Remember when I made a list of 22 movies I needed to see before making my Top 10 of 2011 list?
Remember when, in December of 2011, I said that it would be half a year or so until I got around to making said Top 10?
Well, as it turns out, that was what we in Sweden call “being a time optimist.” Better late than never though, right?
The funny thing is that there are still movies from 2011 that look really good which I haven’t gotten around to yet. Into the Abyss, This Must Be the Place, Damsels in Distress, Weekend, Warrior, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Another Earth, and A Separation are all unseen by me still, to name but a handful. I could have held off on making this list longer to get even more stuff in, but I feel like I’ve waited enough already. These lists are never set in stone, so it’s not like I’m committed to these being the year’s best for ever and ever.
For those wondering how I’m doing on my 2012 backlog, well… Let’s just say that my Top 10 for that year is probably still a good 12 months or so away.
But this is 2011. On with the show!
Honorable mentions: 50/50, Attack the Block, Carnage, Headhunters, Young Adult, Your Sister’s Sister
10 – HANNA (Joe Wright)
“Adapt or die.”
Equal parts stylish action flick and off-beat coming-of-age story, mixed in with plentiful fairy tale elements, Hanna is a unique beats of a movie. Saoirse Ronan is great in the lead, playing a girl who knows all about survival, little about human interaction, and who has to rely on both to escape the bad people who are chasing her.
9 – THE INNKEEPERS (Ti West)
“Let’s go to the basement and find out what that fucking ghost’s problem is.”
The Innkeepers is kind of like what Clerks could have been if 1: it had been a horror film, and 2: if the lead characters had been interesting, entertaining, and brought to life by gifted actors. The work by the lead duo Pat Healy and (especially) Sara Paxton really helps to make you invested in protagonists, so that when the frights start piling up, you actually care about what’s going to happen, rather than just jump because something said “boo!”. This is a quality horror film.
8 – THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Steven Spielberg)
“Give me those oars! I’ll show you some real seamanship, laddie! I’ll not be doubted by some pipsqueak tuft of ginger and his irritating dog. I am master and commander of the seas!”
Speaking of creating investment in characters, that’s an area where The Adventures of Tintin had it easy, since I’ve been invested in Tintin, Captain Haddock and the others since childhood. But Spielberg’s film doesn’t prey on nostalgia. It feels very much like a modern thing, especially in the clever shots and action sequences where it really takes advantage of its animated form by pulling off stuff that would be hard to do with live action. Pure entertainment, this one.
7 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Brad Bird)
“A crude drawing, but by your description, that could be Kurt Hendricks. 190 IQ. Served in Swedish Special Forces. Professor of physics, Stockholm University. Specialist in nuclear endgame theory. Asked to resign… well, because he’s crazy.”
It has been about 10 months since I saw this film, and I still haven’t recovered from that tower climbing scene.
6 – TAKE SHELTER (Jeff Nichols)
“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not one of you is prepared for it.”
An affecting drama with some real power acting on display, particularly from the always commanding Michael Shannon. I love the story in Take Shelter, about a man whose chief want is to keep his family safe, but who can’t be sure whether he’s justified, paranoid or delusional. And it looks great too.
5 – THE RAID (SERBUAN MAUT, Gareth Evans)
“Pulling a trigger is like ordering takeout.”
It’s amazing how much variety you can have with your badass action when it all takes place within an apartment building. Evans here mixes gunplay with martial arts to craft an action film that keeps you on your toes from start to finish, and where every scene could be the stand-out scene in most other movies of its kind.
4 – DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn)
“From now on, every word out of your mouth is the truth. Or I’m going to hurt you.”
At the end of 2011, I called this the best movie of 2011 that I had seen so far. Almost two years later, only three have managed to top it, and even then, it’s a close call. Drive remains an excellent and tense experience, like a spring that just keeps getting pressed and pressed and pressed until it explodes into scenes of horrific violence. Ryan Gosling in the lead is superb.
3 – BRIDESMAIDS (Paul Feig)
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you look ugly, and that makes me kind of happy.”
The only real comedy to make the cut this year, Bridesmaids is everything that’s good about Judd Apatow comedies; it’s absolutely hilarious, but there’s also a lot of heart and emotional resonance with the characters, here focusing on the nature of friendship. Kristen Wiig deserves the lion’s share of praise for this one, both putting in a pitch-perfect performance and having co-written the script.
2 – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Lynne Ramsay)
“Just because you’re used to something doesn’t mean you like it. You’re used to me.”
In a long line of great performances, the one as distraught mother Eva in this movie might be the best work Tilda Swinton has ever done. This is a character stuck in awful circumstances, and just how Swinton mined the necessary emotions for the part, I have no idea. Remarkably, the story and directing is every bit as good as Swinton’s performance. As I’ve written (though not yet posted) in my Monthly Report for November, this is a film that would have blown my mind had I seen it when I was first getting into movies. And even now, it still does.
1 – SHAME (Steve McQueen)
“We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”
While we’re still on the subjects of awesome performances and blowing my mind, there’s Shame, the best movie of 2011. This is a truly spellbinding film with a number of utterly convincing role portrayals, none sharper than Michael Fassbender‘s powerful performance as sex addict Brandon. McQueen peppers the movie with impressive long takes that, unlike many usages of them, feel like a part of the complete package rather than a cool gimmick. What’s not to like about this movie? Nothing.