Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

The 2011 Pre-Ramble: The Year of Nostalgia and Evil Prom Queens

Posted by CinemaPsycho on January 29, 2012

Greetings and salutations everyone! I know it’s been awhile. I’ve been meaning to post more often, but with the busyness of the holidays, getting sick over said holidays and trying to get through a ton of films for my Top 10 list, I just haven’t been able to make the time. But I’m back now and making up for lost time with an extra-long post. Awesome, right? So let’s get rambling.

For the uninitiated, this is not my Top 10 list. That will be coming in a couple of weeks. I’m still in the process of catching up on all the films from the past year that might possibly make the list. Given that I live in the middle of nowhere (or the outskirts of nowhere, as I like to call it), I don’t always get to see the best films theatrically. You know, like most of America. So during the month of January I make as much of an effort as I can to catch up via DVD, streaming and theatrical screenings when possible. Obviously I can’t see everything, and I don’t claim to. Some films that I want to see just don’t get released on disc and/or streaming in time, but I don’t want to wait until freaking May to make my list. I do not consider this my fault. If you want people to see your films, and you have the means to do so, get them out there. Give audiences the chance to see them. I’ve never understood this idea that the best films need to be “held back” from general audiences. This is the only reason I really care about the Oscars at this point: Oscar nominations mean expanded releases for films I most likely wouldn’t get to see theatrically. And when that happens, I take full advantage of it. I will not be listing the films I didn’t get to see this year, but if you’re looking for the new Cronenberg, Almodovar, Polanski or von Trier films, let’s just say they will be absent and leave it at that.

On the other hand, I do consider my list to be more representative of the films that people actually have the chance to see than the lists of most critics. If I got to see it, that generally means it’s available for you to see as well. And for me, that’s what making a Top 10 list is all about: recommending the best films (in my opinion, of course) to my readers. It’s not about my ego or how special I am that I got to see films that you didn’t. That’s why it drives me nuts when critics put films on their list that weren’t released that year. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if a film didn’t get some kind of theatrical release in the past year, it doesn’t qualify. A film that no regular ticket-buying audience gets to see before 2012 does not count as a 2011 film. Why is that difficult to understand? Film festivals do not count, as not everyone has access to them. Those are early screenings that select audiences were privileged enough to see. They are not theatrical releases. Now, if you want to make a list called “The Best Films I Saw at Film Festivals This Year”, have at it. But don’t count them as 2011 films. You don’t see book critics or music critics getting early copies of things that won’t come out until 2012 and calling them the best works of 2011, do you? Of course not. I really shouldn’t have to explain this, but I feel it does a disservice to the readers when you make a list of The Best/Your Favorite Films of the Year and they can’t see half of them yet. That doesn’t even make sense. It seems like certain critics live in this bubble where they think that film festivals and critics’ screenings are the only way films are seen. They’re out of touch with regular audiences and don’t even pay attention to what’s actually getting released and when. It’s horse shit, and it’s insulting to the readers. When I see a critic put films on their list that haven’t been released yet, it immediately invalidates that list for me. Can’t take it seriously. I have no respect for it, and you shouldn’t either. The whole point of making this list is to encourage you to make an effort to see these films now. It’s me saying, “these films really impressed me this past year, and I think you should check them out.” Whether you do or not is up to you, of course, but that’s the intention. It’s not about the critic; it’s about connecting the films we love with the readers who might not be aware of them. If a critic doesn’t do that, they’re not doing their job.

As usual, I will not be making a Worst of the Year list, as I generally try to avoid films I think I’m going to dislike. You won’t see me make a list of awful rom-coms or Adam Sandler movies, because I don’t spend my time and money watching that stuff. There’s so much out there that’s actually worth watching and giving a chance, why waste your time on crap you know you’re going to hate? There were a few films that disappointed me this year, sure. I thought Sucker Punch was ridiculous, an insane mix of CGI overkill, leather fetish and misguided feminism (“shame on you for ogling these scantily clad young women that… we’re showing you”), but at least it was an ambitious failure. I’ll give it that. I actually saw Creature theatrically (yes, I’m the one), but my expectations were pretty low going in, and they were met. It was exactly what I expected it to be, and on that level I thought it was OK. I wouldn’t recommend it or anything, but it is what it is. I thought The Thing prequel was interesting for about 15 minutes or so, until it turned into utter garbage. But at least it wasn’t a damn remake. Hey, if Carpenter doesn’t care, why should we? I didn’t see Atlas Shrugged, Green Lantern, Battle: Los Angeles, Straw Dogs, Apollo 18, The Sitter or The Three Musketeers, so I can’t comment on any of those. Nor would I particularly want to.

No, my pick for Worst Film of the Year is actually a film I saw on DVD just last night, and I wanted so badly to rip the disc out of the player and smash it to pieces (but I rented it from Netflix, so bad idea): a worthless piece of pointless shit called Bellflower. Jesus Christ, did I hate that movie. I’m truly amazed that it actually got some good notices from critics, much less an actual theatrical release, because there is literally no reason to ever see this film. I was expecting some kind of apocalypse film based on the reviews. What I got instead was an unwatchable, horribly written and acted movie about a pair of obnoxious, destructive, alcoholic assholes and their stupid whorish girlfriends. I honestly could not have given less of a fuck about these people, and viewing their idiotic antics for 107 minutes was pure torture. Seriously, if you actually see yourself in any of these characters, get professional help. Watching this movie made me never want to see Mad Max again because these morons worship it, and I hated them that much. The “mind-fuck” aspect of the movie doesn’t work at all (because you would have to actually care about what’s happening on screen), and shooting the entire thing like an old episode of Starsky & Hutch doesn’t make it any more interesting to watch. This movie is so bad that I actually hate the people who made it, and I hate myself for not hitting the Eject button after the first 5 minutes. How they managed to con some intelligent people into thinking this was a legitimate work of art, I don’t even know. Christ, even A Serbian Film had a fucking point. This isn’t disturbing, it isn’t fascinating and it isn’t good. It’s just stupid, hateful, pointless, worthless shit, and there is no reason for it to be made or viewed. But go ahead if you want, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. If anyone ever encounters writer/director Evan Glodell, please feel free to punch him in the fucking face. He’d probably admire you for it.

Anyway, back to 2011. It seems like a lot of the best films of the year dealt with nostalgia in some way. Some embraced it, some criticized it and some just accepted it as a fact of life, but the theme was present throughout. Maybe it’s something in the zeitgeist, maybe people are just in the mood to reminisce about what they perceive as “better times”. I’m not exactly sure. I only know it’s there, in films ranging from Midnight in Paris to The Muppets. I’ve never really understood why people are so fixated on the past, which is usually viewed with rose-colored glasses; you know, when you’re 10 years old, everything seems cool and awesome. Because you’re 10 years old. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t particularly feel like the past was so much better than the present. Politics was fucked up back then too – we just didn’t pay attention because we were kids. People were pretty much the same, they just had different clothes and hairstyles. There were good and bad movies, music and TV shows then, just as there are now. We have more advanced technology now, so the good stuff is more available to us, and that’s a good thing. You don’t have to watch or listen to crap just because it’s there, even though so many people seem to choose to do so. People act like the past was all brilliance and there was no disposable garbage like there is now, to which I say, remember the disco era? Yeah. I do. It wasn’t all Zeppelin and punk rock back then. Take off the rose-colored glasses and enjoy the good stuff that’s out there now. And that’s my lesson for the day.

Last year was also the year of the Evil Prom Queens. What, you ask? You mean last year wasn’t the year that Bridesmaids showed us women could be funny too? Don’t get me started on that again. But no, 2011 was the year that Hollywood finally showed us that Pretty Women are just as fucked up as anyone else. Which is something every man knows, but mainstream film has long ignored. For some bizarre reason, in Hollywood the rule has long been that the prettier they are, the sweeter and kinder they are. Come on, we all know that shit isn’t true. Call me a misogynist if you want, but I think women know this to be the case as well: the hotter they are on the outside, the crazier they are on the inside. Whether it was Cameron Diaz manipulating the public school system to achieve her own selfish, superficial ends in Bad Teacher, Jennifer Aniston redefining sexual harassment in the workplace in Horrible Bosses or Charlize Theron trying to steal her high-school boyfriend away from his happy marriage in Young Adult, 2011 showed us that the Evil Prom Queens will not be denied. And hey, I don’t have a problem with that. These chicks are funny as hell and they come off like real people for a change. For once these actresses get to play something besides romantic-comedy princesses – so why argue? It’s time for hot women to embrace the weird, wild and crazy inside each of them. I think we’ll all be better off in the long run. You can keep your Melissa McCarthy – for my money these three were the kick-ass rule-breaking ladies of the year.

So that’s my view of 2011 in a nutshell. Feel free to agree or disagree. As always, my Top 10 list won’t be exactly like anyone else’s. There will be some mainstream films, some indie and/or foreign films you may or may not know about, and the notable absence of films that made everyone else’s list. This is to be encouraged, in my view. Just because a film didn’t make it to the list doesn’t necessarily mean I hated it – just that maybe I didn’t love it as much as others did. There will be no “runners-up”, no also-rans or ties. Just the 10 films that kicked my ass most this year. Each title will have a (hopefully) short paragraph explaining why it’s on the list, as well as whether I saw it theatrically or on DVD or streaming (to make it easier to seek it out yourselves). I hope the list will provoke discussion as well as encourage you to check out a film or two that you might not have bothered with otherwise. And this should go without saying, but the list is my personal opinion and should be taken as such. Unlike so many on the internet, I do not present my opinions as being fact, or even FACT!!! You don’t have to agree with my picks, and in fact I encourage you to make your own. Post them in the Comments section if you like. Who knows, maybe I’ll check out a film that you recommend! I would like that actually. I’m always looking for recommendations, and the more obscure the better.

That about covers it for now. I’ve still got lots of films to watch and at this point I’m not even sure where most of my current favorites will land. But come back in a couple of weeks and check out the list. Thanks for reading!

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