My Top Ten Films of 2011

At the beginning of every year I try to compile my top ten favorite movies that were released in the year prior. Usually, I try to do this by January, but this year it took me much longer to watch as many of the films I thought I needed to watch in order to have a large enough pool of decent candidates to create my list. Since the Academy Awards are tonight, I thought this would be a good time to release my top ten. There are still a few films I believe I need to watch that were released in 2011 that I feel could make my list including A Separation, Drive, and War Horse, but I guess whenever I do watch these films I will update my list if I think it should.

So sit back and relax. I know that this has nothing to do with Santa Ana, but the movies have always been my first love and, damn it, it’s my blog and I will post on it whatever the fuck I please. As always, comments and contradicting opinions are welcomed. Enjoy!

10. Contagion

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven), this film tells the story of a highly contagious pathogen as it spreads across the world killing millions of people. With an all star cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslett, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne, the film I think was one of the best thrillers of the year. Soderbergh, as he did in the film Traffic, uses different color schemes to represent each location of the world, and the film is great to look at because of it. The film never slows down and moves from character to character with a speed and urgency that mirrors the deadly characteristics of the disease itself. Rent this movie on DVD and make sure you have some anti-bacterial hand wash nearby. It won’t protect you against the virus, but it will make you feel better after you watch this film.

9. The Help

The Helptells the story of a southern girl from Jackson, Mississippi named Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, who takes an interest in telling the story of a couple of African American Maids of the town played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Although I agree with some of the critiques out there that the film does show a soft version of the trials and tribulations that African Americans faced during the civil rights movement, nevertheless, the film is a fine piece of filmmaking. The acting is superb. Viola and Octavia are far deserving of the Oscars they will most likely be winning tonight. Furthermore, it feels good sometimes to see all the bad people in a film get what they deserve.

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Another fantastic film by David Fincher who has directed such great movies as The Social Network, Fight Club, Seven, and Zodiac. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, the film follows a journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and a punk girl named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as they investigate the disappearance of a girl in some remote town in Sweden. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a great mystery thriller such as this that kept me involved every minute of the film. Rooney Mara is going to be one hell of a star and I can’t wait for the next two installments.

7. The Descendants

This year many of my favorite directors took out films that showed me once again why I think they are geniuses. Alexander Payne, who had not released a feature film since 2004 when Sideways was released, is one of these great directors. His repertoire also includes About Schmidt, and Election. Mr. Payne knows how to tell stories about seemingly ordinary people and make them quite extraordinary without over dramatization and spectacle. His films are about characters. Characters that could be your real life friends or relatives or friends of friends. The Descendants is just another one of these stories. George Clooney plays Matt King who is struggling to reconnect with his children after his wife suffers from a paralyzing and coma inducing accident. As with all of Alexander Payne’s films, the acting is wonderful and Clooney is truly deserving of his nomination.

6. The Artist

Alright, this is the film that has all the critics with their panties in a bunch and is the front runner to win the best picture award tonight. While this film, I believe, is a great film, I think there are others that deserve the recognition more. Nevertheless, if The Artist does win the Oscar, which it most likely will, my feathers will not be ruffled. It is a great homage to the silent film era and the film keeps you entertained without saying a single word (well, almost) which is a breath of fresh air in our world of over indulgence. The story is quite familiar. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent film star in the late 1920s who finds his world being turned upside down when talkies begin to take over. George becomes the forgotten star and the film follows his downward spiral.

5. Bridesmaids

Anyone who knows me can testify, I love me a good raunchy comedy. While some movie snobs will see such films like Bridesmaids as beneath them, I still love a good old fashion fart joke or, in this case, a good shit in the sink joke. When a comedy can make me laugh non stop for two hours it has to make my top ten. If you seriously found this film unfunny, you either take your life way too seriously or have your head stuck so far up your own ass you’ve lost touch with your natural funny bone. I am excited to see that the Academy no longer is afraid to recognize comedies like these. Bridesmaids is nominated tonight for original screenplay and supporting actress for Melissa McCarthy. Although it probably won’t win anything, it’s good to see it nominated.

4. Super 8

There are three films in my top ten this year which pay a special tribute to the art of filmmaking and its history. I’ve already talked about The Artist. This is the second film. Super 8 follows the story of a group of kids who stumble upon a highly dangerous and monstrous government secret while filming their own little zombie flick for a film competition. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams (creator of the Lost series), this movie is pure entertainment at its finest. I see it as a sci-fi horror version of Stand By Me. Elle Fanning is following magnificently in the footsteps of her sister Dakota. They are going to be one hell of an acting duo. All the kids in this movie are loveable and quite hilarious. This is just a really fun movie to watch. If you like explosions, great visual effects, funny kids, and monsters, stop watching those piece of shit Transformer movies and go rent this film.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ok, every once in a while there comes a movie that is so obviously a tear jerker that it annoys me to even watch it and especially if Sandra Bullock is in it. However, I cannot deny my love for this movie. Even Sandra Bullock couldn’t kill it for me. The story is about a boy named Oskar, played by Thomas Horn, whose father has died during the events of Sept. 11th 2001. While searching through his father’s room, Oskar finds a key in a vase and takes it upon himself to discover the purpose of the key and at the same time a reason for his Father‘s death. I cannot deny that many tears fell down my cheek as I saw Oskar struggle to find purpose to his tragedy. Oskar suffers from a form of autism known as Asperger syndrome. For those that do not know about this condition, people with this condition usually demonstrate very little empathy, and social skills. They also tend to have a fascination with patterns and systems such those in math and logic. Oskar is one of these boys, and the heart of this film is really in his realization that some things just have no reason or purpose. Thomas Horn does a remarkable job in this film and should have been nominated.

2. Midnight in Paris

Yet another one of my favorite directors, Woody Allen wrote and directed this great film about a couple, Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), who are on vacation in Paris. Gil is a writer who is obsessed with the era of the 1920s and believes he was born in the wrong decade. One night while on a drunken stupor, Gil stumbles upon a secret of the city which shows him the world of his golden age. This is a wonderfully written film. As always, Woody’s dialogue is smart and funny. Owen Wilson does very well to play the part usually reserved for Woody himself and there is a magnificent cameo by Adrian Brody which in my opinion is Oscar worthy. Brody is only on camera for about five minutes, but, damn, does he make an impression! The film is one of those movies that has everything; comedy, drama, romance, even Ernest Hemingway. Love this movie!

1. Hugo

Maybe it’s because I just saw this movie yesterday, or maybe it’s because of my current personal emotional state, or maybe it’s because it’s Martin Scorsese, but either way I know that I truly love this movie. The film is about a boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who has lost his father (seems to have been a common storyline for films last year) and lives in a train station in 1930s Paris working on the clocks there. The only remaining remnant of his father is a broken automaton that his father purchased from a museum. Hugo, in his efforts to find the pieces needed to fix the automaton, runs into an old man named Georges (played by Ben Kingsley) who holds the secret to fixing the automaton. What ensues is a great adventure story with magnificent performances by Chloe Grace Moretz (of Kick Ass fame) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat). It is the third film on my list that pays homage to the history of films. It celebrates the magic of filmmaking. The ability of movies to move you emotionally, take you to a different world, and, as the film states, to bring your dreams to life. As I stated in my intro, the movies are my first love and Hugo reminded me of why I love going to the movies so much. The tears that ran down my cheek while watching this film had nothing to do with the sadness of the story. These tears were caused by the reason why I love watching movies–because they’re beautiful.

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