I’m putting up my Ten Favorite FIlms of 2011, with some thoughts on each. Note these aren’t the ‘best’ films of the year, but rather the ones that I enjoyed the most for whatever reason. I want a film that is going to make me feel something - fear, excitement, hope, joy, anger. SOMETHING. These are the films that did.
If a movie is should be judged on how it affects you, then Steven Soderberg’s virus outbreak film scores high. I wanted to bathe in Purell after this film. Because Soderberg is, well, Soderberg, he’s able to attract a whole lot of “A List” talent to the film, who he promptly begins killing off approximately 10 minutes into the film. This is a nice bit of cinematic akido that raises the tension of the film. Normally you think - “Hey, Matt Damon’s character will be fine, otherwise it wouldn’t be played by Matt Damon.” But here, you never know.
Contagion also had a really great score, so, bonus points there.
9. Margin Call
Another star filled ensemble cast covering 24 hours in the fall of a fictitious Wall Street investment firm. A remarkably well written script, executed aptly by the director - though some shots felt very “indie with shallow depth of field” in a bad way - was raised by the stellar acting. I know people are sick to death of the whole Financial Meltdown thing, but this film deserves a watch.
Holy crap I liked a Seth Rogan movie. But he turns in a wonderful supporting role to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s amazing performance as a 27 year old diagnosed with cancer. Will Reiser’s script was on The Black List a few years ago, and I was stunned to see it didn’t get nominated for an Oscar.
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Who knew, right? A lot of people wrote off this movie because it seemed like a studio franchise reboot driven by money, but it turned out to be a pretty strong character driven thriller. True that character was a computer generated chimp, but I really was rooting for the damn monkey the whole time. If only this movie had used an actual live human actor instead of James Franco, this film would have moved up the list.
6. Crazy, Stupid, Love.
I was expecting a paint by numbers rom-com. But instead I got a touching, funny film filled with actual characters. Steve Carell is the perfect actor for this type of role, his restrained comedic performance works perfectly, and the chemistry with Ryan Gosling’s mentor character is amazing.
The movie also has my favorite line of the year - “Seriously? It's like you're Photoshopped.”
5. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
You take the guy who made two of my favorite movies of all time - The Incredibles and The Iron Giant - give him one of the great leading men of our time, an IMAX camera, and - just for shit’s and giggles - one of the top VFX supervisors in the world.
I’m all in. Confidently directed, amazing set pieces, great humor that didn’t distract form the action. It’s rare that a sequel is as good as the original. Rarer still that it surpasses it. Unheard of that the fourth entry in a franchise is the best. It REALLY should have gotten a VFX nomination as well.
Ryan Gosling’s second appearance. This film delivered on every level. The overwhelming stillness of the vast majority of the film makes the action so much more intense, and the violence so visceral you can unfortunately taste it. An amazing soundtrack, a great villain in the personage of Albert Brooks, and some of the best violence I’ve ever seen on camera. I loved this film.
First Seth Rogan, now Jonah Hill? But he turns in an amazing performance ( earning him a well deserved Oscar nom ) and holds his own against Robert Redfo- I mean Brad Pitt. Seriously, Brad Pitt is turning into Redford more and more every year. The script has some nice Sorkin-ness sprinkled throughout, always a good thing. The little bit’s of humor and heart, especially with the daughter character, elevate this to a level of greatness I was not expecting.
Much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a lot of people dismissed this as “Rocky Meets UFC” and wondered why it wasn’t going direct to DVD. Turns out because it’s a thrilling, heart wrenching drama filled with amazing performances by Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and especially Nick Nolte. Writer/Director/Producer Gavin O’Connor made one of my favorite sports films of all time - “Miracle” and he does a pretty damn fine job here as well. The action feels very, very real. The relationships seem very, very real. And every time I watch it, I well up, my pulse races and I find myself compelled to root for someone in a fake fight tournament I know the end result of.
See. This. Movie.
If you had told me my #1 movie of the year would be a documentary, I would have called you nuts. If you said it would be a sports film ( actually, #’s 3, 2, & 1 ) I would have called you crazy. And if you had said it’d be about a sport I actively think is boring - F1 racing - I would have called the men in the white coats. But this documentary about someone I had never heard of managed to tell, through the use of archival footage and limited narration, the spellbinding rise and tragic end of Ayrton Senna. When I saw it at the Everyman cinema here in London, I ordered a beer at the beginning of the movie. At the end of the film, it sat undrunk beside me. I was so involved in this story I forgot to even drink the beer in front of me. I was also crying. An amazing story, told perfectly. The fact it didn’t get an Oscar nomination is, in the words of Oscar WIlde, fucking bullshit.
Well, there you have it. My Ten Favorite Films of 2011. If you haven’t seen any of them, please do, otherwise you’ll be missing out.