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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

What are you favorite films of 2011? What do you think of the movies on this list?

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Posted by on 14 November, 2013 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Flickcharting #2 – Rocking my Top 100

Time for more Flickcharting! For those still unfamiliar with the website Flickchart, here’s the gist of it: You’re presented with two random movies. Pick the one you like the most. Repeat until the end of time.

Last time I did this, I had Flickchart pick movies out of all the films I’ve seen. This time, I’m restricting the selections to the films currently in my top 100 on Flickchart – based on all my previous rankings. This should lead to harder decisions, as these 10 match-ups will all be between movies that I love.

Take it away, Flickchart!

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Black Swan vs Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia always deserves more love than it currently has. Always. It may be my favorite movie about childhood, and watching it is a wonderful experience. It’s so much better than what the misleading marketing made it seem. So it’s with heavy heart that I can’t give it the win here. Black Swan is such an intense film, and a terrific production in all regards, from the cinematography to the acting. The final scene always leaves me breathless.
Winner: Black Swan

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Best Worst Movie vs Take Shelter

There are plenty of things that I like about Best Worst Movie, the documentary on the notoriously bad Troll 2 and its cult following, but one part that really stood out to me was when they visited Margo Prey, who played the mother in Troll 2. At first, I just laughed at how out there she was, but gradually, that gave way to thoughts of “Wow, she’s really in a bad state.” It’s quite the shift from the generally humorous tone of the rest of the documentary. And then you have the scene at the convention, where both the Troll 2 people and the viewers come out of the bubble and are reminded that cult following is not the same thing as wide-spread fame. Two great documentary moments. Now, Take Shelter is a nuanced and engaging movie with a powerhouse performance by Michael Shannon, but I had fonder reactions to BWM.
Winner: Best Worst Movie

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The Wrestler vs Little Miss Sunshine

I’ve gone back and forth a bit on Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler since its release. I loved it when I first saw it, but on a subsequent rewatch, I felt the story was a wee bit too familiar, and I docked it a point in my review of it. Since then, my appreciation for it has risen again, largely due to how cleverly it uses its pro wrestling subject matter to create a different vibe from most sports dramas. “Sports”-wise, it’s not about a guy proving that he’s better than others; it’s about a guy willingly putting his health at risk because it’s all he knows how to do. It’s a unique beast, that film. That said, there is nothing in the movie quite as great as the rollercoaster of emotions that is Little Miss Sunshine’s climax, and while Mickey Rourke‘s performance in The Wrestler is worthy of all the praise it has gotten, there is a lot of fun to be had in the many ways the members of Little Miss Sunshine’s ensemble cast interact with each other. Plus, I’m a sucker for comedies.
Winner: Little Miss Sunshine

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Hero vs Stranger Than Fiction

This is a case of where I appreciate the two films for very different things: Hero for its jaw dropping visuals and twisty Rashomon-esque storytelling, Stranger Than Fiction for its performances and quirky plot. Hero wins though, because it’s pretty much the most gorgeous-looking movie ever.
Winner: Hero

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Life of Pi vs Groundhog Day

Life of Pi was the first movie I ever paid to see more than once in theaters. Like Hero above, it’s a stunning achievement in visual splendor, and the story it tells is one I adore for many reasons. It is, however, sadly lacking in Bill Murray at his best and snarkiest. Groundhog Day also has quite the nostalgia factor for me, which proves to be too much for Life of Pi to overcome.
Winner: Groundhog Day

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The Rules of Attraction vs Requiem for a Dream

Flickchart is in an Aronofsky kind of mood today, it seems. Three films in six match-ups so far. Funny, that. Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction is a film I enjoy championing, because it rarely gets the credit it deserves – especially next to that other Bret Easton Ellis adaptation American Psycho. It’s great, wickedly funny, kind of alcoholic, and has some real teeth to it. If you haven’t seen it, you’d do well to check it out. Not that it’s better than Requiem for a Dream or anything, however. I saw Requiem early in my cinematic awakening, and it was a real eye-opener to me in terms of what was possible to achieve with directing and editing, not to ention the story that had me totally reeling. As an aside, it’s fun to note that the Victor segment of The Rules of Attraction owes a lot to Requiem’s hip hop montage editing style.
Winner: Requiem for a Dream

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The 40-Year-Old Virgin vs Lost in Translation

One of my Flickchart philosophies is that there should be no “automatic” wins. Just because I call Lost in Translation my favorite movie doesn’t mean that the match-up shouldn’t warrant full consideration (in fact, I never would have realized that it was my favorite movie if not for this philosophy, as described here.) So let’s look at the opposition here. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is pretty much the cream of the crop of the Judd Apatow brand of comedy. It’s hilarious, the cast is hitting on all cylinders, and there’s real affection for the main character and his plight. I’d call it one of the finest laugh-out-loud comedies of the 2000s. There. Case made. Lost in Translation is still better. Its meditative nature and profound tale still strikes all the right chords for me, and it keeps growing all the more relevant to me for every year as I traverse the age gap between Charlotte and Bob.
Winner: Lost in Translation

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High Fidelity vs The Ice Storm

Two movies about relationships here. Well, kind of. High Fidelity very much is, whereas The Ice Storm focuses more on a specific time and place (70s American suburbia) and the way people and families operated during this era. The Ice Storm is arguably the deeper of the two, and its approach to its themes is impressive considering that it’s directed by non-American Ang Lee. Even so, High Fidelity is a movie I find more relatable, and its blend of outright comedy and introspection is handled wonderfully. Having read Nick Hornby‘s source novel, I’m also in awe of what a skillful adaptation it is. Oh, and it has Jack Black‘s best performance ever.
Winner: High Fidelity

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Man on the Moon vs Forrest Gump

Oh, this is a tough one. My gut reaction is to go with Forrest Gump due to its emotional and touching story, but the more I think about it, the more I lean towards the Andy Kaufman biopic. It’s the one movie where I can actually forget that I’m watching Jim Carrey, as he does a great job of inhabiting the Kaufman character. Compare this to Forrest Gump, which is more a case of “Tom Hanks is sure acting the hell out of this movie.”
Winner: Man on the Moon

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The Woodsman vs American Beauty

Remember how I said that Lost in Translation is the movie I tend to call my favorite? Well, that used to be American Beauty, which to this day holds a special place in my heart. The Woodsman, on the other hand, is the film that made me a certified Kevin Bacon fan through his stunning performance as Walter. Both movies deal with the touchy subject matter of adult men lusting after younger girls, with The Woodsman fully focused on this whereas American Beauty has this as just one aspect of main character Lester’s mid-life crisis – and said crisis is still just one part of everything 1999’s Best Picture winner deals with. This thematic multitasking is part of what I like so much about it. The Woodsman is a more harrowing film, and certainly the more fearless one, but superior to American Beauty it is not.
Winner: American Beauty

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

 
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Posted by on 4 October, 2013 in Flickcharting, Misc.

 

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Monthly Report: December 2012

In the middle of the christmas hoopla, I found a surprisingly large amount of time for movies. At 30 films seen, December is probably my most intense month of the year cinematically speaking. Surprising indeed. There was a lot of good stuff, and little that was outright bad, so it’s a good slew of movies to close out the year with.

American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)
Well, it’s better than the last four straight-to-DVD American Pie films. Not that that’s saying much. The nostalgia factor is what makes American Reunion work, in two ways. First, by having the audience remember the first parts of the series, and then by having a fondness for the old times be a centerpiece of the plot as well. It’s a good thing this is handled effectively, because the actual humor is often derivative, and while there are certainly some laughs to be had here, they don’t always hit the mark. If this is the end of the series, it’s a respectable way to close the doors, at least. Except there’s reportedly another film being planned, so I guess not. God damn it.
3/5

The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2011)
What a terrific survival film. All the visceral elements were extraordinarily well done. I felt the plane crash. I felt the snow. I felt the cold water. And then there’s the wolves, who are as menacing as any movie monster I’ve seen in recent memory (except maybe the shark in Jaws.) Add in the spiritual elements of the story, and you have one great awesome package of a film. I mean, hell, it made me spontaneously applaud in my couch. That never happens.
5/5

Silent Night (Steven C. Miller, 2012)
Malcolm McDowell is really funny here in an Alan Rickman Sheriff of Nottingham way, where it seems like he’s not even part of the same movie as everyone else. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is weak humdrum slasher stuff. Skip this one.
2/5

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Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
Gran Torino‘s story in Attack the Block‘s setting, only with the violence ramped way up and with Michael Caine in the lead. This is certainly to oversimplify things, obviously, but it should give you some idea of what the film’s about. While the subject of a retiree turning vigilante is a field ripe for social commentary, there’s nothing done along these lines. No, this is a bloody revenge thriller through and through, and as such, it works really well. Caine is great, and it’s a treat to see him in a lead role these days.
4/5

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Posted by on 2 January, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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I’m making a list, to check twenty-twice…

As you may know, I haven’t made a Top 10 of 2011 list yet, for two reasons. 1: There have been so many of them published in the blogging world lately that mine wouldn’t add anything new to the discussions. 2: I just haven’t seen enough films for the list to really mean much. Such a list made now would nigh-assuredly look vastly different to the same list made a year from now. While it’s true that all ranked opinionated lists are fleeting by nature, this would probably be a particularly big shift.

So when will I have seen enough to make my list? I didn’t make my 2010 list until just this past September. It was right after catching up with Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which I then haphazardly decided was the last 2010 film I had really high hopes for. In hindsight, I could have waited a bit longer. I have since seen some movies that could might well have made it onto the Top 10, such as Easy A and Cyrus. While the latter wasn’t really on my radar at that point, I had been wanting to see Easy A for quite some time. I really should have held out for that one. It slipped my mind.

So for 2011, I’m getting organized. I have compiled a list of films I must see before making my Top 10 for the year. These are films I figure there’s a good chance I might really like, and thus would have a good shot at making my 2011 list. After some reminding research, I ended up with a collection of 22 movies. For some, it’s because they’re by a director whose prio work I admire. For others it’s because of the actors involved, an intriguing premise, strong word of mouth, or just a gut-feeling. Many are among the current slew of Oscar hopefuls.

By no means are these all the 2011 films I want to see, or the ones I’ll see before any others. Some haven’t been released here in Sweden yet. Many I’ll catch up with through rentals, so the randomness of Lovefilm will also play a part (unlike Netflix’s neatly ordered rental queues, Lovefilm only offers a tiered system of organizing). Also, this list was put together on the spur in 10 minutes or so. There might be films that have slipped by my attention, so there could be later additions.

Here is the current list in alphabetical order.

The Artist – because crowd-pleasers can be pleasing.

The Beaver – because as polarizing as the response has been, the premise fascinates me.

Bridesmaids – because it’s Judd Apatow.

Carnage – because it’s Roman Polanski.

A Dangerous Method – because why wouldn’t I want to see Keira Knightley get a beating?

The Descendants – because it’s Alexander Payne.

The Future – because I have never been able to forget Me and You and Everyone We Know.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – because while I think it’s an unnecessary idea, it’s still David Fincher doing a thriller.

Hanna – because it sounds fresh and people I trust have recommended it to me.

Horrible Bosses – because I’m a big fan of comedies and Kevin Spacey.

Hugo – because of a gut-feeling and Martin Scorsese.

The Ides of March – because of Ryan Gosling.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – because too many people have talked about it for too long for it not to be worth seeing.

Melancholia – because it’s Lars von Trier.

Rampart – because The Messenger showed great potential in the Oren Moverman, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster trinity.

The Skin I Live In – because I can’t look at that poster without being thoroughly intrigued, plus I haven’t seen many Pedro Almodóvar films.

Sleeping Beauty – because I need more Emily Browning to wash the taste of Sucker Punch out of my mouth.

Submarine – because I like the main character’s coat.

Take Shelter – because I want to be prepared for the end of the world.

We Need to Talk About Kevin – because of Tilda Swinton.

Win Win – because the trailer made it seem so by-the-numbers, yet everyone has so much love for it.

Young Adult – because Jason Reitman seems incapable of making films that aren’t great.

What 2011 films do you still really want to see?

 
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Posted by on 14 January, 2012 in Lists

 

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