Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

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Twelve Months of Movies, 2011 Ed.

Instead of picking the best or the most interesting or even my top 12 movies of the year, I decided that with Christmas being this month, I would do my own segment of the “Twelve Months of Movies” — and choose my favorite film, a runner-up, my pick for worst movie, and if applicable, movies I still want to see for each month of this year.

January

FavoriteThe Company Men

Runner-UpThe Dilemma

WorstThe Green Hornet

February

FavoriteThe Other Woman

Runner-UpUnknown

WorstDrive Angry

March

FavoriteLimitless

Runner-UpThe Lincoln Lawyer

WorstBeastly

April

FavoriteSource Code

Runner-UpHanna

Wanting to See–Sympathy for Delicious

May

FavoriteMidnight in Paris

Runner-UpSomething Borrowed

WorstHangover, Pt. II

Wanting to SeeThe Beaver, Hesher, Tree of Life

June

FavoriteX-Men: First Class

Runner-UpSuper 8

WorstTransformers: Dark of the MoonBad Teacher

Wanting to SeeBeautiful Boy, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

July

FavoriteHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. II

Runner-UpLarry Crowne

WorstZookeeper

August

FavoriteThe Help

Runner-UpRise of the Planet of the Apes

WorstOne Day

September

Favorite50/50

Runner-UpMoneyball

WorstAbduction

Wanting to SeeWarrior, Puncture, Drive

October

FavoriteAnonymous

Runner-UpThe Ides of March

WorstTrespass

Wanting to SeeThe Three Musketeers, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy

November

FavoriteThe Descendants

Runner-UpThe Muppets

WorstTwilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. I

Wanting to SeeMelancholia, A Dangerous Method, My Week With Marilyn, The Artist, Arthur Christmas

December

Expected FavoriteTinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Wanting to SeeSherlock Holmes 2: Game of ShadowsMission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Girl with the Dragon TattooWe Bought a ZooExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Iron Lady

Expected WorstAlvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Long vs. Short Character Arcs

Before we had technicolor filmstrips, composers, and some serious technological advances, film and TV competed against one another for viewers’ attention. Although people today don’t choose to be a fan of either one or the other, there are still interesting comparison/contrasts between the two entertainment media. Many actors prefer one channel or the other to perform in, while some like taking part in both.

Earlier this year, I was reading this interview in Collider.com with John Krasinski and Ginnifer Goodwin for their then upcoming movie, Something Borrowed. Krasinski admits that without a doubt, playing a character in a long-time running TV show, The Office, is far more fun than playing a character in a movie who has to let it all out in one scene.

I understand that TV shows allow actors to flesh out their characters, continually building on what they know and adding and taking away from characters they play. It’s fun for the actors. But what do viewers prefer? I never really considered this question before I read the article and thought back about how television and film used to compete for viewers’ attention. Film was the beginning, and since then TV has become a huge medium in today’s society. And most people you ask may prefer one or the other, but are typically not opposed to either. And that’s really what it is–a preference, not a “must have,” or “should be.”

If you look at Krasinski’s character on The Office, Jim Halpert, you know that eventually he and Jenna Fischer’s “Pam” will get together. But we also know that it isn’t going to happen right away, because why would there be a need for a television show then? No, it must be drawn out. In that particular case, it takes three full seasons for the inevitable to happen. In Something Borrowed, his character, Ethan, has an arc–but a very short one. In fact, he drops a big bomb on the main character, Rachel, in one of the last scenes.

Whether it be television or a movie, the characters always start at a starting point. That way, there’s room to grow, learn, and develop relationships. While a movie typically has two hours on average to get it all figured out, TV shows often have multiple seasons with as many as 25 episodes a season. So which is better–the short or the long character arc? I believe it all comes down to context. And if the character arc fits the time allotted to the medium, then it suits it well. Although today, both media have clearly lost their predictability all around. Today, a TV show’s main character’s relationship will inevitably reach some resolution between seasons 3 and 5. Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Glee, Psych, the list goes on. Everyone has to stick around for a later season to see the characters get together; therefore, there always must be a certain amount of relationship drama occurring in seasons 1-3.

In movies, typically something bad happens in the beginning of the film to the main character. Then, that character makes a life or environmental change to their situation. He or she is introduced to someone, and a new relationship begins, develops, deals with drama, splits, and inevitably comes together in the end. Many movies are exceptions to that rule, but this is a very common foundation screenwriters use for movies.

Jim and Pam

Obviously, this is all just my opinion on characters arcs in television and film. So here’s a pro/con list I came up with to conclude the topic:

Long Character Arcs (in television):

Pros: Well-developed character, more detailed, more room to be less predictable = possibility of more surprise, greater relatability

Cons: Ability to have over-written characters, drastic changes to characters can anger audience, space to be over-dramatized, repetitive

Ethan and Rachel

 

Short Character Arcs (in movies):

Pros: Challenge for actors to adapt, well-written characters, writer is forced to follow a direct path, typically less dramatic

Cons: Less originality, ability to have under-developed characters, less relatability, predictable story arcs, lacks in detail