I heard somewhere that the average blog entry is viewed by less than 10 people.
I can’t imagine why this one would be any different. Nevertheless, I’ve been threatening to do a blog for years and of late I’ve done quite a few things I’ve been threatening to do. Though not everything I’ve been threatening to do. So, you know, most of you are safe. For now.
As I will primarily be writing about film here, I can think of nothing better to start with than a breakdown of my top 10 flicks from 2011. While compiling the list, I determined that I’d limit my selections to films that I saw in 2011 that were also, according to their IMDB entry, released in 2011. This excluded some gems like Miike’s 13 Assassins, the wonderful Nordic Trollhunter and James Gunn’s sublime Super (you’ll never be able to hear the word ‘gooshy’ the same way again) but rules are rules. Of course, it also excluded some movies I had/have yet to see including Tree of Life, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Artist, Take Shelter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse, etc. I do plan on catching all of those at some point. I will most likely re-evaluate my policy for next year’s list but with my guidelines in place, we begin.
10. (tie) Rise of the Planet of the Apes/Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
9. Captain America: The First Avenger
Big budget popcorn flicks down right.
In Apes, Franco is serviceable, Pinto is negligible and Malfoy is all Malfoyish. Brian Cox (the best Lecter) and John Lithgow, as always, delight albeit in underdeveloped, one-note roles. However, Andy Serkis, the ace in the hole, delivers the goods anytime he’s being mo-capped on-screen. A dear friend who is quite difficult to please with modern Hollywood fare who happens to be a huge fan of the original franchise loved this movie as much as he loathed Burton’s effort. That’s the only endorsement you need.
MI:GP earns it’s space here because Brad Bird (The Iron Giant ,The Incredibles ) makes me, in his first live action film, forget for 2+ hours just how creepy I think Tom Cruise can be. The story is pretty typical for this kind of movie and lives only to serve the set pieces but those action sequences are some of the best of their kind in this series or any other. If you can swing it, view on a true Imax screen. The Dubai Tower sequence is worth the price of inflated admission.
I went back and forth on including Cap but ultimately decided that the film was easily the best of the superhero/comic book movies released this past summer and deserved a place on this list. Granted the competition didn’t amount to much. Both Thor and Green Lantern were dreadful while X-Men: First Class suffered from a less than satisfying climax. But, Chris Evans was great casting and the WWII period stuff was spot on. It was just plain fun and one of the few movies I saw twice in a theater this past year. I was even able to tolerate the gratuitous, obligatory Sam Jackson cameo necessary to set up Whedon’s Avengers flick.
8. Young Adult
7. Cedar Rapids
Young Adult didn’t surprise me at all. Jason Reitman delivers some of the same dark humor on display in Thank You For Smoking. Diablo Cody shows the more mature wit she brought to United States of Tara. Patton Oswalt proves Big Fan was not a one-off fluke. And Charlize Theron? I’ve never seen Monster. I know I need to see it, but here she is crass, unlikable, unapologetic and irredeemable. And I just want to take her home to momma (well, not my momma) and marry her. Great role for a great actress…who’s hot. Just saying.
Cedar Rapids on the other hand came as quite the surprise. Miguel Arteta directs a fantastic ensemble in a slice of life tale. It’s a small movie about unremarkable people doing unremarkable things. You know, people like you and me, just living their lives and it hits all the right notes. If there were one movie on this list that you probably haven’t seen, I’m guessing that it’s this one. And I think you should rectify that as soon as possible.
I’ve never seen Joe Wright’s Atonement or his Pride and Prejudice. I doubt I ever will. They seem a bit navel-gazey to me. Doesn’t mean they’re not good but I ain’t getting paid for this so I don’t gots to watch nothing. But little Miss Hanna here is good, or rather bad, or rather quite good at being bad. Saoirse Ronan in the title role portrays, with a talent beyond her years, a child’s innocence mixed with a borderline sociopathy that is both frightening and fascinating. Eric Bana’s proud papa character will never win Dad of the Year but good looking out on the raising a homicidal maniac front!
5. The Descendants
I’ve yet to see an Alexander Payne film I didn’t completely enjoy. I only wish he’d direct more. George Clooney plays against type as a bit of a schlub. He’s a dedicated family man but he’s clueless to what’s really happening with that family. The man can act, he’s proven himself to be a more than capable director, he’s a damn handsome man and always has hot women lined up to date him. You’d think something would go wrong for him but you kinda hope it doesn’t. Editorial on the actor aside, Payne tells a pretty simple tale that doesn’t turn out to be quite as simple or as tidy as you thought it might. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 7 years for his next effort.
4. Hobo With a Shotgun
Strange cinematic bedfellows to be sure but grouped together here for my purposes because they’re both such…visual films.
Hobo started as a fan-made trailer that won a contest promoting Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature. The response to the fake trailer encouraged studio backing that led to this nightmare-fueled “technicolor” tribute to trash exploitation cinema that succeeds everywhere Tarantino & Rodrgiuez failed. Is it bloody? Yes. Does it feature over the top acting? Oh yes. Does it feature Rutger Hauer in as riveting a performance as his Blade Runner masterpiece? Yes it does. Is it for everyone? Hell no. Is it for me? Hell yes!
Hugo was another film that surprised me this year because I wasn’t expecting a lot. I haven’t honestly been impressed with most of Scorsese’s recent output (certainly not Shutter Island.) The trailers did a good job of drawing me in and piqued my interest but we’ve all been fooled by trailers so I was still dubious going in to the theater. But, Scorsese delivers a true loving homage to cinematic history. I couldn’t help but love a movie that loves movies as much as this one. Mad bonus points for the most effective use of Ben Kingsley since Sexy Beast and the most creative use of the new 3D technology since Cameron’s Avatar.
2. Super 8
Some might scoff at the lofty position upon which this bit of 80’s nostalgia fluff has perched. But hey, it’s my list. You don’t like it, go mix paint. Or make your own list, I don’t care. You don’t know me. JJ Abrams’ film was maudlin, manipulative, a bit lazy in mining the same material as the films to which it pays homage, and almost completely falls apart in the third act. And I could care less. The kid actors were great especially Elle Fanning. Kyle Chandler as a dad we’d all kill to have reminds me why I liked him so much in Friday Night Lights, Early Edition and all the way back to Homefront (yes, I’ve watched way too much television in my life.) I’m not the most sentimental person in the world but every once in a while something comes around and hits my sweet spot. Wattareyagunnado?
At long last, we arrive at my favorite movie of 2011. At long last for me. I started this first blog entry like 2 weeks ago. All but two of you quit reading at, I’m guessing, Hanna, maybe? Let me just tell you, my adoration for this film knows no bounds. Nicolas Winding Refn (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) perfectly captures a mood, a feeling, a vibe. The film wears it influences proudly on its sleeves (Walter Hill’s The Driver, the cult classic The Stuntman,) but forges an identity of its own with subtle supporting performances from wonderful character actors, a soundtrack that perfectly compliments the film, and a revelatory lead performance from Ryan ‘The Goose’ Gosling. Albert Brooks makes you wonder where he’s been hiding for the last decade and is single-handedly responsible for one of the most…gentle(?) murders I’ve ever seen in a motion picture. That the film also includes one of the most brutal killings I’ve seen only cements the fact that this is one of those anything could happen flicks to which you can only hitch your wagon and go along for the ride. If you haven’t seen it (and shame on you if you haven’t,) it hits home video on January 31, 2012. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
All right. That’s it. I’m done. I promise I won’t get this wordy again without good reason but if you’ve made it to the end of this lengthy screed I appreciate it and I hope you found it somewhat enjoyable. If not, I’ll try harder next time. Now leave me alone, I gotta go watch a movie. I hear Haywire is good and that Gina Carano is mighty tasty…