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Category: Awards!

The 10 Best Films of 2011, According to Me

10. Certified Copy

The first time I saw Abbas Kiarostami’s latest picture, I was inspired. Certified Copy opened my eyes to the world of art (including filmmaking). I got the chance to see it  a second time, and I was struck by how much more fun thinking about it is than watching it. Oh well, that still counts. Where: Air Canada/Netflix Instant.

9. The Tree of Life

I wasn’t sure how I would like The Tree of Life, but I knew I had to see it. Well, I did see it; and obviously, I liked it. The Tree of Life really is visual poetry, and it is about both everything and nothing at the same time. I don’t currently (and probably will never) know all of Malick’s intentions, but I gave scenes and shots my own meanings, based on my life. Perhaps that’s exactly what he wanted me to do… Where: St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis.

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

#7 is the spot in which the Swedish version landed on 2010’s list, but the David Fincher film is better. While I still believe an amalgamation of the two would be the best film, I recognize the 2011 effort is more artful than its 2009/2010 counterpart, while retaining the thrills and titillation. Where: my hometown Cinemark.

7. Moneyball

Brad Pitt has had an excellent year. He gave two killer, Filmtooth runner-up performances. Imagine the number of times this film could have not been made. I’m interested in what Pitt does from here, with retirement rumors swirling. Where: hometown Cinemark.

6. Attack the Block

If 2010’s films’ general theme was communication (see: The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Dogtooth, etc.), 2011’s is community. And my favorite part of Attack the Block was the way it captured the perfect communal atmosphere. My second favorite thing? The amazing aliens. Where: Amazon Instant.

5. Trust

The camera work is neither dazzling nor particularly informative, but the story is strong enough to carry the film into my heart (and my top 10). I don’t know if I’ll ever see Trust again, the subject being a pedophile and a rape, but if I do, I hope I find the same tragic beauty I got out of the first go-round. Where: Netflix Instant.

4. In a Better World

High stakes situations are usually very interesting to watch, and that holds true with In a Better World, a Danish film that won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars last spring. I don’t want to spoil it, but it deal with violence; where does it come from, who should we blame, what can we do to stop it. It is shear brilliance, and if you’re anything like me, it will set your brain on fire. I’m still digesting it, a month after my first (and most recent) viewing of it. Where: Amazon Instant.

3. Weekend

This is, quite possibly, the sweetest film I’ve ever seen. The story is simple: two gay men have what they think will be a one night stand, they develop feelings, but one is moving away. It sounds like an awful subplot from Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, but it’s executed masterfully. I shudder to think what this would have been in lesser hands. Where: Netflix Instant.

2. Hugo

Hugo is pure magic. It finished the year at the #1 slot, a position it held since the November night I watched it. It was gorgeous to look at, without being false, as it was wonderful to be emersed in this world of characters, none of whom felt fake. I have seen neither The Artist nor The Descendants, but even if I had and thought they were of higher quality, I would rooting for Hugo at the Oscars. Where: hometown Cinemark.

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The Best Leading Film Performances of 2011

Female

Honorable mentions:

Catherine Deneuve (Potiche), Liana Liberato (Trust), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)

5. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Mara as Lisbeth Salander

I didn’t know where Lisbeth Salander began and where Rooney Mara ended. Sure, that can be said about a lot of the performances up here, but the range that Mara had to cover was enormous. The instances that sealed the deal for me: all the scenes with her most recent guardian, and the final shot.

4. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)

Dunst as Justine

Melancholia was weird. The good kind of weird you get when directors try big things. It could have been bad weird, though, had it not been for this very powerful and believable performance from its star (cosmic pun intended). The Dunst we saw in the first half was good and all, but it was the brilliance of her in the latter half that was amazing. The way she just slightly looses her cool and gets angry at her sister for being pathetic was glorious, and her half-depressed half-“I could care less, but I don’t care enough to” attitude was (ironically?) inspired.

3. Manjinder Virk (The Arbor)

Virk as Lorraine

I’d like to take a moment and congratulate the entire cast of The Arbor. I firmly believe they were the best overall cast at the movies this year, and their jobs were extra hard, since (for most of them) none of their real voices were put into the film. Manjinder Virk was the immediate standout for me, but not only because she had the most to do. She not only gets the lip-syncing right… her expressions throughout are fully emotional and occasionally heartbreaking. The Arbor requires its actors to become the character they’re portraying, and Virk does just that.

2. Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy)

Binoche as a character without a name in Certified Copy

I’ll talk about Certified Copy way more in depth next week, but I can tell you now that one of the things I’ll be praising is Juliette Binoche. There would be no movie without her. For those of you who were inspired by this film, go ahead and imagine it without her. Replace her with any other actress, even the most talented of them. See? It doesn’t work.

1. Yun Jung-Hee (Poetry)

Jung-Hee as Mija

Jung-Hee is our surrogate in Poetry. She is our window into all of these different worlds/plot lines. When I spoke typed about Rooney Mara earlier, I said that I didn’t know where her character began and she ended. But with Mija (Jung-Hee’s character), I didn’t know where what she was experiencing began and where what I was watching ended.

Male

Honorable mentions:

Steve Coogan (The Trip), Paul Giamatti (Win Win), Andreas Lust (The Robber), Hunter McCraken (The Tree of Life), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Luis Tosar (Even the Rain), Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins)

6. Asa Butterfield (Hugo)

Butterfield as Hugo Cabret

This was, for sure, the best underage performance of the year. The movie’s name is Hugo, and the main character’s name is Hugo. So, based on that information, I’d say that miscasting the role of Hugo would probably have been a huge mistake. Fortunately for everyone involved, they got it right.  I’ll be rooting for Hugo on February 26. [Note: I listened to Filmspotting talk about my current #2 just before I posted this, and decided to push him into the top 5.]

5. John Boyega (Attack the Block)

Boyega (left) as Moses, with fellow Filmtooth semi-winner Jodie Whittaker (center) as Sam

Talk about a powerhouse performance. Boyega is angry in this movie, and I love that. Attack the Block gives him so much to do, it’s a miracle he pulls it off. I’m looking forward to the rest of his career.

4. Mikael Persbrandt (In a Better World)

Persbrandt as Anton

Persbrandt got slapped a good amount In a Better World, but each time, his reaction was perfect. I felt for the pacifist who was separated from his wife (for whom he still has feelings). I don’t usually like watching people stare at the distance, but I didn’t mind it when Persbrandt did it, because I was staring right there with him.

3. Tom Cullen/Chris New (Weekend)

Cullen (right) and New (left) play Russell and Glen, respectively

Honestly, I couldn’t pick just one. They are this film. You cannot hope to have a successful movie about a relationship if you don’t have all-in performances from the leads, and Weekend benefits from Cullen and New being beyond all-in. But more on that later.

2. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Pitt as Billy Beane

This is the one. Last week, I was convinced that his best performance this year (and perhaps ever) was in The Tree of Life. But then I listened to Filmspotting, the movie podcast, and they reminded me about a part of the movie I completely forgot about. (For those of you that have seen it, think “coulda been.”) Something in my brain clicked, and Pitt went from being an honorable mention to being at #2. Now, before I name the best films of the year, I have some thinking to do regarding Moneyball.

1. Michael Parks (Red State)

Parks as Abin Cooper

Boy, do I have a hipster list. Seriously, all of these picks feel underground [with the exception of the late inclusion, Brad Pitt]. Especially my #1, Michael Parks. Say what you will of Red State (I happened to like it), but you must agree that Parks was committed to his role as the violent leader of a violent, anti-homosexual cult. He was mesmerizing and very powerful, sure, but my favorite scene of his was the final one. I suggest you go and see it (not only the scene, but the entire movie).

The Best Supporting Film Performances of 2011

Female

Honorable mentions:

Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris), Trine Dyrholm (In a Better World), Melissa Leo (Red State), Michelle Monaghan (Source Code), Chloë Grace Moretz (Hugo)

5. Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)

Gainsbourg as Claire in Melancholia

The urgency of Gainsbourg’s performance as a desperate mother in Melancholia is unparalleled. She is the perfect foil to Kirsten Dunst’s character, who seems apathetic about the impending end of the world. Dunst, by the way, is an actress you’ll be hearing more about next week, when I do the best leading performances of the year.

4. Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau)

The stars of The Adjustment Bureau: Damon (left), the fedora (on top of Damon), and Blunt (right)

The chemistry between Blunt and co-star Matt Damon was one of the few redeeming factors of The Adjustment Bureau, and boy, did it redeem. Blunt not only sold me on this bad girl dancer character of hers, but she also sold Damon’s David Norris on her as well. It was key that this film find a strong actress to play Elise, as she is what propels the entire movie.

3. Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block)

John Boyega as Moses (left), Jodie Whittaker as Sam (center), and Luke Treadaway as Brewis (right)

Whittaker gives her character depth. At the start of Attack the Block, she is mugged by a group of boys. Later, she must mend these boys, as well as aid them in their fight against killer monsters.

2. Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)

Chastain as Mrs. O'Brien in The Tree of Life

I’m interested in what the filming of The Tree of Life looked like. Chastain’s scenes are far different from any of the scenes Brad Pitt (see below) is in, as they’re more poetic and graceful. Chastain glowed in The Tree of Life, and that alone is good enough for the runner-up position.

1. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)

McCarthy as Megan in Bridesmaids

I made up my mind about this just a few minutes before posting. It was Chastain’s aura versus McCarthy’s hilarity. Chastain won… easily. But then I went back and read my review of Bridesmaids, and noticed that I spoke about McCarthy being the heart of this movie, and I remembered that she was my favorite part of that film, and that was the reason why. McCarthy was excellent, and she deserves to be nominated for an Oscar.

Male

Honorable mentions:

Creed Bratton (Terri), Chris Henry Coffey (Trust), Gérard Depardieu (Potiche), Alex Esmail (Attack the Block), Ben Kingsley (Hugo), Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

5. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (Cedar Rapids)

The cast of Cedar Rapids: Reilly (left), Helms (center), Whitlock (right), Heche (across the screen)

The one scene that convinced me I should pick Whitlock was the “teet” scene, in which Whitlock’s character walks in on a mostly nude John C. Reilly sort-of feeding his breast to a mostly nude Ed Helms. In a lesser film with lesser actors, Whitlock’s character would have freaked out, and that wouldn’t have been very funny. In Cedar Rapids, though, Whitlock just rolls his eyes, sighs, and goes on about with his business. It was hilarious.

4. Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer)

Phillippe as Louis Roulet in The Lincoln Lawyer

The role of this playboy heir accused of murder did not ask for much, but Phillippe gave it his all. I personally both despised and was intimidated by the character. The Lincoln Lawyer was a very good and very fun film, but one that missed my top 10.

3. Jonah Hill (Moneyball)

Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball

Christy Lemire puts it best in her review: “Hill ultimately finds the quiet confidence in this character [Assistant GM Peter Brand], and he and Pitt bounce off each other beautifully.” Note: congrats to him on the drastic weight loss.

1 (tied). Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)

Pitt as Mr. O'Brien in The Tree of Life

Brad Pitt probably won’t get an Oscar nod for his performance in The Tree of Life (instead for Moneyball) and that’s too bad. He gives a powerful performance as a Texan father who reminded me of my own father… if he were 10 times more powerful with a single glance. Pitt completely controlled me from within the movie (!). I felt like I was his bitch. If he gets lucky and snags two Oscar acting nominations this month, he might actually win them both.

1 (tied). John C. Reilly (Terri)

The stars of Terri: Wysocki (left) and Reilly (right)

If Pitt’s Mr. O’Brien is the father that could make me say “sir” at him, then John C. Reilly’s Mr. Fitzgerald is the principal that could earn me calling him “sir,” then chastise me for calling him “sir.” I contend that John C. Reilly and Brad Pitt are our two best actors going (Fassbender is overrated), and I really enjoyed all of their performances in 2011. But, somehow, they were at their best this year when playing second fiddle (Pitt to the camera; Reilly, in screen time, but not quality, to Wysocki).

Best 2011 App, Game Category

The runner-ups, in alphabetical order:

Angry Birds

Mine and Dine

I really do think that the world is suffering from over-Angry-Birding. I didn’t even finish some of the last levels. Birds has seen better days. Price: $0.99 upgrade, as well as a free edition.

Baseball Superstars 2011

Technically, it was released in 2010, but it has 2011 in the title, so I get to include it. It’s more stylish than 2010, yet more beautifully modest than its successor, BS II. If you want a big, PC-style game, get this. Price: $0.99 upgrade, as well as a free edition.

Flick Homerun

This game is crazy easy and crazy addictive. I got it for free, but unfortunately, it’s currently priced at $0.99. If you want a simple game that allows you to hit a bunch of home runs, get this.

Gravity Guy

I would watch a TV show about this concept.

“Style to burn”? Yes, sir; it has it. Fun escape game? That’s exactly what it is. Amazing sounds and music? That’s the best highlight. Price: $0.99 upgrade, as well as a free edition.

Hanging with Friends

Words with Friends is really fun, but it didn’t come out in 2011. This is hangman with friends, where Words is Scrabble. This one is must. Price: free, as well as an upgrade (that I don’t think is worth it).

Tiny Tower

It won iTunes’ Best Game of the Year award, and it’s my #1 runner-up. Simplicity is its secret to success. Price: free.

Tiny Wings

This is the most stylish on the list. It too is simple, but not as much as others. I feel as if I discovered this one, as I downloaded it one day before all of my friends. I win! Price: $0.99.

And the winner is…

Angry Birds Seasons

Easter Eggs

Why are we over-Angry-Birded? Because Angry Birds Seasons has been much better than its parent app. Each chapter is fresh and new. This game creates new worlds and then knocks them down with little birds. It has captured the magic and novelty that the original AB had last year.

This is the last non-movies post I’ll do for awhile. Next post up: best supporting performances of 2011.

Best TV Comedy of 2011

5. Happy Endings (ABC)

Haters gone hate. But even the most hate-filled Season 1 doubters have to admit that episodes like Baby Steps, Secrets and Limos, and Spooky Endings were great. And fans like me are glad to enjoy all their other one-liner-stuffed episodes too.

4. 30 Rock (NBC)

They only released 12 episodes in ’11, but they were some of the best of the series. 30 Rock is the veteran of this list (#2 excluded), and is facing retirement, but they can still make the laughs happen. Also, please don’t watch this show when it returns January 12 on NBC. It wouldn’t be in any danger if it got bad ratings, but it would show NBC that it’s not Community’s fault that they can’t get numbers at 8 o’clock.

3. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Oh my goodness. It’s hilarious. Each character, from the upbeat Leslie to the stumbling Jerry… even the well-endowed and currently dead Li’l Sebastian, had a lot of great moments in seasons 3 and 4. It’s been said many times by many critics this year that Parks has a lot of heart; so many times, in fact, that the show actually addressed it, having the sarcastic and work ethic-less April exclaim “that’s what people say when something sucks.” Not this time, April. 

2. Pardon the Interruption (ESPN)

Pardon the Interruption is neither scripted nor an actual comedy, but it delivers hearty daily laughs AND informs you about the day in sports. It is hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, two professionals (other than that one pregnancy scare) who know what they’re talking about. PTI is the epitome of both talk and sports shows. If you’re looking for a formula, steal PTI’s.

And the winner is…

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The Most Godawful, Painful, and Insulting Films I Saw in 2011

This category is not exclusive to films released in 2011. There is no one winner, as they are all equal losers.

Benchwarmers

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