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Rants and Raves: The 2011 Year in Review

January 2, 2012 4:57 a.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks back on the best of 2011.

Related Story: Rants and Raves: The 2011 Year in Review


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

HOST INTRO: Aliens, serial killers, and young love. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks back at the best films of 2011.

Last year had more bad than good and what was bad -- like "Sucker Punch" and "Transformers 3" -- was very, very bad. Yet when it came time to count off the top ten, I had more films than slots. So in the tenth spot I have a tie between two ultra-low budget films that deserve praise for their ingenuity and inventiveness -- like this 70s throwback from Canada.

Clip "Maybe you'll end up like me, a Hobo with a shotgun. I hope you can do better."

You can't do better than Jason Eisener's "Hobo With a Shotgun" for kick-ass grindhouse action. Blood boldly flows by the gallons as Rutger Hauer plays a Hobo who stops begging, demands change. Eisener proves money is inconsequential if you have talent, imagination, and audacity.

The same holds true for "Attack the Block," which is easily summed up by its tagline: Inner city versus outer space. Filmmaker Joe Cornish gives us a film that's both over-the-top and rooted in the real world.

Clip "This is too much madness to explain in one text."

It's fresh, funny, clever, and even an insightful window to contemporary South London. Then from nearby Wales...

Clip "I'm Oliver Tate and I know it's a bit of an affectation but sometimes I wish there was a film crew following my every move."

"Submarine" has the goofy charm of "Gregory's Girl" with the offbeat style of "Rushmore." It's the best romantic comedy since "(500) Days of Summer."

From the U.S. comes "Marwencol," a superb documentary about a man recovering from a violent assault. Mark Hogancamp built a 1/6 scale World War II village, peopled it with dolls serving as alter egos for those he knows, and then photographed them.

Clip "I created my own therapy, I could act out my revenge, my anger my rage in my photographs."

Revenge and rage figure prominently in a pair of Asian extreme films. From Japan, "Cold Fish" delivers a disturbing, provocative, hilarious, and brilliant film. It's an epic rollercoaster ride that leaves you feeling both drained and exhilarated.

Clip Murder

Much darker but equally stunning is Korea's "I Saw the Devil." It blends a serial killer procedural with a revenge tale where the line between good and evil grows blurred.

Revenge and obsession are at play in Pedro Almodovar's latest, "The Skin I Live In." It brilliantly mixes a Hitchcock thriller, a Cronenberg body horror film, and just a splash of ripe melodrama. Plus gorgeous production design, an evocative score, and sublime acting.

Sublime describes Italy's "Le Quattro Volte." Sometimes you crave fast food and sometimes you need something to satisfy more than just your hunger. "Le Quattro Volte" is cinematic slow food. It takes its time, is meticulous in its presentation, and then serves up a satisfying and nourishing feast.

A measured pace along with a superb sense of editing and cinematic space is on display in the hypnotic "Drive." Most of the story plays out without dialogue or exposition. But when there is dialogue we get great delivery from the likes of Albert Brooks.

Clip " For the rest of your life you're going to be looking over your shoulder. I'm telling you this because I want you to know the truth."

"Drive" is a satisfying and stylish thriller that resonates beyond its formula trappings.

Clip "Say Mommy..."

A mother's relationship with her troubled son is at the heart of Lynne Ramsey's impressionistic "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Once again Tilda Swinton floors us with a nuanced performance, while Ramsey shows how much storytelling can be done through images and sound design.

Clip Music

Which brings us to the best of the year: Terence Malick's "Tree of Life" is by no means perfect but it aspires to a level of artistry that leaves most other filmmakers in the dust. His film is true cinematic storytelling, and seduce us like one of Proust's Madeleines. "Tree of Life" achieves transcendence and delivers a religious experience for cinephiles.

So that's the cream of the 2011 crop.

For KPBS News, I'm Beth Accomando.