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Best of 2011

Here are the first five films that top my list of the best films of 2011, a list of films I believe every screenwriter should see.

Beginners
Writer/Director: Mike Mills

With a touch of Woody Allen romanticism, Mike Mills has made a heartfelt story of fathers and sons, the love and the pain of letting go of the past, and finding the courage to live your life and be true to yourself. One of the powerful major themes is acceptance, outright accepting those you love for their choices and supporting them, and learning to accept your past to help grow. The creativity of the storytelling reminds me of Annie Hall in many ways and Mike Mills is a major talent as both a screenwriter and director. Beginners is not only a wonderfully ambitious and thoughtful screenplay but very educational for screenwriters to read, especially due to the structure of the film, as well as the imagery, to illustrate how to handle all the these aspects in a script. Focus Features currently offers the script for download on their awards website: http://focusawards2011.com/#/beginners

 

Drive
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)

Drive is all about style and literally creating a “kick-ass” character. The unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) is such a compelling character because he has so many dimensions. The film opens with him as a getaway driver for thieves – but he doesn’t carry a gun, doesn’t participate in the actually burglary, and he’s so good at what he does, he’s the criminal you just respect. But he has integrity and becomes the lone hero who helps out people in need, like those heroes seen in many of Clint Eastwood’s westerns. Nicolas Winding Refn is definitely a talent to watch – I had the same feeling while watching Drive that I did when I watched my first Tarantino films [True Romance (writer) – and then of course Reservoir Dogs] and Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights).

 

The Skin I Live In
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Writers: Pedro Almodóvar (screenplay), Agustín Almodóvar (collaboration), Thierry Jonquet (novel “Tarantula”)

There’s not much I can say about my favorite Almodóvar film without giving too much away. Let’s just say it’s about a mad doctor who’s developed a new type of skin and leave it at that. Antonio Bandaras gives his finest performance as Dr. Ledgard. And the surprises and twists and turns is what makes this script memorable, and the big reveal haunted me for weeks, and still does. The Skin I Live In is the ultimate revenge fantasy.

 

Take Shelter
Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols

From the truth spewing neighbor recently released from a mental institution in Revolutionary Road, to the partner killing religious fanatic F.B.I. Agent in Boardwalk Empire, Michael Shannon is the go-to-guy for playing mentally deficient characters. His role in Take Shelter is no different. What’s so interesting about Shannon’s role, Curtis, in Take Shelter, is that he knows he’s going crazy, unlike John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, and that poses an interesting question – is it more scary to know you are going insane and can’t do anything about it? Curtis’ nightmares progressively get worse and are quite frightening, leading up to an ambiguous ending that really makes you think. Take Shelter is not an easy film that spoonfeeds you all the answers, but that’s what makes it so compelling and unforgettable.

 

Warrior
Director: Gavin O’Connor,
Writers: Gavin O’Connor (screenplay & story) & Anthony Tambakis (screenplay) & Cliff Dorfman (screenplay and story)

A story of two brothers, their alcoholic father, and a past that haunts all of them, set against the backdrop of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Warrior upstages David Mamet’s Redbelt as “the” MMA film. I would almost go so far to say Warrior is like the Raging Bull, or the Rocky, of MMA films. If you look at many of the great films focusing on boxers (or former boxers), from Raging Bull to On the Waterfront to 2010’s The Fighter, they deal with a strong story of two brothers, and Warrior is no different, taking this idea and applying it to MMA. The story is emotional without being too sentimental or melodramatic and even works in the current financial mortgage crisis. Whether you’re into sports or not, this is definitely a film, and script, to check out for the characters, story and themes presented—forgiveness, letting go of the past, love to heal wounds, regret.

Permanent link to this article: http://cinematicinspirations.com/2012/03/18/best-of-2011-first-five/

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