The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2011 - Stellar Indie Gems
by Alex Billington
February 22, 2012
← Back to the first page. Here's the second half of the best movies from 2011 that we suggest watching:
Opened on October 21, 2011
Directed by J.C. Chandor
Follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Why it's on here: If Wall Street and The Social Network got together and had a baby, it would be Margin Call. Thankfully, that baby has some pretty amazing Hollywood connections as the ensemble cast of this financial crisis drama is nothing to scoff at with Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci all igniting a powerful script. At a time when financial dramas became as abundant as films about the Iraq War, this one stands out, and obviously Oscar voters thought so as well since the film snagged a Best Screenplay nomination for writer J.C. Chandor, who also directed this gripping drama that, despite some naysayers, is a fascinating thriller if you let yourself get into it. (Written by Ethan)
Opened on October 14, 2011
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
The story of a young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.
Why it's on here: For Stephanie Sigman as Laura Guerrero. Another one of my favorite films from Cannes last year that didn't break out at all. This has a City of God-like feeling in the way it portrays the brutal reality - almost in real-time - of one innocent teenage girl who gets caught up in the mayhem of the Mexican drug wars. Sigman stars as a wannabe beauty contest queen who takes the audience on a wild ride through the streets, slums and backyards of Mexico on a thrilling adventure into the drug underworld. This is one of those starts-and-doesn't-stop kind of intense films, so damn good, and I feel like it barely got a release. I'm still wowed by it almost a year after first seeing it.
Opened on December 30, 2011
Directed by David Mackenzie
A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions.
Why it's on here: To make you feel. Here's science fiction at its most emotionally rich. Seductively written, fascinatingly plotted, beautifully directed, this film acts as an allegory for our collective disconnectedness, humans' sheer force of will for adaptation, and what it means to be human even as we lose our very human-ness. All of this loftiness, however, is rendered on a small scale through haunting performances by Eva Green and Ewan McGregor. There was another film last year, Another Earth, that attempted to do—but ultimately could not—what Perfect Sense is able to accomplish: elucidate a macro-level event on a micro-level scale through emotionally resonant, flawed characters. All of that is to say: Perfect Sense is a film about what it is to be human even when feeling human seems impossible. (Written by Brandon Tenney/@Brotodeau)
Opened on December 30, 2011
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their adolescent daughter by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers.
Why it's on here: This Iranian film is receiving immense acclaim from numerous critics for good reason - it's a phenomenal film. An intimate, complex look at law, religion and married life in Iran, the film received two Oscar nominations, and deservedly so. Let's hope it wins at least one, because it's a great film that lives up to the acclaim, with fierce performances from leads Leila Hatami and Peyman Maadi as Simin and Nader, and a story that will leave you bewildered, exhausted, and stunned by the end. A Separation is being talked about as the Best Foreign Language Film of last year, and I think it is, which means it's unquestionably worthy of being watched - you'll appreciate that you did.
Opened on December 2, 2011
Directed by Steve McQueen
In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life -- which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction -- is disrupted when his sister Sissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
Why it's on here: Michael Fassbender. He gives the performance of a lifetime in this, one of the most intricate, intimate character profiles of the year (he should've got an Oscar nomination). Made like a piece of art by Steve McQueen, the artist, with stunning long-takes in New York, like jogging for 4 blocks or a 15 minute dinner conversation - all one shot. This film didn't take off because of the NC-17 rating it received, but I say throw that out, screw the MPAA, this is brilliant cinema and should be seen at any cost. One of my very favorite films of 2011 from the moment I saw it in Telluride, and cannot recommend it enough, it needs to be seen. Plus, if not for Fassbender, then for Fassbender's Fassbender.
The Skin I Live In
Opened on October 14, 2011
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
Why it's on here: Almodóvar is back! With a dark and deceptive, mysterious yet intense film, starring Antonio Banderas in a role that takes him and Almodóvar back to their roots. This Spanish romantic medical thriller, also starring Elena Anaya in an excellent breakout performance, will shock you with its twists and turns and reveals all the way up until the end - don't spoil it. The film makes the viewer uncomfortable, it makes them think and makes them curious, and I love subversive cinema that does that, especially when it's so entertaining and well-made, like this. Anaya is so beautiful to look at (until you really think about it?) and Banderas is fantastic too, do not miss this, but be prepared to be shocked.
Opened on June 3, 2011
Directed by Richard Ayoade
15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
Why it's on here: Take the dark twisted humor from across the pond, a Martin Scorsese inspired shooting style, and a coming-of-age story that spans across generations and you get this fantastic directorial debut from comic actor Richard Ayoade. Complete with breakthrough performances from young stars Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, the film has flares of iconic filmmakers like Woody Allen and Hal Ashby. The film has a personality that feels contemporary and classic all at once to the point that I'd go so far as to call it timeless. This is a film that will go down as an overlooked classic and one that could very well be used to enlighten film students decades from now. (Written by Ethan)
Opened on September 30, 2011
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
Why it's on here: To put you on edge. This film will make you feel uneasy, it has a remarkable atmosphere that Michael Shannon helps elevate to a gulp-inducing crescendo, and the way it ends will leave you talking about it for hours afterward. There's a reason why this has topped many Best Of lists, like Jeremy's Favorites of 2011 as his #1 film, that's because it's a phenomenal film made up of so many intricately crafted, beautiful details that together create a powerful, unforgettable, moving modern thriller. The score is great, the technical work is perfect, Shannon and Jessica Chastain are outstanding, this is one of my favorites as well as and a must see that you need to go into without knowing anything and just go along for the ride.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Opened on December 9, 2011
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
Why it's on here: For Tilda Swinton. This film will take your breath away, and anger you at the same time, it's an exhilarating experience thanks in large part to director Lynne Ramsay, adapting from Lionel Shriver's novel. Swinton stars as the mother of one of the most demented, evil kids ever, Kevin, who eventually goes on a killing spree. Both Swinton and the kid who plays Kevin, actor Ezra Miller, are incredible in this, giving the film a chilling backbone that makes it so riveting to watch, along with all the lush red motifs Ramsay loves using. It should be seen for Swinton's performance alone, but also for the darker, complex story it plays with and exploring the psyche and life of a person like this.
Opened on March 18, 2011
Directed by Tom McCarthy
A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
Why it's on here: Everyone enjoys an inspiring sports drama, this is an excellent one. Win Win delivers all the joy that those film brings with fresh comedy and a more grounded approach to the competitive side of the story than we've seen in a long time. Where there's usually contrived family melodrama there's a genuine family unit brought to life by Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and newcomer Alex Shaffer with the help of a great script and direction from actor Tom McCarthy. This was yet another feel good movie from Sundance that is full of laughs, heart and really works for the whole family. Movies like this don't come along very often, but Win Win deserves to be seen. (Written by Ethan)
I hope we've been able to introduce everyone to a few more great must-see films that you have never seen. Not everyone will love all of them, that's certainly expected, but I guarantee there is something unique to discover in every last one of these. Support an indie filmmaker today, watch one of these 19, it will make a difference! Let us know what you think of it after, too.
Honorable Mentions (aka Runner-Ups) other worthy films: Mike Cahill's Another Earth, Asif Kapadia's doc Senna, James Gunn's Super, Andrew Haigh's Weekend, Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, Dee Rees' Pariah, Jason Eisener's Hobo With a Shotgun, John Michael McDonagh's The Guard, Mike Mills' Beginners, Emilio Estevez's The Way and maybe Gavin O'Connor's Warrior, though I hope enough people have finally seen it.
Commentary on The Beaver, Being Elmo, Margin Call, Submarine and Win Win written by Ethan; Certified Copy and Perfect Sense written by Brandon Tenney. We hope you enjoyed this year's selection of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See from 2011, as we're always happy to bring you a list of films that should be added to your Netflix or Must Watch lists right away. Post your thoughts on any you see in the comments!
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