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@ the Movies, 2011 :: Kevin Langston’s picks

by Kevin Langson
Contributor
Monday Jan 2, 2012
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Below are Kevin Langston’s choices for the best films of 2011.


Weekend

Like a British Mumblecore film but with less meandering and more emotion, this indie queer gem follows the weekend affair of two guys who meet at a bar. What was intended as a one-night stand expands into something considerably more, but this is complicated by the fact that one of them is moving to the US at the end of the weekend.


A Separation

Iran’s entry for the Academy Awards, this splendidly acted film is bursting with dramatic twists and turns, all of which suggest something about class and religious identity in contemporary Iran. When a middle class man, newly separated from his wife who longs to move to the US, hires a working class, devout woman to care for his sick father, a tense confrontation leads to an act of violence, which in turn leads to much dispute and ambiguity.


Martha Marcy May Marlene

I have trouble with the name, but the disturbance of the film itself stuck with me. Elizabeth Olsen gives a riveting performance as a psychologically damaged escapee from an abusive backwaters cult who has difficulty adapting to the safe, bourgeois lake home of her sister and brother-in-law.


Shame

Michael Fassbender’s member may get a lot of press, but this film has so much more to offer. As psychologically unsettling as #3, Steve McQueen’s new film is based on research he did on sex addiction. Fassbender’s character is a suave Manhattan executive forever grasped by the compulsion for an anonymous sex connection. He faces a bit of an upheaval when his emotionally fragile, transient sis shows up to stay at his place.


Circumstance

A stunning debut, this Iran-set drama tells the story of a wealthy family dealing with societal strictures as the teenage daughter rebels, slipping out into nocturnal bohemia and having a lesbian affair with her intimate friend. And, the newly returned son espouses a fundamentalist ideology that threatens to conflict violently with their progressive lifestyle. Whereas sex is a prison in #4, here it is a liberating force, part of the youthful process of self-definition. Sumptuous and propulsive.


This article is part of our "Award Watch 2012" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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