Wednesday, January 25, 2012

LeapBackBlog 2011 Film Awards – Part 3: Directors

Film in 2011 saw many very good films. Deciding what made the lists and what did not was very difficult this year, and there are more than a few great films, performances and technical achievements that I had to leave off. The LeapBackBlog Film Awards are comprised of what I think were the best and most interesting films, the strongest performances (taking into consideration who the actor is and what else they have done, and 2011 again features a lot of amazing breakthrough performances), the narrative style that drew me in (best directing), and exquisite craftsmanship (best technical achievements). But really, these are lists of my favorites from the year.


J.J. Abrams had a difficult job going into Super 8 – making a Steven Spielberg style film with child actors (and not have it suck or be a lesser experience to say E.T.). Super 8 is brilliant. Abrams gets phenomenal performances from his young actors, keeps the action coming but still has important character moments and captures the perfect nostalgic tone and look for the film. It is a masterful job of directing, as Abrams further makes an argument for himself as an action auteur.

Terrence Malick seemingly is not interested in telling a story using a Hollywood style narrative, rather he is much more concerned with what the images and motifs in his films garner meaning wise in their viewers. Much like Sergei Eisenstein, Malick juxtaposes images to instill emotion and meaning. The Tree of Life seems to be his greatest departure from conventional narrative style. There is still a story and characters, but the meaning comes from the visual and audio experience. And with this film, Malick has created something quite powerful and to a degree spiritually engaging.

Aesthetically speaking, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is a masterpiece of visual art. The film is striking – from the slow-motion living painting shots to the majesty of the alien planet approaching Earth. von Trier also achieves marvelous performances from his actors (especially Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). Thematically, Trier has produced an intellectually and spiritually intriguing film that warrants multiple viewings (which is always a great compliment for a film). More than any film in 2011, Melancholia is a cinematic experience.

Hanna is also a wonderfully artistic film – especially for what is an action film akin to a Jason Bourne and/or James Bond movie. Joe Wright and his crew have exploited every aspect of the film to create interesting aesthetics. But, Wright succeeds in getting a difficult and fully formed performance from his young lead Saoirse Ronan, as well. The film is very engaging both from an artistic and narrative perspective (as the best films should be). Something that stands out in Wrights work, Hanna being no different, is his use of long takes, and this film has a couple amazing ones (Erik’s fight in the Subway, and the Container Park scene).

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had a ton of expectation and anticipation and David Yates delivered a completely satisfying film. He faced the daunting task of getting everything important in, giving each character his moments and still keeping the pacing ever moving forward (which is the downfall of many a film, not just epics). And to this degree, Yates does a brilliant job. He gets everything right. His work on the franchise has been wonderful throughout, but this is his best film. Yates does it all – garnering great performances, enchanting aesthetics and a narrative that resonates.

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