Ten Best Films of 2011

A Dangerous Method
Smart and surprisingly funny, David Cronenberg’s latest forcefully captures the dramatic moment when Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) first began to explore the unconscious. Keira Knightley is electric as Sabina Spielrein, whose journey from patient-to-lover-to-therapist shook Jung and Freud’s friendship and changed the direction of their work.

Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, the director/star team behind the unforgettable Hunger (2008), re-team for this emotionally blistering drama about a sex-addicted executive. Fassbender’s stunning performance as a man driven by unquenchable demons is matched by Carey Mulligan’s brilliance as the sister whose visit shakes his obsessive life. And her haunting rendition of “New York, New York” is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Lars von Trier’s visually stunning portrait of two sisters (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) dealing with the possible destruction of Earth is wildly ambitious, totally intoxicating and extremely moving.

The Skin I Live In
Chilling, funny, and romantic, Pedro Almodovar’s latest fractured melodrama stars Antonio Banderas as a famed plastic surgeon who mysteriously keeps a woman imprisoned. Almodovar’s tale is filled with shocking twists and turns, but the Spanish master skillfully leads us to a heartbreaking finale.

Take Shelter
Mesmerizing performances by emerging stars Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain highlight Jeff Nichols’ quietly devastating drama about an ordinary family man whose life and marriage are turned upside down when he begins having apocalyptic visions.

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (The Pusher Trilogy) boldly comes to America with this gripping new thriller. With a restrained but dazzling style, Refn coolly tells the saga of a professional driver (Ryan Gosling) who allows romantic feelings towards his neighbor (Carey Mulligan) to undermine the precision of his life.

Le Havre
An aging shoeshine man transforms his life, and the lives of his neighbors, when he decides to help a young African refugee in Aki Kaurismaki’s magical new movie. With a gentle touch and an irresistible rockabilly score, the Finnish master weaves this seemingly simple story into an unforgettable saga of redemption.

The Tree of Life
With each successive work, Terrence Malick moves further from traditional storytelling and closer to a cinema of poetry. His latest movie is at once his most personal and his most grandiose. The heart of The Tree of Life is a lyrical vision of his youth in 1950s Texas, but Malick complicates this with cosmic journeys into the afterlife and the age of dinosaurs.

The Future
Acclaimed filmmaker and author Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) wonderfully returns with this whimsical tale of a thirty-something couple whose decision to adopt a cat throws their lives, and perhaps the entire universe, into a tailspin.

A Separation
In Asghar Farhadi’s powerful drama, an Iranian woman’s decision to leave her husband unwittingly causes two families to be caught in a shocking series of events that reveal both the frailty of human beings and the harshness of Iran’s legal system.

dylan skolnick

Dylan Skolnick lives in the East, but loves a good western. He can be found most days and many evenings at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, where he is co-director (www.cinemaartscentre.org).