
A collage of clips created as an art installation by Christian Marclay from literally thousands of films, foreign and domestic, silent and sound, with some TV shows thrown into the mix, “The Clock” is structured minute by minute around a 24-hour time cycle. This may sound like a trivialization of the cinematic experience, but the reality is intoxicating. If only LACMA could be persuaded to show it more often.
The rest of my 10-best list, expanded whenever necessary, contains more conventional films, but they are no less exceptional for that. In alphabetical order they are:
“City of Life and Death.” A Chinese film about World War II’s Rape of Nanking that is strong enough to change your life, if you can bear to watch it at all.
“Like Crazy.” Director Drake Doremus and his cast bring compelling intimacy and heart-stopping delicacy to the push and pull of love, longing and regret
“Midnight in Paris.” When Woody Allen is funny, attention must be paid.
“Of Gods and Men” and “Poetry.” A pair of films, one French, the other Korean, show how compellingly dramatic moral dilemmas can be.
“A Separation.” An Iranian film unlike any Iranian film you’ve seen before. In theaters Dec. 30 and worth the wait.
Sundance gets real: More memorable documentaries come from this festival than anywhere else. This year’s group included “Buck,” “If a Tree Falls,” “The Interrupters,” “Project Nim,” “The Redemption of General Butt Naked,” “Senna” and “We Were Here.” Mention should also be made of non-Sundance docs “Circo” and “Nostalgia for the Light.”
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” A version of the allusive John le Carré novel that couldn’t be more deliciously, thrillingly, brilliantly complex.
“Win Win.” Written and directed by Tom McCarthy with an impeccable feel for off-center human comedy at its funniest and most heartfelt.
Saddest situation: The huge number of excellent foreign-language films that played in Los Angeles with hardly anyone seeing them. The list includes “Double Hour,” “Carancho,” “Conquest,” “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” “The Human Resources Manager,” “Le Havre,” “Kawasaki’s Rose,” “Point Blank,” “The Princess of Montpensier,” “Queen to Play” and “The Women on the Sixth Floor.” Where were you when these films needed your help? Can you do better next year? The city’s movie community is holding its breath. We need your help.
For more, here's an essay on film in 2011.
— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic
Photo: One of the countless images of a clock face in artist Christian Marclay's video collage "The Clock." Credit: Todd-White Art Photography