Top Ten Films of 2011

An interesting year for film.  It wasn’t great, but it was different.  Odd.  But it definitely brought a lot of different variety of film, but I will say that it was exceptionally weak in the “blow my brains away” area, especially comparing it to last year.  I guess you don’t get the Social Networks, Black Swans, Let Me In every year, but oh well.  That still doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good year.  A lot of films this year definitely went for a softer, more emotional context rather than going for the pushing the boundaries theme.  But nonetheless, there were 10 films that I thought were excellent and deserves to be on this list.  Granted, I haven’t seen all of the films in 2012, including The Iron Lady, Carnage, etc. but if they are that good, I’ll let you know, but I can tell you right, it won’t.  So shall we begin?

Honorable Mention:  50/50, Warrior, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Another Earth, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 (this should be in my top ten…)

10.  Like Crazy

In regards to the overall film, it was anything spectacular.  Any one of the honorable mention films could easily replace Like Crazy, but when we watch films, one of the biggest achievements a filmmaker can do is to make the audience reconnect the film to specific moments in their lives.  To see themselves on screen rather than the characters they portray.  In Like Crazy, it is done so well, and kind of relies on the audience having these experiences so much where individuals who don’t relate well get left behind.  Nonetheless, as being able to connect to the film, Like Crazy deserves the 10 spot as being brutally honest but emotionally captivating.  And a strong performance from Felicity Jones.

9.  We Need To Talk About Kevin

This is one of those films that you watch and you tell yourself as the credits roll, “I want to go jump off a building.”  Yeah, it’s pretty dark material.  Bad parenting is quite the rare subject but is pretty relevant in our culture, and it’s interesting how much neglect and ignorance we give on this matter.  Society loves to blame school, teachers, churches, friends, etc. on why their kids are mischievous, misbehaving or overall abnormal, but the parents have the most influence on their children, positive or negative.  In We Need To Talk About Kevin, we see this relationship from the beginning, and it’s painful to watch considering we know what’s going to happen in the end.  An disgraceful but amazing performance by Tilda Swinton and credit to Ezra Miller for his dark portrayal of an insane teenager.

8.  Contagion/Margin Call

I usually don’t like combining two films for one spot, just because it makes me feel like I’m cheating the system, especially when I state that these are the ten best, but screw you.  Anyways, I put this spot for two films that have a similar theme in introducing a situation where our world comes to a complete destruction.  In Contagion, a new virus spreads across the world like wildfire, and it isn’t so much about the virus that the film is centered on, but the behaviors of human beings, the chaos and panic that is more of an infectious problem.  Where Margin Call shows us the beginning stages of the economic downfall of 2008, it provides an amazing script with a great cast that doesn’t show us the after affects, but gives us the perspective of those finding out that our economic world is coming to an end, and instead of looking out for the 99%, they’re more interested in themselves and that small 1%.  Though quite different, these films are really well done and overall quite entertaining.

7.  Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes/Super 8

Okay, I know.  I’ve done it twice in a row now.  But another screw you.  But this spot goes to two films that I think surprised a lot of people in the summer.  I know when we think of summer films, we think of big, loud blockbusters that are only focused on making some green, but these two films were excellent in what they were trying to achieve and captured with such essence that it’s hard to ignore.  Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes really was an achievement from the special effects to how they made a film that could’ve been so bad, so good.  Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar nomination (I’ve said this like 5 times) and it would be great to see it get nominated, but yeah, no.  Super 8 meanwhile brought out the nostalgia from just the everyday neighborhood child looking for an adventure with their friends to you know, witnessing a top secret U.S. government train crash with an super intelligent extra terrestrial being on board.  Ahh the good ol’ days.  In seriousness, J.J. Abrams always does an amazing job on not just putting on great actions pieces, but surrounding it with great characters and an intriguing story.  He’s underrated in the character development area and I can’t wait to see him continue to pursue his directing career.

6.  The Ides of March

I have a certain liking in political films, and though I can understand why individuals will find this film “very ordinary” and “dull”, to me, it was very exciting and extremely entertaining.  An Obama-like candidate, we have Ryan Gosling playing a crucial role in his campaign, but makes a mistake.  Let alone a big one, but this one mistake snowballs into one big crapfest that shows the harsher side of a person.  What separates us from living by our morals or living by success?  What are we willing to sacrifice to get to where we want to be?  Is there ever a right, clean way to the top?  And if we get there, are we able to change our identity?  All these questions are asked during The Ides of March which is well acted and very well paced.  Ryan Gosling has shown he can star and take control of his own film like “Drive” (don’t get me started) and the supporting cast of George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti and Marissa Tomei tie this film in a great way.

5.  The Descendants

When I first saw this movie, I thought it was good, but not great.  In my head, I was thinking, “Is this really a Best Picture contender?”.  But I saw it one more time, and just allowed myself to think, and it slowly started to reveal itself in its achievements and what the film truly is.  It’s nothing out of the box, innovative film making.  What it is though, is providing an in-depth look at a family that is going through a crisis/tragedy.  What it does so well is showing the real world aspect of life, that there are times in our lives that things are not well.  And our world slowly dissolves into a big freakin mess, but that doesn’t relieve us of our responsibilities.  There are some things that are not excusable, like being a parent.  As hard as life can be just dealing with our problems and issues, we cannot forget our purpose in life, and whatever that may be, we need to be there for those individuals.  It provides a darker but yet intrinsic value that bad things will always happen, but what we do after is more important than what happened.  Also George Clooney probably gives his best performance of his career.

4.  Moneyball

The success in Moneyball really comes from everything it’s not.  It’s not a sports film.  It’s not a film about baseball.  It’s not about numbers or statistics.  It’s about redemption.  Changing the game.  Doing something that’s worth while, and knowing that you’re risking almost everything you have, money, your reputation, your job, even your life, for something that you believe in, or something you hope that will work.  Billy Beane’s story is just as captivating as heartbreaking.  As a victim of over scouted talent, he tries to do something completely unheard of in the baseball world by building a team with a miniscule budget that the essence of their team is to get on base.  Now sabermetrics has much more to do with than just on-base percentage, but that’s besides the point.  It’s a emotional, heart-wrenching film that isn’t telling us how amazing the 2001 Oakland A’s were.  It’s showing us that as humans, we face disappointment more than we face success.  But when we become successful and do something amazing, we need to aim big and far, that in one successful moment, it was worth all the disappointment we’ve faced our entire life.

3.  Melancholia

If you’ve already read my review on Melancholia, than you can just skip this part.  Not, you douchebag.  But I’ll make it quick.  It’s beautifully shot.  The characters are at their best.  The images that the film provides are absolutely breathtaking.  By far, this is Kristen Dunst best performance and should get an Oscar nomination, but she won’t.  Lars Von Trier is quite the controversial director, but in this one, the only argument is how good this film is.  I don’t know what’s better, the character development or that moment where you know the end is near.  Phew.  But overall, this film is just great and totally creative and unheard of.  I fell in love with this film and it should be studied for years to come.  That good.

2.  Midnight In Paris

Not for everyone, but for those who love cities, love culture and love history, man this one’s for you.  Woody Allen films are quite the acquired taste.  I have a love/hate relationship with his films, but when I love them, I really do love them.  No exception for Midnight in Paris.  Just his ability to capture the 1920’s in a way where you actually believe in what’s happening, though totally ridiculous, is a credit to his abilities in film.  The cameos throughout the film are great, and just being able to see on screen those prominent figures of the 20’s brought a smile to my face.  But overall, the film provides a great message in that we can’t waste our lives looking back and wishing we were in a separate time, thinking our lives would be much better if so, but to we must also appreciate what those have done behind us so we can advance further than years down the road, they can look at our generation and say the same thing.  And this film makes you want to live in Paris.

1.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I think this was going to happen for a while.  I just couldn’t find a film that grabbed my attention more than David Fincher’s adaption of Steig Larsson’s book.  I mean, I loved everything about the film from improving from the first novel’s flaws, the opening credits of the film and of course, Rooney Mara’s introduction into fame role as Lisbeth Salander.  The world is a cruel place everyone, and sometimes we love to hide the fact that there are sins out there that truly haunt people, but we like to sweep them under the rug thinking nothing has happened.  We live in a world that will do the utmost terrible to others, including the ones we love, but an important question we must ask is how far can we reveal someone’s inner evil when we have our own evil to face?  No one is perfect obviously, but we can measure messed up stuff, and the things that are done in this film are truly messed up, but that’s not necessarily the important part.  To thing rape and sexual sins are the focus of this film is to be completely ignorant of what Fincher is trying to accomplish.  Its goal is to reveal to us a world where different events in our lives can change us into something evil, but no matter how much blame we put on that specific event or individual responsible, we still have the choice on the path we take.  Yes, I can blame a lot of problems to specific individuals, but we must behave like adults and face our inner struggles and problems in a healthy manner, but if we do not act in this way, terrible things can be done.  It’s a film where we choose to reveal darkness with light, or cover it with even more darkness.  Oh David Fincher, you would repeat yourself at number one twice.  You too good…

Overall, pretty good year.  I still haven’t seen Hugo (I don’t know why…), Shame, My Week With Marilyn, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, etc., but it’ll come.  Anyways, Oscar nominations out tomorrow!

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