Danny's Best Films of 2011 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Jan/1212

Danny’s Best Films of 2011

Well, it's the time of the year for film critics to belly up to the table, put on their soothing voices, and once more murmur unto the abyss, "Boy, golly, 2011 sure had a lot of good movies come out!"

And I'm here to tell you that, like usual, film critics are full of shit. There were a couple of great ones, a few good ones, and a whole load of mediocre crap that we, as a culture, should probably agree to ignore for the sake of our own mental health. Unless you sat down and spent hours figuring out where to go to see Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy, were willing to challenge your own perceptions with Tree of Life, or if you were one of the dozen who saw Margaret and one of the hundred to call it an undiscovered gem, the only way you saw any movies in 2011 worth remembering is if you spent all of your time trying to find them.

Which, to me, is pretty damn depressing.

Instead of doing a "Top Whatever" list, I just picked out all of the movies I saw that were released theatrically in 2011 and categorized them by how I felt.

Anal retentitive list making? Me? Never.

The Movies I Loved From 2011

- Young Adult -- I think my complete heartfelt slobbering from a few weeks ago for this film still stands. A satire of romantic comedies, high school, and any American dream that you put in front of it, Young Adult is admirably fearless in its convictions.

- The Trip -- So many movies about men this year relied on homophobic punchlines and cheap jokes that an honest-to-God character study of two men, blurring the line of reality, is easily the best film about grasping at artistic inspiration and still falling short when the one's we admire want to be loved too.

- The Tree of Life -- Unapologetically dense, director Terrence Mallick's film is a metaphoric journey of the human conscious, poking and prodding at man's relationship to God, the earth, and the universe. Rarely has a more personal or more obtuse film been attempted, let alone made-- people walked out of this in droves, and any pedantic movie critic who derided this as a 'pretentious look at a young Texan boy's coming of age' proved themselves worthy of whatever E!-esque outlet they write for.

- Cedar Rapids -- Okay, I know I belittled this kind of movie two capsules reviews above, but if you're going to watch one ridiculous movie about a man getting past his infantile mindset, this is the best.

- Submarine (Jacob's review) -- A dizzying film that draws on Jean-Luc Godard's Week End, Francois Truffaut's 400 Blows, Woody Allen's ability to transplant homages, and Catcher in the Rye to a great degree to create a wholly unique coming of age story. It darts between small moments of brilliance and gorgeous uninhibited imagery to create something that feels unerringly authentic but stylistically genius. If the ending is more cathartic than happy, that suits it perfectly.

- Rango (Andrew's review) -- Subverting genre expectations is the norm nowadays, but few do so with such reckless energy and abandon as Rango, which calls upon Western mythology and let's Johnny Depp run wild like he hasn't in nearly a decade. It makes its social-satirical stabs harder than any Happy Feet movie, and is funnier than it has any right to be. 

Movies I Really, Really Liked

Movies That Were Good

Movies More Fun to Analyze Than to Watch

Indifference

Movies I Didn't Really Enjoy

Movies I Pretty Much Hated

Movies I Absolutely Loathed From 2011

And the worst movies I saw all year. Keep in mind that I liked Jack and Jill and Three Musketeers, so my keen dislike of these films is probably rooted in some mild form of dementia.

- The Rite -- One of the first movies released in 2011 is also one of its most easily forgotten, apparently, since the movie's "true story" behind "exorcisms" is "insulting". One of the few movies I saw this year that attempted a scare by someone throwing a cat at the window, it's a disposable and unpleasant version of a story that's been done a dozen times before.

- My Week with Marilyn -- A barrel of sap in the clothes of Classic Film Magic(TM), this movie is brazenly insulting to Norma Jean, both legend and human being. Michelle Williams is good, but, frankly, the acting is the only thing distinguishing this made-for-TV-esque narrative from its rightful place on the Lifetime Channel.

- Hugo (Jacob's review) -- Perhaps the most inexplicably championed film of the year, Hugo is an unwieldy mess that tries to supplant magical realism and cinema history into a Frankensteinien monster. It lurches about, and probably drowns a little girl, too, if I tried pushing that metaphor any more. Oddly enough, a lot of people I've read who've loved this film also put it a few steps above Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris on their ten best lists, which I can't see as more than a little ironic; Midnight's point is exactly that this sort of hookum is unhealthy, both to the world of cinema and the person who desperately grasps to it.

- Paul - I still get chills of anger up and down my spine when I think back to this useless waste of talent. A film that attempts to be "Edgy" rather than daring and supplants comedy with cliches, it's like sitting through a friend's rambling retelling of a joke punctuated by smug, worthless sentiments. Fuck this movie.

- Gnomeo and Juliet (Andrew's review) - One of two movies on the list I couldn't be assed to finish. Besides the achingly awful score that quotes directly from Elton John to a grating degree, this film contains one of the absolute most anger inducing lines I've ever heard uttered in a film aimed at young people. Showing this film to children should be a crime.

- Green Lantern (Andrew's review) - A great deal of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I know it's a cliche to put this on a 'worst of' list this time of year, but this is a terrible throwback to 90's blockbusters without any of the intelligence or wit, and, worse still, it looks and behaves like hundreds of things you've seen before. The dead eyed look behind all of the actors is mimicked in the film's complete failure to create anything as coherent as a plot line. For the record, I walked out of this film. I'm so immeasurably glad I did.

Let's hope 2012 is better.

The movies I didn't see and wanted to that could have made this list (one way or another): Drive, 50/50, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter, Higher Ground, Carnage, Sleeping Beauty, Coriolanus, Margaret, The Mill and the Cross, Restless, The Skin I Live In, Friends With Benefits, A Separation, J. Edgar, Mars Needs Moms, In The Name of the King 2, and, of course, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.

Posted by Danny

Filed under: 2011, Best of Leave a comment
Comments (12) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I enjoyed reading this post. It was an interesting take on the usual top whatever lists. Though I wonder if you’ll still think it was a weak year after seeing all the titles in the last paragraph.

    • I won’t lie, I thought the year was a lot worse until I hammered through about a dozen movies near the end. Unfortunately, a lot of the really championed stuff– Drive, 50/50, etc– doesn’t come out on video until the end of January, so it was either pushing this post back until no one cares or just drop some movies I’ve heard good things about, but couldn’t apparently be bothered to see.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I think it’s funny to go through the progression in the post through indifference, hatred, and then absolute loathing. Glad to see Cedar Rapids near the top, as it was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed Submarine a lot. It’s interesting to see The Descendants (which I liked) and The Artist (which I haven’t seen yet) on your Indifference list. It’s rare and sort of refreshing to see a different take on these, even if I don’t really agree in terms of The Descendants. Nice job.

    • Thanks! I know those two opinions in particular aren’t extremely common, but they’re honestly the most I can manage. To be honest, The Artist really disappointed me, since I’ve seen so many silent films and felt this movie was such a pale imitation of even the good ones among them.

  3. I really liked how you breakdown each grouping, definitely some surprises in each section. Also, it was nice to see Margin Call get some love, a lot of people seemed to ignore this film unfairly. Lastly I completely agree with your assessment of Green Lantern, it makes my worst of the year list as well (along with films Priest, Vanishing on 7th Street, The Green Hornet, etc).

    • Yeah, despite seeing a lot of films I was lukewarm and blase to, the ones I really hated this year stood out pretty easily.

      And Margin Call was pretty nifty– it’s a shame that it’s getting basically no years end buzz despite some really great performances.

  4. Wow, great, expansive write up of what I consider to be a very good year for movies. While I don’t necessarily agree with your choices (I LOVED Hugo), I respect them all the same. Good stuff!

  5. LOL I think this is the first time I read that someone hated Ides of March. Interesting list you got here. I also loved Submarine and several movies you pick. Also going to review ‘My Idiot Brother’, I enjoy it a lot.

    • I’m definitely a strange one with that one, but it really didn’t work for me at all. And My Idiot Brother was something I was expecting nothing from and came out pleasantly amazed.

  6. Love the breakdown of categories and the fact that you included everything you saw in the list. Makes everything super simple and to the point.

    I haven’t seen Hugo but your paragraph sort of confirms what I suspected about it. I still plan on seeing it, but I worry that all the hype is just that. Thanks for suitably lowering my expectations.

    • I figured it’s better to put everything out in the open rather than gloss over what I haven’t seen. I’m very much in the minority on Hugo, though, so hopefully your low expectations will help!


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