Favorite films of 2011
Writer: Andrew Outwater
To briefly explain, these are not what I consider the “best” films of the year. This is my list of films that I call my favorite. Though I do think several of these films are among the best of the year. That said, here are my 10 favorite films of 2011.
10. Take Shelter
What I loved about Take Shelter was that it addresses the common problems most “possible schizophrenic” movies have. The main character's mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and almost immediately the main character questions his sanity. Throughout the film, I was wondering whether or not he is crazy or if his visions of a coming apocalypse were real. Another possible problem these films face is having a satisfying ending. The build up can be immaculate, but if the pay off isn't enough, the film can feel like a waste of time. Luckily, Take Shelter delivers fantastically.
While I love this film quite a bit, I can see its flaws and criticize it accordingly. However, I just enjoyed the story and the tone and style of the film so much that I was able to overlook its shortcomings. Neil Burger was able to pull together this crazy visual style that's unique, yet feels somewhat reminiscent of “Fight Club” in a weird way. Tonal shifts and change of situations throughout the movie trigger alterations in the color pallet and even the overall graininess of the film. The visuals compliment the story's progression and bring a flavor to the film that I really haven't seen anywhere else.
I took my mother to see this in theatres. I'll wait and let that sink in for a second … and we both loved it. I ended up buying it for Mother's Day and we've watched it several times since. Probably the funniest film in the past couple years; “Bridesmaids” was a breath of fresh air.
The script is brilliant and the movie doesn't fill itself with actresses who look fake. Every character looks like a real person. Along with that, this movie has women doing things that normally are reserved for males in gross-out, raunchy comedies. The infamous bathroom scene is one of the most disgusting gross-out gags of the year.
Above that, the movie focuses on the characters and their individual arcs. While some are most static than others, the main relationships in the film change drastically through the film and it really makes you care.
A comedy about cancer sounds like risky subject matter. It definitely is. This movie could have been offensive if not handled with the right amount of care. Luckily the writer based the script on his real-life experiences with cancer and the director has a great sense of character to make this film work.
Having been affected by cancer in my life, my grandmother died of cancer, I found the way they handled the cancer angle with incredible sensitivity. It actually reminded me of what my mother had to go through when her mom was dying. I wasn’t always there to experience what she did, but watching this film made me feel closer to her experiences.
The film strikes a great balance of drama and comedy without diluting either. It’s very genuine and the emotion in the film feels organic. What I love about the film is the pure emotion that the film is able to deliver. This movie actually got me choked up, and not a whole lot of movies can do that.
Two things about “Rango” that I love are that it didn’t need 3D to enhance the experience and it doesn’t cut corners on the details. I’m pretty sure this is the only animated film this year that was not in 3D, and it didn’t need it. Every pixel of every frame of this film was meticulously crafted to perfection. This is, by far, the best looking computer-animated film that I have seen. The scene when Rango first enters the cantina was astonishing. Every hair, scratch, scrape, scab, sweat, scale of every creature, even if they only appeared for a second, looked amazing. I’ve never seen that amount of detail before. While it’s incredibly detailed, it feels very raw. These characters are not pretty characters. The movie has a very dirty look that fits the tone and story of the film. Speaking of, it’s a great story. It’s a true western in every sense of the genre. At its core, it’s about someone who’s trying to find purpose in life. Even if you don’t like the story, the film’s worth watching just for the visuals.
5. Midnight In Paris
It’s kind of hard to describe why this movie is so good, but it’s a movie that really triggers your emotions.
It’s incredibly romantic without actually being a love story between two characters. It’s more of a love story between a man and a place that he wants to be, a great, feel-good movie. It made me happy watching it and when it was over I felt energized and uplifted.
4. 13 Assassins
Takashi Miike is brilliant in his insanity. Or is it he's insane in his brilliance? Either way, “13 Assassins” will probably go down as his masterpiece. A truly unconventional filmmaker goes traditional - for the most part - in this samurai film that is probably the most violent film to come out in years. The film uses the first hour to build up to a 45-minute wall of set pieces where Miike just rattles every sense that you have. Unlike “Transformers 3,” where it similarly ended in an extremely long series of set pieces, “13 Assassins” does a fantastic job of setting up the characters and situation to make you actually care about what's going on instead of admiring the view. And, unlike Michael Bay, Miike knows how to shoot and edit the action so there's a sense of progress. And, unlike “Transformers 3,” you care about the characters. It has probably the worst, most despicable villain in a movie, and makes you want him to die a horrible death. And when the resolution comes, it's incredibly satisfying. The film also tackles some traditional Japanese culture questions such as honor and duty. I could go on all day about this movie, just go watch it.
3. Attack The Block
There's just a lot of good to say about this film. I kept hearing this film disappointed many because “Alien Invasion” films usually have a lot of high-budget spectacle to them. But this movie isn't that. This is a much more personal film and more of a throwback to what made '80s sci-fi horror so great. But unlike a lot of films that are “throwbacks” or “homage” to the films that inspired them, this film makes a modern-day version of it. The soundtrack is amazing and the monsters are all practically done. That means the monsters are not computer-generated images, they're people in suits, animatronics, and puppets. They were darkened in post-production to give them a pure black look, but they're actually there with the actors. Practicality is something that is lost with most films now. Add that to a brilliant script, great acting, solid directing, airtight editing, and, once again, a kick-ass soundtrack, and you get one of the coolest and most fun films of the year.
“Drive” is an exercise of subtlety. The film is just oozing with style, yet the director shows so much restraint. Every frame of this film feels necessary, not over done. Yet it's so stylish that you can't help but be in awe at it. The story is very straightforward and simple. It's unique, yet familiar; calm, yet chaotic; somber, yet beautiful. Also, Ryan Gosling is simply amazing.
This was really close to making my top spot. This is the best film of the year, one of the best of the past several years. This is the closest thing to a perfect film that I've seen since “The Shawshank Redemption.”
When this movie came out, it immediately became my favorite film of the year. It maintained that spot until “Drive” came out. Well, for a while “Drive” was number two, then I got the Blu-ray for “Drive” and it moved to number one. Until writing this, “Hanna” stayed at the number 2 spot. I decided to re-watch it last minute, and I'm glad I did. To me, “Hanna” is this year's “Pulp Fiction,” and Drive is “Shawshank Redemption.”
There's something about “Hanna” that really captured me. It's a basic plot or revenge, but it's still so much more than that when you break it down. It's sort of a dark fairytale about a girl coming into the world for the first time of her life. It's got great action throughout the film, but it's a character-driven story.
What really drives the movie is the performance of Saoirse Ronan, the unique direction of Joe Wright, the crazy editing style, and the incredible score by the Chemical Brothers. This crazy combination of unorthodox elements elevates “Hanna” above what it should have been. Any other actor, any other director, any other editor, any other score, and this movie just wouldn't have been as good as it is. While “Drive” is a better film, “Hanna's” uniqueness is what locked it into my top spot.
Photo—Saoirse Ronan in Hanna. Courtesy of Focus Features