Wednesday, December 14, 2011

best of 2011: movies

In appreciation for us not rioting when they implemented a new system that everybody fucking hates, my workplace hired two gourmet food trucks to come by yesterday and give us free food. I had a gloriously good cheeseburger and an ice cream sandwich made with---drum roll, please---browned butter and candied bacon ice cream. I wish I could report that it was phenomenal, but it was just kind of weird. Not bad, but if I had the chance to do it over again, I'd pick something else. It's still not the weirdest ice cream I've ever had; that honor goes to the mushroom ice cream I had in Mendocino last year.

...heh, a cheeseburger AND butter and bacon ice cream? I am MEGA trayf!

Anyway, here are my 10 favorite movies of 2011 and a few movie related lists. The usual disclaimers apply:

  • Not all of these first came out in 2011, but that's when I first saw them.
  • These aren't listed in preferential order, though I did make note of my absolute favorite.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Bridesmaids: When Annie is chosen as her best friend's maid of honor, she struggles with jealousy and forms a rivalry with another bridesmaid whose unlimited wealth threatens to upstage her more modest efforts at celebrating the bride-to-be. Not only was this movie extremely funny, but it also had a very realistic take on female friendships. I absolutely loved it.

2. Crazy Stupid Love: Cal Weaver is blindsided when his wife of 25 years tells him that she had an affair and wants a divorce. As he's sitting in a bar, sadly nursing a drink, he's taken under the wing of smooth talking ladies' man Jacob. Very funny but with a poignant edge, and the performances are superb.

3. Red State: When three teenage boys answer an online ad from an older woman looking for sex, they fall afoul of a terrifying religious cult instead. Kevin Smith steps out of his raunchy comfort zone here, and it pays off in spades. It's an absolutely gripping thriller with Oscar-worthy performances by Michael Parks as the crazycakes preacher and John Goodman as an ATF agent.

4. Super 8: Six young friends are shooting a homemade zombie movie when they accidentally catch a train crash on tape. It turns out that there's much more to the crash, and it could completely devastate their entire town. I thought it fell apart a little at the end, but I really enjoyed it, and I don't remember the last time I saw such natural child actors in a movie. Their dialogue and interactions are absolutely spot on.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's finds himself caring for a baby chimp named Caesar, whose exposure to the drug has made him extremely smart. But an incident leads to Caesar's forced removal to a miserable primate sanctuary, where (to quote the movie's tagline) evolution becomes revolution.

Okay, so the CGI isn't always the greatest; when Caesar is young, some of his facial expressions and movements seem a bit off. But as he gets older, it's almost creepy how realistic he is. (Major props to Andy Serkis, who is THE go-to guy for awesome mocap.) And yes, the story is a bit goofy. But you know what? It was also much more touching than I expected---I teared up several times---and once the action gets going, it's freakin' awesome. Apes, dude! Apes skittering down the sides of buildings like enormous spiders! Apes scaling the Golden Gate Bridge! A motherfuckin' orangutan tossing a manhole cover into a cop car's windshield like a Frisbee! How could I NOT love it?

6. The Social Network: I'll just say right up front that I don't give two shits about Facebook; I had a profile for about a week and quickly tired of it. But this movie about the transformation of Mark Zuckerberg (played to perfection by Jesse Eisenberg) from Harvard misfit to the world's youngest billionaire is absolutely mesmerizing.

7. Tangled: Rapunzel is trapped in a tower by Mother Gothel, who craves the restorative powers of Rapunzel's extraordinarily long hair. Every year, Rapunzel watches from her window as beautiful lanterns rise up in the sky, and her biggest dream is to see them in person; little does she know that the lanterns are in her honor, released by the king and queen in memory of their kidnapped daughter. She gets the opportunity to escape when a bandit on the lam climbs into her window, and together they set out for the kingdom. A sweet, surprisingly funny, and beautifully animated take on the classic fairy tale.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: the saga has finally come to an end. On the plus side, though, they made up for Part 1's two hours of mopin' in the woods with nonstop action, some wry humor, and floods and floods of tears. I walked out of the theater with my face dry and tight from crying practically nonstop throughout the movie. A fitting end to one of the greatest stories ever told, and my favorite movie of 2011.

9. 30 Minutes or Less: Two men who need money to open up a combination tanning salon and brothel kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and force him to rob a bank. There's something to be said for lowered expectations, because I didn't have high hopes for this movie at all, but I thought it was fucking HYSTERICAL. If you love dark comedies, pop this onto your Netflix queue immediately.

10. The King's Speech: I didn't really care about seeing this until it won Best Picture, and then I figured I kind of had to. I thought it would be the movie equivalent of [insert your least favorite vegetable here]: nutritious and good for you, but not something you'd like. Well, color me wrong, because I really enjoyed it. It's based on the true story of King George VI, who finally sought help for his stuttering from a determined speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Terrific performances from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, combined with a sharp script, make this movie well worth your time.

Assorted movie stuff:

MADE ME CRY (OR AT LEAST MIST UP): Mother and Child, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours, Tangled, Sucker Punch, Rabbit Hole, The King's Speech, Blue Valentine, The Illusionist, True Grit, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Source Code, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Mars Needs Moms, Crazy Stupid Love, Water for Elephants

HAVE A KITTEN AND A PROZAC HANDY BEFORE WATCHING: Greenberg, Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine, Super, Never Let Me Go, Life During Wartime, I Saw the Devil

BEST PERFORMANCES THAT HAVE NO CHANCE OF GETTING AN OSCAR NOMINATION: Michael Parks in Red State; Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

BEST CASTING: The kids from Super 8

MOST VISUALLY STUNNING: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Tangled, Sucker Punch, The Illusionist, Rango


GUILTY PLEASURES: Piranha, Machete, Sucker Punch, The Mechanic, Rubber, Drive Crazy, Jackass 3.5, Hobo with a Shotgun


MOST TERRIFYING: I Saw the Devil, Paranormal Activity 2, Red State