(Ethan Gates)– Today I’m going to steal a page out of feldspar’s book and run down my five favorite films of 2011 – perhaps we can think of this as Awards Week here at she-bomb.
I’ve been doing year-end lists like this for a couple years now, and it’s always difficult to decide what exactly I’m ranking – are these the BEST films of the year? The ones that future film snobs will study frame by frame? Are they simply the ones I enjoyed the most? The ones with the most re-watch value? The smartest? The funniest? The most profound? And even if I can decide that question, my specific rankings can fluctuate from one day to the next. Our preferences are always influenced by our mood, after all.
So what am I talking about right here, right now? As of 4:13 p.m., December 27, 2011, these are my five favorite films of 2011 – the movies that I will make a priority to own, the movies that I will pop in the DVD player over and over and over. Maybe they’re flawed, maybe they’re not going to make it in the textbooks, but god help me I loved ’em.
Disclaimer: I have not yet had a chance to go see “The Adventures of Tintin” or “Mission: Impossible 4” yet, both of which could very well be strong contenders for this list. I’ve loved the Tintin books since I was 8 years old, and no matter what people say about Tom Cruise, the Mission: Impossible movies are absurd, escapist fun in my book. I’ll certainly be making those a priority over “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (*gag*).
5. Margin Call
Without a doubt the most depressing film on this list, but with such razor-sharp dialogue and impeccable acting that you’ll forget that you really shouldn’t be enjoying yourself. J.C. Chandor’s astonishing debut feature, chronicling the fateful few hours leading up to the global economic crisis of 2008 at a Lehman Brothers-type trading firm, stars Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci and Jeremy Irons; it’s the best ensemble cast of the year, and sometimes there’s nothing better than just watching terrific actors play off each other.
YouTube-worthy scene (for endless re-watching): Simon Baker and Demi Moore verbally duel in an elevator, standing on either side of a clueless cleaning lady.
I rhapsodized about “Hugo” a while back, and while repeat viewings have dulled the magic a little (the film history lessons do drag the action down), there is still a wonderful charm to the film’s design elements, and an infectious enthusiasm in its protagonists. And every time Scorsese gets too close to lecturing, Sacha Baron Cohen saves the day with a burst of comic energy. But seriously, how could a movie about Georges Méliès NOT end up on my list?
YouTube-worthy scene: Professor Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) describes his childhood visit to Méliès’ film studio.
Fresh after penning the most re-watchable film of 2010 (“The Social Network”), Aaron Sorkin took a damn good stab at taking that trophy home two years in a row when he co-wrote “Moneyball” with Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Unlike so many other critics, I won’t try to get you to watch it by claiming that “it’s not really a movie about baseball” (if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck…), but I will say that baseball movies are rarely this subtle and witty. Billy Beane (the movie version, anyway) is a hero you can root for, and the banter between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill is top-notch Sorkin. Who’s up for a “Sports Night” reboot?
YouTube-worthy scene: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill finagle a trade in a series of lightning-fast, real-time phone conversations.
I warned you that I have a soft spot for Westerns. But in a thoroughly nostalgia-ridden year (“Hugo,” “The Artist,” “Midnight in Paris,” “War Horse,” “Super 8”), NO film paid greater tribute to cinema history than “Rango,” which combined elements from about a zillion different classic Western films while adding its own peculiar sense of humor and GORGEOUS animation to create one thoroughly wacked-out film. I have no idea who this movie was intended for: the talking-animal structure makes it just one of many such animated family features, but its quirky, Wes Anderson-ish style of humor probably went right over the heads of many children. And many adults were probably turned off by, again, the whole talking-animal animated movie thing. So as far as I can tell, Gore Verbinski and his team made this movie for me. Thanks guys!!!
YouTube-worthy scene: Rango (Johnny Depp), wearing a dress, is pursued by a giant family of inbred prairie dogs riding bats while playing “Ride of the Valkyries” on banjos. I’m completely serious. This happens.
There’s a reason why the “Rocky” model of filmmaking has stuck around for so long – sometimes we just need an underdog. “Warrior” gave us two. When it comes to a genre picture like this, it’s not about what you do (the first two hours of “Warrior” are completely predictable from a narrative standpoint), but how you do it. The sibling rivalry at the heart of “Warrior” was a new twist on the usual boxing film format; watching Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton clash (both in and outside of the cage) was mesmerizing. But when it gets right down to it, sometimes you don’t even need to see something new – sometimes you just want to get lost in an old, well-told story.
YouTube-worthy scene: The climactic title bout between Hardy and Edgerton (of course).
Well, that’s it for me. What were your favorite cinematic stand-outs of 2011, she-bomb?