Best Films of 2011

It’s the 8th anniversary of The Crack Team blog! To celebrate, I’ve once again gone through the list of Oscar-eligible films and selected the best of the bunch. I don’t believe in ranking them since many are hard to compare with each other, but I’ll break it down for you in terms of quality, enjoyability, and longevity.

Upon seeing this, I realized I’d just witnessed a new cult film, an homage to the gritty crime dramas of the 80’s. Gosling and Brooks give standout performances and the soundtrack is fantastic, but none of these will be recognized by the Academy due to oversight and technicalities. To be honest, I was a bit turned off by the trailer, mainly because Bryan Cranston looked like he was overacting. Truthfully, I’m not thrilled with his performance here, but everything else about this film rocks.

The Artist
Here’s a film that has already been honored with Golden Globes and Oscars are in the works. I’m a classic film buff and felt this was exceptionally well done. While a silent film, it is scored very well. I also recommend the OSS-117 films from the same director/actor team. They’re a farcical French take on 60’s James bond (more like In like Flynt than the over the top Austin Powers). Very funny.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
A riveting story with fascinating characters. I’d seen the Swedish version already and found this to be a faithful remake, but there are some subtle but interesting character interpretations. Another selling point for fans of the original is that director David Fincher brings along his fantastic cinematographer and Trent Reznor for the score, so it looks and sounds beautiful. This movie convinced me to start reading the books.

The Guard
This is another film that people are granting cult status, although I don’t think as strongly as Drive. First thing to note is that in Ireland, Garda is police, so the American translation would be The Cop. It’s a dark comedy about a dirty cop (Brendan Gleeson, aka Mad Eye Moody of the Harry Potter films) and a straight laced visiting FBI agent (Don Cheadle of the new Showtime series House of Lies). If you enjoyed In Bruges (you did), then you’ll enjoy The Guard (you will). If you didn’t see In Bruges, fix that right away.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The final chapter in the immensely entertaining and well crafted Harry Potter series. You either saw it and loved it, you’ve written off all things Harry Potter, or you’re putting off watching them all until you have time. Not much I can say to sway you either way. It won’t pick up any accolades for writing, directing, or acting (not that it shouldn’t, it’ll just never happen), but the beautiful art direction and special effects can’t be denied.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
A great psychological thriller and another Oscar surprise that Elizabeth Olsen wasn’t nominated. She does a tremendous job, and I might point out that some of that job is performed sans clothing, which is rather nice since she doesn’t suffer her more famous sisters’ eating disorder. Or lack of talent. John Hawkes also does a great job portraying the creepy yet charismatic cult leader.

Midnight in Paris
A fun, thoughtful comedy about appreciating the present. I’m a pretty huge Woody Allen fan so it’s no surprise this is on my list. It’s also his most financially successfully film to date, so if you’re not a fan of Woody you may still like this one. If you are a fan, I highly recommend the American Masters’ Woody Allen: A Documentary.

Our Idiot Brother
A great cast in a great comedy. I loved the tone of this film. In fact, I’m kind of surprised to see it has an R rating (although I can quickly recall the scenes that earned that rating) because its heart is in the right place. That said, you’re still laughing out loud throughout. A very recommendable film.

Super 8
This is the most enjoyable and easily recommendable film of 2011. It’s ET meets The Goonies (it even takes place in 1980), only ET is bigger and angrier. J.J. Abrams directs, but Spielberg produces, and the classic Spielberg style is all over this. The kids in this are pitch perfect, too.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I was a fan of the original BBC miniseries, which runs over 5 hours, so I wasn’t sure how it would survive its run time getting chopped in half. But I didn’t miss a thing. The screenplay is very well crafted so the plot isn’t convoluted and doesn’t run at a breakneck pace. Of course, the acting is superb.

Young Adult
Diablo Cody followed up her Oscar winning screenplay for Juno with the awful Jennifer’s Body. Maybe that was the director’s fault, I don’t know, but she redeems herself with Young Adult (she may have redeemed herself with The United States of Tara, but I don’t watch that). She’s once again teamed up with Juno director Ivan Reitman and we have 2 more Oscar snubs for Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt (plus one for the screenplay). At a minimum, it has the best single line of any of last year’s films.

Honorable Mentions

We had some very good sci-fi films last year:

Hanna – would love to see a sequel to this
In Time – from the director of the excellent Gattaca
Source Code – from the director of the excellent Moon

And a couple top dramas:

The Ides of March
Margin Call – terrific screenplay, reminded me of Aaron Sorkin or Stephen Gaghan

Then there are the films that are just plain fun. These are the films where, if you liked the trailer, you’ll like the film:

X-Men: First Class
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
(actually, I wasn’t stoked by the trailer, but really enjoyed this movie)

4 thoughts on “Best Films of 2011”

  1. Holy Cow, that is one long list of eligible films for 2011 awards. And then I tried to read the Eligibility Rules and that is a task for a long weekend with lots of drinking.

    Two immediate action items for me: to see The Guard and Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And as humanitarian action, I will seek out the American Master’s Woody Allen documentary, perhaps as a prelude to going back to his films. I think the very last of his movies I saw before going on boycott was Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

    You never mentioned your favorite line of “Young Adult.” My most memorable scene involves the lead characters drinking “Mos Eisley Special Reserve” bourbon which she interprets as “most easily or whatever.” A very special spirit.

    I may add my own list of 2011 Favorites, to include any that you may not have yet seen.

  2. My favorite Young Adult line was, “Guys like me were born loving women like you.” Geeks can’t help but love the beautiful train wrecks. Really, any beautiful girl who treats them well.

    Movies I still need to see include Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Shame, and The Descendants. My guess is that they’ll rank honorable mention, but not crack the true best-of.

  3. Best Films You May Want to Give a 2nd Chance:

    ****** The Muppets ******
    This is the film for the Muppet aficionado or the person who is too young to remember the Muppet mania and is coming a bit late to this party. Made in a nostalgic where-are-they-now fashion, the movie also manages to send up musical movie conventions and stars some really good actors: Amy Adams and Jason Segal. Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) has a cameo worth its weight in gold.

    ****** Puss in Boots ******
    The Academy nominations finally got it right with this one. The animation is first-rate, the music is well matched to the characters and the jokes are funny in an awfully coy way. You’d think they would have trouble filling 90 plus minutes with a minor Shrek character, but they built a rather good story around Puss. There’s enough sinister undertones to place the characters is some peril and the moral message (hey, this is a kid’s movie) is well done and not too sentimental.

    ****** Winnie the Pooh ******
    This is the feel-good movie of the year, the equivalent of a warm blanket and a bowl of good oatmeal. With raisins and brown sugar. The world of Pooh is delightfully animated, the characters live up to their defined conventions, the music is cute and the story… well… The story is meandering and circuitous, but engaging at every turn. Besides, Pooh’s universe is just like physical space-time: never-ending and leading us to endings that become beginnings. Just like paging thru a good children’s book over and over again.

    ****** Fright Night ******
    Not all movies were G rated this year. This R-rated vampire fest has a great turn by Colin Farrell as a modern-day bloodsucker that likes to build community, even in a place like Las Vegas where the word community is a bit of an over-reach. There’s Toni Collette and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) but the reason I really went for this film is David Tennant of Doctor Who fame. His turn as a modern day vampire hunter is outstanding, even is his weapons were bought on eBay. A must-see bloodletting; hold the popcorn.

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