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The Top Ten Films of 2011 (Or, At Least, Those We Think Will Be Really Really Great)

The Top Ten Films of 2011 (Or, At Least, Those We Think Will Be Really Really Great) (photo)

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Okay, so it may be a little early to talk about the best films of next year. But based on the number of high-profile auteurs with new works on the horizon, 2011 looks like it will be a banner annum for art cinema. While Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” is already trailering around the world and Sundance will parade a number of hot new projects from American indie stalwarts (Miguel Arteta, Tom McCarthy) and doc-makers (Eugene Jarecki, Steve James), look abroad to the next Berlin or Cannes and you’re likely to see the most thrilling examples of contemporary cinema. Here are ten films we believe could top the best-of lists 12 months from now (in no particular order):

“This Must Be the Place”
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

Though not yet known much outside of his home country or the festival circuit, Italian auteur Sorrentino received considerable acclaim — including a Cannes Jury Prize and even an Oscar nomination for best makeup — for “Il Divo,” his 2008 tale of political corruption. In his follow-up English-language debut, Sean Penn stars as a retired rock star on the search for his father’s torturer, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is hiding in the U.S. Frances McDormand also co-stars. What might be the result is anybody’s guess, but the pairing of Sorrentino and Penn is reason alone for great anticipation.

“The Dangerous Method”
Directed by David Cronenberg

The last time Cronenberg tackled the medical profession, we got the eerily creepy “Dead Ringers.” The idea that the Canadian maestro is now taking on the birth of psychoanalysis should send shivers down your cerebellum. Based on a play by Christopher Hampton called “The Talking Cure,” the film stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud (he never looked that good), Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, a patient of Jung’s who was also a huge influence on both their theories. A sort of ménage-a-trois of the mind, the “Method” has all the components of a wonderfully disturbing psychological thriller.

12182010_TheGrandMasters.jpg“The Grandmasters”
Directed by Wong Kar-wai

Hong Kong master Wong Kar-wai’s latest follows the life of Ip Man, the legendary martial artist who taught Bruce Lee in his younger years. Like all of Wong’s projects, there is little else known about the plot, but Tony Leung (“In the Mood for Love”) stars as the kung fu expert, alongside Zhang Ziyi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), South Korean starlet Song Hye-kyo, and Chang Chen (“Red Cliff”). At a news conference for the film, Leung called the project “a genuine kung fu movie.” And with veteran action choreography Yuen Woo Ping (“Kung Fu Hustle,” “The Matrix”) on board, there’s no reason not to believe him. Sales company Wild Bunch has little other info about the film, except a tagline: “In martial arts, there is no right or wrong, only the last man standing” — which I’m sure has as much to do with the actual film as “Melancholia” has a happy ending; see below.

Directed by Lars von Trier

Described as a “psychological disaster movie,” the Danish provocateur’s new film stars Kirsten Dunst, the latest ingénue to subject herself to the filmmakers’ whims. At a press conference for the film in July, Dunst praised von Trier’s sadistic tendencies, reportedly saying there’s “poetry in the way he tortures women.” While the actual plot is under wraps, Dunst’s character gets married within the film (with Udo Kier as “the wedding planner”), as impending disaster comes in the shape of a planet hurdling towards Earth. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays her sister. The film also stars Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård and Alexander Skarsgård, as Dunst’s betrothed. For the new film, von Trier has promised, “No more happy endings.” As if you were worried.

“On the Road”
Directed by Walter Salles

The Jack Kerouac Beat classic finally gets a modern screen redo from the makers of the “Motorcycle Diaries,” Brazilian director Walter Salles and Puerto Rican writer Jose Rivera. Starring Sam Riley (“Control”) as Sal Paradise and Garrett Hedlund (“Tron: Legacy”) as Dean Moriarty, the film follows the two young men journeying across North America in search of themselves. The film features an impressive cast of supporting players, including Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee, considered to be a stand-in for William Burroughs. “There is a strange modernity to the theme,” Salles told CNN. “And maybe ‘On the Road’ is more contemporary today than it ever was.”

12182010_SkinThatIInhabit.jpg“The Skin That I Inhabit”
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Loosely based on a French novel called “Tarantula,” Almodóvar’s latest tells the story of a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who seeks revenge for his daughter’s rape. In the novel, the character performs a sex change operation on the perpetrator. No word on whether this twist manifests itself in the film version, but it would certainly seem up Almodóvar’s alley, if you remember the gender-bending characters that populate his cinema. In an interview with a Spanish newspaper, the director likened the film to the horror genre – but “without screams or scares,” he said. “It’s the harshest film I’ve ever written and Banderas’ character is brutal.” Sony Pictures Classics has picked the film up for U.S. distribution.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

From the makers of “Let the Right One In,” the Swedish cult vampire film, comes a tantalizing new project, an adaptation of John le Carré’s famous bestseller. Director Alfredson has brought aboard many of his Swedish creative collaborators –including ace cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema — for this decidedly English drama about George Smiley, a retired MI6 agent trying to adjust to a life outside the secret service, who is then, of course, pulled back into the world of espionage. It’s got a great cast, with Gary Oldman as Smiley, as well as Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Ciarán Hinds. Prestige producers Working Title and Studio Canal are backing the project, which recently completed shooting in London.

“Untitled Dardenne Brothers Film”
Directed by the Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

Originally known as “Délivrez moi” (or “Set Me Free”), the latest film from proficient Belgian siblings Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne features fellow Belge starlet Cécile de France (recently seen in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter”) and reportedly centers on a 11-year-old boy who escapes from the orphanage where his father left him, and then, pursued by orphanage staffers, eventually finds refuge with a young female stranger. Known for their bracing, heartrending class-conscious dramas (“Rosetta,”
“The Child,” and most recently “Lorna’s Silence”), there’s no reason to doubt the Dardennes’ new film will traffic in the same delicate balance of pain and pathos.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Following her auspicious debut “Ratcatcher” and the astonishing follow-up “Morvern Callar,” the Scottish-born Ramsay has quickly established herself as one of the world’s foremost burgeoning auteurs. While her version of “The Lovely Bones” sadly never came to fruition, fans of the filmmakers’ work are salivating over her replacement adaptation, “Kevin,” based on Lionel Shriver’s prize-winning book. Told from the perspective of a conflicted mother (played by Tilda Swinton), the film tells the story of the events leading up to and following her son Kevin’s killing spree just days before his 16th birthday. With young “Afterschool” star Ezra Miller as Kevin and John C. Reilly as his father, the film promises to be, what Swinton has called in interviews, “a doozy.”

“Wuthering Heights”
Directed by Andrea Arnold

Rising Brit auteur Arnold (“Fish Tank,” “Red Road”) takes her beautifully gritty aesthetic to the classics, with this reportedly “rawer” take on Emily Brontë’s 1847 tale of doomed teenage lovers. The faithful adaptation recently made headlines in the U.K. when it was announced that James Howson, a young black actor with no prior film credits, was cast as Heathcliff. Eighteen-year-old actress Kaya Scodelario (known from Brit TV series “Skins”) stars as the ill-fated Catherine Earnshaw. According to The Guardian, key scenes were filmed at Moor Close, “a desolate farmhouse without electricity or running water in the North Yorkshire moors.” Sounds glorious!

[Additional photos: “The Grandmasters,” Jet Tone Productions, 2011; “The Skin That I Inhabit,” El Deseo/Sony Pictures Classics, 2011]


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…