Top 10 of 2011 – Brandi’s Picks
written and directed by Paddy Considine
By far the most emotionally brutal film on my list, Tyrannosaur is another meticulous screenplay turned acting showcase. Olivia Coleman is a devout woman living with a terrible secret; Pater Mullan is an angry man with a drinking problem who may be her savior nonetheless. Their unlikely bond (see? see?) drives a story about what desperate emotions can cause when easy options don’t exist. Though the film has some awards momentum in Britain, I haven’t seen Coleman’s name on the Oscar predictions lists lately. It’s a shame; her work is remarkable.
4. Another Earth
directed by Mike Cahill
screenplay by Brit Marling & Mike Cahill
Another indie battles its way onto my list, this time ambitiously incorporating a sci-fi element. Some tear in the fabric of space-time (as they say on Star Trek; I’m no scientist) has revealed another version of our own Earth. It looms in the sky, a funhouse mirror. The night of its appearance is the same night that Rhoda Williams (co-writer Brit Marling), newly accepted to MIT, ruins her life and the life of composer John Burroughs (William Mapother) by causing a drunk driving accident that kills his wife and young son. Unrepairable tragedy and unfathomable opportunity now exist together in the lives of these two, this second Earth the symbol of a reality lost that may also represent how to move on. The sheer creativity of this film would have been enough to get it on this list; the wondrous acting and bold final moments propelled it this far towards the top.
3. Young Adult
directed by Jason Reitman
screenplay by Diablo Cody
“A lot of broken bodies in that film” said a friend to me in a text conversation about this second, and brilliant, Reitman/Cody collaboration. That sums it up. This is a film about what it’s like to be unable to climb past a chasm in yourself to continue developing as a person when no one is there anymore to make you do it. Charlize Theron floored me as Mavis Gary, a writer of a once-popular young adult series of novels who lives a shallow life and finds herself suddenly consumed by the fact that her married high school boyfriend has just had a baby in their hometown. Others have already said how Mavis is (finally) a female version of the sort of anti-hero so popular amongst male characters the last few years: in her own way, she’s a Tony Soprano, a Tommy Gavin, a Dr. Gregory House. Well, she can also be me on my worst day, me hungover and not wanting to admit that maybe I don’t have more in my life that makes me happy because I just don’t know how to earn it. Theron has a perfect acting friend/foe in Patton Oswalt, who plays an old high school classmate still grappling from an attack that left him seriously injured (ahem, unlikely bond). Cody’s script is fearless, and does some remarkable things in its final moments that still have me thinking. If you are a person who still doesn’t think she’s the real thing as a writer…I really don’t know what to tell you. Except that you’re wrong.