Our Critics’ Top 10 Lists

12/21/2011 4:00 AM |


A Brighter Summer Day
A cruel story of youth, paced to within an inch of its life yet expansive enough to live in—Edward Yang’s lost and found 1991 masterpiece is a gift from the past.

Curator Tom Tykwer makes personal films from which he’s completely absent—save for his brainstorms, favorite neighborhood haunts, and friends’ art projects. As both halves of a long-term Berlin-boho couple fall for the same man, Tykwer makes the humanist case for polyamory, which is, roughly, “just look at all these lovely, lovely people.”

Tree of Life and Certified Copy
Everyone has their reasons for Terrence Malick’s fifth; mine is that I can remember no film that so quickly inspired such a vast, thrilling body of criticism. Meanwhile, Robert Coover’s short-story shadowplay “Matinée,” from the July 25 New Yorker, was the best possible reply to Certified Copy, layering more echoes over Abbas Kiarostami’s ghostly call-and-response.

Margaret and A Separation
The differently idiosyncratic legal systems of New York and Tehran pull together far-flung representatives of metropolitan life to talk past each other in respective writer-directors Kenneth Longergan and Asghar Farhadi’s dialogue, so teemingly evocative of class, cultural status, taste, political orientation, emotional hang-ups and moral paradox.

As the young Brooklynite Alex Ross Perry’s supremely antsy road movie The Color Wheel hit the festival circuit, the reRun graciously made his 2009 debut poll-eligible. It’s a self-parodic, self-flagellating, no-budget Gravity’s Rainbow riff with a sense of America, and Americana, as a fathomless, perplexing and sinister warren of scabrously funny nonsequitur.

As the tagalong skate-videographer and mixtape master for SoCal thrashers whose knee-skinning, 40-swilling reveries are becoming a lifestyle faster than they know, Tristan Patterson evokes adolescence in all its regrettable purity.

Lars von Trier can even make self-pitying depressive wish-fulfillment aesthetically ravishing.

The New Museum’s exhibition of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s videos, in which young men play with fire opposite oblique reminders of absence and political violence, is both playful reincarnation, like his films, and an ambivalent inquiry into what youth knows of death.