My Favorite Films of 2011

Published On December 31, 2011 | By Mike Carroll | Films, Terrence Malick

The headline might be a little dubious–I’ve only been to the movies a few times this year. I wait for almost everything to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray. Not that I’m not interested in the new movies, but because when I see a movie that I love I immediately want to see all the making-of extras and deleted scenes and load the audio commentary tracks onto my iPod.

I don’t have a Top Ten. I don’t think I’ve seen ten movies over the past year that I thought I couldn’t live without or that moved me profoundly or enriched my life. That said, there are a few that I think are great or that I simply adored and want to spread the word about.

Also, as I write this, many of the new and much-talked about releases, like The Artist, haven’t been released in theaters yet, but I’ll get around to them in a few months whey the come out on Blu-Ray.

1. The Tree of Life

I’ve written a couple of blogs about this on this site, so there isn’t much to add. Genius. I’ve never scene filmmaking like this, and how often can you honestly say where you’ve seen a new film that was not in some way like anything else you’d ever seen. Terrence Malick is my new favorite filmmaker, alongside Stanley Kubrick and David Lean. Completely different in working methods from both of those giants, he joins them in the rare distinction of every one of his films is an individual masterpiece. I can’t wait to see his next film, with Ben Affleck, which comes out some time in 2012.

I picked up the Blu-Ray on the first day of it’s release and watched the Creation sequence a number of times and awe at it each time.


Bill Cunningham New York

Bill Cunningham is a photographer with the New York Times who covers fashion. Not so much the fashion on the runways, but the fashion on the streets of New York. What people are wearing. They may be the Park Avenue elite or a bag lady pushing a cart–everyone is given equal coverage in his eyes. Bill is 80 and still going. Almost monkish in his life style and devotion to fashion. Every weekend he has a two-page color spread in the NY Times. Since seeing this film, I check it out every Sunday. He makes you want to go out into the streets and take pictures.

A Summer in Genoa

Michael Winterbottom teams up with Colin Firth for a study of a family getting away to Italy after the loss of his wife and his children’s mother. Beautiful. Haunting. Again, as with Wonderland and In This World, I can watch anything that Michael Winterbottom does.

Life In A Day

Last year on July 24, 2011, Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) put out the call to filmmakers around the globe to document their lives or some aspect of the world they live in and upload it to Youtube. The result was 4,500 hours of footage shot on DSLRs, camcorders and smart phones. Sounds like a big, mad jumble. And it is. But it’s also spectacular. A co-production of Youtube, National Geographic and Ridley Scott, this is a rare film that is filled with beauty, pathos, human comedy, and tragedy. But in the end, it makes you feel better for being a part of the planet Earth.

Midnight In Paris

Woody Allen’s triumphant film of 2011. A postcard to Paris. Lovingly photographed and beautifully performed. Owen Wilson is the best of the crop of actors to play the part that would have been played by Woody in his younger days. The Twenties scenes will give you and non-stop grin. And Hemingway! Great, great fun. I can’t wait to watch it again!

Older Movies That I’ve Watched Again In The Past Year



This is going to be, if it is not already, a tour-de-force study in acting for how Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays Truman Capote. The film plays simply in carefully composed shots and not a lot of unnecessary cutting. It’s one that the mere mention of compells me to want to put it in the DVD player and watch all over again.

Days of Heaven

Terrence Malick’s 1978 masterpiece, which is like going to an art museum and viewing the paintings of the great masters. A film that I will frequently put in when I just want something to watch and can’t think of what to watch. This always satisfies, even if it’s only for a few moments at a time.

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I know, this is an old one, but it’s one of a bunch of films that’s had a lifelong fascination for me, from the time I first saw it when I was fourteen. A big 70mm widescreen movie from the early Sixties with Spencer Tracy and every working comedian from that era. I recently put the DVD in, wondering how it would hold up, and found myself laughing at it more than I ever had. Even wife Bonnie, who is generally not very patient when I put an old movie in, found herself laughing with it.

Le Mans 

Another film that I’ve had a lifelong fascination with. Steve McQueen was the King of Cool. He’s the type of star who is both handsome and quiet, but who you feel you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Amazing shooting and editing. This just came out on Blue-ray and is worth every penny. I watched it a second time right after watching it for the first time in I don’t know how long. It looks fabulous and the sound is remarkable. Almost everything in the film has been added. Stunning way of telling more of an experience of the 24 hours of the auto race at Le Mans than a story. I don’t think there’s a single word spoke for almost 25 minutes into the film. Daring minimalism. And a terrific making-of documentary produced by the Speed Channel as an extra.






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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

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