The 6th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2011:

At times entering a movie theater was like wandering into a vast wasteland in 2011…but there was light…I swear…

Box office receipts were down in 2011 – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a very solid year for cineastes.  A sluggish economy; the ascendance of launching specialty films through VOD; and an unseemly glut of similarly minded, awkwardly titled sequels, prequels, threequels, reboots, preboots, 3D flicks, animated tales and family films left most moviegoers either broke, confused or disillusioned.  Despite this seeming rut, there were still plenty of diamonds in the rough both in the art houses and the cineplexes during this long, weird year in film.  Like Smetana’s Die Moldau (used so righteously by Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life) these great films whispered to us quietly at first, almost like a hum from the distant past…and then announced themselves with bombast.  Memory, myth and the magic of cinema were boldly on display for those willing to indulge.

For those lucky and daring enough to see it, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul took us down the cosmic rabbit hole and cycled through time in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (a film technically from 2010, but that didn’t see its limited release stateside until March 2011).  It was a fitting way to start the year, as what emerged from this cosmic cycling for the observant filmgoer was nostalgia run gloriously amuck.  All year-long nostalgia was evidenced in just about anything that gained traction – from multiplex concoctions like Super 8 and Captain America, to art house fare like Midnight in Paris and The Artist, to populist Oscar-grab flicks like Hugo and War Horse.  This longing for the simpler, happier days of the past seemed to be at war with films overwhelmed by an impending doom (see Melancholia, Take Shelter or even Margin Call). Filmmakers were simultaneously hung over from the global economic crisis and fascinated by the 2012 apocalypse predictions.  Meanwhile, the big studios lazily greenlit a ton of stuff we’ve seen before…but in handing these projects over to up-and-coming directors trying to prove something rather than the usual hacks, films like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol were far more entertaining than they had any right to be. 

One film dared to touch on both this sense of nostalgia and the depressing sense of doom, married it with a spiritual study of grief, and bookended the tragedy and uplift with the beginning and end of time.  The Tree of Life was reminiscent of a multitude of past great works and echoed themes seen in other films that would stand tall in 2011 (most notably Melancholia and Take Shelter) but it was also unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and Terrence Malick confounded audiences with his meditation on the very meaning of our existence in this crazy, chaotic, beautiful world.

The year closed out just as it had been prophesied with a glut of familiar films (two nostalgic family films from Spielberg? two Oscar hopefuls celebrating silent cinema? seven hundred and twenty-eight kids films? a remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo already?) that didn’t produce anything that compared to what we saw earlier in the year from Weerasethakul, Malick or Von Trier, but the quality and the sentiments were high.  Hollywood came across as that abandoned puppy dog begging the audience to let it please them.  And we opened our pocket-books.  The hope for something original in 2012 is dim, but at least we’ll have the light from Malick’s The Tree of Life to look back on fondly with nostalgia and heartache.


The Year in Pictures:

The eyes of all the spirits of filmdom’s past were looking on at us from the very beginning of 2011 as seen through UNCLE BOONMEE.






So blow up your Golden Globes and sit on it, Oscar!

The Schleicher Spin proudly presents:

The 6th Annual Davies:

Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film for the Year 2011.

The Top Ten Films of 2011:

  1. The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick
  2. Melancholia – Lars Von Trier
  3. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  4. Take Shelter – Jeff Nichols
  5. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn
  6. Jane Eyre – Cary Fukunaga
  7. Young Adult – Jason Reitman
  8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Rupert Wyatt
  9. Source Code – Duncan Jones
  10. Sarah’s Key – Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Honorable Mentions:

Films I wished I had been able to screen prior to this:  Mysteries of Lisbon, Moneyball, A Dangerous Method, Hugo, Carnage, A Separation, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Picture:   The Tree of Life

Best Director:  Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life

Best Actor:  Michael Shannon for Take Shelter

Best Actress:  Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia

Best Supporting Actor:  Patton Oswalt for Young Adult

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain for The Tree of Life and Take Shelter

Best Original Screenplay: Jeff Nichols for Take Shelter

Best Adapted Screenplay: Hossein Amini for Drive

Worst Screenplay:  Dustin Lance Black for his complete mess of a script for J. Edgar

Best Editing: Contagion

Worst Editing:  J. Edgar

Best Original Music Score:  John Williams for War Horse

Best Soundtrack (of previously composed material):  (TIE) for the amazing use of classical music in both The Tree of Life and Melancholia

Best Cinematography:  Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life

Best Special Effects:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Most Underrated Film: Young Adult

Most Overrated Film:  The Artist

Best Guilty Pleasure:  Immortals

Best Comedy: Bridesmaids

Best Sci-Fi Film (Not Based on a Franchise):  Source Code

Best Horror Film:  Insidius

Best Action Film:  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Film I Forgot About from Earlier in the Year but Just Remembered Now that I Really Liked:  Cedar Rapids

Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed:  The varied, artistic and probing looks at psychologically and emotionally disturbed people and how their illness affects their families (The Tree of Life, Melancholia, Take Shelter)

Movie Trend I Ignored:  Films dealing with sexually dysfunctional/disturbed people (The pop-comedies No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits, or the artsier A Dangerous Method and Shame)

Biggest Disappointment:  The Descendants

Worst Picture (That Should Have Been Good)J. Edgar

Worst Picture (That I Knew Would Be Bad):  Fright Night


Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:

The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 3rd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 1st Annual Davies Awards in Film

We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.

Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.


Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2011. 

What movies would make your Top Ten List? 

Speak your mind and join the discussion by leaving a comment!

If you’re a fellow film blogger with your own awards, top ten list or 2011 wrap-up share your links in the comment form. 


  1. Good stuff. I didn’t think much of Melancholia or Drive though. Take Shelter and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia are on my “to see” list. Michael Shannon is just incredible in the few things I’ve seen him in.

    Glad the cult of “Tree” is spreading its roots!

    I enjoyed Melancholia’s “maximumism” and Drive’s “minimalism.” The Tree of Life will surely have a thriving cult for years to come. –DHS

  2. I just did the 5th annual Bobby-james Film Awards (posted on my facebook). Interesting selections here, I was in fact criticized for my ommission of Take Shelter – though I haven’t seen it yet. Here were my selections:

    Achievement in Cinematography: The Tree of Life
    Achievement in Editing: Warrior
    Best Special Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    Achievement in Art Direction: The Tree of Life
    Best Original Score: The Artist
    Best Original Song: “Bridge of Light” – Happy Feet Two
    Best Adapted Screenplay: The Help
    Best Original Screenplay: Warrior
    Best Performance by a Voice-Over Actor: Elijah Wood – Happy Feet Two
    Best Performance by a Voice-Over Actress: Abigail Breslin – Rango
    Best Performance by a Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz – Water for Elephants
    Best Performance by a Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain – The Help
    Best Performance by a Leading Actor: Jean Dujardin – The Artist
    Best Performance by a Leading Actress: Berenice Bejo – The Artist
    The Lumiere Award for Directing: Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist
    Animated Feature: Happy Feet Two
    Action Feature: X-Men: First Class
    Sci-Fi/Fantasy Feature: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
    Horror/Thriller Feature: Insidious
    Comedy/Musical Feature: Friends with Benefits
    Independent/Foreign Feature: The Artist (France)
    Dramatic Feature: The Help

    It’s interesting that you found The Artist to be overrated because I think it was a classic masterpiece. I’ve been saying for the past few years that I think the market would be conducive to a black and white, silent film and sure enough here came The Artist.

    I was torn between Bridesmaids and Friends with Benefits for comedy of the year, but due to its better screenplay and cleaner production value, I chose Friends with Benefits (I believe Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are an incredibly talented on-screen duo).

    Oddly enough, Melancholia wasn’t even on my end of the year radar – if you recall I gave it a B+ and that was generous. During the nomination process, I highly favored The Artist (10 nods), The Tree of Life (7 nods), The Help (7 nods), Happy Feet Two (7 nods) and Water for Elephants (7 nods).

    Good read. And be sure you check out the first ever As Seen By Film Awards, coming later this month (this oughta be fun getting 6 people together to hash out five nominees in each category – then picking the winner – to be announced in early February).


    Bobby – The As Seen By Film Awards sounds like quite a challenge – getting 6 bloggers to agree on anything 🙂 –DHS

  3. You got some heavy hitters in your not seen list David. 2011 was a great year for cinema. The best since 2007 in my eyes. Another film you should investigate if not on your radar is Shame. The Tree Of Life at number one sounds good to me!!! Great write up.

    Maurizio – Shame is in my Netflix queue. I think this was the best year since 2007, too. The Tree of Life (much like 2007’s There Will Be Blood) is fast becoming one of my favorite films of all-time, and Melancholia is a stone-cold masterpiece as well that I will be returning to for years to come. –DHS

  4. Dave, as always, I love reading your end-of-year lists, though I am once again woefully behind on my movie-viewing. It’s no surprise seeing “Tree of Life” at the top of your list. I don’t know where I’d rank it, though. It was beautifully filmed and the score was great, but it didn’t connect with me at all. After the first hour, I lost all emotional investment in it. I tried–really, I did, but it didn’t connect with me the way “The New World” did. But I fully salute Malick on going with artistic vision. We need more directors like him.

    A movie I know would be in my Top Ten of the Year actually played the RItz Bourse for only a week or so. I don’t know if you’re a Conan O’Brien fan, but I was really impressed with “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.” I thought it was a fascinating documentary of the tour he did following his departure from “The Tonight Show.” I know it turned a few people off to him, since it does show him being a jerk at times, but it gave me a new respect for him, in that he saw an opportunity in the midst of adversity and ran with it.

    Chris – I am a Conan fan, but I haven’t seen that documentary. I’ll have to check it out – thanks! –DHS

  5. I still have way too many movies to catch up on to make a list of my own yet (hopefully by the time of the Oscar broadcast I’ll have something done), but I’m very happy to see The Tree of Life at number one here–already one of my all-time favorites and easily my number one of the year from my first viewing.

    Also like seeing Hanna in the Honorable Mentions, and can’t wait to see Take Shelter–it never played around me. I didn’t much like Melancholia or Uncle Boonmee, though. The latter I feel guilty about, because I know I’m just on the wrong wavelength and didn’t get it, but the former I think was downright bad in a lot of ways, though it had a couple good elements/moments/performances. Just a big empty movie about everything being meaningless.

    A couple movies that will probably make my list that I don’t see here: The Mill and the Cross and The Sunset Limited. Both deserve more attention.

    Stephen – I don’t feel Melancholia was about meaninglessness – it was about learning how to play pretend with others – or in other words, learning how to create art to make life meaningful. The Mill and the Cross is definitely on my radar – hadn’t heard of Sunset Limited, however. I’ll have to look into that. I’m stoked now about Once Upon a Time in Anatolia as well thanks to the suggestion from CondemnedMovies. –DHS

  6. The musical score award for me is actually a tie between Dario Marianelli for JANE EYRE and John Williams for WAR HORSE.

    But what a magnificent presentation here David, in every sense! We seem to in agreement on a number of films (something I’ve known over the past year with some of your posted reviews) The only assertion that you make here is calling THE ARTIST the most overrated film of the year. For me that utterly charming confection is one of the year’s best films. Just this past week I published my Top 10 at WitD, and here were the choices:

    1. The Tree of Life
    2. Mysteries of Lisbon
    3. Bal (Honey)
    4. Of Gods and Men
    5. War Horse
    6. A Separation
    7. Melancholia
    8. The Artist
    9. Hugo
    10. Jane Eyre

    The runner-up list and individual awards are as follows:

    22 Very Good Movies that contended for the main list of ten, and stand as runners up in a very rich year. As all 22 are basically equal, I listed them alphabetically. Admittedly it was exceedingly difficult/painful to keep ‘Poetry,’ ‘Tomboy’ and ‘Drive’ off the Top 10, but there just wasn’t any more room:

    A Dangerous Method (Canada)

    Cave of the Forgotten Dreams (Canada/USA/France)

    Certified Copy (France)

    The Conspirator (USA)

    Coriolanus (UK)

    The Descendants (USA)

    Drive (USA)

    Incendies (Canada)

    Like Crazy (USA)

    Margaret (USA)

    The Mill and the Cross (Poland/Sweden)

    Pina (Germany)

    Poetry (South Korea)

    Le Quattro Volte (Italy)

    Shame (UK)

    13 Assassins (Japan)

    Tomboy (France)

    Tuesday After Christmas (Romania)

    United Red Army (Japan)

    Weekend (UK)

    Win Win (USA)

    Winter in Wartime (Holland)

    Five Best Documentaries:


    Cave of Forgotten Dreams

    To Hell and Back

    Into the Abyss

    Harper Lee and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

    Best Director: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

    Best Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)

    Best Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Fassbender (Shame)

    Best Actress in a Leading Role: Anna Paquin (Margaret)

    Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Hunter McCracken (Tree of Life)

    Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)

    Best Cinematography: Emmanuele Lubezki (Tree of Life)

    Best Musical Score: Dario Marianelli (Jane Eyre)
    John Williams (War Horse)

    Look forward to another year of cinematic discourse with you my friend!

    Sam – this year in film seemed longer and fuller than usual (though I don’t think I watched more films than previous years). Looking back on my Jane Eyre review I forgot how much I liked the Marianelli score – but War Horse was more recent on the mind I guess. I also forgot about Winter in Wartime, which I enjoyed very much. Here’s to another great year at the movies in 2012! (Though something tells me this will be an off year – unless Malick’s next film is ready for release – ha!) –DHS

  7. My job as a critic gets me out to the movies every week, but mainly for blockbusters/mainstream releases, so I’m severely behind in viewing a lot of what will probably be considered the best of this year.

    But I love lists like yours, David, as they help me build up the Netflix queue!

    With that in mind, here’s my comparatively feeble attempt at recapping 2011:

    Julio – I have a hunch you’ll find much to ponder in The Tree of Life. I hope you get to see it soon. –DHS

  8. I finally caught HUGO – and here are my thoughts: Overlong and disjointed, this works neither as a pure kid’s adventure film nor as a didactic plea for film preservation…yet, in its own odd lovely way, it works beautifully as film about our love of films and is full of technical razzle-dazzle, enchantment and real emotion. It’s the strangest thing from Scorsese since Kundun.

    In other words, I would probably give it an honorable mention – in many ways I had similar feelings about WAR HORSE. And I think it was far better than THE ARTIST and I would’ve been happier had Scorsese’s film, which had more substance and inventiveness, beat it out for best picture at the Oscars.

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