Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 10 Best & 10 Worst Movies of 2011

The 10 Best (In No Particular Order)

No one working today mixes comedy with other genres like Simon Pegg and his frequent partner, Nick Frost. Throw Kristen Wiig into the pot, and you’ve got comedy heaven. More movie references and inside jokes than one flicker-show should reasonably be allowed to hold. And I learned a little something about Seth Rogan, too: when he’s doing voice-overs he’s not half as annoying as he is the rest of the time. This is some of his best work.

Red State
This is Kevin Smith’s best movie. Hands down. It’s mature, surprising and confrontational. And here’s hoping the two public showings it received prior to its DVD release are enough to qualify it for Academy attention, because Michael Parks blew my fucking mind. There are ways to play heavies and ways not to. Parks give a clinic in the correct way to go about it.

Absolutely superior action movie, with some real thought behind it. But as good as the writing and direction is, it wouldn’t be half the movie it is without Saoirse Ronan. She is mesmerizing as Hanna. It’s so rare in action movies to find a hero you actually give a shit about. It’s even rarer to find yourself pondering an action movie days after watching it.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

It’s the story of how a mother copes with the knowledge that her son went on a high-school killing spree. Tilda Swinton, who seems simply incapable of being anything but incredible, no matter the movie or the role, knocks this one all the way into the cheap seats. And man, it was sure nice to see John C. Reilly, one of our best character actors, do something besides that Will Ferrell, Dewey Cox, Talladega Nights shit he’s been wasting his talent on over the last few years.

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Paranoia doesn’t root itself much deeper than it did in chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, and this excellent documentary, the first to tell the Fischer story, demonstrates that in completely certain terms. Fischer was paranoid, depressive, occasionally mean-spirited and every inch a genius. The never-before-seen footage of the 1972 World Chess Championship, and the so-called “Match of the Century” between Fischer and Russian champion Boris Spassky, makes the movie worth a gander all by itself. How much did I like this movie? I fucking hate chess, and thought this movie rocked.

Written and produced by Kristen Wiig, the funniest woman on the planet, and the best thing to come out of Saturday Night Live since the original Not Ready for Prime Timers, Bridesmaids is giggle-til-ya-piddle funny, one of those movies you want to repeat lines from at work the next day. Special kudos go to Melissa McCarthy, as Megan. The Oscar people never nominate enough comedy performances. McCarthy’s is one that should not be overlooked.

Midnight in Paris
Anyone who thinks Woody Allen has lost a step is flat misguided, or way stupid, or both. This is his best movie since Mighty Aphrodite. Not only is it a magical Jazz-Age love story, set in contemporary Paris, it’s a delightful meditation on literature, art and the creative impulse. Best performances: Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein and the heavenly Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s lover Adriana. The movie is so good I was even able to enjoy Owen Wilson for a change.

Project Nim
This documentary about a chimpanzee stolen from his mother and taught to “speak” in sign language gives a laudable answer to the question “Who is more noble, humans or animals?” (hint: it ain’t us). Named Nim Chimpsky, after MIT linguist and political gadfly Noam Chompsky, he was taught to sign as a young ape, only to then be shunted from place to place, and imprisoned in an endless series of “foster” homes. It’s a rather sad movie about human desires being foisted upon one of our unsuspecting and undeserving cousins.

War Horse
When humans go to war we have, more often than not, reasons for doing so, however dimly spelled out they might be. When animals go to war, on the other hand, they have no reason for being there, other than doing as they have been trained, true examples of “just following orders.” This is Spielberg at his best—unabashedly sentimental and brimming with hope. The action sequences are spectacular, and the final shot is so beautiful it beggars the imagination.

A Dangerous Method
I thought for a while that it was my imagination, but it isn’t. David Cronenberg just keeps getting better and bolder. The movie confronts the turbulent relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, as Jung attempts to cure Sabina of her intense psychoses. Christopher Hampton’s screenplay (based on his play) is marvelous, as are Viggo Mortensen as Freud and Keira Knightley as Sabina. The best performance though, and the one sure to get Academy attention, is Michael Fassbender, as Jung. The movie resonates for days after viewing.

Honorable Mention

Attack the Block
Street kids vs. alien invaders. Smarts, comedy and wicked-cool monsters. Huzzah.

Super 8
It’s a delightful homage to the 1980s and a cinematic tribute to Steven Spielberg.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part II
A nicely executed conclusion to Harry’s epic

So I’m the only person in the world who liked it. Fuck you.

And, the 10 Worst (In No Particular Order)

The Rite
What’s far scarier than this stupid-ass movie is the fact that exorcisms are on the rise world-wide. Superstitious Catholic codswollop.

Drive Angry
Just when you thought Nicholas Cage couldn’t get any more pathetic…

The Green Hornet
This travesty is high on the list of the worst movies ever made.

Red Riding Hood
It’s almost as nightmarishly bad as Green Hornet. Twilight horseshit running amok in werewolf country.

The Smurfs
I hate those little blue fuckers. I want to see the dark side of Smurf society. Where is Rapist Smurf, or Arsonist Smurf?

My kingdom for Dudley Moore. And, Dame Helen…WTF?

Your Highness
I want Danny McBride to die. I really, really, really, really, really do.

The Beaver
Finally, Mel Gibson with a co-star that matches his intellectual and artistic agility.

Soul Surfer
Girl goes surfing. Girl gets arm eaten by shark. Girl gets all spiritual. I was pulling for the shark, all the way.

Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Heaven, I guess, for a certain sliver of the movie-going audience—like 13-year-old bulimics and 45-year-old roofie addicts.

And that's all she wrote, folks. Happy viewing.


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