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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.

“Melancholia”
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]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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