Sunday, February 26, 2012

Top 10 of 2011 and Oscar Preview and Prediction Post

The Oscar Nominations have been announced, we are already many films into 2012, therefore, it is time for my annual look at the top ten films from the previous year!

A list that I've been doing for six years now, so let's start with some links to the past.

In 2005, shortly after starting my blog, I listed my Top 5 films
In 2006, I did my first top ten (also the only time I wussed out and had a tie at the top, although this year I thought about doing it again)
In 2007
In 2008 (I also did a look back at the Top Ten films of 1999)
In 2009 I actually did a Top 20 since the Oscars went to 10 Best Picture Nominees
And last year, 2010

If you are looking for a film you might have missed or just wanting some thoughts on something new to Netflix, maybe these links will give you some ideas.

Now, onto the main attraction.

First, however, some honorable mentions...

Super 8

Abrams has a little too much love of the lens flare for my taste, yet I have to talk about this film, in part, because while it didn't make my Top Ten it does highlight the trend in this year's movies.  (This is something I sometimes notice, for instance, I saw 2007 as a year for Horror)  2011 was the year for Film Nostalgia, and Super 8 kicked it off.

Abrams returns to the film that Spielberg perfected in the 80's, a movie more about the kids than the crazy stuff happening around them.  This captured the feel of a film like ET perfectly, and also happened to be about a bunch of kids who wanted to make movies.  And a movie that was somewhat about movies is something that will show up a few more times in this list.

Green Lantern

There were quite a few comic book movies this past year, and they were all pretty good (Thor, Captain America, and X-Men First class being the others).  While others might disagree, and I recognize that my love of the characters and stories available in the GL Corp might bias me a bit, I thought that Green Lantern was the best of the bunch.

It spent quite a percentage of the year in my Top Ten, although ultimately no Super Hero film made it this year, and while I certainly think that it could have been better (and the extended cut BluRay goes a long way towards fixing any mistakes the film might have made, primarily in pacing) I found myself enthralled throughout.  Ryan Reynolds wasn't my first choice for Hal (I still maintain Nathon Fillion would have been PERFECT), he captured Hal quite well.

I really hope that there is a sequel (partially because Sinestro is such a great villian) because I think this franchise has tons of potential.


I love baseball.  Like religiously.  And so I really liked this movie, but I think that my love (and therefore ridiculous knowledge) of baseball hurt my appreciation for this film a little bit.

I get why people loved it.  The dialogue (as is to be expected from Aaron Sorkin) is perfect.  The acting is fabulous.  The drama is top-notch.

However, some of the behind the scene stuff stuck out to me as being impossible, primarily the way that trades were handled in the film.

There were just too many times where I wasn't able to suspend disbelief, and that ultimately kept it out of my top ten.



What a great film.  Very different from most movies, it moves very slowly and through a lot of stories from a lot of different perspectives, but it never loses momentum or the audiences attention.

Then there is the fact that the movie just gets to you.  If you didn't have at least a little apprehension about germs after seeing this film I think you might actually be a cylon.

My mother refused to touch the sides of the escalator on the way out of the theater and then paused at the door to the street finally decided to use her elbow to open it.  I'm sure that she wasn't the only one with that reaction, and if a film can get you to react that strongly after seeing it, it is doing its job.

Source Code

In my review, I called Source Code "one of the best time travel movies of all time," and it really is.  Unlike a lot of time travel movies, it sets up the rules and follows them, rather than breaking them in order to provide a satisfactory ending (looking at you Deja Vu).

Duncan Jones (who also wrote and directed the incredible Moon) proves himself to be a director to keep a close eye on.  If the end of the year hadn't been filled with some truly fantastic films, this would have unquestionably made the top ten.


10. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ostensibly a film about the attack on 9/11, this is really a film about a young boy with Asperger's who struggles to find meaning after his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the World Trade Center.  His father sent him on elaborate quests in order to get him to interact with others and overcome the social awkwardness that went with his disease.  A chance discovery seems that there might be one more mystery that will allow him to continue to feel the presence of his now absent father.

It walks the fine line of sappy sentimentality that can bring a film down, avoiding the possibility of becoming too preachy or "Hallmark movie of the week" and instead provides a powerful look into one family's struggle with the events of a tragic morning.

9. Ides of March

A friend of mine actually works on political campaigns for a living, so immediately upon seeing this, I thought of him.  He said it was a pretty accurate take on what can take place on the campaign trail.  It is also a very good and dramatic film.  It keeps you intrigued throughout, and the acting is top notch.  While the attention is going to The Descendents and Drive, I thought that George Clooney's and Ryan Gosling's performances were far better in this film.

8. Tree of Life

A movie about love, life, tragedy, and above all else the relationship of a father and a son.  It isn't a typical film told in a typical style, but it works and it is beyond beautiful.  It switches between a cosmic look at life and an extremely personal take on a boy who is entirely too much like his father, both of them struggling to find their place amidst everything else.  If you go in with an open mind, I find it hard to think that you won't walk away touched.  At the very least, the film will make you think.  And that in itself is entirely too rare these days.

7. The Artist

This is another of the films this year that evokes films of the past.  It is almost entirely silent, and yet even without spoken dialogue there is a fantastic story that will make you laugh and cry.  Carried almost solely by the performances of the actors (and one cute dog) you forget that you are watching a silent, black and white film.  It is at once a chronicle of the changing of the guard in film history, a love story, and a tale of despair with the hope of redemption.  Powerful movie making and certainly not easy to pull off successfully in a time where Michael Bay explosions are the norm rather than strong character and storytelling (although arguably, the dialogue in this film where there hardly is any rivals the dialogue in any Michael Bay film).

6. The Muppets

While not exactly evoking the past in film, it certainly qualifies as nostalgia.  Anyone who grew up watching either The Muppet Show or the subsequent films will find themselves falling in love with the Muppets all over again.  The fact that this isn't sweeping all kinds of awards is criminal.  Thankfully, "Man or Muppet" got nominated for Best Song, but there is a rumor that the Muppets won't be able to perform the song at the Oscars!  I really hope cooler heads prevail and the Muppets get at least that recognition since they deserve so much more.  Immediately after seeing this at the midnight showing, I bought the soundtrack, and I have been listening to it nearly non-stop since (four months later!).  I will be buying this film the second I can and will watch it over and over again, because the world is a better place (and life is a happy song) when the Muppets are around.

5. The Help
While I understand the trouble some people have with this film, noting the fact that the black women had to be saved by a white woman.  But it also does a good job of capturing the reality of this time.  Plus the acting was fantastic and very likely will end up with wins in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I loved the book series, and while there are some minor changes, this is a very faithful adaptation.  Of course, if you are familiar with the books, that means that there are some difficult moments in this film.  However, David Fincher handles the difficult material expertly and delivers a very powerful film that is as exciting and mysterious as the source material on which he based the film.  Honestly, my main problem with the Oscars this year is that this movie wasn't nominated for Best Picture.  And while Rooney Mara did get a very deserved nomination, she isn't going to win.  In my opinion, she definitely should as her portrayal of the title character was beyond perfect, and it certainly was not an easy role to play.

3. War Horse
My top three films this year were so close that I almost wussed out and had a three way tie for number one, but I fought through that desire and ultimately put an order to them.  While some of the films this year were obviously homages to film (including a film still to go on my list), I think that this movie fits in, in a way, with those.  It isn't about film, but it certainly hearkens back to films from the past.  It reminds me of a John Ford epic (as an aside, it is interesting that Spielberg made a film meant to evoke the work of another filmmaker the same year that JJ Abrams made a film meant to evoke the work of Spielberg).  It was a positive and powerful film that had more than its share of sentimentality, but as much as forced sentimentality generally annoys me, under the watchful hand of Spielberg it doesn't bother me at all.

2. Hugo
The final film on the list that is an homage to film, Scorsese made a movie about the very beginning of the film industry that is also a mysterious and adventurous tale about a young boy and the search  for a final message from his father.  This, along with Avatar, shows the true potential of digital film and the power of 3D done right.  Scorsese is a master of the medium of film and in this movie he celebrates its past while showing off the possibilities of its future.

and my choice for the Number One Movie of 2011 is....

1. Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen has been making movies for a long time, but it has been quite some time since he has made a film quite this good.  There are quite a few films on this list that can be called nostalgic, and this is yet another one.  Although the history that this film invokes predates movies.  Instead it is nostalgic about the art of storytelling in a more general sense, but it is wholly nostalgic and wholly original just the same.  To close out my top ten, I'll quote from my review after I saw the film this summer...

"If you categorize it as romantic comedy (and I'm not really sure that is the classification I would use, I would rather refuse to try to box it in to any one genre) then it is unquestionably the best romantic comedy I have ever seen."

As for tonight's Oscars, they won't really be that filled with mystery.

The Artist will take home Best Picture

Viola Davis will win Best Actress (although I believe Rooney Mara should)

 Jean Dujardin will probably win Best Actor for his role in the Artist, although George Clooney has an outside shot.

Octavia Spencer will win Best Supporting Actress

Christopher Plummer will most likely win Best Supporting Actor

Michel Hazanavicius will win Best Director for The Artist, although it should go to Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese in my mind

And finally, most importantly,

Man or Muppet will win Best Song and deservedly so.

Until Next Time, check back in the next couple of days for my 7th Annual My Thoughts As I Had Them During the Oscars Post

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