I’ve always resisted “rating” movies because the cinematic experience is an intensely personal and subjective one. How else to explain my brother and nephew’s insistence that The Hangover Two was a great movie? That said… Hangover Two did not make my list of best movies of 2011. Shocking, I know.
I watched dozens of movies over the past 12 months. I didn’t see everything, but I saw a lot – and some resonated more than others for a variety of reasons, good and bad. So without further ado, here is my admittedly subjective (and somewhat random) recap:
My favorite movies of the year:
50/50 – I laughed, I cried. I loved this movie with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Don’t let the premise of a buddy movie about a guy with cancer scare you off.
Win Win – This indie with Paul Giamatti came out early in the year and didn’t get the love and respect and marketing it deserves. It’s kind of like The Blind Side, only better.
The Descendants – George Clooney shines in this dramedy that I liked way more than the The Ides of March (despite my appreciation for both Clooney and Ryan Gosling).
The Help – It did the book proud, and featured a strong ensemble cast of phenomenal actresses.
Bridesmaids – This breakout hit also featured a strong ensemble cast of phenomenal actresses who also happened to be pretty darn funny.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two – I wasn’t an obsessive fan of the series, but I was still impressed and satisfied with how the 11-year epic drew to a close. Well done, Harry.
The Artist – It took me about 20 minutes to ‘acclimate’ to watching a silent movie. But ultimately, this flick drew me in. It’s a work of art that reminds us what on-screen chemistry is all about.
Moneyball – The relationship between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill made this more than an ‘inside baseball’ movie.
Midnight in Paris – I’m generally not a fan of Woody Allen flicks, but this one was a pleasant surprise.
Drive – This type of movie (Pulp Fiction-esque violence) is not my usual cup of tea, but Ryan Gosling was incredibly compelling to watch.
Individual performances of note:
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady – Streep is insanely good (as always) as the former British PM Maggie Thatcher, but the movie itself is very uneven.
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn – Williams embodies the iconic Marilyn Monroe but a week felt more like a year in ‘movie time’.
Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar – The movie was a bit weak, but Leo’s performance was very strong. The guy’s got range.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Tom Cruise at his post-crazy best. Cool stunts. Stunning imagery. Implausible plot. Entertaining fluff.
Source Code; The Adjustment Bureau (tied) – These movies both came out around the same time in the middle of the year and I really liked ‘em. Solid escapist fare that will make excellent rentals on DVD.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part One – Better than the first Twilight movie, not as good as the second and third. Doesn’t matter. Anyone who read the books must see it through. I’m sure the same will apply to The Hunger Games trilogy.
Friends with Benefits – Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake were quite cute in this romcom that’s a cinematic equivalent of a beach read.
X-Men: First Class – A perfect kind of prequel that featured excellent performances from James McAvoy and the extremely versatile Michael Fassbender.
Fast Five – Cars. Action. Doesn’t take itself too seriously. It was a fun ride.
Paul; Cowboys & Aliens (tied) – I don’t remember much about the comedy Paul other than it reminded me of a quirky Escape to Witch Mountain and I enjoyed it in the moment. Cowboys & Aliens was like a strange hybrid of Independence Day and True Grit. Neither is your typical “sci-fi” movie. Good rentals.
Warrior – MMA (mixed martial arts) fans should have come out in droves for this one. What happened? Best performance in years from Nick Nolte as the father of two estranged brothers who face off in the ‘cage’.
Gee, that kinda sucked:
What’s Your Number – From beginning to end, just plain BAD.
The Tree of Life – I know, I’ll probably get in trouble for this one. But I found it pretentious and boring.
Melancholia – Weird. Apocalyptic. Didn’t get it. Didn’t care for it. Sorry.
Restless – I was restless (and bored) watching it. That’s all I remember.
Larry Crowne – Big disappointment. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts just didn’t click for me.
Your Highness – Gross and strange. A royal misfire.
Best Documentary I expected to hate:
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – What can I say? I emerged with a smidge of Bieber fever.
Okay, that’s it for now. I’m probably forgetting some movies that should be on the list, or including some that shouldn’t be. But hey – it’s my list, and you’re more than welcome to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section below – or on our Facebook page, or on Twitter. That’s what they’re there for. Besides, I’d rather debate movies than politics. Happy New Year everybody!