The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards

27 Dec

As the year is approaching its end, it’s customary for bloggers and critics alike to do a top ten list of the best movies of the year. I won’t be doing that, because I haven’t seen nearly enough films of 2011 yet. A list like that from me is still a good half year away from meaning anything. So rather than reflecting strictly on the films released this year, I’d like to reflect on all the films I saw this year.

Thus, I present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards! Or ASTMTFIWI2K11A, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. A bunch of random categories will be conjured for whatever films I feel like singling out for one reason or another.

This year I watched 229 movies I hadn’t seen before, from 19 different countries with release dates spanning from 1925 to 2011. A lot of it is from recent years, but I did check out a couple of older “you haven’t seen that one!?” flicks too. I saw my first ever films from Belgium, Brazil, Greece and Russia (Ben X, City of God, Dogtooth and Night Watch, respectively). I saw my first ever Charlie Chaplin movie (The Gold Rush) and got my first glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I watched highly regarded classics like Casablanca, The French Connection and the Alfred Hitchcock films Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as newer stuff like the brunt of the Best Picture Oscar nominees from the last ceremony. I saw great films like Man on Wire and A Single Man, and I saw crap like Season of the Witch.

For these awards, I’m only counting films I saw for the first time in 2011. Rewatches need not apply.

And now, on with the show!

Most Eyebrow-Raising “And Introducing” Credit Award
Winner: Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures

It kind of feels like Kate Winslet has been around forever, always turning in great performances. And yet there she was in Peter Jackson‘s teen murder drama Heavenly Creatures, her arrival on the big screen loudly heralded in the opening credits. As for the performance itself? A bit rough around the edges perhaps, but full of energy and enthusiasm.

Best Use Of A Urinating Baby Award
Winner: Hard-Boiled

Hard-Boiled was pretty kick-ass all around and could have gotten a shout-out for plenty of different things. But that baby putting out a fire by wetting himself really stood out. Patently ridiculous, but so good.

“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Winner: Carrie
Runner-up: Withnail & I

While I did like Withnail & I less than Carrie, that one seems to be more of a cult classic than anything. Carrie has more wide-spread acclaim, which made it all the more disappointing to me. I’ve had more fun discussing the film with people afterwards than I had watching it.

Award for Excellence In Sexiness
Winners: The entire cast of Nine
Runner-up: Sharon Stone – Basic Instinct

Nine is an overcrowded meandering mess of a movie musical, but it’s certainly gorgeous to look at. Hard not to be when you cram Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Fergie and more into it. Special credit goes to Penelope Cruz. Her performance of “A Call from the Vatican” is sizzling. Look it up if you haven’t seen it.

Award for Excellence In Sex
Winner: Shortbus

More of an interesting experiment than a triumph as a movie, Shortbus is the result of director John Cameron Mitchell setting out to create a film that uses sex in ways not done before. A fascinating endeavour that makes for a one-of-a-kind movie.

“You’re Not Fooling Anyone” Award for Most Homoerotic Tension
Winners: Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes

One wonders why Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly were even in this film. Sherlock and Watson clearly only had eyes for each other.

Most Shades Of Brown Award
Winner: The Book of Eli

Few movies look as lifeless as this one. The Book of Eli makes The Road seem like Speed Racer by comparison.

Best Japanese Amelie Award
Winner: Memories of Matsuko
Runner-up: Kamikaze Girls

Both Memories of Matsuko and Kamikaze Girls were directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, who I can only assume is Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s long-lost twin brother. The two films share the whimsical tone and rich sense of color found in Amelie. But Memories is the more accessible of the two for someone like me who isn’t well-versed in Japanese culture, and it’s combined with a sadder story that borders on Lars von Trier territory at times. You’d think it would make for a styles clash, but it works surprisingly well.

Movie That Would Have Worked Better As A Short Award
Winner: Kabluey

I couldn’t get into this tale of alienation and Iraqi War blues, filled as it were with characters I found it impossible to relate to. But the scenes where lead actor/director/writer Scott Prendergast dons a big-headed mascot costume to hand out fliers on a country road were really sweet and funny, and easily the bright spot of the movie.

Best Twist Ending Award
Winner: Breaking the Waves

Perhaps not a film that springs to mind when one thinks “twist ending”, but the last shot of Breaking the Waves made me reexamine the whole movie and what it had been trying to tell me. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.

Best Conclusion To A Declaration Of Love Award
Winner: Robin Williams – The Fisher King

“But I still don’t drink coffee.”

Best Documentary With “Word” In The Title Award
Winner: Word Wars
Runner-up: Wordplay

Scrabble beats out crosswords in this war of words. Wordplay does have a nice upbeat tone, celebrity cameos and a great climax, but Word Wars finds the people that stick with you, which is a crucial component for this type of documentary.

Shannyn Sossamon Award for Best Shannyn Sossamon Performance
Winner: Shannyn Sossamon – Road to Nowhere

As you may or may not know, I have quite the soft spot for Shannyn Sossamon. Granted, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition here considering that the majority of my Sossamon watching has taken place in earlier years, but her work in Monte Hellman‘s twisting neo noir is her most challenging to date, and she nails it. Here’s to hoping for more great performances from her in the years to come, and no more slumming around in crappy horror films like Devour and One Missed Call.

Best Movie Seen With A Friend Who Had A Cold Award
Winner: Contagion

Before I saw the movie, I had heard the jokes about how one should cough in the theater while watching this viral outbreak film to make people squirm. And then my friend shows up outside the cinema with a cold, proceeding to cough and sniffle throughout the movie. Very appropriate.

“Why Did I Watch This?” Award for When I Should Have Known Better
Winner: Helvetica

“A documentary about a typeface? Oh ho ho, how quirky! I bet there’s a whole bunch of fun angles and cleverness at work to make it interesting! Surely this will be one of those way-better-than-it-sounds type of films!” No. It isn’t. It’s just really damn dull.

Best Use Of A Woman In A Bikini Riding A Horse For No Reason Award
Winner: Casino Royale

And by “no reason”, I of course mean except fanservice.

Best 2011 Film So Far Award
Winner: Drive

Tightly-wound, exhilarating, violent and oh so slick, helmed by a stone-faced Ryan Gosling who is as impressive as always. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: the movie itself, or the fact that it managed to live up to all the lofty praise people had been heaping over it ever since Cannes. Time will tell if Drive will remain my #1 as I see more films from 2011, but at this point in time, it’s a very easy pick.

Worst 2011 Film So Far Award
Winner: I Am Number Four

Some people like to point out how Hollywood only churns out garbage these days. I don’t think it’s that pronounced a problem, considering how there’s still good blockbusters popping up here and there. But if I did subscribe to the notion, I’d say that I Am Number Four is everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today. A stupid excuse plot, characters without any depth or likability, lifeless CGI-filled action scenes and no emotional investment whatsoever. I find no redeeming factors in this movie.

Best Swedish Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
Winner: Beyond

While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table story-wise, Sweden’s Foreign Language Oscar submission Beyond is still a very well-acted family drama and a strong directorial debut by Pernilla August. Don’t ignore this one even if the Academy decides to.

Worst Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
Winner: Zombie Nation
Runner-up: The Traveler

Well, duh. It’s only the worst movie I’ve ever seen. If you want to know more, check out my review.

Best Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
Winner: Blue Valentine
Runner-up: Breaking the Waves

Blue Valentine is a devastating piece of work that absolutely floored me. A unflinching look at a relationship’s two extremes: the hopeful genesis and the brutal armageddon, with the inbetween left for the viewer to imagine. Heart-wrenching to the bone, and the best film I’ve seen all year.

What’s the best film you saw this year? And what did you think of my picks here?


Posted by on 27 December, 2011 in Year End Awards


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

42 responses to “The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards

  1. Squasher88

    27 December, 2011 at 00:37

    Interesting list. My favourite film of 2011 so far is Moneyball.

    RE: Blue Valentine, I wanted more exposition of the “in-between” as I really didn’t think Ryan Gosling’s character was such a bad guy at all. Here’s what I had posted about the film:

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 00:46

      I quite liked how all that middle stuff was left out. After all, how do you pinpoint one moment where things start falling to pieces? As for Gosling being a bad guy, I don’t think the film was necessarily trying to paint him as such. He showed negative traits or, rather, hints of them, such as his drinking, jealousy and a general lack of empathy (his remark early on about how Williams’ character shouldn’t have left the gate to the dog pen open felt particulary nasty). On the other hand, he did put in more of an effort to salvage things than she did. It’s not a case of black or white.

      • Squasher88

        27 December, 2011 at 02:01

        Yeh, I can see where you are coming from. Even though I didn’t give it a perfect rating when I first watched it, the film has definitely left a lasting impression on me. I actually watch a few scenes from this film at least once a week.

  2. Squasher88

    27 December, 2011 at 00:51

    Also, best movie I saw in 2011 was “The Color Purple”. Cheesy I know, but I fell for it.

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 00:56

      Interesting pick. I haven’t seen that one myself. I should probably add it to my rental queue.

  3. Robb J (@BisonDollah)

    27 December, 2011 at 03:01

    Great post! I have such a crush on Shannyn Sossamon myself, ever since seeing her (and thinking she was too good to be) in The Rules of Attraction – when I was 22 I even cast her as my Princess Leia in the very serious Star Wars reboot internet discussion of 2006. =P Now that’s high praise from a Star Wars nerd. The highest to bestow on a lady, I think.

    In regard to Withnail & I, I absolutely love the first half an hour but I honestly can’t tell you what happens after “the finest wines available” scene – & I believe most W&I fans are the same. The characters are so loved & adored but the movie is a little too small for them, perhaps.

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 09:31

      Thank you! And wow, here I thought I was the only one enamored with Sossamon. The Rules of Attraction is also the film where I first noticed here (although I wouldn’t say she’s “too good for it” as I love that film). Her as Leia isn’t a bad idea actually. I could get on board with that.

      I try not to throw around the nationality card much to dismiss a film, but I wonder if Withnail & I might just have been too British for me. There’s plenty of British comedy I enjoy, but W&I just has such a damn morose atmosphere too it. I get that it’s not a comedy that’s made to make me laugh and nothing else, but I could have done with at least a few more giggles. I did like that stoner in the beginning and end portions, though. He was funny and had some great lines.

  4. Hannah Megill

    27 December, 2011 at 07:04

    You and I are on the same page about Withnail & I. Just watched it, thought I was supposed to love it, ended up *extremely* underwhelmed and a little confused as to where the hype came from.

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 09:32

      Glad to hear I’m not alone on that one. I could actually see it being a film that gets better on repeat viewings when you get into the characters and can recite more lines, but I have no desire to sit through it again.

  5. Pete

    27 December, 2011 at 11:11

    Great post! Love your award categories! I too watched my first Chaplin films (and loved them). I also watched Breaking The Waves (which I also loved). I have decided not to bother watching I am Number four now after it popping up on so many ‘worst of the year’ lists. I still NEED to see Drive and make my own best of 2011 list but like you I really should wait about 6 months till I get to see a few more of the contenders!

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 11:58

      Thank you! Glad you liked the post. Drive is definitely a must-see. Brilliant stuff all-around. It took me until August this year until I felt comfortable with compiling my own Top 10 of 2010 list. I suspect I’ll wait a similar time for this year’s list. I’ve only seen 24 films released in 2011 so far.

  6. Alex

    27 December, 2011 at 19:04

    What a wondrously entertaining list. Highlights for me:

    You described the impact of the final shot of Breaking the Waves perfectly.

    I have a soft spot for Shannyn Sossamon as well… boy do I ever.

    Best 2011 Film so Far: YES!!!

    Great job, my friend.

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 19:26

      Thank you kindly, Alex!

      Breaking the Waves was a powerful experience throghout, but there was something intangible nagging in the nack of my head throughout the film. Then that last shot appeared, and it all clicked for me. Superb film.

      And wow, another Sossamon fan. Awesome!

      • Alex

        28 December, 2011 at 20:48

        Speaking of Sossamon… have you seen The Rules of Attraction? She’s great in that. I haven’t seen Road to Nowhere, but I hope it means she’s coming back to films on a more reliable basis.

        • Emil

          28 December, 2011 at 22:02

          Yeah, The Rules of Attraction was the first film I noticed her in. I love that movie. It’s hilarious.

  7. Travis McClain (@TravisSMcClain)

    27 December, 2011 at 20:24

    We’re chatting on Facebook right now about all this and I’m only half-coherent anyway so I’m sure I’ll miss stuff. I’ll create my own such list later, but here are my initial reactions to yours. I’ve included some recommendations.

    Heavenly Creatures
    I, too, saw this for the first time this year. I liked it quite a bit; the heightened urgency of the girls’ relationship was very convincing. Movies often get such things wrong, forgetting that at that age, anything that an adolescent thinks or feels is important takes on an overwhelming power. I could entirely buy into the intensity of the relationship here. It had time to play out and escalate, and each step of the way reinforced the perspective that this was a runaway train headed off the rails.

    Previous “Most Eyebrow-Raising ‘And Introducing’ Credit Award” winners I would have come up with include Kirstie Alley as Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the all-time champ in this field, Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia.

    Recommendation: Sister, My Sister


    We’ve already discussed this movie, but just for the benefit of anyone else who may see this, I found most of the movie perfunctory, leading up to a payoff that had long ago been spoiled. However, I really did enjoy the relationship between Carrie and the gym coach, and I read a very strong lesbian subtext there that I found made the whole thing intriguing. It gave the gym coach a very specific kind of motivation for being so protective of Carrie, and why she was so expressive about empathizing with her.

    Recommendation: Casablanca – watch (or re-watch) while reading a gay subtext between Rick and Louis.


    I saw this earlier this year, too. I found it intriguing, but then it became tedious. I think if they had shaved about 15 minutes from it, it would have been stronger. I enjoyed being made consciously aware of the proliferation of the font for public works signage, for instance, and I was also actually interested in the generational disputes among typographers regarding the font. But there did come a point where I wondered just what was left to be said about Helvetica that I could possibly find interesting.

    Recommendation: Taboo: The Beginning of Erotic Cinema – It, too, is a specialized documentary…but this one features boobies. I suspect that would have dramatically improved Helvetica.

    Casino Royale

    A beautiful woman riding a strong, white horse on an exotic beach tells us that wherever we now are in the film, Bond is in very exclusive company. Women don’t ride horses like that on just *any* beach. It’s a shorthand to remind us that we’re in Bond’s world and that means we’re on a beach where this actually would happen…and not the kind of beaches where you and I might actually go and be surrounded by overweight, middle-aged people complaining they left the good suntan lotion at home.

    Recommendation: Quantum of Solace – Because I was right to recommend Casino Royale to you. ;-)

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 21:01

      Yeah, what you mentioned about how the girls in Heavenly Creatures overly dramatized everything was something I really dug as well. It reminded me of Lost and Delirious, which is also about love between teenage girls. My initial reaction was that it played things far too seriously and over-the-top, but then I realized that of course things would seem that way to them. It made the whole film sit more right with me. It’s not excellent, but might be worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

      I think the whole And Introducing category sprung from your mention of it in your 100 Things I Love About Films post, actually. I saw Heavenly Creatures earier in the year and was immediately reminded of it when I saw you mention the thing.

      The subtext between Rick and Louis was apparent to me when I first saw Casablanca, actually. Wonderfully played, especially by Claude Rains.

      The only time when Helvetica threatened to become somewhat interesting to me was when it moved away from Helvetica itself and went into typefaces in a more general sense. But even that was not enough to keep me from glancing at the clock.

      I like that interpretation of the Casino Royale horse-riding part. Makes sense. And no worries, I do intend to check out Quantum as well.

      I’ll look up the other films you recommended as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Travis. Always a pleasure to read.

  8. paolocase

    27 December, 2011 at 22:28

    How dare you! Gary Hustwit is amazing. Ish. Check out Urbanized which is a bit too left leaning but it’s an eye-opening doc on urban design. Also, great post!

    • Emil

      27 December, 2011 at 22:54

      Perhaps I worded the Helvetica thing wrong in the post. I should probably have added that I don’t have any interest in type faces and really only watched the thing out of curiosity for how one would make an entrie documentary about one of them. Maybe if I had an interest in the subject, I would have a different take on it.

      I might give Urbanized a go at some point. Thank you for the recommendation, and for the kind words!

      • paolocase

        27 December, 2011 at 23:38

        Also, sorry if I sounded kind of mean in my first comment. As much as Hustwit has promise, I’ve heard mixed and negative things about Helvetica and this post makes me more cautious about it.

        • Emil

          28 December, 2011 at 09:39

          No worries. I didn’t read any mean.spiritedness from it. Don’t let my opinion stop you from checking Helvetica out. I’m sure it holds appeal to some. :)

  9. scott prendergast

    28 December, 2011 at 03:56

    I dunno. I think maybe this blog could be shorter. Just a tweet or two.

    • Emil

      28 December, 2011 at 09:41

      Hehe. I dunno, I think it’s quite awesome the way it is. Maybe I’m biased.

      • scott prendergast

        28 December, 2011 at 23:13

        wouldnt it work better as a short film, tho? Maybe just a youtube thing? i dont know. I cant see much trapped inside this big blue head.

        • Emil

          28 December, 2011 at 23:28

          I’ve actually tried talking about films in video form. The result wasn’t pretty, so no, this post really wouldn’t work very well as a short film.

          Being trapped in that costume doesn’t sound very pleasant. At least it’s not bug season though, so there’s always that. Gotta look for the positives!

  10. Jessica

    28 December, 2011 at 10:46

    The “best of 2011” listmaking is pretty hopeless when you live in Sweden and many “2011” movies won’t come up until later in the spring. I don’t know what to do with it honestly.

    I loved your take though! Such a fun read. I might do something similar eventually. We’ll see.

    As you already know I don’t agree with you about Beyond. It really left me cold. But again: what did I see of Swedish films in 2011 that actually was GOOD? Not very much. Currently we’re completely outplayed by the Norwegians imho.

    • Emil

      28 December, 2011 at 10:56

      Glad you liked the post, Jessica. Yeah, delayed release dates kind of messes things up for us Swedes. Sure, I could do a list of films released in Sweden this year, but considering my other top 10 lists go by international release dates, that seemed like a bad idea. So I just went with this concept instead, and save my top 10 of 2011 for when I feel seufficiently caught-up.

      I didn’t see much good Swedish stuff either this year. Lilja 4-ever was quite powerful, but that’s about it. Then there’s stuff like Prinsessa that just fell flat to me. Here’s to hoping that 2012 will prove better.

  11. Scott Lawlor

    28 December, 2011 at 10:58

    HAHAH I love this spin on a 2011 list!

    I Am Number 4 is a very bad film indeed and very worth of that award!!

    • Emil

      28 December, 2011 at 11:21

      Thank you, Scott! And yes, I Am Number 4 is dreadful indeed.

  12. CS

    31 December, 2011 at 14:05

    Always nice to see a film like Shortbus get a little love. While it may not be as strong as John Cameron Mitchell’s other films, it is still offers a unique take on sex and our hang ups with it. As was mentioned by another commenter, great way to do an end of the year list.

    • Emil

      31 December, 2011 at 14:28

      Some movies (or maybe all, really) require consideration outside of just “good or bad”. Shortbus is definitely one of them. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen before and even if I can’t say that I loved it, I certainly respect its ambitions. It deserved to be singled out for these awards.

      Thank you for the kind words, CS!

  13. Movies - Noir

    1 January, 2012 at 18:14

    Inspired by you and others, I’ve posted 2011 – What I really watched.

    Enjoy 2012 and let’s hope it brings many great moments !

    • Emil

      1 January, 2012 at 19:11

      Same to you, MN! I’ll go have a look at the post.

  14. David

    3 January, 2012 at 06:29

    Very interesting list,Kate Winslet is my fav actress alive,but I have not seen her debut yet,will check it out some day.

    Hard Boiled is my fav John Woo film,his A Better Tomorrow and The Killer are awesome too.

    It looks like you are a Ryan Gosling fan? haha

    • Emil

      3 January, 2012 at 10:18

      Thank you, David! The Killer was quite fun as well, agreed. I haven’t seen A Better Tomorrow, though. I should probably check it out at some point.

      And yes, I am a big fan of Ryan Gosling. He’s among the best actors of his generation, without a doubt.

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