Keep in mind that these are just my personal opinions, the films I enjoyed the most – not necessarily the most technically adept or profound, but the ones that touched me the most, and which I found to be the most entertaining.
1. Super 8
This was just the most enjoyable film of the year – it might not have been the most artful, the most thought provoking or anything, but it was the most enjoyable, and if there’s one thing I love it’s a film that I can just watch and dig the hell out of everything it’s doing. Super 8 is just a killer homage to the Spielberg canon of old, with wonderful characters, a lot of energy and great visual hooks. It’s just a great all around story, and for me, that makes it the best of the year.
What a wonderfully detailed film. This is so good it’s scary – it puts other kids’ films to shame with its attention to shading and lights and just all around details, in the story as well as in the scenery and CGI. This is masterful cinema and proves that Scorsese is the man. A lovely, sentimental story that speaks out to anyone who’s ever loved art, with layered characters, nuanced, believable performances and a stunning outcome overall. To childrens’ films, this is the equivalent of fine dining. Kids need to see this, but so does everyone else too.
3. The Adjustment Bureau
I love this movie because it is uplifting, life affirming and glorious – it takes a simple premise of ‘boy meets girl’ and does it up with a huge, epic backdrop and some awesome sci-fi leanings that make for one of the best, most original stories of the year. The film is visually stunning as well as wonderfully acted. Matt Damon continues to get more and more awesome, as he delivers a great performance in this one. This is a very complex film that tackles issues of human fate versus free will as well as the idea of a God, all handled subtly and without taking any one side in particular. It will make you think, that’s for sure. The Adjustment Bureau might have a cheesy ending, but the way it reaches that ending is so good that you won’t care.
4. The Descendants
In the wake of a family tragedy, Matt King (George Clooney) and his two daughters are thrust into a web that will make you laugh, cry and ponder all at different times, and it is that variety that gives The Descendants a place on this list. This movie is just excellently done, and I’m surprised at how much fun I had watching this despite its grave subject matter. But I think that was the point – this is a film about family, and its honest approach yields a cornucopia of emotions and interactions just like real life. The snappy writing and clever dialogue, though, elevates it above a simple ‘slice of life’ movie and turn it into a statement – we are all people and we deal with tragedy differently, and we can’t judge others solely based on one side of his or her personality. It’s a movie about loving your family and accepting those around you for who they are. Great acting and cinematography are only icing on the cake.
5. Kill the Irishman
Bad ass, man. This is a hard-hitting mob story based on true life events of Danny Greene, a sort of jack of all trades who nonetheless fell into a bloody, explosive other life with the mob despite his efforts to do good. This is a quick-paced, jam-packed film with something happening every second, and if you like any of the old Scorsese movies or the Godfather series or anything, this should be up your alley too. I don't know how accurate it is to the true events, but what it is is a great, gripping epic that keeps you interested all the way to the end. Ray Stevenson is fucking awesome in this as Greene, and he booms out commanding dialogue like he was damn well born to do it. Great performance, maybe my favorite of the year. Christopher Walken is cool, and the rest of the cast, made up of big names like Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Darrow and more, is just icing on the cake. This is an awesome movie and you need to see it, end of story.
6. The Ides of March
Politics are a hungry game, a cut-throat sport in which one loses his soul, so to speak, and that is illustrated brilliantly in The Ides of March. Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and others are just the icing on the cake of this quite cold, brutal and calculating story that shows how politics work in a clear but not at all flattering light. This is a dramatic film that escapes the trap of being too sappy or too melodramatic – it’s a serious film for people who are serious about movies. Respectable, iconoclastic and well written.
7. The Debt
A tale that transcends a thirty-year period, The Debt is great because it keeps the thrills coming at a steady pace. I could never predict where this movie was going, and I found its dark, mature textures and unwinding tension to be arresting. This is a pretty gritty, hard-assed movie, and it takes no prisoners in telling its sometimes hard-to-tell story the best way it knows how – with conviction and weight. This is, again, a serious movie for serious people, and if you like historical films or dramas, The Debt will be up your alley.
8. Source Code
In the same mode as Adjustment Bureau, this is a kick ass sci fi story done up with romantic touches and epic storytelling to make for a real thrill ride, and pulled together with sweep and grace to make sure you’re hooked every minute. I loved this movie for its sleek, action packed nature and its abundance of heart and honesty. Just a hugely entertaining, well-written romp, and one that anyone can enjoy.
A lot of people disliked this one, but then, a lot of people are idiots – Insidious is awesome, and while it lacks the subtlety or originality of the greatest horror movies, it makes up for that with Nightmare on Elm Street-styled flashiness and bombast, and really works due to its energy and bounce. This is an energetic film that doesn’t try too hard to be serious or pose itself as anything it’s not, and I like that about it. Add to that the fact that it’s tons of fun and packs some excellent, creative scares and homages to horror’s distant past, and you have a winner of a movie. Just a great flick.
10. Captain America
Easily the best Marvel superhero movie ever. This is just an overflowingly awesome, passionate flick that rocks out with some great dialogue, good character development, snappy action and a well-told story. It’s a meat-and-potatoes movie, one that ticks off all the boxes and does them well, and for that I will watch this any time I see it on.
But with every year also comes some pretty horrible crap, too. I didn’t pay money to see a lot of really bad movies in theaters this year, but there were a few that slipped through the cracks…
This ass-fest is one of the most creatively bereft films I’ve ever seen. It is amazing how many clichés there were in this, and how much tension they managed to suck out of the whole. An awfully soulless, toothless, ball less film that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies.
Season of the Witch
Season of the Witch is not a movie, it is a convention of Monty Python wannabes trading stale dialog in stilted accents on sets that look like they were made from stuff you can get at the Dollar Store. The plot is a ludicrously, woefully under-developed and half-assed debacle that you have to see to belief. So stupid it’s almost smart again. Key word – almost.
A series that has long, long since worn out its welcome. Please never make another one of these movies.
30 Minutes or Less
Despicable garbage that tries for funny and comes off offensive to any kind of good taste. I hate these characters, I hate the situations they get into and I hate the implication that we’re supposed to find any of it funny. This is cancer in cinematic form.
Eastwood finally bites off more than he can chew with this bloated and dull biopic about J. Edgar Hoover. Lacking the power and grace necessary to carry such a long, spacious film, J. Edgar is mostly just tiresome.
So that's 2011, and I hope you all enjoyed reading this list. You may disagree with me on any number of these films, and there are plenty I haven't even seen that very well could have made it on here. I hope to see even more great movies in 2012.
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