Moments Out of Time 2011

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the year’s films

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Control (John Hurt), aced out of MI6 after the disaster in Budapest, announces, “Smiley is coming with me.” Smiley (Gary Oldman), his back to the camera, tilts his head a millimeter—surprise? acceptance? both?…

The Descendants: the sound Matt King’s (George Clooney) flip-flops make on asphalt as he jogs over to his friends’ house to get the scoop on his dying wife’s infidelity…

• Three figures frozen on a green lawn, bathed in cold white light, from the moon and the planet Melancholia

• Matchlight on face in front of red door, Le Havre

• Upside-down shadows of kids at play on gray asphalt, swinging from the top of the frame in The Tree of Life

• High angle looking down into cave in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: on the ochre floor, figures lie sleeping (dead?) just where radiant sunlight meets darkest shadow….

• The slow dissolve from one Western landscape into another, a slant of hill coming to exactly echo a line of clouds; actual and aspirant frontiers in Meek’s Cutoff

• The breathlessly kinetic rhythms of the heist that begins Drive

Midnight in Paris: the evolution of the expression on Gil (Owen Wilson)—F. Scott Fitzgerald has just introduced him to Ernest Hemingway—from gobsmacked to go-with-the-flow delight…

• Peppy (Bérénice Bejo) and Valentin (Jean Dujardin) artlessly falling in love, as they dance through a series of takes: The Artist

Moneyball: daughter (Kerris Dorsey) gravely, shyly singing “I’m Just a Little Bit Caught in the Middle” for dad (Brad Pitt) in the music store…

• The air in the village church swimming with dust particles that might once have been people: Le quattro volte

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: brusque, bone-shattering dispatch, by “Mr. Ellis” (Mark Strong), of the owl that has just flown out of the fireplace in his classroom…

• Laurel and Hardy in drag: Mr. Nobbs (Glenn Close), stiff as a stick, and broad-shouldered Mr. Page (Janet McTeer) step out in bonnets and dresses—Albert Nobbs

• In Midnight in Paris, Gil realizing that the woman he was just dancing with was Djuna Barnes: “No wonder she wanted to lead.”…

• Seduction, foreplay and climax on the subway: Shame

The Descendants: the sudden, vengeful kiss Matt King plants on the unknowing wife (Judy Greer) of hiswife’s lover…

• A very tipsy Emma Stone to “Photoshopped” Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.: “We are going to bang!”…

• Shrinks Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) lying snug as bugs, or babies, in the belly of a boat with red sails, in A Dangerous Method

• In Arthur Christmas, the Mission Impossible precision of Christmas Eve break-in: Santa and ninja elves escape discovery through split-second timing and improvisation….

• A drop of perspiration falling onto a café tabletop, fatally fracturing the fourth wall of a Hungarian “play” in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

• Closeup of British officer’s shining young face (Tom Hiddleston) as he promises to care for Joey, and bring him back to the boy who loves him: a singular moment of sincerity in War Horse that measures what a world war for nothing will cost…

• A black horse sinks down in slow motion, as though curtsying to oblivion—Melancholia

• “Carrying, yeah”—Christoph Waltz’s first utterance in Carnage. Who ever doubted the worldly multilinguist of Inglourious Basterds could master American shrug?…

• A Nose (master perfumer) sniffs the aromas of time in a 32,000-year-old Cave of Forgotten Dreams….

• A shower of green leaves along a tree-lined residential street: something simian this way comes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes….

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), making a clean getaway after his incursion into the bowels of the Circus, passes Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) on the stairs and confirms from the tune he’s whistling that Peter’s phonecall moments before was monitored. As expected…

Shame: the dying fall of Carey Mulligan’s voice, until she’s nearly whispering “New York, New York”…

• Afterthought in Moneyball: “Who’s Fabio?”…

• In The Descendants, Matt’s quiet “Don’t ever do that again” after his daughter’s boyfriend (Nick Krause) embraces him…

• Over tea at the Pages, the only smile that ever unfreezes—and transfigures—the face of Albert Nobbs

• A Scalphunter (Tom Hardy) in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy caressing the face of the spy he loves with light reflected from a compact, while she (Svetlana Khodchenkova) takes her pleasure in the exposure…

• “Phone sex” in Crazy, Stupid, Love.: Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) tenderly talking his estranged wife (Julianne Moore) through re-igniting the pilot light…

• Jung and his former patient discuss their Dangerous Method on a park bench by a sunlit lake, Sabina’s perfect little white hat like a lid on crazy…

• College guy, self-impaled on a tree branch, watches a horsefly settle on his nose—Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

• Tavern still-life with police inspector (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), pineapple, and trio of serene Kaurismäki goofs: Le Havre

My Week with Marilyn: the look on the publican’s face when Miss Monroe (Michelle Williams) drops by the Dog & Duck to say, “Nice place you got here”; expertly summoned up by the great Jim Carter, and just as expertly dropped before the moment spoils…

• Corey Stoll’s rhythms and tone as Ernest Hemingway, Midnight in Paris—not free of parody, yet oddly tender withal…

• Karl with a K, Sam Rockwell’s lethally deranged dope-dealer—The Sitter

• Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) tinkling his bicycle bell upon sighting the Circus’s new blonde, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

• A breeze teases the white curtains behind him as Mr. Page gazes at a picture of his friend’s lost mother—all that marks the life and death of Albert Nobbs

• The skull of the actual William Burke looking out at the movie audience that has just watched John Landis’s silly Burke and Hare

• The lawn sprinklers at evening, We Need to Talk about Kevin

• Falling in love with a zombie girl (Elle Fanning), Super 8

Moneyball: Pete (Jonah Hill), marveling at Billy working the phones, catches the fever at last, makes a fist of triumph in midair, then wonders whether he did it right….

Melancholia: Udo Kier noting with dismay that a wedding balloon has caught fire….

• After horrific gunplay in Drive: Ryan Gosling’s blood-splattered, shell-shocked face leans into an open door for a count of 10, then slowly, very slowly, slips out of frame….

• Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) awestruck—”Take that, liver!”—as he watches Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) belt down shots, in Young Adult

• Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) and Nick (Will Ferrell), basking in a swimming pool, one-upping each other with “Your mother is so fat…” jokes—Everything Must Go

• Faced with the need to undress her incontinent charge, a burqa’d caretaker (Sareh Bayat) dials up a religious hotline for advice—ASeparation….

• A lampshade the color of blood in a darkened Margin Call office: corporate shark (Jeremy Irons) cuts his scapegoat (Demi Moore) off at the knees….

• Cobra (Albert Brooks) killing mongoose (Bryan Cranston) in Drive: “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. That’s it. It’s done. There’s no pain. It’s over. It’s over.”…

• Cobra mesmerizing mongoose: Patrick (John Hawkes) serenading Martha May Marcy Marlene (Elizabeth Olsen)…

• Claws clicking on marble, as villainous peacock Shen (Gary Oldman) enters—Kung Fu Panda 2

• Beneath an ice-blue waterfall, in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a beautiful princess is wooed into ecstasy by a very energetic catfish….

• At table in Midnight in Paris with Man Ray and Luis Buñuel, “Dali!” (Adrien Brody) pursues his own surrealistic train of thought: “I see a rhinoceros!”…

• “Why would I not know the context? I am the context!” Ezra Miller in We Need to Talk about Kevin

• Savoring cigar and table full of offspring, suave paterfamilias Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) watches Jung wolf down his dinner. Chacun à son appétit in A Dangerous Method

• The way Home looks from down the street, an oasis of warm, golden light in the gloaming—The Tree of Life

• The way Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) and the other women walk beside their Conestogas in Meek’s Cutoff, as though they would go on forever, sans complaint, heroic pretension, or even imagination of another path, until they fall…

• Post-chemo, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dancing down a hospital corridor, oblivious to all but his own weed-fueled glee, in 50/50

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: the footprints of an eight-year-old boy and a wolf, side-by-side in the cave floor…

• Daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) going underwater to cry, The Descendants

• The bee in the car, how three men deal with it—and how’d they do that shot anyway? Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

• Through undulating lace curtains, sunlight falls like a blessing on a white bassinet: heart-stopping beauty of beginnings in The Tree of Life

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: Surrounded by the chirp of crickets and the rustle of leaves, a pair of ghosts page through old snapshots of their lives one moonlit summer evening….

Melancholia: the morning ride through trees and mist, as seen from … Melancholia?…

• A lone horse gallops out of the fog on Golden Gate Bridge, its improbable rider coming into view a moment later: Caesar as Braveheart in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

• All the dogs we’ve known and loved in 2011: Skeletor, 50/50; Uggie, The Artist; Cosmo, Beginners; Laika, Le Havre; Booger, Tabloid; and above all, that goat-herding pooch in Le quattro volte who in effect “directs” an eight-minute take…

• Trees that signified in 2011: The Tree of Life, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Meek’s Cutoff, Le quattro volte

• In Margin Call, on a Brooklyn stoop in early morning, the Stanley Tucci character’s story of the bridge he once built between Ohio and West Virginia: “1,531 years of lives saved”…

• A pre-Raphaelite beauty (Jessica Chastain), slipping between clotheslines of glowing white sheets, to hose water over her bare feet—The Tree of Life

Take Shelter: Wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) looks at the horizon, then at husband Curtis (Michael Shannon), and says, “OK.”…

Of Gods and Men: eldest monk Luc (Michael Lonsdale, ever sublime) brushing aside ritual to punch the button on the tape player; “Swan Lake” fills the Algerian night….

• In 50/50, mom (Anjelica Huston) and best bud (Seth Rogen) instantly ambushing Adam’s shrink (Anna Kendrick) when she shows up to wait out his life-or-death surgery: “I smother him because I love him!” … “I’m not a dick!”…

• Piper Laurie’s luminous beauty, as grandmother shares a companionable bong with wildman Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)…

• Peeling off Gwyneth Paltrow’s face, Contagion

• A bloody handprint, with claws, materializing on a bedsheet—Insidious

• Little Bob (Roberto Piazza), a pint-sized, white-haired Elvis, rocking out on his red guitar in Le Havre

• Every serving of Darius Khondji’s moveable feast of light and color in Midnight in Paris

• The bouncy strains of “La Mer” behind the final unpacking of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘s Chinese boxes…