January 16, 2012

2011 at the Movies: Top 10 Movies of the Year

Better late than never, right? I really wanted to get this up closer to New Year's but year after year, that never seems to happen. Now, if you are new to my top movie lists, the rules are simple, it had to be a movie released in the calendar year and I had to have seen it on the big screen. I am sure you have already seen my back ten list covering numbers 20 down to 11, now we can move on to my choices for best movies of the year. Just remember, there are likely movies I missed, it happens, move on, enjoy the movies! (also be sure to check out my video countdown!)

10. Insidious. This haunting tale was brought to the screen by the duo behind the original Saw, James Wan and Leigh Whannell. This movie feels like Poltergeist if it were made in Japan. It is not quite as gonzo as Hausu, but it is certainly headed in that direction. Toss in some touches of Paranormal Activity and there you have it. Insidious really has some of those Japanese touches, where once trapped in the haunting, there is little hope of escape. It is a movie of tone and atmosphere, it is more interested in getting a reaction than telling a story. Sure, the story is there, but it is secondary to rollercoaster like ride.

9. Archie's Final Project. Effective, different, and well worth the effort. Archie's Final Project takes us on a ride into the mind of the modern media saturated youth in a rather strong portrait of the sort of disenfranchisement that should be able to be avoided. I blame it on the deterioration of actual communication as dictated by modern media and technological advances (not that they are a bad thing, but this is still the first generation to have them at this level). It is a challenging movie that may never find an audience. I am actually surprised I had the chance to see it. It is a a surprising work that manages to make its point without becoming cloying or preachy. This is not an easy task when talking about angst and suicide. It also doesn't hurt that the performances are good and Gabriel Sunday does a great job to center the film and lead us through.

8. Martha Marcy May Marlene. This movie does a fine job of putting you in that fractured state where past and present collide as a the mind attempts to correct itself. Elizabeth Olson gives a fantastic lead performance as a former cult member trying to reintegrate with reality. The film really puts us in her head in a unique way, it moves between her present and her past in such a way that they often seem to be the same thing. It is really an interesting film that I suspect will reward multiple viewings. It also features a charismatic performance by John Hawkes as the cult leader.

7. Source Code. This is a lot more than a clever science fiction film. It seeks to bring a sense of hope to the world, even while asking more questions and introducing questionable morality. The Source Code works as intended, but even more not as intended. Sure, its replaying of a sequence multiple times brings to mind Vantage Point and Dennis Quaid's "Stop! Rewind that." exclamation, but it goes beyond that. Little differences each time that could potentially display the faultiness of memory or perhaps something else. Source Code does not explain a lot, nor should it, it retains a mystery about Colter's reality, the origins of the Source Code, and our desire to do good.

6. Hanna. This really is an engrossing film. From the moment the film starts I was intrigued by Hanna, curious as to what made her tick, interested by why her father chose to raise her this way, and wondering why Veigler was so intent on getting her hands on the girl. This movie has action, but it also allows us to spend time with the characters, letting Hanna reveal her humanity, curiosity, and wonder as she encounters the world for the first time. Layer by layer, piece by piece the picture is put together, leaving enough space for you to fill in some of the gaps. Hanna is an action/thriller that comes face to face with the arthouse, creating a new cinematic fairy tale.

5. The Artist. This movie is a wonderful, sweet, charismatic story of the silent era, the dawn of the talkies, pride, bad decisions, and love. The movie is pretty amazing, it is a black and white silent film that feels genuine to the era, just as it takes a wink at the camera and plays with the genre of a bygone era, but never think it is mocking it. It is another of this years nostalgia banking movies that pays off. Jean Dujardin is a the charismatic lead, looking as if he belongs completely in the silent era. This is a beautiful, sweet movie that is well worth tracking down.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's funny, when I saw the original Swedish film, I said it reminded me of a David Fincher film, now we have the American version directed by David Fincher! Amazing. In all seriousness though, this is movie is as good as if not better than the first adaptation of the novel. Fincher's direction, eye for the screen image, and sense of pacing is perfect. The movie feels finely focused and on point even at its run time of more than 2.5 hours. Combine that with a surprising performance from Rooney Mara, who puts her own stamp on the damaged Lisbeth Salander and doesn't try to duplicate Noomi Rapace's fantastic performance. This is definitely a first rate film that deserves the attention.

3. 50/50. A cancer comedy. Never thought that such a thing could work, especially with Seth Rogen involved. It is a movie that is funny and touching while never being manipulative. Rogen turns in a solid supporting performance, but it is Joseph Gordon Levitt in the lead that makes this movie work. He is a very likable guy and it is very easy to sympathize with him. The cancer is never the joke and is treated seriously, as it should. This movie is a wonderful experience that I never expected going in.

2. Hugo. Martin Scorsese has crafted another masterpiece. This movie feels like something he has been wanting to make for decades. Knowing his love for cinema and his involvement in the effort of film preservation, this feels like a labor of love, at the same time it is completely different from anything else he has made. It is a magical film that centers on a boy and his sense of wonder and discovery, just as it shines a light on an important piece of early cinema. It is wonderful.

1. Super 8. Here is a movie that fires on all cylinders. It takes me back to my younger days watching movies, it demonstrates the love of filmmaking by those involved, and is just great all around. Just thinking about it makes me smile and want to head back to the theater. This is a movie that doesn't play like a potential franchise, it has a goal of providing a great story for everyone while reminding us what made the 80's great. It is not merely a throwback film, it is a successful attempt at making a family friendly adventure without a cynical bone in its body.

That about wraps it up for the year! Let's hope some more great films in 2012!

. Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment