The Best (and worst) Movies of 2011

It is the year-end review of movies.  It was a crappy year for movies.  A really crappy year!  No.  I can’t even get a top 10 list.  You get 5.  And those five aren’t great.

Why you ask?

I’m looking over the other picks for top movies by other critics and can’t believe it.  For instance 50/50 made it on a lot of lists, yeah, it had some good acting, but it read more like a poorly conceived documentary than film…art is supposed to have a point, a theme, a message, a meaning, or hell even catharsis…this movie had none of that…just an accurate documenting of what happens to a person when they’re dealing with cancer.  Or there is Hugo, which admittedly I haven’t seen, but given that Scorsese is the most overrated director in history who has NEVER made a single even decent, let alone a quality film, I have no desire to watch it.  I would however love to know what the f!@# people see in his terrible body of work?   Midnight in Paris, a cast like New Year’s Eve but with a worse director…again, what the hell is entertaining in ANY Woody Allen film?  War Horse…wow, Seabiscuit meets Saving Private Ryan…or is it Secretariat meets Private Ryan…maybe it was supposed to be Black Beauty meets…you get my point.  (Spielberg has done some good work…but he has also done some of the worst films ever made…1941, Lost World, or Munich anyone?).  Oh, The Help…the idea that help in a household knows more about what is going on than anyone–I got the feeling that the writers and the critics found this a very original concept…which tells me none of them did well in English class or have ever run across a 19th century British novel of manners (it might actually be good, but the banality and unoriginality of theme projected by the advertising when trying to be presented as something new, offends the English teacher in me).  Harry Potter and Muppets (yes, I’ve seen this on lists of critics Top 10′s)…you know if you add Twilight and Justin Bieber’s flick you might actually have the 4 horsemen of an artistic apocalypse.  Drive, or as the most accurate review of it I saw, Grand Theft Auto, is pointless.  A Separation… I haven’t seen it yet but I have read a full plot summary…I don’t need a movie to tell me how shitty life in Iran is, and as I’ve stated before art should show me the best in humanity (and the reviews I’ve seen haven’t exactly convinced me that this is there).

And some movies I was hoping for to be great, weren’t.  Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, which shouldn’t even really be considered because it wasn’t actually released to the public until 2012 was well acted, but the director was overly taken with himself (I think he always wanted to direct a silent film), the actors were wasted (except Oldman and Cumberbatch), but while the movie was a great thriller, it was thematically pointless (at best it was a statement about how people who live only their jobs don’t have healthy personal lives, somewhat undermined by Smiley being quite content at the end). J. Edgar was a well-done character examination of a flawed man…but it left me bored if anything.  And Girl with the Dragon Tattoo left me preferring the book, not to mention I found having to watch the rape scene (where a good director could have shown a lot less and still given you an idea of what happened) needlessly graphic.   Also the problem with Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that both are the first books in their respective trilogies and neither is a complete work so it’s unfair to judge them for good or ill until the whole thing is put to film. (I’d actually recommend seeing these three, but J. Edgar was too flawed and Dragon Tattoo and Tinker, Tailor left me wanting more and I refuse to judge them until, at least, I know if their other parts will actually be made).

Admittedly The Descendants might make it on this list…but I just don’t feel like paying the money for a ticket of a movie that cannot possibly be improved by the big screen.

Okay that’s why a lot of stuff didn’t make it…let’s take a look at what did make my list of great films.

Remember I have 4 basic criteria for great art.

1. It must be enjoyable (I have some kind of positive emotional reaction)…so that throws most of critic’s picks out.

2. It must understand human nature…that throws out just about anything made or written by a liberal.

3. It must use the tools of the medium well…that throws out Spielberg and Scorsese

4. It must have a meaningful and correct theme.

5. Thor–Is this a stretch on all 4 counts?  Hell yeah.  But this is more to say what a crappy year this has been (hell #4 and #3 were a stretch, but I should at least give 5 films.)  So let me tell you why.  Clearly the plot was better than any of the other superhero movies this year (it actually had three acts…and a prologue and epilogue to boot).  And clearly it was fun and moving (don’t tell me your heart didn’t drop when he couldn’t Excalibur the hammer out of the stone, and that your heart didn’t jump when it finally came flying to him).  The characters actually act far more human than most of the non-superhero movies this year.  The theme of sibling rivalry, the need for the approval of a parent, the difficulty of growing up and living in a parent’s shadow (all very Shakespearian…especially challenging King Lear and Henry V, with a touch of Much Ado in the humorous scenes) show that director Kenneth Branagh has not strayed far from his usual cup of tea with this film.  Now a friend of mine complained that while the plot and characters were good in this film, there were simply no great lines of dialogue…which is incorrect…there are no great speeches, there are lots of great witty and pithy lines.  “Yes, but I supported you.”  “I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?””Do you want me to take him down or would you rather send in more guys for him to beat up? “”Live, and tell those stories yourself!”   Every line from Darcy.  It’s not The Dark Knight but it could not have been better and it (very) loosely meets all of my 4 points. Should Thor have cracked the top 10, let alone the top 5…no, but that’s how crappy a year it’s been.

4.  The Ides of March.  This a dark film about how power and politics can corrupt just about anyone who is in it.  I justify this as a positive theme because it shows all of us what we shouldn’t be…Democrats…no just kidding (kind of, okay maybe not)…it shows that often the people who claim integrity have none and that those who want power will take it no matter the cost.  It shows us everything we’re not supposed to be, and even though the characters fall short in every way, the writer, director, and message of the film understand that all their actions are deplorable and need to be condemned and shunned.


3. The Company Men.  (Technically it came out in 2010…but that was only a release for Oscars, it wasn’t until 2011 that real people could see it).  The Company Men?  Yes I’m sure odds are you didn’t see this.  Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper all in excellent parts.  It’s a little liberal for my tastes, but, it does not deal in cheap hackneyed stereotypes so I will forgive that (except maybe in Costner’s blue-collar character…but it is very opposed to the usual type Costner plays so I could still appreciate it) .  The story of how various upper and middle management employees of a company deal with being laid off in the current recession.  While it’s critical of business, it makes a justifiable critique that most company boards right now care more about stock prices than they do about making things, about getting a big pay off than the long-term profits, about short-term gain more than long-term thinking…which I will heartedly embrace.

2.  The Debt

I’ve already talked about this movie, so I will simply reiterate that this movie is a masterpiece.

1.  Moneyball

And I’ve covered this genius film already as well…but it without a doubt the best film of the year.

And then we have the honorable mentions

Atlas Shrugged.  (You may object that I include this third of a trilogy when not putting in Dragon Tattoo and Tinker, Tailor…but I have seen confirmation that I will get all 3 parts of Atlas where I have not seen proof with the other two).  Thematically the movie as the book is perfect.  As a representation of the main characters from the book it does an excellent job.  Like the others there are some stylistic flaws.  But still you need to see this movie.

Green Lantern.  I know it has a missing second act.  I don’t care.  I found it enjoyable.

Same with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sherlock Holmes, and Mission Impossible.  They were just fun.  (Crazy, Stupid Love, DreamHouse and Real Steel might also make it, but I just felt like waiting for the rental with these).

No Strings Attached and Just Go With It.  Cute, stupid romantic comedies, nothing more.

As I said J. Edgar was well done, but dull.  And I can’t justifiably comment on Dragon Tattoo or Tinker, Tailor until I know they’re stand alone films or part of a trilogy (they’re well done, but somehow lacking if they’re stand alones).

Which of course brings us up to what was the worst film of the yearTwilight…the vapid lack of a point makes it a tempting target, but no.  Justin Bieber?  No, although I yearn for the day I never hear that name again.  Fast-Five?  Drive Angry?  Captain America(which was probably the 2nd worst film of the year)?  Hangover II?  Fright Night for having the audacity of redoing one of my favorite horror films?  No I would have to say, without a moment’s hesitation, the worst film of the year, the film which the world might be a better place if every copy were rounded up and incinerated would have to Anonymous.  Haven’t heard of it?  You’re lucky.  Long and short of it is that the movie is about how the man we know as William Shakespeare didn’t write the plays.  This is based on a long held academic theory that the Will we know was just a simple middle class boy with a basic education and couldn’t possibly have done it…no the author needed to be a noble.  The rank snobbery and petty elitism of this is astounding.  And for over 100 years academics have been trying to rewrite history to present the idea that there couldn’t be a self-made man (liberals and academics really hate that concept because it ruins their elite status…and being one of the most famous men of non-noble background Shakespeare has to be destroyed in their mind).  And nothing is worse than Anonymous which give you a string of historical inaccuracies and inventions and claims them as truth.  Some may compare this to a Renaissance birther or truther movement (although even those movements have better ground to stand on…not that I buy into those two in any way shape or form, I just want to point out if you run into an anti-Stradfordian, run because they are morons) but that is to compliment the theory because it is always so far fetched and so without evidence that it defies even the momentary act of common sense it takes to dismiss the argument of a birther or truther.  As history goes Anonymous ranks more with the idea that we didn’t land on the moon or that the Holocaust never happened (though obviously it doesn’t reach the evil of that denial, they just both require you to deny all known facts.).  This film should never have been made.  Oh, and from a writing, directing and acting standpoint it’s also a piece of shit….or as one critic described it “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

***

Movies I’m looking forward to in 2012; Haywire, Underworld Awakenings (I’m allowed to have my pure brain candy guilty pleasures…no I don’t for a second think it will even be making the honorable mentions list, and you know what low standards I have for that), Safe House, The Vow, This Means War, Brave, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Knights of Badassdom, Veronica Decides to Die, Skyfall, Les Miserables (Notice the lack of quality movies there…I’m guessing it will be a top 5 list next year too).

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Filed under Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Joss Whedon, Movies, The Dark Knight

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