Thursday, March 15, 2012

BEST OF 2011

There's an inherent problem with making a "Best Movies of 2011" list while living in Salt Lake City. We're a small market and a lot of the best movies (or the ones getting Academy Award pushes, anyway) get released on platforms. Most of them have smaller budgets which means they get released in a few cities at a time in order to rely on strong word of mouth, reviews, blog posts, etc. so they don't have to shell out millions of dollars on advertising campaigns.

Salt Lake is usually right in the middle or towards the end of that platform cycle. Something that opens in New York and Los Angeles in late November/early December might not play theaters in Salt Lake until February of the next year, as was the case with movies like THE ARTIST and SHAME.

I've always loved making "Best of" lists for movies and I've always held off until I've seen most things before making it. Right now it's February 13 (at the time I'm writing this, anyway) and I just barely saw SHAME. I feel that was the last one I needed to see before I could make my list for 2011. But at the same time, we're now two months in to 2012 and I've just barely seen everything I wanted to see before making this list. Kind of feels like cheating a little, doesn't it? I kind of have to, though. It's one of the perils of living in a small market.

Ideally, my list would run from mid-February to mid-February, but that causes a problem if I see something that blows me away at Sundance. I'm spending entirely too much time thinking about this, but that's kind of what I do. I over think and over analyze a lot of things and write about them. It's why you keep coming back to read this, isn't it? Too share my inane observations about life in general? That's what I thought.

Now enough excuses. Let's get to the best—and by best, I mean my favorite—movies of 2011.


Sure, it was more mood than plot, more style than substance but that's what I loved about it. In a year when so many movies tried so hard to be ambitious and meaningful but just came off as pretentious and boring (yes, I'm talking about you, TREE OF LIFE), DRIVE was a breath of fresh air. Ryan Gosling was just a bad ass. Albert Brooks does an awesome evil. Bryan Cranston does a great everything and Ron Pearlman, Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks added little bits of greatness here and there and the score/soundtrack took it to the next level. I don't care what anyone says, DRIVE was just cool, and it's been far too long since somebody made as cool of a movie as this. My hat is off to you Nicolas Winding Refn.


It's a rare occasion these days that I see a movie that reminds me why I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was younger (and I wrote about that after I saw it). DRIVE did that to an extent, but I SAW THE DEVIL did it to a masterful degree. The performances were spectacular all the way through and I watched the whole thing with a wide-eyed wonder. That doesn't happen often, but I wish it happened more.


It might be because I have enormous aspirations of being a writer that I loved this, but I think it's more than that. I love Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt and they both kill it in this movie. It's also the least Diablo Cody of Diablo Cody's movies, which is a compliment. I like her ideas more than her execution usually, but she showed restraint with this story and that was the most impressive part. I agree with the people that said it didn't seem like Jason Reitman brought much to the table when directing this when he was probably capable of doing more, but at the same time, it felt like he did the perfect amount. He got out of the way and let the script speak for itself and that was a great decision.


As much as everyone says that HUGO was all about the magic of movies (it was, but in a very esoteric way, I thought), THE ARTIST did it much, much better. Not only did it have two of my favorite actors in it—John Goodman and James Cromwell—but the two leads were totally unknown to me and made the story that much more compelling. The fact that it was a silent movie and everyone had to rely on facial expressions and subtlety more that they otherwise would have made it so much more enjoyable. I totally see why everyone was bashing the "gimmick" aspect of it and praising HUGO instead, but HUGO was in 3-D, so that knocks it down a few pegs in my book. THE ARTIST cleaned up at the Academy Awards last month, but how the dog didn't get nominated for any awards is beyond me.


Sometimes the best movies are the ones you know absolutely nothing about. I don't follow a lot of foreign cinema and I pay even less attention to Samurai movies, but this movie was just great. The last 45 minutes in particular, in which an enormous battle sequence is staged in a small town with makeshift booby traps and wall to wall combat is amazing. I was doing karate moves in my apartment into the early hours of the morning the night after I saw it.

Honorable Mentions

These are some of the other movies I loved, but couldn't quite crack the Top 5 and there were too many for a Top 10.

THE MUPPETS - Loved it, but a few strange choices towards the end hurt it.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS - A great origin with killer performances from Fassbender and McAvoy.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS - Still think Owen Wilson is a weird choice, but I went home loving Hemingway even more than I already did.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - "Why cookie Rocket?" made its way into pop culture lexicon for a very, very good reason.
ATTACK THE BLOCK - Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying half the time it didn't matter. The movie was still epic.
50/50 - I almost cried.
MONEYBALL - I love baseball, but more than that I'm fascinated by the behind the scenes aspects of professional sports so this was thrilling for me.
POINT BLANK (A BOUT PORTANT) - Kind of like TAKEN, but with less Liam Neeson and more  subtitles, but just as good.
MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE - A haunting look at cult life that I still don't forgive for ending so ambiguously. 
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO - I liked the Swedish version better, but Rooney Mara is so fucking hot that she gets the movie on this list for that alone.

1 comment:

  1. 2011 was a great year for movies. And the internet being forever and forever historically accessible is bad ass.