Cinema Psycho

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

My Top 10 Films of 2011

Posted by CinemaPsycho on February 11, 2012

OK, here we go with the list of my favorite films of the past year. If you haven’t read the pre-ramble I posted a couple of weeks ago, please read that first, then come back. Here we go:

10) The Muppets this was the year’s biggest surprise for me, as I wasn’t even that psyched to see it and only wound up doing so because another movie was sold out. Director James Bobin and writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) have concocted a rather genius story in which the Muppets have been gone for 30 years (in reality, it’s been nowhere near that long) and have to reunite to save their old studio from being torn down. It’s a road movie, a “let’s get the band back together” movie and a musical comedy (imagine The Blues Brothers with felt) and all of it just works. Hilariously funny (I love the randomness of “80’s Robot”), sweet, sad and nostalgic in all the right ways, with a human cast that is totally game (especially Segel and Amy Adams). Even if you’re not a huge Muppet fan (I only have vague memories of watching The Muppet Show as a kid), it still works because the Muppets are a stand-in for our lost innocence. If you don’t tear up at least a little by the end of this, you truly have no heart. If parts of it seem a little awkward (Chris Cooper’s rap number, for instance – yikes), that somehow makes it all the more endearing. The Muppets is a movie of wide-eyed innocence, hope and dreams, and maybe we need that now more than ever. No wonder Fox News hates it. (Theatrical; on DVD March 20)

9) Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and now for something completely different, this low-budget horror-comedy is one of the few that completely nails its targets and manages to be a hilarious experience in its own right. A wickedly funny satire of “survival horror” films (a subgenre which I’ve grown really tired of myself), Tucker & Dale gleefully destroys horror-movie stereotypes while still providing the splatter modern horror fans demand. Director/co-writer Eli Craig is a talent to watch, while Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are fantastic as the kind-hearted, bewildered title characters. One hopes to see them in more crazy adventures. In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll ever watch another “redneck horror” movie without thinking of Tucker & Dale. (Netflix streaming; also on DVD) (limited theatrical release 9/30/11)

8) Rubber I can’t really explain writer-director Quentin Dupieux’s crazy movie or its presence on this list, except that it made me laugh myself silly more than any other film this year. An absurdist comedy about a homicidal tire with psychic powers whose every move is watched and criticized by an “audience” of random people (including 80’s B-movie icon Wings Hauser!), Rubber is either a bizarre satire of plot-driven cinema or a nutty excuse for utter weirdness. Either way, it’s damn funny stuff. We’re told at the beginning that there is “No Reason” for any of it, so anyone looking for deep meaning is just going to be puzzled. It either makes you laugh or it doesn’t, and it made me laugh quite a bit. As always, your mileage may vary. So to speak. (Netflix streaming; also on DVD) (limited theatrical release 4/1/11)

7) Stake Land extremely impressive vampire horror film from director/co-writer Jim Mickle (Mulberry Street), who manages to create a convincing post-apocalyptic America with a relatively low budget. About as far away from Twilight as you can possibly get, this is dark stuff in which the vamps are feral beasts with a thirst for human blood (you know, vampires). There’s not much humor to be found here, and there’s a serious anti-Christian streak running through it (the villains are not just vampires but a group of religious-fanatic humans who believe the vamps are “doing God’s work”), so if that bothers you, consider yourself warned. But for this particular agnostic, this is the movie Red State should’ve been. At a time when the horror scene is full of remakes and sequels, original, well-made horror films like this are worth supporting. According to IMDb, this excellent piece of work was only shown on 5 screens total, with its opening weekend only showing on 1 screen. That’s both sad and ridiculous, but a lot of quality genre films don’t even get that much. (DVD) (limited theatrical release 4/29/11)

6) X-Men: First Class yep, it’s a big blockbuster superhero movie and a prequel, and it was one of my favorite films of the year, one of only 2 films on this list that I saw twice. I thought director/co-writer Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) and the excellent cast really pulled it off. First Class is surprisingly fun in the style of 60s-era Bond films, as well as a solid and convincing prequel to Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies (Ratner’s abomination of a third film doesn’t exist in my dojo). Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw is easily my favorite villain of the year, and there’s a terrific mix of fascinating characters here that I hope will be further explored in future films. I know this film has its share of haters, but I can’t imagine what more they could have possibly wanted from this. For once, Fox did something right, and I say let’s give them credit for it or they may not do it again. (twice theatrically; now on DVD)

5) A Better Life I can’t imagine anyone hating director Chris Weitz’s sensitive, vivid film about a Mexican immigrant trying to provide for his son, but I’m sure some people will find a way. At a time when empathy seems to be a dirty word, we need more films like this; whatever happened to quality dramas about social issues? They seem to be few and far between these days. Borrowing a bit from The Bicycle Thief, A Better Life is a simple story about a decent man who loves his son, set in the real world. When’s the last time we had a movie like that released by a major studio? I can’t remember. Weitz thankfully doesn’t seem interested in political agendas or any of that; he’s simply showing us a chapter in the lives of two human beings and the world they live in. How that affects your point of view is up to you. Demain Bichir and Jose Julian are equally impressive as the father who wants his son to have more than he does, and the son who is just beginning to realize how much his father has sacrificed for him. If Bichir’s Oscar nomination motivates more people to see this film, I’m all for that; regardless, he’s absolutely worthy of the nod based on his powerful work here. Needless to say, if you hate minorities, immigrants and/or poor people, you’re probably going to hate this film, but maybe (just maybe) it will open your eyes to the reality of the situation. Weitz apparently used his cache with Summit from having directed the second Twilight movie to get this film made, and to that I say, very well done, sir. (DVD) (limited release 6/24/11)

4) Drive yes, the film that’s on everyone else’s list is also on mine, and rightfully so. Nicolas Winding Refn’s powerhouse crime thriller was one of the best shock to the systems of the year, a potent reminder of how good a simple genre movie can be with the right director and cast involved. You can dismiss it as warmed-over 80’s Michael Mann if you want, or you can let yourself get sucked into its rhythms and appreciate the twisty plot and fine performances. Ryan Gosling was the year’s coolest hero as the expert stunt driver/wheelman who gets dragged into a major clusterfuck due to his crush on a neighbor (perfectly understandable, given that she’s played by the luminous Carey Mulligan). As fantastic as Albert Brooks is here as the local crime lord (who would have thought?), I was also impressed by Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks. For all its modern trappings (and excellent soundtrack), Drive is basically an old-fashioned noir, and a damn fine one at that. It’s one of those films you can’t help but enjoy the hell out of, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. (theatrical; now on DVD)

3) MIdnight in Paris I know some people wish Woody Allen would just hang it up, and I think those people are just dead wrong. The proof is that he occasionally offers up a near-masterpiece like this one, a lush romantic comedy in which the object of desire is the city of Paris itself and all its charms. There’s a bit of time-travel involved as well as a wicked satire of nostalgia and those who wallow in it without realizing what the present offers. It helps a little if you know a bit about the city and famous writers and artists who lived there (Woody doesn’t wait for you to catch up), but it’s not an absolute requirement to understand the main character’s dilemma. Owen Wilson makes a surprisingly effective Woody stand-in, while Marion Cotillard is just as seductive as the city itself. And you have to love Adrien Brody as Picasso! Come on! I was surprised how well this did at the boxoffice (have we finally forgiven the Woodman?), but even if it made no money at all, Midnight in Paris would still be one of Woody’s best in recent years. (theatrical; now on DVD)

2) Insidious I’ve already written at length about my admiration for James Wan’s horror flick (check the Archives under May 2011; holy crap, there are 180 comments! I didn’t realize that! Thanks for posting everyone! Well, except that one guy. He’s an idiot). I just wanted to reiterate that it is still one of the most exhilarating experiences I had at the movies last year. I haven’t watched it again since, but I want to do so soon. Whatever you think the ending means, the important thing is that the movie works like a motherfucker on your nerves. If you’re the kind of person who thinks a movie has to have blood and guts to be “True Horror”, then obviously you’re not going to like it. But if you’re willing to let it work on you (especially in a dark theater), then insidious is the scare-fest of the year. There’s now a sequel in the works, and I look forward to it. I just hope it doesn’t suck. That would be truly insidious. (theatrical; now on DVD and Netflix streaming)

And my favorite movie of the year is… (drumroll please)

1) Hugo Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. If I even have to explain why this is my favorite film of the year, then you either didn’t see it or didn’t understand it. I saw it twice in 3D and loved it equally both times. I could immerse myself in that experience over and over again without getting tired of it. Far more than a simple “family film” could ever be, Hugo is Scorsese at his finest, the kind of film I never really thought he would make but has proved himself more than capable of it. I don’t know what else to say, except that I loved this film and I love everything about it. There are no words adequate enough to properly cover how great this movie is. So I’ll just say, “Best Film I Saw Last Year”, and that should do it. What else is there to say? (twice theatrically; on DVD Feb. 28)

hugo_movie_photo_2.jpg

So that about does it. The 10 films that I loved the most from 2011. If there’s a title or two you haven’t seen on this list, I encourage you to seek them out and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. You can post your own lists in the Comments section if you like, as well as any feedback you want to give. Unless you want to call me a “fuckin’ pussy” for being scared by insidious; that’s already been done. No need for redundancy here. Hope you enjoyed the list, and I look forward to all the films of 2012. Talk to you later.

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One Response to “My Top 10 Films of 2011”

  1. “My Top 10 Films of 2011 Cinema Psycho” was indeed a wonderful blog post and
    thus I was indeed very content to discover the blog. Thank you,Fredrick

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