This past week I scoured the list of seventy-odd 2011 movies I’ve seen. Looking back, I was reminded that the majority of 2011 films (that I saw, mind you) were disappointing or simply forgettable. I was also reminded that when a movie was really good, I just couldn’t stop talking about it. In the end, I still drove myself crazy trying to narrow down the fifteen or so awesome movies of 2011 into a top 10. After much debate, I did narrow it down to a top 10, though as Nick put it in his Top 10 of 2011, “as we tend to say around these parts, this is my favorites list, not the best list.”
HONORABLE MENTION: The Help – For a long list of ridiculous reasons I still have not seen The Help, but everyone, and I mean everyone, I know says that had I seen it, it’d be on this list. Until then, consider this its placeholder.
One of my most recently watched films to make the list, I worried its inclusion is more due to its newness. After much reflection, there’s no denying how much fun it is to watch these four talented actors go at each others throats. Each character has their shortcomings, and as their social etiquette degrades those foibles shine. Of them all, I most enjoyed Waltz’s Alan; he’s such a delightfully smug ass. Think what you will about Roman Polanski, but the man crafts an engaging film.
Between this, Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love, I knew at least one Ryan Gosling movie had to make my list. Upon comparing the three, there’s really no contest. The Driver is a great character and Gosling makes you simultaneously root for him to survive and to seek professional help. Drive‘s pacing is a slow burn that erupts into explosive scenes of unexpected gruesome violence. My kind of movie!
8. Midnight in Paris
I enjoyed so many things about Midnight in Paris. Naturally, there’s the lovely Marion Cotillard. I love the inspired cameos by Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Allison Pill, and especially Corey Stoll. Wilson’s Allen-esque character is even more likable than Allen. Speaking of Woody, I love that he appreciates Rachel McAdams’ scrumptious ass as much as I do. Didn’t notice? Go back, watch it again, and see how most shots of her start at the derriere and work up.
Having been months and months since I’d seen it, I nearly snubbed Hanna the first time through the sorting. Then I began to recall the wicked Chemical Brothers soundtrack, the mega-creep factor of Tom Hollander’s Isaacs (Thanks, Dylan), and the sheer badassedness of Saoirse Ronan as Hanna. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. How could it not make the list?
6. Horrible Bosses
Before Horrible Bosses came along, 2011 was shaping up to be a laughless year. Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II had left a bad taste in my mouth. I got a chuckle out of indie films like Midnight in Paris and Win Win, but every once in a while I gots to experience an unrelenting gut-buster. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, and Charlie Day do just that by delivering up laugh after laugh without letting the story get too stupid. Horrible Bosses also helped me see Jennifer Aniston as sexy, while making Colin Farrell so very, very not-sexy.
I do love me some JGL, but 50/50 doesn’t earn this spot on his shoulders alone. It’s a touching story that never gets too syrupy or manipulative. Anjelica Huston outshines everyone and Anna Kendrick continues to impress. More importantly, 50/50 redeemed Seth Rogen. His jerk-off laugh and jerk-off face in things like Green Hornet were quickly earning him a spot on my shit list, but as Kyle he proves he’s actually serious about this acting thing.
4. Take Shelter
I’ve got two words for you; Michael Shannon. Shannon’s portrayal of Curtis grabs you right from the start. His obsession at discerning whether the plague of apocalyptic nightmares he’s having are visions or his own psychosis infected me and had me fixated right to the very end. Writer-director Jeff Nichols captures all the frustrations, fears, anger and panic that Curtis, his family, and his friends experience. A film not to be missed.
3. Source Code
Easily the most under-appreciated film of 2011. Duncan Jones impressed the hell out of me with Moon and Source Code proves equally eloquent. A wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey premise that could have been difficult to translate to the screen, but Jones’ deft direction keeps it from being too mind-bottling. It’s fast-paced and thrilling and Farmiga gives an excellent supporting performance to Jake Gyllenhaal who is always easy on the eyes.
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I’ve said this many times, but Andy Serkis and the CGI crew deserve mad props for making Caesar the star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Following the life of this chimpanzee from his sad beginnings through to his destiny is popcorn-devouring cinema. Franco makes an excellent father figure, even if he is an ethically-weak scientist. The best thing Rise has going for it is its attention to all the little details. By the end, everything blends together to make sense of even the most nonsensical plots of the franchise.
1. The Guard
Little more than a buddy cop movie, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle raise the material to a whole other level. I’d easily sit through the Guard a second, third or even fourth time. That’s partly because I didn’t catch all of the heavily-accented dialogue the first time through, but mostly it’s because I’m sure I’ll love it more and more with each viewing. I hope John Michael McDonagh is already working on The Guard 2: Boyle on America’s Arse.
Remember, we here at Man, I Love Films don’t do definitive lists. We do our favorites and we want to hear yours. So, make sure and tell us about them in the comments section below.