Thursday, February 02, 2012

Favorite Movies of 2011

I've been doing these lists for a number of years now and I cared for this year's crop less than any other in a while. In particular, most of the year's "prestige" films didn't resonate very much with me. As a result, most of my favorite movies were decidedly mainstream fare. I've seen most of the movies I think might have made the list. The key ones that I didn't were Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Adventures of Tintin and My Week with Marilyn.

10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This was just a fun summer movie. The characterization of Caesar was strong and there was plenty of heart and emotion between a CGI ape. The source material ended up being a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing in that the Planet of the Apes name drove box office. But it also limited the film, as the apes ultimately have to win. Not only was that entirely implausible, but I think their defeat would have been a more emotionally poignant conclusion. Still, a well produced and fun movie.

9. Margin Call

This was an overlooked but taut little thriller set at the scene of the financial collapse of 2008. Most of the films dealing with the economic downturn are kind of depressing but this didn't depress and kept you glued on the drama. It kind of reminded me of Michael Clayton, another great movie with a similar feel.

8. Drive

The direction and plot of Drive was pretty bare bones and the tight focus and direction worked to its advantage. It sort of had the feel of a high quality Mel Gibson revenge film. It also had easily one of the best soundtracks of the year. I'm conflicted on the level of violence, which I think hurt its reception with some. The graphic violence was jarring and unpleasant, making it harder to relate with the protagonist. But I can't criticize it too much for that, because I think that was pretty clearly the intent of the director and too many films try to whitewash the nature of violence.

7. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

I thought this was just hilarious. It's a parody of a horror film with a group of college students who think two rednecks are trying to kill them. Hilarity ensues with plenty of tongue in cheek violence. It's very much in the mold of Shaun of the Dead, but I think it's even better. Unfortunately, not a lot of people have seen it, but I highly recommend checking it out.

6. 50/50

Ah yes, the Seth Rogen cancer comedy. This was a ballsy movie to make and it could have backfired. But it didn't. It's funny while also retaining the gravity of the situation. The Descendants received much more praise for similar themes, but to me the quirkiness of the Descendants felt inauthentic to what was going on. By contrast, 50/50 added levity while not feeling phony.

5. X-Men: First Class

When I heard there was an X-Men prequel with lesser known actors, it sounded like a terrible idea. The third X-Men movie and the Wolverine movie were bad and the likes of Son of the Mask and Dumb and Dumberer were worse as recast prequels. But this succeeded wonderfully. The action didn't look cheap in the slightest. The young actors carried the load. And if anything, the property was reinvigorated. Big success.

4. The Artist

This is rightfully the frontrunner for best picture. It's clearly the best of the nominees. The protagonists are eminently likable and a silent film doesn't feel like a gimmick. It's an old fashioned movie that relies on its storytelling. And it once again demonstrates that if you want audiences to love your hero, give him a loyal dog.

3. The Muppets

When I read a feature in EW about this movie, my expectations were markedly raised. It was clear that writer and star Jason Segel had a great affinity for the Muppets and was determined to make a fun, nostalgic ode to them. The movie succeeds big time. It's silly, lighthearted fun and even if you aren't particularly familiar with the Muppets, I can't imagine you not enjoying the trip.

2. Ides of March

This had early Oscar buzz but then fell off. That's a shame because I liked it a lot better than the films that passed it. The cast is first rate. The screenplay is excellent. It's a movie about politics but it's not a political movie. I think it's just tremendous and I'm disappointed there don't seem to be more people that feel this way.

1. Bridesmaids

This was just hilarious and had plenty of heart as well. There's a good reason it did so well at the box office. The laughs flow throughout, while also keeping you invested in the main character. The conflicts are completely relatable and any discomfort in what happens just adds to the humor. And props to Kristen Wiig for resisting an unnecessary sequel.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your list of movies but Bridesmaids is such a polarizing film that I personally don't think it deserves to be anywhere near the top 10

12:08 PM  

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