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Desiderata: 2011, Our Favorite Films
Yes, we think we know about the movies as well.
Cheston Knapp (Managing Editor, Tin House Magazine): The Tree of Life was the best movie I saw that came out this year. All this recent talk about “The Descendants” and “Melancholia”! Emotional schmaltz and emotionless, onanistic weltschmerz, respectively. (And on that note, am I the only one in the world who thought Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance was far and away more compelling than Kirsten Dunst’s?) What do you say about “The Tree of Life,” though, but that it was an experience, one I’m grateful for having had, and one that I return to often, haunted as I am by its triptych structure, its elliptical narrative, and Malick’s brilliant image-making mind. Run, don’t walk.
Desiree Andrews (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Books): Bill Cunningham New York was by far my favorite movie I saw this year. At one point the lovely, and charming from the first minute, Bill Cunningham says “He who seeks beauty will find it.” That’s really what this movie is about. It’s unbearably cheesy but it made me want to be a better person.
Lance Cleland (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): Jane Eyre. I am a bit baffled why this one hasn’t appeared on more critics end-of-year lists. You will be hard pressed to find a more beautifully shot film, and the acting is stellar to boot (Fassbender!). The tension in the story was knotted at just the right moments, never feeling heavy-handed or maudlin. From the opening scene, I felt engaged in the material, and the spell was not broken until the credits suddenly appeared. Perhaps my adoration was heightened by the fact that I never read the novel, but I would find it hard to imagine that those that love the book would not approve of this wonderful adaptation. Speaking of, I have to give mention to just how great an experience Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is. Make these a double feature and you would have everything I love about film.
Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor, Tin House Magazine): Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier. I watched this movie alone and felt both in love with the world and heartbroken at the same time. The acting is elegant and subtle. The cinematography is exquisite. This is a movie to own, to watch again and again with a glass of wine… or a bottle.
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): At the risk of undercutting the seriousness with which my other picks can be taken, I must cop that no movie has given me more pleasure this year than Thor. However, it may suffice to youtube the scene in which Thor demands mortal sustenance at a diner rather than watch this screen gem in its entirety.
Elisabeth Pusack (Intern, Tin House Magazine): Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Just as ghosty and tender and terrifying as Tropical Malady. Gets to you like a stunning deathbed scene, except for two hours! I watched this by myself in a trailer in the middle of the night and dreamt of the returned son with the laser eyes for weeks afterward! I especially like the sounds, and the moonlit sex scene between a princess and a catfish. Comics hero Chris Ware did the poster. I think he killed it.
Drew Swenhaugen (Small Press Beat, The Open Bar): Small Town Murder Songs. A story about a spineless sheriff in a backwards Canadian town. The soundtrack was written by Bruce Peninsula, a collection that sounds like a Frank Stanford poem put to a gritty song.