Armond White looks back at the best movies that surpass and defy the year’s worst
We’ve reached the point where movies are less popular than other forms of pop culture yet remain compelling—as much for what they recall about the humanities as the inhumanity they routinely deliver. Thus 2011′s year-end mania for the specious cultural tributes of The Artist and Hugo, even though both films, while apparently reverential, were actually false to how cinema is made and enjoyed. Thus, the critics’ disrespect for Spielberg’s two ingenious state-of-the-art assessments (to be examined in the next issue of CityArts). Thus, this year’s better-than list, which again finds superior alternatives that defy falsely hyped movies. Art vs. Trash.
Denis Villeneuve’s blood-rich inquiry into the epic complexities of man’s inhumanity-to-man defies the nihilistic excuses favored by David Cronenberg’s Freudian one-gunmanship and ethnic spite. Catharsis vs. Egotism.
The Adventures of Tintin>The Artist
Spielberg restores the essence of cinema (from the Greek “kinesis,” meaning movement), defying Hazanavicius’ too-cute silent movie hoax. Joy vs. Inanity.
Spielberg revives genre esthetics as spiritual expression, defying Scorsese’s fatuous history lecture. Feeling vs. Sentimentality.
Rupert Wyatt reboots the original series as a fresh, wild vision of modern frustration, defying Fincher’s apathetic wallow in pathology and brutality. Emotion vs. Style.
Attack the Block> A Separation
Joe Cornish’s clever, good-humored exploration of sci-fi social conflict defies Asghar Farhadi’s obvious Iranian didacticism. Action vs. Talk.
Greg Mottola, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost grasp the depth of American pop culture while Apichatpong Weerasethakul peddles Asian obscurantism. Joyous vs. Spurious.
Eric Mendelsohn parses the limits of communal empathy, exposing Lars Von Trier’s insincere apocalypse chic. Authenticity vs. Artificiality.
Godard pinpoints outmoded media and politics, defying Terrence Malick’s arty navel-gazing. Relevance vs. Irrelevance.
Olivier Megaton and Zoe Saldana find new racial, sexual and genre archetypes to discover the meaning of love, defying the stereotyping of black women’s civil rights struggle. Progress vs. Relapse.
Winnie the Pooh>Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Disney turns children’s literature into cinematic grace defying Stephen Daldry’s attempt to turn 9/11 tragedy into a fairy tale. Beauty vs. Shamelessness.
Phyllida Lloyd and Meryl Streep wittily reinvent the biopic in a Shakespearean (British) tradition, defying the exploitation of Hoover and Monroe. Insight vs. Triteness.
Adam Sandler’s affectionate, very broad ethnic satire defies Alexander Payne’s smug denial of America’s ethnic history. Humility vs. Sanctimony
What’s Your Number?, Kaboom>Bridesmaids
Gregg Araki and Anna Faris flaunt revelatory, nonjudgmental sexual choices while Kristin Wiig imitates frat boy vulgarity. Freedom vs. Conformity.
Don McGlynn’s gospel music history traces beginnings of art in faith while Werner Herzog’s loss of faith prompts his history of art. Heaven vs. Purgatory
David Gordon Green indulges his love of fiction and adolescence while college dropout Woody Allen name drops and disrespects his literary betters. Humor vs. Hoax
Prom, Polytechnique> We Need to Talk About Kevin
Villeneuve and Joe Nussbaum’s complementary tales of school trauma defied Lynn Ramsey and Tilda Swinton’s nihilistic chic version of Columbine psychosis. Visionaries vs. Pseuds.
Shawn Levy explores fatherhood and masculinity in professional competition while Bennett Miller and Brad Pitt take the fun out of baseball. Entertainment vs. Sophistry.
Follow Armond White on Twitter @3xChair