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The year in movies 2011

Leila Hatami in A Separation (2011) movie image

Leila Hatami in A Separation (2011).

Musings from the 2011 film notebook

– by Regan Payne

While I would normally relish the opportunity to cap off my first year of contributions to The Snipe with a 10-best list for readers to contemplate, debate, and subsequently ignore, I became a father for the first time early in November of 2010, and thus, have seen only a smattering of the new releases I normally would.

I am as passionate as ever about the movies, though, so I was able to cobble together a quick list of films worth seeing from 2011 as well as years past.

And while it seems counterproductive to begin a celebration of film with a eulogy of sorts, it does feel appropriate. As a Vancouver writer and filmmaker it is important to note that we lost an critical vessel for the local film community this year – a stop that all would-be producers, directors, actors, as well as movie lovers found mandatory on their journey towards complete and utter film immersion.

Videomatica RIP

Videomatica, a staple of film distribution here in Vancouver that sprung to life in 1983, housed the finest and deepest collection of films in town. Like hundreds of other video stores across North America, the venerable West Side institution – unable to compete with the game-changing online and digital distribution models of home movie-viewing – closed its doors this year for good.

I can remember vividly my first sojourn into the store. I was looking for The Thin Man, a ’30s detective comedy starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, for a first year university course. After some quick, and somewhat lackluster, research, I realized Videomatica would be my best, and at the time, possibly only, opportunity to obtain a VHS copy of the classic.

The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man (1934).

Upon strolling past the store’s signature cardboard cutout of a silhouetted Alfred Hitchcock, and entering the slightly musty rows of VHS boxes, I experienced that comforting, at-home feeling that all movie addicts experienced when walking through their doors.

So here’s to a movie lover’s paradise that took myself and countless others away from the realities of daily life, and helped lead us to masterpieces by the likes of Chabrol, Pekinpah, Visconti, and many more.

Iranian film best of the year?

– The plaudits continue to roll in for A Separation. the Iranian film is being touted as not only the best film from this past year, but perhaps the best in recent memory. The drama centers on a couple who must choose between leaving their country for the betterment of their child, or staying to care for a sick and fast deteriorating parent.

Movie trailer – A Separation:


Top movies 2011

Of the movies I did see this year, my favourites were:

BeginnersMike Mills’ wonderful tale of a man (Ewan McGregor) who attempts to find love and happiness despite his dysfunction and that of his family.

Trailer – Beginners:

Certified CopyAbbas Kiarostami’s always haunting camera turns its lens on Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as two people, possibly strangers, possibly a longtime married couple, who spend an afternoon in Tuscany on a quest to understand authenticity in art and in life. Think Before Sunrise for adults.

Trailer – Certified Copy:


Meek’s CutoffKelly Reichardt’s bleak tale depicted settlers in Oregon fighting insurmountable odds.

Trailer – Meek’s Cutoff:

The Tree of Life – Director Terrence Malick returns to tackle nothing short of existence itself, as we watch a boy struggle first with his father at home in his daily life, and then struggle further as an adult to understand the meaning and purpose of faith.

Trailer – The Tree of Life:


Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past LivesApichatpong Weerasethakul, or “Joe” as he suggests we refer to him, paints an intricate portrait of Uncle Boonme through the character’s present-day struggles with kidney failure and his past lives. Challenging, bizarre, and often difficult, the film will leave you questioning what you have just done with your time – and not in the Adam Sandler/Jack and Jill kind of way. (Author’s note: This film may have been released in Canada last year technically, I’m not certain, but I saw it this year.)

Trailer – Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives:


Other movies

These are some older film I saw for the first time in 2011, that I think are worth a look (in descending chronological order):

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Wild Grass (2009)
Who’s Camus, Anyway? (2005)
Intacto (2001)
Under the Volcano (1984)
Confidentially Yours (1983)
Pakeezah (1972)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Ride the High Country (1962)
Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Voyage to Italy (1954)
Senso (1954)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
The Story of a Cheat (1936)
Monte Carlo (1930)
Strike (1925)

And the winners are…

My choices for the best in my own set of categories:

Best dramatic performance seen in 2011: Michael Lonsdale in Of Gods and Men


Best comedic performance seen in 2011: Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip


Best performance based on legendary stereotype: Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris


Best film with the most ludicrous premise: Source Code

Best public meltdown: Lars von Trier – Stirring controversy seems to be a yearly tradition for the director. At this year’s Cannes presser for Melancholia he claimed sympathy for Hitler, after which he was banned from the festival for life, then stated he would never grant an interview again. You go, Lars!

On the 2011 festival circuit

Sundance Film Festival: Like Crazy, Drake Doremus – USA
Berlin International Film Festival: A Separation, Asghar Farhadi – Iran
Cannes International Film Festival: The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick – USA
Venice Film Festival: Faust, Aleksander Sokurov
Toronto International Film Festival: Avalon, Axel Petersen – Sweden (Critics Prize); Where Do We Go Now? Nadine Labaki – Lebanon (Audience Award); Monsieur Lazher, Phillippe Falardeau – Canada (Best Canadian Film)
Vancouver International Film Festival: A Separation, Asghar Farhadi – Iran (Audience Award); Nuit #1, Anne Émond – Canada (Best Canadian Film)

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