2011 was a crappy year for movies. I’d say that the bottom three quarters (nos. 10 – 4) of the films on this list are films that I really liked, but wouldn’t put them in a “have to be nominated for an Oscar” category. Having said that though, the top half, I would.
10. Midnight in Paris
The day before my wedding, four of my closest friends took me out on a “bachelor’s day”, which included, among other things going to see a movie–we chose “Midnight in Paris” over “The Tree of Life” and I’m soooooo glad we did. I’m not traditionally a fan of Woody Allen, ok I hate him, but there is an undeniable charm to “Midnight in Paris” that made my heart lift throughout the entire film. It didn’t overstay it’s welcome, it was cleverly cast, and built on a simple little story that I found really intriguing. Also, as the last movie I saw as a single man, it holds a special place for me.
This one beat out “The Muppets”. Although I probably will enjoy that film for quite a while longer, there was something that impelled me to put “Shame” on this list–and it’s not the fact that you see Michael Fassbender’s wang-dang-doodle (which is only briefly at the beginning, btw). There were some great subtleties in this film that make me feel drawn to it–things that linger there and don’t let go. But that scene of Carey Mulligan singing “New York, New York” needed to be cut down by 5 minutes!
8. Paranormal Activity 3
It’s surprising just how much this series has managed to retain its fright factor–although, I have to say, that fan camera thing didn’t scare me as much as it did everyone else. This one was fun horror movie stuff, but for some strange reason it doesn’t resonate for me in the same way as other horror franchises have. Maybe they need to get a better development going for the lead characters in order to get it to the same caliber?
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Yeah, I saw the original, and I liked it–it’s the best in the series. Although I was hoping for some “Let Me In” remake twists where certain scenes would be changed for the better, but alas that did not happen. That’s not to say that this American remake is without merit. David Fincher did the best job he could with the odds stacked against him, and although I was incredibly skeptical about Rooney Mara’s capabilities to fill Noomi Rapace’s big shoes, she impressed me over and over. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Daniel Craig is so darn sexy.
6. Scream 4
I remember when “Scream 3″ was released and there was talk about a fourthquel. The word around the creators was definitely not, no way! Not unless it’s 10 years later and the characters are different. Well, I guess they remembered because this one hit almost exactly 10 years later. I don’t understand exactly why everyone hated this film as much as they did–I thought the villian was pretty clever and right on the nose with the whole fame and me culture phenomenon going on right now. I do agree that it could have taken some more chances in regards to how it ended, but I’m not going to say the entire dinner was crap just because I didn’t like the dessert.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Who would have thought that one of the most ridiculous premises would actually turn out a really great film? Well, it has. There’s something intriguing about a species developing the capacity to overthrow the human race as top of the food chain. So, with an interesting premise, expertly executed and great performances all around, this one was one of my favourites of the year.
Screw you if you weren’t scared by this film or didn’t get on board with where the ending went. It’s a ghost story, not a reality story for pete’s sake. I love horror, I love entertaining certain kinds of ideas and I don’t throw the baby out with the bath water simply because I may not like the way they chose to explain the end premise. That old lady in the black wedding dress scared the crap out of me! Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Patrick Wilson is super sexy.
3. The Help
Ok, now we get into the serious films. The films that I believe are deserving of award recognition their so darn good. First off, “The Help”–although not as risky as the book (which wasn’t that risky to begin with), still beautifully done with a superb ensemble cast. Viola Davis rightly deserved an Oscar for her 8 minute scene-stealing and game changing work in “Doubt”, but I will accept her earning it for her fine work here–as well as Octavia Spencer. Although, poor Emma Stone, she was amazing in this and seems to be consistently overlooked when this film is discussed–however, like her character says in the film, the story isn’t about her. My only beef is that they changed the relationship with one of the maids and her boss from a loving relationship to one filled with hate and entitlement–it was a minor subplot, but I liked how in the book there was more than a few white people who were opposed to Ms. Hilly’s proposal for Jackson-wide segregation, even though they pretended to be on board with it.
2. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen must be fuming! They have been in the business now practically their entire lives and in comes their younger (and much prettier) sister who can act circles around them. I mean CIRCLES! Elizabeth Olsen was completely and utterly brilliant in this film. Every year or so there is a new face that breaks through with an outstanding performance (a few years ago it was Gabourey Sibide) and this year it’s Ms. Olsen. The scene where the cult leader begins to play a song that he wrote for her character and the camera holds on her face as she is at first surprised, but then understands the severity of the situation she’s gotten into is completely breathtaking. Also, besides her standout performance, the film itself is startlingly disturbing as it slowly builds the tension and uneasiness of the experiences she went through.
For awhile in the summer when this was released on blu-ray, I couldn’t stop watching it. Literally. I think I had to re-watch the film almost every other night. There were times when I would finish watching it and then I’d want to re-watch it again. I devoured everything on that blu-ray: deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary, what-have-you. There are many things that make this film so irresistibly charming. Most people write this one off as a female version of “The Hangover”, but to do that does this film a great disservice. “Bridesmaids” elevates itself above the typical stupid comedy fare for many reasons: 1. The character development of Annie is so completely brilliant that you can’t help but love and understand every single one of her motivations, even when you think she’s crazy; 2. The entire cast is brilliant–they bounce off of each other so beautifully, it’s amazing; 3. Melissa McCarthy; 4. The friendship between Annie and Lillian is touching and realistic, especially near the end when Lillian is leaving for her honeymoon and the two exchange knowing glances; 5. The developing romance between Annie and the cop is sweet without being too rom-com saccharine and Chris O’Dowd does a fine job of being the cute nice guy who gets the girl in the end; 6. Although the film did have a romance, it wasn’t ABOUT the romance, and its blossoming was separate to the integral storyline of Annie bettering her life through her relationship with Lillian; 7. Melissa McCarthy; 8. Women rule!