Friday, February 3, 2012

Tyler's Best and Worst Films of 2011

It's finally that time when we at Reel to Reel are releasing our Best and Worst of 2011 lists. It may seem a month late, but really a lot of the big hitters are released during the winter season just before they announce the majority of the award nominees at the beginning of the year. Because of this, we'd say it's pretty fair to catch up on a few of those films a month into 2012; the main reason being that we don't get a lot of these films here in Saskatoon cinemas, or even as online rentals, until January-ish. So we need time to catch up.

Now without wasting any more of your precious time, here are my Favourite Films of 2011.

10. Monsieur Lazhar (2011) Canada
A great performance from Mohamed Fellag grounds Monsieur Lazhar with an emotional complexity that resonates all the way through the film's core - the simple story of how we all need reassurance in a time of loss.

9. Hesher (2010) United States
Joseph Gorden-Levitt plays the title character Hesher, a squatter who shows up out of nowhere and moves in with T.J., a youth morning the death of his mother. Honest, heartbreaking, hilarious, and with no filter between the words of wisdom and words of filth, Hesher is the heavy-metal Mary Poppins*.

8. Attenberg (2010) Greece
Modern Greece, a industrialized world where Marina rejects relationships but strives to loosen up through her friend. Athina Rachel Tsangari choreographs a subtle, haunting, quirky, and poetic story of being disconnected with one's self and the world, and trying to find a way to open up to it all.

7. Melancholia (2011) Denmark
Lars von Trier brings us a film about the pending death of humankind along with the obliteration of Earth via an approaching planet on a collision course. Weaving the effects of a failed marriage, family, and emptiness creates a staggering, sad yet beautiful, and absorbing experience. Kirsten Dunst is amazing in her performance as Justine, the bride not to be.

6. Kill List (2011) United Kingdom
Ben Wheatley is a master at letting his actors improvise to create an authentic sense of realism, yet he expertly gives them the right pieces to weave in to properly drive the story forward. Kill List's two leads feed off each other as their journey leads them deeper into their own personal hell. Scary, tense, and will have your mind wandering back to its mysteries and hauntings for days afterwards.

5. Attack the Block (2011) United Kingdom
Attack the Block emanates a youthful energy that flows throughout the entire film from beginning to end. It's fast paced, exciting, scary when it needs to be, and smartly written. Combining non-stop action, witty dialogue, and characters you actually end up caring about - especially when you don't even like them at the start of the film, it's this current generation's version of the Monster Squad. A pure blast from start to finish.

4. Senna (2010) United Kingdom
The life story of Aryton Senna, ranked as one of the greatest Formula One racers in history and the last fatality of the sport. Told entirely through archival footage, Asif Kapadia mesmerizing documentary lets Senna's life, world views, and humanity completely absorb the audience. It's exhilarating!

3. Marécages (Wetlands) (2011) Canada
An extremely powerful feature debut from Guy Édoin. Marécages truthfully handles the splitting up of a family after the loss of a father and husband tumults the family farm onto the edge of bankruptcy. Love, loss, and grief entangle through great performances from Pascale Bussières and Gabriel Maillé.

2. Beauty Day (2011) Canada
Jay Cheel crafts a documentary that is as compelling and human as it is insane and gut-bustingly hilarious. Beauty Day is a gem that shows us that Cap'n Video is not just an alter-ego of Ralph Zavadil, but that they are one and the same. You'll be smiling throughout the entire film both manically shocked and gloriously entertained. Beauty Day is pure joy. Pure cinematic joy.

1. The Skin I Live In (2011) Spain
Pedro Almodóvar meticulously crafts this thriller with the precision of a surgeon. Every plot point, every little twist, every nuance perfectly affects and effects the story and has the audience entranced in its spell. Bold, suspenseful, sexy, and above all absolutely brilliant, The Skin I Live In is a masterpiece.

Honorable mentions: Drive (2011), Hanna (2011), Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), Project: Nim (2011), Rubber (2010), Midnight in Paris (2011), Hugo (2011), Snowtown (2011), Circo (2010), Red White and Blue (2010), The Tree of Life (2011)

And now let's tear into the absolute Worst Films of 2011. Because let's face it, 2011 had an abundance of shitty films. Especially coming out of Hollywood. Just look at this years Oscar nominees... yeesh.

10. The Woman (2011) United States / Bridesmaids (2011) United States
Lucky McKee makes some giant mistakes in this paint-by-the-numbers captive film based off Jack Ketchum's book - where the author even steals the basic set up from his previous novel The Girl Next Door. Bland, uninteresting, and over-hyped. And what a horrible bubble-gum punk soundtrack. / Bridesmaids is neither funny nor groundbreaking. Kristen Wiig and co reuse the horribly overused Judd Apatow tricks and what we're left with is overly long gross-out comedy that doesn't work. Oh, and a cliched love story of course. Pass.

9. Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2010) Canada
An over-hyped indie film that seems to mysteriously be getting praise all over the place. How so? It's amateurish, poorly acted, and filled with cheap dialogue. I really hope the Soska Sisters next effort American Mary is a step up, because this first feature really shows a lot of first time mistakes.

8. Tower Heist (2011) United States
Brett Ratner takes a ridiculous concept and makes it even more far fetched and unrealistic than it needs to be, complete with all the unfunny one-liners and racial stereotypes from the likes of washed up Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Ben Stiller, and co. Ouch!

7. Thor (2011) United States
Boring action set-pieces along with an uninteresting super hero back story and a running time well over two hours make this less of a super hero action adventure and more of a ploy for marketing the upcoming Avengers movie. Thor? More like Bhor.

6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) United States
Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson once again prove that method acting as if your face has been filled with Botox to show emotion is not a good example for displaying a relationship and love story on the big screen. The falseness and unrealistic approach to the reality and consequences of relationships is too far skewed at this point that I feel sorry for the many young people whom think this to be what "love" is about...

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadow (2011) United States
A convoluted mess of an adventure film, Robert Downey, Jr. once again slurs his way through solving riddles two steps ahead of the audience. How infuriating it is to not be a part of the mystery, but to have it all explained for you in slow-motion mere moments after you've just "seen it" in an indecipherable blaze of quick-cuts and explosions. Headache inducing filmmaking.

4. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) China
A giant convoluted mess of an adventure film. Tsui Hark puts his focus on maintaining the fantastical action rather than focusing on properly explaining the mystery. Filled with more junk than it can handle, Detective Dee loses its audience in it's own labyrinth and ignores explaining the proper clues to get out.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) United States
Completely ignoring the themes and ideas that made the original Planet of the Apes series groundbreaking, Rise resorts to cheap homage that offends instead. Clearly being driven to the big action climax with no heart or thought it all accumulates to nothing more than one-dimensional popcorn fodder.

2. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011) United Kingdom
Shit. Literally. Not only does it run at least 45 minutes longer than it needs to be, it goes past the point of shock and just makes you wish you could have that time back in your life. Not because it was "too gross" but because it was simply that boring, pointless, repetitive, and unneeded. Strongly avoid, even if your curiosity has the upper hand.

1. Jack and Jill (2011) United States
Somehow this abortion of filmmaking got the green light... An absolutely loathsome, extremely offensive, and juvenilely unfunny abomination of a movie. Adam Sandler is doubly irritating in this 91 minute cornucopia of product placement, advertisement, and sheer lack of craft (and soul) from all of the cast and crew. Jack and Jill actually stole some of my being by watching it, and I can never ever get that part of me back. There is no repair from seeing this steaming pile of shit. Al Pacino, I cannot forgive you. The worst film I have ever seen. Fuck you, Dennis Dugan and company.

There you have it. The Best and Worst of 2011 according to my film going experiences over the past year. Let's hope 2012 has the same, if not better, caliber in it's independent film selection. But let's really cross our fingers and hope that the mainstream smartens up and puts story over profitability.

...Like that's ever going to happen though. Well, see you at the movies in 2012!

*Heavy-metal Mary Poppins referenced via fellow R2R host Skot via Mark Kermode.

All written contents copyright 2012 Tyler Baptist

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