Top Ten 2011

1. A Separation
2. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
3. The Descendants
4. Pina
5. We Were Here
6. The Kid With A Bike
7. Midnight In Paris
8. The Skin I Live In
9. Martha Marcy May Marlene
10. The Deep Blue Sea


You can take away his words but you can’t dampen the passion. Jean Dujardin‘s letter-perfect recreation of silent film acting in The Artist is one of the most exciting performances of 2011; he can barely grin without hearkening back to the days of John Gilbert, if not also reminding us of Gene Kelly’s terrific evocation of the era in Singin’ In The Rain.  Kelly’s was just a bare imitation of the technique (it’s his dancing that makes that musical a classic), while Dujardin reaches deep for a level of pathos, humour and mystery that the rest of the film’s aesthetic pleasures only hint at (though, to be fair, they hint at them ever so beautifully).

Honour Roll: George Clooney, The Descendants; Michael Fassbender, Shame; Peyman Moadi, A Separation; Michael Shannon, Take Shelter


The glorious Tilda Swinton doesn’t have special effects makeup or big speeches to deliver in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and yet gives Lynne Ramsay’s deliciously eccentric film its riveting, shining centre.  Only Swinton can take the passive resistance she offers her hilariously arch bad seed of a son and make it into something compelling, and every terrified flinch is as superb an experience as her endlessly dampened gaze.

Honour Roll: Sareh Bayet, A Separation; Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Meryl Streep,The Iron Lady; Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea


There is simply no better film for the year than A Separation, which features as its prime pleasure a collection of performances that also make for the year’s finest ensemble. It pits two couples against each other as blistering opposites; on the male side is Peyman Moadi’s bourgeois, laconically moral husband, the opposite of the religiously-minded, hot-tempered Shahab Hosseini who accuses him of attacking his wife. Hosseini sets the screen on fire with his tempestuous rage in every scene, but the actor does it with such instinctive grace that the fireworks are never tiresome and, thanks also in part to Asghar Farhadi’s superb writing, the character is never very far from our sympathies.

Honour Roll: Ernesto Alterio, Clandestine Childhood; Albert Brooks, Drive; Robert Forster, The Descendants; John Hawkes,Martha Marcy May Marlene


The feminine conflict in A Separation pits the pious nervousness of Sareh Bayet against the determined, optimistically fair-minded Leila Hatami as a woman who departs her home in the hopes of improving her family life but only leaves destruction in her wake.  Hatami’s smooth, intelligently fascinating performance shows a constant sense of frustrated control simmering beneath the surface, a woman desperate to pull everyone around her to the best of their capabilities but who, pushed by the flaring conflicts around her, eventually reaches her limits.

Honour Roll: Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Kristin Scott Thomas, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants


Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Honour Roll:  Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Bela Tarr, The Turin Horse