“The Year I Remembered Why I Love Movies”
Wow. 2011 was a heck of a year for film. Once again proving to me that people who complain about there being ‘nothing good’ or ‘nothing new’ or who lament that they ‘don’t make movies like they used to’ are in fact, completely full of crap. I mean FULL of it. And they need to get over their cynicism, put down their rose colored, past-aimed glasses, and pay attention, or get out of the pool. Because people like myself, who actually have love for the movies, would like to enjoy them, thank you very much.
Movies this year were all over the place, from drama to comedy, from nostalgia to avant garde, from extreme trash to old-timey wonder. There were plenty of the almost workman like blockbuster types; some good, some not. But, between the effects laden extravaganzas, there were so many smaller, grander movies. It was honestly one of the best years I’ve had as a movie viewer in a long time. Probably since 1999.
Top Ten Films
10. Hobo with a Shotgun: As a teen, I discovered the majesty of Troma with The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘em High, and nothing was ever quite the same. The squirm educing, goofy, outlandish awfulness of the films knocked me for a loop, and I loved it. The rules seemed different somehow. Hobo With a Shotgun put me right back in that headspace. It felt like 20 years hadn’t passed, I was still poking through the VHS boxes at the skeezy video rental shop a few blocks from my house, looking at the lurid covers and figuring out if I was going to pick up the new Full Moon or the new Troma film that night. Movies like this are satisfying in a way that more ‘serious’ films can never be. It’s like the art of swearing. Sometimes you need a good bit of profanity, just to keep your sanity.
9. The Rum Diary: Certainly not as demented and trippy as Depp’s other foray into the world of Hunter S. Thompson, this movie is still quite entertaining. Watching the young, semi-ideological reporter get a quick-fire education in the realities of life, while falling in love (both with a woman and with his chosen profession) was a nice, cathartic experience for this often shiftless writer. Plus, it’s darned funny.
8. Rango: Amazing animation aside, the extremely clever script alone should be getting someone talking about Oscars. Rango, while OK for kids, is NOT a kids’ film in any way. It’s smart, funny, snappy, and full of great characters and great moments. And the visuals…Oh, goodness they’re something to see. The film is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. You could take a frame from almost anywhere in the film, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
7. The Muppets: For anyone who grew up watching the Muppets, this movie is a real treat. It’s a celebration of the show, the love we had for it, and that place in our hearts we still hold aside for things from our childhood. Like the best of Henson’s work, this doesn’t talk down to the audience, making it perfectly enjoyable for young and old. And in spite of a good deal of the cast being made out of stuffing and felt, the emotions always feel genuine.
6. Hanna: How often do we see this premise these days? A young woman or girl turns out to be a super powerful killer somehow connected to a shadowy government-like organization. To say it’s been done is an understatement. However, Hanna manages to overcome cliché, pull the viewer in, and pack some serious thrills. I guess writing a list like this already makes me a bit pretentious, so I’ll just say it. It’s a thinking man’s action movie. And it’s full of memorable characters and scenes.
5. Rubber: If you’re a slave to plot or logic, you should probably skip this one. It simply is. Watch it. But don’t get too hung up on the details. Sure, on the surface, it’s about a tire that animates, then roles around the desert blowing people up with psychic powers…or something. But, that’s not really what the movie is about. Or, that’s not what’s really going on for most of the movie. It can’t be explained. At least, not by me. But I know I sure enjoyed the ride. Surrealism at its best, without the smug “ART!!!” film vibe.
4. Attack the Block: Last year, Harry Brown took us into the slums of England and made me glad I live in the States. Well, we’re back, and this time there are some otherworldly problems poking their blue toothed snouts in. What I found interesting is that the main group of kids are exactly type of awful, ignorant thugs Harry Brown faced off against, Death Wish style. They’re not good guys. But, when their situation changes, and things get out of control, they’re still people, and they’re still driven by the same things that drive the rest of us. And, even in punk kids who’ve been written off by society, there can lurk the hearts of good men in search of a cause. It’s fascinating to watch these reprehensible scumbags shake off their slum-locked ways and rise up to be real men, especially gang leader Moses, who has one of the more compelling character arcs I’ve seen in a while. It’s also quite funny and full of great callbacks to other genre films.
3. Super 8: Coming to you from the early 80s is this kid-adventure film with all the hallmarks of a Spielberg classic. J.J. Abrams is a bit older than me, but we both grew up watching a lot of the same movies, and it shows here. A great cast of kid actors should take their place as the Goonies for a new generation. Capturing so much of the wonder of those 80s films, like The Last Starfighter, The Goonies, Explorers, and Gremlins, it left me with a warm fuzzy feeling that reminded me of seeing movies as a kid at the Bangor Opera House, still one of my favorite viewing venues (if only it hadn’t stopped playing movies 25 years ago).
2. The Artist: Holy smokes, this came out of nowhere to shoot almost to the top of my list. Everything feels so right in this wonder filled homage to the romance and magic of silent films, and movies in general. The leads are great, and the familiar faced extras and background actors all add to the fun. If you love movies; if you love the classics; if you want something uplifting and charming, The Artist fit’s the bill. It’s swell.
1. Drive: Riding out of the neon-lit late 70s comes Drive, a movie about a guy, some crooks, some money, and a difference of opinion. I kept expecting a young James Caan or Robert Forster to show up. The music and slow, dreamy pace belie movie’s underpinning tensions and violence, which is slow to built and brutal in its sudden explosiveness. In the theater, folks were gasping in horror on more than one occasion, and at least two couples bolted during especially horrific moments. The whole work is fascinating and pensive. At the end of the day, there isn’t all that much to the movie, except what you bring in to it. And sometimes that’s all the difference in the world.
Best Director: Joe Wright -This was really hard, and kind of a toss-up of five people out of the Top Ten. I picked Wright because the subject matter (really, another little girl assassin movie?) is overused enough that making it so good/watchable can’t have been an easy task.
Best Supporting Actor: James Cromwell for The Artist -I gave serious contemplation to giving it to John Goodman for the same film, but I finally chose Cromwell because of how quiet (no pun) he played it, yet still got across a goodly amount of emotional resonance.
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett for Hanna -The harsh, obsessive weirdo who has Hanna in her sights, Blanchett is a bundle of neuroses kept bottled up as tightly as possible. Throughout the film, I kept wanting to know what her deal was, and that’s because she genuinely seemed to have something going on inside, not just a thug or suited drone as she easily could have been in less skilled hands.
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin for The Artist -This guy did such an amazing job, not only of capturing the acting style of the time, but of transcending it, able to hop from subtle to stylized acting and back again. It’s a part that could easily have shifted into parody, but he never even came close. All class.
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan for Hanna -I had wanted to give her an award for her performance in The Lovely Bones, but disliked that movie so much I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Still, Ronan is one to watch. She consistently turns in extremely effective performances and has shown range few adult actors can reach, much less teenagers. And I love that she and Blanchett worked together in Hanna, as I can easily see Ronan stepping into Blanchett’s shoes in another 10 or 15 years.
Best Soundtrack: Drive
Best Score: Hanna
Moulder’s Beard (the one good thing about an otherwise unwatchable film): Kristofer Hivju in The Thing
Best 3D Film: Drive Angry
Best Mustache: Michael Fassbender’s cream mustache from A Dangerous Method
Most Forgettable Movie: I Am Number 4
“Glad to See You Again” Award: Kick-ass Clive Owen in The Killer Elite (it’s been a while, mate)
10. Cool Air
9. Run! Bitch, Run!
8. Arsenic and Old Lace
7. Room in Rome
5. Seven Women for Satan
4. Being There
3. Wings of Desire
2. The Right Stuff
1. Kiss Me Deadly
Best Straight to Video: The Lost Future
Best DVD Rediscovery: Metropolis: The Complete Version
Awesome Older Films I Discovered on the Big Screen (thank you AFI Silver!):
3. Raising Arizona
2. Miller’s Crossing
1. Sweet Smell of Success
Best Quote: “Three tits? Awesome.” From Paul
Best God Fight: Immortals
Best Villain: Drake from Hobo With a Shotgun (Not only was it good to see Stan the Man [Brian Downey] on the big screen for the first time, but he’s just so danged vile, he’s pitch perfect for this Troma-type madness).
Best Cameo: Malcolm McDowell in The Artist
Best Animated Film: Rango
Best Mission: Impossible Movie of the Year: Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol
Best “Truth in Advertising” Award: Hobo With a Shotgun
Best Existential Viking: Hans from TrollHunter
Most Unnecessary Remake: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Nothing wrong with the movie, but I already saw it the first time. If you don’t have anything new to say, why remake it?)
Most Perfect Casting in a Bland Film: The Cast of A Dangerous Method (Everyone is so good! The movie is so…OK).
“Hey! It’s better than Avatar” (Films that might not have been great, but bored me a heck of a lot less than Avatar)
5. Source Code
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
2. Real Steel
1. Battle: Los Angeles
Most Unfairly Maligned: Cowboys & Aliens (I still don't get the hate for this film. It's a fun mash-up of two genre that have always gone well together. The cast does a fine job, it looks good, and was very entertaining. Heck of a lot better than either Iron Man film, that's for sure.)
5. The Ides of March (The first Clooney helmed project I haven’t liked, the movie simply never engaged me. Everyone did a fine job, it looked nice, etc., but not long after seeing it, I couldn’t remember anything about it. Not up to his previous directorial efforts at all.)
4. Green Lantern (I kinda like the comics, but this film misses every mark, mostly ignores the elements that make the Lantern unique, and churns out an uneven, by the numbers superhero movie that is everything wrong with the subgenre.)
3. Sucker Punch (I really like Snyder's previous efforts, but this movie doesn’t work on every level. Nothing is right, from pacing to plotting to acting and beyond. Just a boring, garish mess.)
2. X-Men: First Class (All the scenes with adults are good. All scenes with the teens are awful. The balance fell with the teens. Ugh.)
1. Captain America: The First Avenger (The first two thirds are great. The final act is a lame preview for The Avengers. This should have been allowed to stand on its own. Squandered potential.)
The Bottom 5 Films of the Year:
5. Red Riding Hood (You thought Twilight was awful? Try this. Even Gary Oldman sucks in it.)
4. Dylan Dog (You know, there's a comic series with the same name. I wonder if they'll ever try adapting it.)
3. Sucker Punch (Like watching anime. Loud, flashy, and stupid.)
2. Bellflower (Hipsters suck.)
1. Conan The Barbarian (One day, there will be a Conan movie made by people who have actually read the Conan stories...One day.)
|Like this movie, she blows.|
Actor of the Year: I was tempted to give it to Johnny Depp, as he’s got three movies in my top 20, two of them in my top 10. And Daniel Craig had two films I enjoyed quite a bit. But, I think it’s crazy Nicolas Cage who has turned an affliction (horrible acting) into an art form who wins the day. The last couple years, he’s become this amazing…well, something. He’s like a good, but strong spice. Alone, kind of awful, but used properly, he can make the whole thing so much better. I don’t want to see Cage play a normal guy. He can’t do it. I want him playing only the craziest, wackiest, most over the top people. He only has one speed, and it’s balls-out! He is what John Travolta only wishes he could be. So, with Season of the Witch and Drive Angry (in 3D!), Nicolas Cage takes my Actor of the Year award.
Complete Top 20
20. Fast Five
18. Cowboys and Aliens
17. Fright Night
14. The Adventures of Tintin
12. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
11. Drive Angry
10. Hobo with a Shotgun
9. The Rum Diary
7. The Muppets
6. Attack the Block
3. Super 8
2. The Artist