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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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Monthly Report: July 2013

Another month, another bunch of movies seen. Quality over quantity this time; I may not have watched all that much, but most of what I saw I really liked.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)
Oh, I loved this one. Among the best coming-of-age movies I’ve ever seen. I felt for all the characters, I loved the music, and I was impressed by how the story was presented to me. This is the great movie that 500 Days of Summer and Submarine were really close to being. Terrific stuff, and the best film I’ve seen in months.
5/5

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
I dug how this felt like it could have actually been from the 1950s, the time period in which it is set. Impressive. Julianne Moore‘s performance is also a strong point, as she comes off as utterly convincing in a transformative way. The film overall is decent, although the story tries to do a bit too much and doesn’t sufficiently flesh out all of its subplots.
3/5

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It’s a Disaster (Todd Berger, 2012)
Funny film about eight people who meet up for couples brunch, only to find themselves in unusual circumstances and unable to leave the house. Similar premise have been done once or twice before – there are some resemblances to both Carnage and Right at Your Door, for instance – but Berger and co still make it feel fresh enough as they put their own spin on things, often of the more outright comedic kind. The last quarter or so of the film does drag a little, unfortunately, and the ending is more cute than narratively satisfying. Still, this one’s worth checking out if the idea sounds intriguing to you.
3/5

Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton, 2011)
Nice and touching movie, helped along to great degree by the trio of fully realized characters. The writing and performances ensured that I fully bought them at all times. I may not have liked all of them all the time, but that’s fine. Everyone’s flawed. This is a good film.
4/5

The Collector (Marcus Dunstan, 2009)
Oh, hey, a good horror movie. I didn’t know they still made those. This one features a stylized and stylish look, audio that slowly but surely envelopes you and pulls you into its atmosphere, and a neat focus on traps unlike what we’re familiar with from the Saw franchise – which Dunstan has also worked on. A film that went beyond my expectations.
4/5

Animal House (John Landis, 1978)
A professor in this film (Donald Sutherland) at one point says this about Milton while discussing Paradise Lost: “He’s a little bit long-winded, he doesn’t translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible.” I could say the same about this film.
2/5

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Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)
Compelling stuff, even to someone like me who knows nothing about baseball. Equal parts character study and sports drama, with the latter being where the movie really shines. The actors do a good job, but it’s the willingness of Miller to do things in slightly offbeat ways to better serve the story that really makes the movie take off.
4/5

The Purge (James DeMonaco, 2013)
An interesting premise that unfortunately gives way to a standard home invasion horror flick. The few moments where it lingers on the implications of a nation-wide “everything goes” night are the best parts of the film, but that’s not enough to bring this one up to a passing grade. Main problem: repetitiveness.
2/5

Drive Angry (Patrick Lussier, 2011)
Compared to many other Nicolas Cage action films these days, this one is almost bursting with a sense of identity, thanks to its B-movie tone. There’s some fun to be had here to be sure, mostly thanks to the characters. Cage and William Fichtner play off each other well, and really ought to do more movies together. I also liked Amber Heard‘s feisty performance, even if nothing her character did made much sense. Drive Angry is a pretty dumb film, but it mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do.
3/5

Total # of new films seen: 9
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the months: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Worst film of the months: The Purge

 
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Posted by on 1 August, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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