One of my friends asked me to post a list of my favorite movies from this year. Wasn’t that nice? I appreciate someone wanting my opinion, and I shall not disappoint him. The complication is, unlike actual guilded film critics (of whom I am understandably jealous), I miss seeing a lot of worthy movies. I also see many of them long after their release year. So I’m presenting a few lists, and they’re self-explanatory.
Favorite 2011 Releases:
1. Win Win – I wrote an entire post about this film which you can read here. Hands down, my favorite of 2011.
2. Our Idiot Brother – Sweet, without being overly precious, and definitely funny. One open, honest, trusting person brings restorative chaos and destruction to his family.
3. TrollHunter – Just watched this one. Beautiful scenery, likable characters, lots of humor, suspense, and trolls. Just for starters.
4. Super 8 – A lot of movies pretend that they’re set in the ’80s, but it’s only an excuse to work in a few jokes about glitter gloves or Flock of Seagulls hairdos. “Super 8” nails the ’80s atmosphere, and happily recalls movies like “Goonies” and “E.T.” The young cast is first rate, and I was only disappointed by the ending.
5. Hugo – just saw this one, too. There are a lot of pluses, especially for someone who loves silent film as I do, but I think my favorite element may have been the loving reenactment of Melies, on set, making his films. It’s enchanting.
Favorite Earlier Releases that I Saw in 2011
1. Cat People/Curse of the Cat People/Isle of the Dead – I was on a big Val Lewton run (thanks TCM!)
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop – I still don’t know what to make of this documentary, but it was fascinating and really, really funny.
3. Winter’s Bone – In the same way that “Super 8” captured the ’80s in which I grew up, “Winter’s Bone” captured the rural poverty that exists in parts of my home state. The actors, particularly Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, were terrific.
4. Grand Illusion – A French film about a group of soldiers brought together in a German prisoner of war camp. Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim – okay, I realize many of you won’t recognize those names. Trust me: it’s a wonderfully humane film.
5. Peeping Tom – creepy, creepy, creepy – and yet oddly sympathetic. Like Peter Lorre’s child murderer in “M”, Karl Bohm’s character in “Peeping Tom” is driven by compulsions he can’t understand or escape.
6. Ball of Fire – somehow this screwball comedy had escaped my attention until recently. Gary Cooper plays his standard earnest, naive handsome lunk (“Casanova Brown”, “Sergeant York”, “Meet John Doe”), and Barbara Stanwyck is her typical sexy, smart hardboiled self (with the wonderful name “Sugarpuss O’Shea”). It’s the addition of the “seven dwarves” that gives this one a superior rating.
7. Oliver Twist (1948) – Keeping the Dickensian in Dickens through a huge and hugely talented cast of British character actors. Alec Guinness as Fagin is unrecognizable and perfectly menacing.
Worst Movies Viewed in 2011
1. Battle: Los Angeles – I’m such an easy sell for alien invasion movies, and yet I found this one to be a crushing bore. I didn’t care what happened to any of the heroes, which is always a red flag in a movie. The trailer was great, by the way. My advice is to skip the movie and be content with the trailer.
2. The Seventh Victim – Proof that even Val Lewton could produce a dud. It’s about the most dull and dreary satan worshipers you could ever hope to meet. And there are giant plot holes, but I was so bored I was happy to see them – they added interest.
3. Monte Carlo – Yes, I took my daughters. Yes, I think this movie sends horrible messages to young girls. I considered it a teachable moment, or something like that.
4. Bridesmaids – Firstly, Kristen Wiig’s character is crazy. I felt sorry for the Irish cop who falls for her in the film. It doesn’t matter that she’s the protagonist; I really felt that the cop should run as far away from her as possible. Secondly, it was only sporadically amusing – and I deliberately choose “amusing” over stronger words like “hilarious” or even “funny”. All of the reviews seemed to give bonus points because it was girls being raunchy and out of control. Don’t patronize us gentlemen critics: it wasn’t that funny.
The 2011 Releases I’m Still Hoping to See
And there are many.
1. The Tree of Life
2. Fright Night
3. Higher Ground
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
5. X-Men: First Class
6. Martha Marcy May Marlene
7. Take Shelter
10. We Bought a Zoo