10 Must-See Movies of November 2011

By  · Published on November 2nd, 2011

Last month the Oscar season officially kicked off, and this month we’ll be getting plenty more Oscar baiters and real contenders to add to the mix. We’ll get another Brett Ratner film, the 25th film of the decade from Clint Eastwood, another upbeat audience friendly film from Lars von Trier, and the most expected and clichéd, a Martin Scorsese “kids” film.

A fairly promising month, right? I’ve already seen a few films coming out this month, and there’s plenty of good-to-great films to see, even one or two that didn’t make it on this list.

Honorable Mentions: My Week with Marilyn (an extremely enjoyable film with a great performance by Kenneth Branagh), Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and London Boulevard (a solid anti-cliché gangster film). But here are the names who made it all the way to the top ten:

10. J. Edgar (November 9th)

God, I hope this is Clint Eastwood’s comeback. The last memorable film he made was Letters From Iwo Jima, and since then it’s been mediocre disappointment after mediocre disappointment. Changeling, Grand Torino, Invictus, and the noble effort Hereafter are all Eastwood at his most schmaltzy and condescending. Getting an idea in an Eastwood film isn’t enough now, he wants to hammer you in the face with it. Hopefully with a good script from Dustin Lance Black (Milk), this will mark Eastwood’s return with a grand biopic.

9. The Muppets (Nov 23rd)

Considering I don’t have a great nostalgia for The Muppets, my excitement for their return is not as flaming and uncontrollable as most on the internet. With that said, boy, those parody trailers have been great. Nearly every one of them have been as clever as I hope the film will be. Having Jason Segel shepherding the project is a promising sign that that will be the case. This seems to be a project coming out of true love for these characters, especially for Segel, rather than some cheap cash grab. The first online reactions from last night’s L.A. press screening imply that the film will get me on the Muppets bandwagon, and make any fan tear up and smile ear to ear.

8. Into the Abyss (Nov 11th)

Another year, another Werner Herzog film. The word of mouth on the festival circuit has been fantastic, so this is undoubtedly going to be another home run for the filmmaker. Although, despite being in the minority on this, I was slightly underwhelmed by Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. To sound more snobby, it wasn’t one of his greater films. From what I and everyone else who pays attention has heard, his documentary on death row is a moving and humanistic exploration on life and death.

7. Immortals (Nov 11th)

The trailers for Tarsem’s Immortals haven’t been anything to write home about. There’s an odd stiltedness to how the footage is being showed, and they make the film look shockingly small in scope. One point the trailers do get across: This is a Tarsem picture. The Fall is one of the best films of its decade and The Cell is a disturbing and visually engaging thriller; the visionary has his own style. Whether his action sequences and the picture itself will go beyond, “That looks beautiful,” remains unseen, but a Tarsem film is still a Tarsem film.

6. Tyrannosaur (Nov 18th)

I have not seen Paddy Considine’s feature debut and festival favorite Tyrannosaur yet. However, our own Kate Erbland has, and she described it, to paraphrase, as: too bleak, everyone in it is either broken or are their way to becoming broken, uncomfortable, and that it “made her sick to her stomach.” Sign me up!

5. The Artist (Nov 23rd)

Calling The Artist delightful would be an understatement. This is the type of film you see with your family during the holidays, but the one you don’t cringe at the idea of seeing. This is a movie for everyone. Not only is The Artist an ode to the silent film era, but it’s a great love story between a tortured artist and features one of the sweetest faces you’ll see on the big screen all year, the magnetic Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller.

4. Melancholia (Nov 18th)

Awkward, dark, funny, beautiful, and raw – yep, sounds like another Lars von Trier film. Melancholia has been available on VOD for around a month now, but this is an apocalyptic drama to experience on the big screen with a large audience. It’s not as challenging or as horrifying as Antichrist, just in case you’re expecting something along those lines, but it’s another triumph for von Trier. Plus, Kiefer Sutherland gives one of his best performances in a long, long time.

3. A Dangerous Method (Nov 23rd)

It’s David Cronenberg. If that doesn’t get you excited enough, it’s Croneberg not only in another reunion with Viggo Mortensen but pairing up with every nerd’s man crush, and more importantly one of the best actors working today, Michael Fassbender. The reviews were mixed out of Toronto, but the idea of Mortensen and Fassbender as Freud and Jung shooting the breeze for 90 or so minutes sounds wonderful.

2. Hugo (Nov 23rd)

A 3D kids movie from Martin Scorsese? Unlike most who scratched their heads at the idea, Scorsese was a fairly understandable choice to helm the adaptation. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is chock-full of imagination and wonder, and that type of material needs a world builder like Scorsese. The word out of the NYFF “secret” screening was that it’s a strong film and a great love letter to cinema. No surprise there.

1. The Descendants (Nov 16th)

There’s not a whole lot of filmmakers who do what Alexander Payne does so well. From the grander emotions we feel to the little things in life we enjoy or let bug us, the Sideways and About Schmidt director gets it all, and he always gets terrific ensembles to portray it with an uncomfortable and funny honesty. George Clooney’s Matt King is another emasculated, heavily flawed, but lovable and empathetic Payne antagonist. An excellent performance from Clooney in a tremendous film.

What are you seeing this month?

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.