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Scarecrow Video's BEST OF 2011

With the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and Golden Globes already in the books and the Oscar nominations announced, Award Season is well underway. That means it’s time for Scarecrow’s picks for the BEST OF 2011.

First, the staffers nominated five favorite DVD/Blu-rays released in 2011. The Top Five vote-getters are:

5) (tie) Cave of Forgotten Dreams & Black Swan

It was a dead heat between Natalie Portman being slowly consumed by her idea of perfection and Werner Herzog’s mediation on ancient cave paintings.

4) The Social Network

Here’s what I said when it came out way back in January of 2011:  “If you've been wary of watching ‘The Facebook Movie,’ get over it…It's about power, ego, and a socially dysfunctional genius. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are near if not at the top of their already lofty games.”

3) True Grit    

We will follow Jeff Bridges and the Coen Brothers anywhere.

2) The Tree of Life

The film was boosted in the standings by votes from the Malick loyalists and newbies alike.

1) Attack the Block

If there’s one thing that can unite us as a staff, it’s awesome aliens.

 

Once we crowned the winners, everyone compiled his or her own list of ten (or so) favorites. Here now are those lists, along with some commentary by the people who picked them. All of these titles are now in the BEST OF 2011 special rental section.

 

Kevin C.

1) Another Year— Every Mike Leigh film is a miracle of cinema. Another Year is no exception, and may very well be his best film to date. With brilliant work from veteran Mike Leigh collaborators Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville.

2) Carlos—Criterion Collection

3) Children’s Hospital: Seasons 1 & 2

4) Louis CK: Hilarious

5) Kaiba (PAL)— The most visually engaging animated series since FLCL and Samurai Jack. From Masaaki Yuasa, the visionary director of Mindgame.

6) Never Let Me Go—A brilliant drama/low key sci-fi hybrid about a group of children destined to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. A delicate and moving film of deep empathy.

7) Le Quattro Volte— A dialogue-free enigma of a movie that incidentally happens to be the most fascinating documentary about goats I've ever seen. Turns out, when closely observed, goats are weird.

8) Stone (2010)

9) Treme: Season 1

10) The Woman—The first great horror movie of the decade. Twisted, weird, sadistic, satiric, gruesome and darkly funny. If only there were more horror movies like this that didn't condescend to the audience. Not for the squeamish. From Lucky McKee, the director of May.

 

Alex

1) Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

2) Eames: The Architect and The Painter

3) I Saw The Devil

4) Love Exposure

5) Modern Family: Season 2

6) Norwegian Wood

7) Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

8) Summer Wars

 

Anissa

1) Any Human Heart

2) Breaking Bad: Season 3

3) Design for Living—Criterion Collection

4) Downton Abbey: Season 2

5) The Victorians

6) The Jean Harlow Collection—This set from the Warner Archives includes Bombshell, RiffRiff, Reckless, The Girl From Missouri, Suzy, Personal Property, and Saratoga.

 

Bryan T.

1) Batman: Year One

2) Fast Five

3) Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown

4) Kill The Irishman

5) Let Me In

6) Mesrine: Parts 1 and 2

7) Pee-Wee Herman Show: Live on Broadway

8) Tangled

9) The Tempest (Julie Taymor, 2010)

10) True Legend

 

Bryan W.

1) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

2) Kuroneko—Criterion Collection

3) Naked—Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

4) The Phantom Carriage—Criterion Collection

5) The Sacrifice (1988)

6) Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom—Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

7) Solaris (1972)—Criterion Collection

8) Van Dieman’s Land

9) The Walking Dead: Season 1

 

Elicia

1) Adventure Time: My Two Favorite People

2) The Big Bang Theory: Season 4

3) Conan the Adventurer

4) Filmgore

5) Killer Party—Warner Archive

6) Norwegian Ninja

7) The People vs. George Lucas

8) Portlandia: Season 1

9) Superheroes

10) The Tillman Story

 

Jason

1) Hickey and Boggs—MGM Limited

2) Island of Lost Souls—Criterion Collection

3) The Killing—Criterion Collection

4) Kiss Me Deadly—Criterion Collection

5) Midnight in Paris

6) Night of the Demon

7) Park Row—MGM Limited

8) Rango

9) Ulzana’s Raid

10) Vigo: The Complete Jean Vigo—Criterion's set of Vigo’s films includes A Propos de Nice, Zero for Conduct, and L’Atalante.

 

Jen

1) Bridesmaids

2) Cedar Rapids

3) Jane Eyre—My pick for Michael Fassbender’s best role this year.

4) Meek’s Cutoff—I lived in Omaha, Nebraska from age five to age ten and heard many tragic tales of being lost on the prairie. Kelly Reichardt’s film evokes that basic fear and a lot more under the surface.

5) Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

6) Parks and Recreation: Season 3—One of the most perfect seasons of television in recent history.

7) Star Wars: Original trilogy (Blu-ray)—Special Editions vs. original theatrical version complaints aside, Star Wars, Empire & Jedi look great on Blu-ray. If you can navigate the menus on the extras discs, you’ll find deleted scenes and the part of the Holiday Special that introduces Boba Fett.

8) Super 8

9) Tangled

10) Two In The Wave—A fine primer on the French New Wave, as explored through the relationship between Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

 

Jensen

1) 12 Angry Men (1957)—Criterion Collection

2) Broadcast News—Criterion Collection

3) Dog Pound

4) The Fighter

5) Kojak: Season 2

6) NEDS: Non-Educated Delinquents

7) Sweet Smell of Success—Criterion Collection

8) Waste Land

9) The Way Back

10) Wheedle’s Groove

 

Joel

1) Andy Hardy Collection: Volume 1—This Warner Archive collection includes You’re Only Young Once, Judge Hardy and Son, Out West with The Hardys, Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, and Life Begins for Andy Hardy.

2) Basil Dearden’s London Underground—This set from Criterion Collection’s Eclipse series has Victim, All Night Long, League of Gentlemen, and Sapphire.

3) Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

4) Despair

5) If God is Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise

6) Mondo Candido

7) Nickel Ride/99 and 44/100% Dead!

8) Night Flight

9) Senso—Criterion Collection

10) Woody Allen: A Documentary

 

Kevin S.

1) Blue Valentine

2) Boxing Gym

3) Crazy, Stupid, Love

4) The Illusionist

5) The Ernie Kovacs Collection

6) Machete Maidens Unleashed

7) The Makioka Sisters—Criterion Collection

8) Poetry

9) Housekeeping

10) Tales from Earthsea

 

Kirsten

1) Amer

2) Hanna

3) Inside Job

4) Marwencol

5) Parking Lot Movie

6) Plastic Planet

7) Tabloid

8) Tango Lesson

9) Van Dieman’s Land

10) The Woman

 

Laird

1) Brute Corps

2) Carnival Magic

3) Enter The Ninja—MGM Limited

4) Horror Express

5) Quatermass Xperiment—MGM Limited

6) Rituals

7) Santa Sangre

8) Snuff Box

9) Sugar Hill—MGM Limited

10) Things

 

Marc

1) 127 Hours

2) Arrietty

3) Bellflower

4) Captain America: The First Avenger

5) Endhiran

6) The Incredible Melting Man

7) Naked Kiss—Criterion Collection

8) No Blade of Grass—Warner Archive

9) Plastic Planet

10) The Ricky Gervais Show: Season 1

 

Mark

1) Alan Bennett Collection

2) Dark of the Sun—Warner Archive

3) Silent Naruse—The set from Criterion’s Eclipse series includes No Blood Relation, Apart From You, Every-Night Dreams, Street Without End, and Flunky, Work Hard.

4) Kremlin Letter

5) Miller’s Crossing (Blu-ray)

6) The Music Room—Criterion Collection

7) Obsession (Blu-ray)

8) The Prowler (1951)

9) Shock Corridor—Criterion Collection

10) Yolanda and The Thief—Warner Archive

 

Matt

1) Amer--This experimental, almost entirely dialogue-free thriller charts the psychosexual awakening of a young woman through the prism of 40 years of Italian exploitation cinema.

2) The Arbor--Not quite a documentary, not really a biopic, The Arbor tells the true story of young British playwright Andrea Dunbar using archived audio interviews with the real-life subjects lip-synched by actors. Completely inverts the rules of this sort of thing.

3) Beginners --After his mother dies, Ewan McGregor's terminally ill father (Christopher Plummer, terrific) finally comes out of the closet. This quiet drama jumps back and forth in time to show the ways that we trap ourselves in our own behavior, just as our parents once did to themselves.

4) Big Country (Blu-ray)--William Wyler's 1958 western about an almost stubbornly righteous east coast lawyer (Gregory Peck) who finds himself at the center of a vicious clan feud after marrying into a cattle baron's family. Peck's pre-dawn fight with Charlton Heston, filmed almost entirely in wide shots, will change your life.

5) Blow-Out—Criterion Collection --Brian De Palma's meta-masterpiece concerns a movie sound man (John Travolta) who's an earwitness to a political assassination. One of the most gorgeous and suspenseful films I've ever seen.

6) Certified Copy--Iranian master Abbas Kiarstoami's examination of...well, everything, but especially our relationship to art and what that says about our relationships with each other. Rambling, romantic, metaphysical, at times didactic and at other times mystifying.

7) Cold Weather--A new-wave slacker detective story set and filmed in Portland, Oregon. Funny & mysterious without ever tipping over into shallow grabs at cheap suspense.

8) Meek’s Cutoff --An angry political allegory about the post-Bush years disguised as a revisionist art-western.

9) Senna--A documentary about legendary F1 racer Ayrton Senna, composed almost entirely of archive footage and news reports, with no narration or talking-head interviews. You don't have to know or care about racing to find this completely gripping.

10) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives --Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's experimental meditation on the power of memory and the death of celluloid concerns a terminally ill man who literally can recall every life he's ever lead. Indeed, sometimes people from his previous incarnations show up for dinner with his family. Contains a scene in which a woman has sex with a catfish. You either want to see that or you don't.

 

Megan

1) Carancho

2) Fish Child

3) Fish Tank—Criterion Collection

4) Incendies

5) Island of Lost Souls—Criterion Collection

6) Misfits: Series 1

7) Source Code

8) Tabloid

9) Treme: Season 1

10) Troll Hunter

 

Paige

1) 12 Angry Men—Criterion Collection

2) AAAHH! Real Monsters: Season 1

3) Bambi (Blu-ray)

4) Downton Abbey: Season 1

5) Jackie Brown (Blu-ray)

6) Madagascar (2011)

7) The Trip: Complete Series

8) Venture Bros: Season 4, Part 2

9) Dumbo (Blu-ray)

10) World Without Sun

 

Rhias

1) Animals and More Animals

2) The Borgias: Season 1

3) Cracks

4) Flooding With Love For The Kid

5) George Harrison: Living in the Material World

6) I Love You Phillip Morris

7) Island of Lost Souls—Criterion Collection

8) Super

9) Paul F. Tompkins: You Should Have Told Me

10) Velvet Goldmine (Blu-ray)

 

Rich

1) Adventure Time: My Two Favorite People

2) Enter The Void

3) Hanna

4) Rubber

5) The Woman

 

Ryan

1) Animal Kingdom

2) Another Year

3) Blue Valentine

4) Dogtooth

5) Hesher

6) Jack Goes Boating

7) Legend of Billie Jean

8) Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

9) Rushmore—Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

10) Something Wild—Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

 

Shawn

1) 13 Assassins

2) Bridesmaids

3) Dogtooth

4) Doctor Who: Series 6

5) The Future

6) Hesher

7) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 6

8) Poor Pretty Eddie

9) Rubber

10) Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

 

Spenser

1) 99 River Street—MGM Limited-- Phil Karlson is one of my favorite directors. If you are not familiar with him you should take a peek at his section in the store sometime as he did all kinds of stuff. Even Elvis movies. His best work are his unique, hard-boiled films like Kansas City Confidential, The Phenix City Story and this shamefully underseen little thriller that is packed with all sorts of shifty characters and unexpected plot points. Highly recommended to noir fans.

2) Community: Season 2--This is a genuinely funny TV shows that took me a while to get into but now I'm quite a fan. Like most cult TV series, Community may not last much longer so enjoy it while you can.

3) Destroy All Monsters--I've been a Kaiju fan since I was a kid. I had a condensed, silent, black and white Super-8 version from Ken Films of this movie. The Blu-Ray features the same Super-8 film (in color) as a bonus feature. It's an all-star monster jam with a no-nonsense alien invasion. Movies like this make me feel young.

4) Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (Blu-ray)--More Kaiju! This one is the finale to a series of films made in the late nineties. All three are worth seeing and may very well be the best all-around giant monster movies ever. The first two films came out on BluRay a few years back and, despite minimal bonus features, all look really great. Smashy-Smashy

5) Gazebo—Warner Archive--Another favorite of mine as a kid. I had forgotten about it until the Warner Archive DVD came out this year. I've gotten to become a bigger Glenn Ford fan over the past few years and he is really funny in this comedy about murder, corpses and a helpful pigeon.

6) Laurel & Hardy: Essential Collection--This collects most all of the short talkies and features Laurel and Hardy made for the Hal Roach Studios. A lot of this stuff has been hard to find (except here at Scarecrow ) and it is good to have back in circulation. A must see and must have for classic comedy fans and everybody else should give it a watch too!

7) Aki Kaurismaki’s Leningrad Cowboys—From Criterion’s Eclipse series this set contains Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, and Leningrad Cowboys: Total Balakaika Show. The Eclipse folks also released Aki's Proletariat Trilogy a few years back. Get 'em both! Watch 'em all!

8) Max Manus--Even though Scarecrow had an import DVD of this film for a while it finaly got released domestically and I got around to watching it. There have been a whole bunch of war resistance films released over the past few years. All are good and this is one of the best.

9) Web of Death--A Shaw Brothers film with lots of colorful costumes, bizarre sets, far-out creatures, lively kung fu and plenty of sundry weirdness. If you like the stranger, more fantasy offerings from the Brothers Shaw (like Buddha's Palm, Cave of Silken Web or Holy Flame in the Martial World) than you are in for a special evening.

10) The Weird World of Blowfly--By day he is Clarence Reid, an aging songwriter and musician who was heavily involved in the seventies Florida soul and disco scene. By night he is Blowfly, a strange super villain looking dude in a cape whose claim to fame is a series of lewd comedy records featuring foul mouthed parodies of pop songs and his own, original, proto-rap tunes. This documentary gives us an honest look at the complicated and contradictory dirty old man behind the mask.

 

Travis

1) Archer: Season 2

2) Children’s Hospital: Seasons 1 & 2

3) Fringe: Season 3

4) Hanna

5) Louie: Season 1

6) Monsters

7) Prohibition—The Ken Burns mini-series

8) Rec 2

9) Wonders of the Universe

10) X-Men: First Class

 

Wes

1) Adventure Buddies—For more on Adventures Buddies, please click here.

2) Beginners

3) George Harrison: Living in the Material World

4) Kung Fu Panda 2

5) God Bless Ozzy Osbourne

6) Parks and Recreation: Season 3

7) Troll Hunter

For supplemental listening: Matt, Alex, & I talk about our picks in Episode 20 of The Scarecrow Video Podcast.

Check out the list of  our 40 Best Selling DVD & Blu-ray of 2011 as well.

Head in today and check out the section.  Happy New Year, all!
 

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