2011 was a great year for film. We saw returning franchises get new life, well known directors getting a second wind, new cinematic classics and cinematic clunkers and if nothing else we got an abundance of films to make the Top 10 list. I had to narrow mine down from 25 to 10 and trust me that was a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially since I'm not doing a Favorites/Best this year and instead condensing it into one list. Then again when your favorite and what you consider the best are both number 1 then you probably don't need two lists. Without further ado, here is my Top 10 of 2011
(Note: The Artist and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy didn't come out till 2012 where I live so I'm not counting them)
Honorable Mentions: Horrible Bosses (Favorite Comedy), Rango (Favorite Animated Film), The Adventures of Tintin (Favorite Adventure Film), A Separation (Favorite Foreign Film), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Favorite Adaptation)
10. Midnight in Paris-
I'm going to level with you, I'm not Woody Allen's biggest fan. Besides maybe Annie Hall I haven't really enjoyed anything he's put out. I don't hate him by any means and if you love his films that's great, more power to you, but he's just never appealed to me. That being said, Midnight in Paris is a wonderful film that, as a fan of literature and art, I could really get behind. While the modern day sequences didn't quite fully click for me, whenever Owen Wilson and the audience were taken back to the past I couldn't help but smile and feel a sense of joy. Whether it was the Fitzgerald's, Hemingway or Dali it didn't matter, these scenes were pure gold. Add in wonderful scenery and a comforting soundtrack that made you feel like you were in France, Midnight in Paris has made me like Woody Allen a little more.
9. Ides of March-
Political films aren't usually my thing. But a political film written, directed and starring George Clooney and featuring an all star cast (including multiple list maker and feminist icon Ryan Gosling) I guess is the exception. A tense, thrilling film about love, betrayal and the American way, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film. Not much else to say except "Brilliant."
8. Crazy, Stupid, Love-
I was just expecting a good comedy. That's all I needed. Steve Carell doesn't have to do much to make me laugh and I'll basically see anything with Gosling (obviously), Emma Stone or Marisa Tomei. So imagine my surprise when CSL is not only hilarious but also a touching, poignant film about love and all the things that we will do for it. Whether it's a new couple, two kids or a divorced couple, we see that love has many forms and that sometimes life can be funny without needing a punchline.
7. Fast Five-
Before it's fifth installment I really dreaded every time I was taken to one of these films. I'd see them because my best friend loves cars and racing movies but in my head I was shouting "Get me out of here!" And when I saw the first trailer for this film I was about ready to just put my foot down and say "Nope, I'm not seeing this movie and you can't make me. This series needs to die." Then I saw the reviews and thought I was in bizarro world. It was one of the better reviewed films of the year (at the time). So I decided to beat my friend to the punch and see it by myself and by the end credits I sat with my lips pursed and shook my head saying "I loved this film and can't wait for the next one. Damn." With great action, cinematography, pacing and all around surprisingly good acting, this is the best installment in the series and a film that I still enjoy watching today.
6. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol-
I've always liked the Mission Impossible series. I recognize they aren't really that deep and have a certain amount of cheese involved as well as some weird plot conveniences scattered throughout, but overall I've found them all mostly enjoyable, although the first one was certainly the highlight...before Ghost Protocol came out that is. While it's still not a deep or well thought out film, the action level and tension level in this film is unmatched by any other film this year. Watch the hotel scene this above poster is based on and tell me that it's boring. Can't do it can you? Whether it's scaling a hotel, running through a sandstorm, fighting in a parking garage or sneaking inside the Kremlin, Brad Bird has a great understanding of action films and how they should be made. If every action was as good as this one, I'd see more action movies.
Lars von Trier and I have a weird relationship. I love almost everything he's put out (Antichrist included) but I probably would never watch any of his films twice. That said, it's hard to deny that Melancholia is a beautiful, wonderfully directed and acted film that showed a side of the end times that we've not really seen before. 2012, I Am Legend and a myriad films have shown how the world is going to end or how the world will be after the apocalypse, but what if there was nothing? No hope, no escape, just darkness and death? If you only had a few hours left on this Earth how would you spend them? What would be going on through your head? Melancholia addresses all these things and does them in a way that not only makes you think, but really look at yourself hard. The second half of the film is a lot stronger than the first half and the acting sans Dunst (in probably her best role to date) is not all that special, but I probably won't forget Melancholia anytime soon. Just don't make me watch it again, I don't know if my soul can take that much depression.
4. Source Code-
Honestly I'm not sure why this film hasn't made more lists. I mean it. Source Code is one of the most brilliant and well crafted science fiction thrillers I've ever seen. Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in probably his best role since Donnie Darko and Michelle Monaghan gives her career best performance as well. The effects, the writing (especially the writing), the cinematography, everything works in this film. Duncan Jones and Ben Ripley know how to make great cinema and if I see their names attached to a picture now I will see it. While the ending and some plot elements may have confused and confounded people, I loved every minute. If you haven't seen this film, please give it a shot, it's brilliant.
3. Tucker and Dale vs The Evil-
As someone who grew up on horror films, it's rare that I see a film that completely changes how I look at horror films. But Tucker and Dale accomplish that. They take the old story of "hillbillies kidnap and kill a group of teens" and turn it into "two hillbillies are just trying to enjoy their summer home and nurse an injured teen back to health while a bunch of crazed teenagers try to kill them." It's laughs-a-minute hilarious and the payoff in most of these scenes are priceless and had me pause the film laughing my ass off. Alan Tudyk, whom I adore, is brilliant but it's Tyler Labine who steals the show in this film, playing for laughs but also delivering a lot of heart as well. You're rooting for these guys. They just took "Don't judge a book by it's cover" to a whole new level of awesome.
Marin Scorsese, one of the all time greatest directors, does a kids film. Please stop hitting me I'm not crazy and/or on drugs, I'm serious. But if you would have told me that years ago I would have laughed at you repeatedly. In fact when I saw his name attached I thought I was being punked. But I wasn't and Hugo proves to not only be a brilliant kids film, but a brilliant love letter to classic cinema as well as a brilliant Scorsese film. I don't want to spoil some of the magic for you if you haven't seen it, but this was a film that genuinely warmed my heart and made me fall in love with film all over again. Scorsese directs with childlike wonder and his grasp of film making is evident in not only the way he does the film but also the way he handles 3D. He seems to be one of the few that GETS 3D and if you get the chance to, watch it in 3D. It's worth it. The film is whimsical, wonderful and a bunch of other W words. If you love cinema you will love this movie.
I know a few readers might groan at this choice and say "Oh he's just jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else" but I can't really think of a better film I saw this year. I went in with completely fresh eyes, only having seen a poster for this film and nothing else and when I walked out I was talking up a storm to anyone who would listen. I went up to the ticket counter telling everyone to see this film and honestly I hadn't been that in love with a film since The Hurt Locker back in 2009. Gosling gives a wonderfully subdued role, playing a role that he's mastered over his relatively short but brilliant career. Carey Mulligan and the rest of the cast may not have been as good as Gosling but nobody didn't give it their all and with beautiful cinematography, a still addictive soundtrack and a film that I have watched countless times now but still haven't grown bored with, Drive is my top film of 2011.
10. Scream 4-
A satisfying return to my second favorite horror franchise. And satisfying was all this film had to be to make my top 10.
9. The Descendants-
Clooney being Clooney but Clooney being Clooney is always fantastic to watch. But it might die soon.
8. War Horse-
Spielberg may have manipulated me to shoot streams of tears out of my eyes, but if someone can do that, they deserve great kudos. Damn you Steven.
7. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol-
Brad Bird proves that you can take an average action script and make a great action movie out of it. Also Lea Seydoux. That's all I need to say. Lea Seydoux.
Brad Pitt reading words by Sorkin. Gold.
5. Tree of Life-
People may complain about it being two hours of nothing, but it is a beautiful looking film and film is a visual medium so if it looks beautiful for two and a half hours then in my book it's a beautiful film and beautiful films are great.
4. The Artist-
Despite having a very similar plot to Singing In The Rain, this 100 picture kept me with a smile all the way through (in addition to a full blow erection mid-way through, but it's possible that had nothing to do with the film).
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-
David Fincher's superior adaptation of the pretty good Swedish novel. Mostly superior because of Rooney Mara's performance and naked body.
A movie beyond words.
1. Midnight in Paris-
Woody Allen proves that he is in fact still alive and can still make cinematic masterpieces.
Ok, so as far as a top 10 list, I can’t give you that. I can
give you a list of 5 movies from 2011 because that’s all I think I saw, as far
as movies that came out in 2011. I don’t really get to the theaters as much as
I used to and definitely don’t see as many new movies as I used to. Nothing
seems to excite me anymore. I don’t know, maybe I’ve become cynical in my
progressing age, or maybe they just aren’t making anything exciting anymore. It
all seems to be comic book and novel adaptations, which are always better in
their original format, so why waste $10 to see a great book condensed into two
hours of drudgery? But, whatever the reason is, it kept me from seeing more
than five new movies last year. So, here goes, my truncated list of movies that
I felt worthy of two hours of my undivided attention (the list is from most
favorite to least):
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2-
This was actually a pretty decent movie if you look at it as just a movie and
not an overhyped, under produced, blurry copy of the books. The acting was
acceptable (brilliant from the more seasoned actors, e.g. Alan Rickman), and
the story flowed well. My only complaint would be that it ended quite lamely
and it was mostly fluff, which is expected of a studio like Warners these days.
2. Hall Pass-
I actually quite enjoyed this movie, sure it was wildly predictable, but the
characters were believable and they actually had a likeability about them which
is key in these quasi-romantic comedies. The laughs were good and it kept my
attention throughout (which, nowadays, is a tough thing to do) and I didn’t
have buyer’s remorse afterwards and that’s always a good sign.
At its fundamental core, it’s a stoner movie, the title is a dead giveaway.
It’s definitely one of those zany movies that has some good slapstick and some
pretty hilarious gags, but it’s nothing spectacular. It is quite ambitious for
a stoner movie, I’ll give it that. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, it’s great
for what it was intended to be and I was thoroughly entertained by it.
Take Me Home Tonight-
As a huge That 70s Show
love watching Topher Grace movies. I watched In Good Company
simply because he was in it. Now, this movie he is
a bit different than previous roles like that of Eddie Brock or Edwin from Predators
but he pulls it off quite
nicely and as a fan of his TV work, I definitely saw a bit of Eric Forman in
this character. That said, this was a good movie, it wasn’t magnificent on the
emotional scale but it had some good laughs and some good characters that
showed a decent amount of development. Plus, who can forget that bathroom
I didn’t see this in the theaters but I did by it on Blu-Ray because it looked
like a pretty good action movie, and that draw lead me to a pretty interesting
plot structure, I was mildly surprised by mostly let down, unfortunately. Half
of the problem may lie in the fact that I watched it in two parts and not all
the way through, but I doubt it. I get the whole escaping into the mind to be
absent from the horror going on around you, but I mean, was she in a mental
hospital? Was she in a place that took orphaned girls and made them dance at
some madman’s whim? Where did he friends that died really go? I think this
movie asked more questions than it answered. The action was good though, I’ll
give Sucker Punch
that. I mean, a
samurai with a Gatling gun?? Yes, please!
The Hangover Part II-
I’m not really sure why I saw this. Was
I expecting something new and not just a rehashed story line in a different
location? Foolishly, yes. Boy was I disappointed. I don’t even need to explain
it. If you’ve seen the first one, all you have to do is think of that but in
Thailand. The best part of this movie though, the casting of Paul Giamatti. He
was excellent, a little larger than I remember seeing him, but he was at his
best yelling at those hapless idiots. I’d watch that movie again just for Paul
Giamatti, but I won’t because, well, it’s just awful.
(P.S.: Turns out I watched SIX movies from 2011! Bonus!)
Quirky doesn't begin to describe this unique animated western. Full of laughs, great voice work and beautiful animation, it's hard not to fall in love with the tale of Rango.
9. Hall Pass-
I probably liked this film a lot more than I should have but as a fan of Stephen Merchant and Jason Sudeikis, who always seem to make me laugh, as well as including one of the best scenes of the year (think bathroom mishap), Hall Pass is comedy classic and certainly the funniest film of the year.
8. X-Men First Class-
I'm not sure why this film isn't getting as much love as it deserves. It took a floundering franchise, rebooted it and made it better than it's ever been. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming sequel now.
7. Killer Elite-
While this film may have not clicked for many I saw Killer Elite for what it really was: a kick-ass action film featuring three of the greats. It may not revolutionize the action genre but it's a good ride throughout.
6. Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene-
Beautiful, haunting and brilliant...and that's just Elizabeth Olson. A wonderful thriller that shows the Olson family line has another star in the making.
5. Last Night-
Kiera Knightley rubs a lot of people the wrong way, myself included. That said, this complex tale of love and betrayal is simple but beautiful and it deserves to be seen by everyone.
Give me a minute I need to take this poster in. There...that's better. Sorry I was distracted by the most gorgeous man in Hollywood looking off in the distance with those steely eyes of his. Cooper's looks aside, Limitless is an original, highly underrated that is probably his best role to date. Action and Science-Fiction fans will be sure to love this one.
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-
Rooney Mara is brilliant. Daniel Craig is brilliant. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are brilliant. David Fincher and Steven Zallian are brilliant. Put it all together and you have a film that can easily be described as brilliant.
2. The Rum Diaries-
Bruce Robinson is back and better than ever. This wonderfully charming and beautiful adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's novel is as funny as it is exciting. Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli play off each other perfectly, Aaron Eckhart does his best sleaze since Thank You For Smoking, Giovanni Ribisi gives one of his most unforgettable roles and Amber Heard is gorgeous. I wish I looked half as good as her, or at least could borrow some of her outfits. Set in a place that is as breathtaking as it is breath taking, The Rum Diaries is a classic.
Mike Mills has created another masterpiece. The Thumbsucker director has created a charming and beautiful film about life and love. Everyone is perfect, Christopher Plummer especially, and if you haven't seen this film yet, you are missing out on not only the best film of 2011, but one of the best films ever made.