There was so much good cinema that my “best of” list actually includes three different top tens: the best 10, the second best 10, and then 10 honorable mentions. Many of them are available now on Netflix Instant, while a few of them have yet to release in most parts of the country. However you can, I hope you get a chance to see them!
Thanksgiving is all about family, and often, it's all about movies. After feasting, football & shopping, going to see a movie together has become an American holiday staple. If you're looking for a film to see this Thanksgiving, here are a few I recommend--unless you want to take your kids (then see Hugo or The Muppets). Each of these films is in some way about family and is near the top of my list of the best films of 2011. If one of them is playing in your city, go see it!
The latest film from Danish provocateur Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dogville), Melancholia opens with a stunning overture, to the music of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, depicting the cataclysmic collision of Earth and a fictitious planet named Melancholia. This sequence, which includes gorgeous slow-mo shots and painterly tableauxs, “gives away” the ending from the outset: the Earth will die, and everything in it. Our foreknowledge of this impending apocalypse colors our perceptions of the family drama that follows—which concerns sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst), Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and their extended dysfunctional family. The juxtaposition of the ridiculous, petty shenanigans of the family and the reality that everything is about to end serves as the film’s central conceit, and it works brilliantly.
As a film critic, I have to see a lot of movies that are not necessarily pleasant to sit through. Which is fine. A lot of my favorite films—and some of the most beautiful, important films of all time—would hardly be categorized as “pleasant” viewing experiences. Films like Breaking the Waves, or Requiem for a Dream, or a number of films by David Lynch, are in my view works of art, deeply disturbing though they may be.