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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.