Best of 2011

8 Jan

The reason I started this blog when I did had a little something to do with the time of year.  What has every film junkie with a blog glued to their computers while they compile a list of what made up their most enjoyable film experiences of the year? The ‘Best of’ list of course!  Seriously, this time of year is Comic-Con for the cineophiles.  A time where film nerds everywhere compile lists of just about anything they can think of concerning the films of the year.  A time where calendars are marked with Award show dates, and discussions ensue on who should and should not win.  Then, of course it’s all over and you’re complaining about the snubs (the Academy takes years to recognize real talent) and how each year the show seems to get even more terrible.

Wow. You see how I went a little off topic there? That happens a lot.  What I was trying to say is there are film lists everywhere in December/January and I want to be right in there this year.

If you’ve actually read all of this I’m impressed and guessing you want me to get started. And if you’ve glimpsed through all of this then I’m not surprised. But I just wanted to add one more thing.  I know a lot of people were turned off this year in terms of film.  And while this has not been my favorite year in film, I felt this was a fantastic year in terms of independent pictures being popularized and that makes me ecstatic. That being said, I personally missed out on a lot of those movies (I’ll explain later) so my list is more mainstream, but finally (I warned you I like to talk) here is my Best of 2011 in Film list (in no order):

10) ShameImage

Michael Fassbender has got to be the actor of the year.  After Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, Shame and A Dangerous Method Fassbender has proven that he could very well take over for the current A-list of actors (you know, the usual suspects).  Fassbender playing a sex addict with his dependent sister (played by Carey Mulligan) intruding on his life was for me the most believable performance of the year.  Oddly enough I find that actors and actresses barely impact my opinion on a film (unless they’re so terrible it distracts), typically the writing and direction are the biggest impacts, however I can be convinced to like a film if it is visually stimulating.  In the case of Shame I found Fassbender’s performance was so intriguing that that alone captured me.  But don’t get me wrong, Steven McQueen had given Fassbender more than enough to work with.  He told a story that felt real through and through, it was basic and simple but honest and never dull. Shame is a character study that captures the feelings of the main character through his actions.

9) Melancholia Image

So for Shame it was all about the performance, for Melancholia it was all in the writing and visuals.  I found Melancholia was one of those movies I was stunned watching and left a little boggled, after I left the theater I was in full discussion about it and still as the days pass I continue to think about it.  The brilliance behind the film is incredible.  Melancholia tells the story of two sisters (played by Kristen Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) who must experience the arrival of a new planet that threatens colliding with Earth.  Without giving too much away, Lars von Trier was very clever in the way he portrayed this.  For me, I felt as if this was one of those films you love more and more as you grasp the meaning and brilliance of it.  And as mentioned, the film was visually stimulating, from the opening sequence you’re drawn to the screen.

8) Bridesmaids

ImageI feel as if independent filmmakers/film lovers feel Bridesmaids is beneath them, but what I say to that is get off your high horse! Bridesmaids was amazing. It wasn’t just a comedy, but it was a well done comedy! Sure it was a little crude but don’t say you didn’t laugh when Maya Rudolph went to the bathroom in that dress.  The reason some think they’re better than this film is because it’s not a drama that happens to be funny, but a comedy that happens to be great! If that makes sense…See, people like those dramas that will of course be Oscar nominated with a little bit of comedy (The Kings Speech was funny), but those in film seem to have this prejudice that comedies don’t deserve the gold.  Well what are the requirements? Outstanding performances? An original and quality script? Box office glory? General amazingness? Check. Check. Check and check again. Melissa McCarthy has been glorified for her performance and apparently this movie has proven that women are funny (the fact that no one noticed we were funny before disturbs me, but I’m trying to prove a point) which has got to count for something. I’m sorry but Kristen’s British roommate saying she got offered a free tattoo from a man in a white van automatically placed Bridesmaids on my Top 10 list.

7) Attack the Block

ImageMost likely my favorite film of 2011. Attack the Block answers the age old question, “What would happen during an alien invasion in the ghetto?”.  Sci-fi films usually take place in Manhattan or L.A. or some fancy European city, but haven’t you ever wondered what would happen in the ghetto? The military or S.W.A.T. always comes to save the day in the typical Sci-fi movie so I’m sure they’d be too busy to head over to the ghetto (or they wouldn’t care).  Well Attack the Block answers such. And it’s reply is “Aliens don’t come to the ghetto and this is why…”.  The story itself is smart and original, and it’s cast of unknowns play quite the convincing group.  I was entertained while still managing to be impressed with the creativity behind the whole project.  The sad fact is while a lot of people saw this movie, it was one of the lesser talked about independents this year and with award season coming up the most under appreciated.

6) The Artist 


Two of my favorite films of the year happened to have little to no dialogue.  The fact alone that a film like this could do so well in 2011 is amazing in itself.  Just goes to show what excellence people can create even without a dialogue.  And the performances that come of that! Jean Dujardin was adorable as an actor at the top of his game dealing with the consequences of talking pictures replacing silent films.  And costar Berenice Bejo was just as excellent as a young dancer ready to take the spot light.  What really captured me was the love story here.  I felt like this embodied those classic love stories we’re not quite used to seeing any more.  The ones that would star Cary Grant or Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart and would just ooze class and true love.  The Artist is the epitome of all things classy.

5) X-Men: First Class

I’m a huge X-Men fan. For me X-Men: First Class is the perfect example of what the true movie watching experience should be about. There was a quality story that was important to the franchise and it was told with efficiency and in respect to the series. The actor choices were spot on, now I can’t imagine Fassbender as anyone but Magneto. And James McAvoy was spot on, as was Jennifer Lawrence who offered audiences a better explanation as to Mystique’s decisions. I think for fans of the original trilogy it was nice to understand some of the characters better. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat the whole time, surprised, intrigued, excited, amazed, and incredibly sad.

4) Midnight in Paris

I love Woody Allen. I’m one of those people that can look past his uh…creep factor and see his pure talent. He’s known for two things, his opening credits (you know what I’m talking about) and his purely character driven films human connections and relationships. Midnight in Paris is no exception, Owen Wilson plays a struggling writer on vacation in Paris with his fiancee played by Rachel McAdams. The two clearly do not belong together and while in Paris discover this through the experiences of better lives. Simple, right? Wrong. Allen creates a little bit of a twist through the addition of time travel. That being said, the film is charming and lighthearted while still reaching a level of significant meaning. Also, considering that Allen is a big fan of rich location, he always does a wonderful job of showcasing that. You really get to experience the city just as much as you experience the characters. Knowing little about the film when I went in, it was all unexpected and to say the least I was charmed.

3) Super 8 

Take the Goonies. Now take E.T.. Now add them together. That is the brilliance that is Super 8. And who wouldn’t like The Goonets? JJ Abrams directs, writes and produces the story of a group of kids who happen to be filming on a super 8 camera when they witness a train crash and the mysterious something that is released upon their town. The performances from all the kids could be credited as some of the best of the year, especially considering that for most of them it was their first feature film. I was completely engrossed when I first watched Super 8 (seriously, I didn’t even check my phone!). While this story is Sci-fi and adventurous it also manages to be comedic, romantic, and ultimately a story about friendship. This is the perfect example of Sci-fi at its finest and even greater than that, classic Spielberg films.

2) The Help

Not to sound racist or rude but I find most serious films about black people tell a story where a white person comes along and changes a group of black people (typically troubled teens) into realizing their true potential, or giving them a genuine opportunity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and I suppose it’s accurate to..uh..history, but being a woman of color at times it annoys me. And despite what you may think, I found The Help did not tell that story. Yes, a white woman played by the wonderful Emma Stone (I have a major girl crush) gives a group of African American maids the opportunity to share their opinions and hopefully change their situation but I felt it wasn’t Emma’s character changing their lives. If you think about it, without the views of maids played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer then Emma’s character wouldn’t have had a story. They don’t need someone else to save them, sisters really are doing it for themselves. This wasn’t the only reason I loved the film. In all honesty, the trailers were…uh…misleading. I thought it would be…uh..let’s just leave it at not very good. But after hearing great reviews (and of course my love for Emma Stone had something to do with it) we gave it a chance. I think what blew me away the most (other than the sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves story line) were the performances. As mentioned, I love Emma Stone and while she did a wonderful job, the performances from Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and the incredible Jessica Chastain were award worthy. I just found it was very refreshing to see such amazing performances bring to life a story that did not follow the typical whoa-is-me story line.

1) Drive

Maybe it’s my passionate love for all things Ryan Gosling (that hair, that genuine smile, those smoldering eyes, that strong chin, his perfectly sculpted chest. We’d make beautiful babies) but I loved Drive. And apparently so did the rest of the film world considering it’s on almost everyone’s top 10. Ryan had described it as Pretty in Pink with head smashing which I believe is suiting. Drive tells the story of the driver, a movie stunt driver by day and a get away driver by night. The driver begins to fall for his next door neighbor played by Carey Mulligan who happens to be married to an ex con who needs to do one more job…and happens to need a driver. What comes of this is more head smashing than car chases. A lot of people felt this was a character study and yet we knew nothing about the driver (not even his name) and he barely spoke, but Nicolas Winding Refn is known for his…er…let’s say unique filmmaking style. Basically he does what he wants. Giving us a character with little dialogue and background and yet the audience knew exactly what he was saying and who he was. All in all, Drive is a portrayal of human communication through actions and not words. It is violent and aggressive, yet honest and pure, and all while set to an 80s pop soundtrack.

So there it is, the whole lengthy lot of it.  I just wanted to mention here that there were a lot I didn’t add to this list and some I seriously debated with (The Help was very close to being swapped out for Young Adult, and I tried desperately to squeeze Harry Potter 7.2 in).  So here are a few films that I think deserve special credit: Young Adult, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tin Tin, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 50/50, Carnage, Crazy Stupid Love & (don’t laugh, I have a soft spot…) Captain America.

And with that being said, though I didn’t hate them I felt The Descendents and Hugo were a little overrated. I’ll explain in another blog.

Also, though I typically see 2 movies a week (my BFF gets free movies!), I mentioned there were a lot I missed out on and here’s why…Vancouver is a hot spot for NOT getting certain movies and I prefer a theater to my computer screen.  Because of this here are the movies I missed out on because Vancouver did NOT get them (well, not including My Week With Marilyn):

Martha Marcy May Marlene, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Another Earth, Submarine, Beginners, Tree of Life, The Guard, Super, Margin Call, Like Crazy, My Week With Marilyn, Win Win, A Dangerous Method, Take Shelter

I plan on finally caving and watching some online and I’ve heard rumors Vancouver might get A Dangerous Method and We Need to Talk About Kevin soon so one can hope…

I believe I am finally done. Sorry for the excessive amount of text.

Have a wonderful day!


2 Responses to “Best of 2011”

  1. Diane Williams January 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Can I assume you haven’t seen War Horse?

    • coffeeandcrosswords January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      Yes, haven’t seen it and it was one of those movies I just wasn’t interested in. I love Spielberg, and have an obsession with horses. But I guess I judged the movie by the trailer a bit and was really turned off. The only horse movie that has ever done it for me is Black Beauty. While I’ve heard wonderful reviews, there’s some movies I’m just not interested in and little can change my mind. Hugo happened to be one of them, and its only redeeming factor for me was the evident love letter to film that was there. Maybe I’ll give War Horse a chance later on but for now it’s not on my immediate list of must-sees.

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