Monday, January 9, 2012

Top Five: Favorite Movies of 2011

I kind of hate that so many Best-of lists seem to come out in December. Personally I've never seen everything I've wanted to see*, either due to late theater release dates or lack of availability in my area or just plain missed opportunities, until at least a month into the next year. So there's no shame in waiting for January to publish- it's not a race, guys! We're all in it together!

Anyway. Here are my favorites of the year, alphabetical order. Top 5 and then 5 Honorable Mentions so it's basically a Top 10! Also a few extra special mentions at the bottom.

Attack the Block

Dang this movie has everything: aliens, a killer soundtrack, action, potheads, Nick Frost, badass teenagers, British urban slang. Believe! Frequent Edgar Wright-collaborator Joe Cornish's debut is an all-out fun inner-city alien takeover adventure. I loved the tenement location, funny dialogue, fast-paced story, and undercurrent of class commentary all wrapped up in a goddamn good time. The action sequences are really well shot, and those gorilla wolf motherfuckers are pretty awesome looking.

Ok I know this is a silly choice but I had to get some Astron-6 on here and I would sooner watch Manborg again than Father's Day. This send-up of 80's sci-fi screened at Toronto After Dark, my main festival this year, and I all-out loved it. It's cheesy but surprisingly smart, working in as many references as it does original ideas. It's a perfect combination of nostalgic homage and on-target parody, and its stop-motion monsters and complicated low-res CG backdrops work against its extremely small budget.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Photographed beautifully and edited to perfection, this is one of the most engaging films I've seen this year. Elizabeth Olson is truly excellent in the lead role, a young woman torn between two existences and confusing her memories with present-day. The style of the film so involves the viewer in her perspective, creating a truly personal story that managed to scare the shit out of me. And as for John Hawkes: Give this man an Oscar, already. Another awesome thing is that I met Cinema Enthusiast in real life at this movie, which was one of the best things!

Take Shelter

This movie. THIS MOVIE. Jeff Nichols' sophomore feature is as terrifying in its portrayal of mental illness as it is in its suggestion of nature rebelling against mankind. Michael Shannon is intense and magnetic as ever in the lead role, and Jessica Chastain gives a solid supporting performance as his increasingly worried wife. The apocalyptic imagery is inventive and oddly beautiful, and the ending left me somewhat stunned (in the best way). I have continued to be terrified of bird formations and heavy storm clouds ever since, so it certainly stuck with me.

The Artist
This was probably my most anticipated film of 2011 so it was slightly agonizing to wait almost the entire year for it. Luckily it proved to meet my high expectations with its beautiful visuals, energetic cast, and beautiful use of silent film as a medium. I loved the 1920s/30s setting and reverence to old Hollywood. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo shine equally in their roles, with excellent appearances from John Goodman, Missi Pyle, and James Cromwell. The fact that it constantly reminded me of my favorite movie ever Singin' in the Rain keeps it in high favor.

Honorable Mentions:
Jane Eyre
The Innkeepers
The Skin I Live In

Weirdest Movie: Probably Kaboom. Though The Catechism Cataclysm and Father's Day are most definitely up there too.

Worst Movie: Ugh. Gonna go with Cars 2. But X-Men: First Class and Vs are down there too.

Some Numbers: 315 total movies seen. 208 new-to-me movies. 100 seen in a theater. 51 movies from 2011 (that number's a little mushy since some films straddle the 2010/2011 line depending on festival/official/US release, etc). The first movie I watched was Apocalypse Now and the last was Ghost in the Shell.

I want Rubber to count for 2011, but I don't think it actually does. It had a weird release situation, and I know I saw it on a few Best of 2010 lists. Anyway my point is Rubber is fantastic and maybe is my favorite 2010/2011 hybrid movie!

So. What movies did you love in 2011?

*Unfortunately I still haven't, but I have no idea when We Need to Talk About Kevin is coming out here and I have a feeling Shame, Meek's Cutoff, and Certified Copy wouldn't have made it into my top 10 anyway, though I still look forward to seeing them.


  1. I won't announce my top ten until next Tuesday, but I can say that you and I have three movies in common.

  2. A big theme for me this year was kids' movies: THE MUPPETS, RANGO, HUGO, WINNIE THE POOH and HARRY POTTER all made my official top 10, and TINTIN would have if I had seen it in time.

    The only movie we share on our top 10 is THE SKIN I LIVE IN (which actually didn't make my "official" list either, since I saw it late).

    You're right about December being to early, but some of us have deadlines to meet!

    MARTHA MARCY et. al, MELANCHOLIA, and THE ARTIST all made my honorable mention list. TAKE SHELTER just missed but I did cast a vote for Michael Shannon for best actor.

    It's too bad you didn't like THE TREE OF LIFE, it's winning awards left and right wherever film geeks control the voting!

  3. Rich: Oooh a mystery! I wonder which ones we share...

    366: I agree, there were some great kids movies out this year! I missed RANGO and WINNIE THE POOH but dug the other ones you listed. None quite made it into "favorite" status though. And yeah I know everyone loves TREE OF LIFE but it really just didn't do it for me. Too religious, too meandering, too... masculine, I guess? Not my thing, basically. Beautiful visuals though, no question there, and I liked the child performances.

  4. You missed Rango? You have to see that movie. It is the coolest kids film in a long time, mostly because it is the one that feels like it could have been made for adults too. I don't remember the last time a kids film was populated by characters that looked so ugly. Dark Crystal, maybe?

  5. Man, I so wanted to see Take Michael Shannon. Can't wait until it comes out on DVD in February. And I wish I could see 100 movies in the theater in a year!