The Best of 2011 in Film (Guest Post with Ryan Brown)

Ryan:  2011 was an interesting year for movies. For me, it was the first year that I really followed the films released extensively. That’s probably due a lot to the fact that I got a job at AMC this summer, and all the sudden ticket prices were no longer an issue for me and I paraded into every screening on a red carpet rolled out by lesser employees. Overall, I saw about 60 movies that were released between January and December. There’s hundreds more that were released this year, but for the most part I really think I saw the ones that were important to see. Writing this list now, the only films I may have missed out on are Shame, The Skin I Live In, A Seperation, My Week With Marilyn, A Dangerous Methord, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Madeline.

Blah, blah, blah blah blah. You don’t care, you’re not reading this to know what movies I didn’t see. You’re reading this because somewhere down the line maybe you’ll need something to watch, and the dawning realization will hit you that you don’t really know what it is you want to watch.

These are what you want to watch.

Brandon: This has probably been the best year for movies since the outstanding 2008 year – one of the first years in a long time where I’ve had a really difficult time pinning down my favorite movie. While I haven’t seen them all – and I’ve certainly seen a lot less than Ryan saw (damn you ticket prices) – what I’ve seen has made me laugh, cry, and sweat bullets in about equal amounts. Almost every great director active today had a great showing this year, with those who didn’t poised to make a big impression in the equally promising 2012 lineup.

In a year filled with such great films, it’s hard to see them all. These are the ones you can’t afford to miss.

The Top Ten
#1: Moneyball

                Moneyball is a sports movie, this is a fact. If we were to be more specific, we could even call Moneyball what is known in inner-film study circles as a “baseball-movie.”Again, this is a fact.
                But understanding why Moneyball is the year’s best picture requires an understanding of why we are attracted to sports in the first place. Whether it be in the major leagues or the playground, sports are about winning or losing, black and white. Sports provide us a clear cut finality that’s not reflected in our own lives.. in reality, we don’t win or lose, nothing is as simple as that. We suffer, we succeed, we learn and we progress, but life’s not as simple as a yes or no. There is no winning. There is no losing. There is just living.
                Many sports movies choose to ignore this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a choice. For example, the last Oscar-nominated sports flick, The Blindside, embraced it’s happy ending with all the subtly of a ten ton speed train. This didn’t make it a bad movie—it just made it one that adamantly chose to look at the brightest possible side of the situation (though I would argue this is easier than actually tackling both the positives and negatives).
                To actually get to the point here, Moneyball is special because it does not take the easy way out. It exists in the reality based space between winning and losing. The movie is about the struggle, not the results. Brad Pitt gives what I would argue is both the best performance of his career and the best performance of the year conveying this idea as Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s. Pitt gives an incredibly human performance, with his most shining moments perhaps in his most silent, as he listens to the play-by-plays miles away, in the dimly lit stands of an empty stadium.
                The cast of the film all succeed at bringing Sorkin’s brilliantly written screenplay to life. Just as in The Social Network, Sorkin finds a way to make a niche subject (in this case, baseball) riveting to all, including a fair share of dark humor and sharp dialogue. And a year ago, who would suspect Jonah Hill would find himself among the company of Christopher Plummer and Kenneth Branagah as a nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Hill provides an incredibly entertaining foil to Beane as analysit Peter Brand, and even though his performance isn’t anything that special, its certainly entertaining to play out of type and expand his career. Reimagine the ads for The Sitter with it now  starring academy award nominee Jonah Hill. Strange, isn’t it? Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation)  round out the rest of the cast, though again, this is Pitt’s movie through and through.
                The fragments we see of Beane’s life are imperfect—divorce, career sliding away from him—and the real heart of the film is not in wishing that Oakland A’s can pull out a win, but in praying for the success of Beane’s struggles. Moneyball is a testament to the fact that we don’t watch sports movies because they teach us about sports. We watch sports movies because they teach us about life, and the space we inhabit between success and failure. – Ryan
                Recommended If You Liked Moneyball: Rocky, Glory Road, Hoosiers, The Social Network, Brad Pitt, damn good movies.
#2: Drive

                I’m aware by writing these next two or three paragraphs, I am contributing to the massive hype-train that is Drive.
                I don’t care.
                If 2011 was the year of the Gosling, this was its pinnacle. Very few times in the history of film have there been stars that have bled so much cool, and that coolness is on display here in a role that can only be described as iconic, from Gosling’s one-word answers to his highly coveted scorpion jacket. Nicolas De Refn’s neo-noir hit details the twisted story of a man only known to us as The Driver, who desperately tries to free himself from a tangled web of crime after falling for his neighbor’s ex-con wife.
                Never has a movie felt so instantly like a cult classic. Every shot in Refn’s movie seems meticulously crafted, the tension and unease sinking through the film and exploding in Tarantino-worthy violent spurts. Not only this, but it takes a cheery 80s vibe and stretches it over the bloody, gritty interior. Gosling possibly described it best in an interview near the film’s release saying “It’s like a John Hughes movie—but with blood splattered all over it.”
                It’s nothing like Fast Five. I feel like I should point that out. There’s only one car chase in the whole movie (and it’s fucking awesome, by the way.) But it’s undoubtedly the coolest, most unique, mesmerizing film of the year, and for sure one you’ll hear being talked about years and years down the line. Go out of your way to see it, and make sure you have some toothpicks around before you drive home—you’ll be wanting them. – Ryan
                Recommended If You Liked Drive: I’m really struggling for something to put here.

#3: 50/50

                It’s that rare film that manages to make you laugh and cry in equal amounts, and yet feel completely organic in doing so – 50/50 manages this exceptionally well. Based on the true story of writer Will Reiser, 50/50 is a moving comedy about coping with cancer that manages to deliver laughs while never treating such a serious topic with inappropriate levity. It features what is one of my favorite performances of the year (in a year of incredible performances) from Joseph Gordon-Levitt – as Adam, JGL spends much of the film in an eerie, accepting calm. It’s unsettling to be sure, and makes the scenes where he explodes in anger and frustration all the more affecting. The most gut-wrenching scene, as Adam freaks out as the doctor administers the anesthetic, really shows JGL’s acting chops, and reduces even the most hardened person to tears, however slightly.
                The film’s greatest success is in its ability to flawlessly guide you from emotion to emotion, without ever feeling forced or goaded. One moment you can be laughing, and then the next instant the mood turns somber and the laughter vanishes – but never do you feel that your laughter was cut short. In one particularly whiplash-inducing bit, you’ll go from being terribly somber as Adam walks down the hospital hallway, passing patients in poor condition as he does, to being filled with laughter as he is offered weed-laced cookies by fellow chemo patients, and then proceeds to trip back down the hallway (laughing inexplicably at a passing cadaver), and then back to somber tension as he bolts awake in the night and rushes to vomit, a side-effect of the chemo.
                Levine never lets you forget that this is, in fact, a film about cancer, but he does give you a wonderfully endearing and heartfelt ride through the experience that, in the end, makes you happy to be alive. – Brandon
Recommended If You Liked 50/50: Alexander Payne’s films, (500) Days of Summer

#4: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

                Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to what was my favorite movie of the summer. Crazy, Stupid, Love has “classic” status written all over it and it’s only a few (hopefully nonfatal) missteps that take that title from it.
                The film follows Cal Weaver (Carell) as he attempts to pick himself back up after his wife (Moore) confesses to cheating on him. The story follows the intertwining relationships of Weaver and those around him as each struggles with all brands of love– falling in, falling out, unrequited, etc. Blah blah blah plot details.
                This movie charmed the hell out of me. It’s not over-archingly funny, and sometimes it’s unbearably cheesy. But Carell and Gosling bring so much joy to their characters that you fall in crazy, stupid love with the film anyway. It’s Gosling’s chemistry with the fantastically cute Emma Stone that really captures the soul of the whole movie  and propels it to a higher level however, and it’s funny that it does– because it’s a very, very small portion of the movie. But as I watched that scene, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was watching something that you would see on a retrospective 20 years down the line– it had the kind of magic and life that you see in those iconic scenes from Dirty Dancing, Say Anything and other classic romances. And there’s a few other instances in the film where it reaches a level almost unheard of in rom-com outputs from Hollywood these days — particularly one sequence near the ending where all the stories and love triangles collapse together.  But I won’t go into that. I’d be surprised if you haven’t had a chance to see this one yet, but if you haven’t, ignore whatever misgivings you may have and embrace the most fun feel-good movie in recent memory. – Ryan
Recommended If You Liked Crazy, Stupid, Love: Love, Actually, Say Anything, (500) Days of Summer, male-fronted romcoms.

#5: The Tree of Life

                The Tree of Life is not for everyone. It’s pretentious, incoherent, and perplexing. But I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.
                Tree of Life almost deliberately evokes comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the comparison is apt: this is a film where visuals and sound take precedent, with silly matters such as narrative falling by the way side. This would be a weakness if it weren’t for director Terrence Malick’s incredible affinity for the camera – watching the film, you don’t concern yourself regarding the story. You just sit and let the images wash over you in an endless cascade. The creation of the universe segment is perhaps the most fitting example: you know there’s a point to it, but you don’t really care what it is – you’re content just watching as layers of lava coalesce into the earth, as dinosaurs roam the surface and spare the lives of their prey.
                That the creation of the universe segment is presented in juxtaposition with a wonderful depiction of a suburban 1950s childhood in order to make grand statements about the meaning of life is inconsequential. That Brad Pitt, the father figure known only as Mr. O’Brien (appropriately; your friend’s parents are never “Jack” or “Sarah”; it’s always Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien) represents the way of nature with his stern disciplinarian ways and that Jessica Chastain, the mother figure, represents the way of grace with her nurturing and apologetic ways is even further inconsequential. You watch as the young boy grows up. You watch as characters speak to a divine being. You watch as they fight amongst themselves. You watch their apologies. You watch as they drift apart. You watch as they die. You watch as they are born. You watch Jack’s life, and his eventual reunion with his parents on the shores of the afterlife.
                Malick’s camera guides you through this incredible experience, conveying a message but allowing you to take it in at your own will. At the bottom line, this film is sight and sound. No narrative or symbolic understanding can outdo the incredible visual and aural experience the film creates. – Brandon
Recommended If You Liked The Tree of Life: Terrence Malick’s films, 2001: A Space Odyssey

#6: Rango

                Rango is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. A partnership between Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski last gave us the wonderful Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and two lackluster sequels – I was worried the magic may have worn off. Rango proves me wrong.
                The entire film is an adoring homage to the Western genre, one that has fallen from grace in recent years. But it’s even more than that – it’s got nods to a lot of films throughout film history, in a year that celebrates film history like no other. I’d wager that if you’re older than the target audience for this film, you’ll enjoy it even more than the target audience almost solely because of all the wonderful little nods to this film and that film.
                But let’s talk about the movie itself. It’s gorgeous to look at, a fantastic example of CGI animation done right. It’s got perhaps the best voice cast of any animated film I’ve ever seen. It’s funny in that smart way, with a great bit of biting satire behind it. It’s just plain fun – a rarity these days. The chase scene through the canyon had me grinning long after its end. There’s more that could be said for Rango, but that’s the heart of the movie – a tremendous sense of fun piled upon homage piled upon satire. In a year with a weak Pixar release, Rango fills the void happily. – Brandon
Recommended If You Liked Rango: Pixar’s films (except for the Cars films)

#7: Hugo

                Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present my personal choice for the best film of the year. Martin Scorsese has expertly adapted Brian Selznick’s children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, into the spellbinding and gorgeous film Hugo. Framed and marketed as a family film, Hugo is far more a love letter to early cinema, celebrating film history with the benefits of the most cutting edge film technology. In this, it excels: the cinematography is some of the most beautiful you will see in theaters (period), and it’s one of the few films that uses 3D to its full advantage. The opening sequence is a long, sweeping shot through the Paris Metro, using the clock faces as a barrier between Hugo’s home in the inner workings of the clocks and the business of the Metro, and it comes across so tangibly with 3D projection. The long shot that runs down the aisle between the two platforms is fantastic as well, and is a pitch perfect opening to the film.
                The film’s most significant accomplishment is in its story and characters, however. In telling the (fictional, but unbelievably so) story of Hugo as he tries to repair the automaton his father and he had been attempting to refurbish, Scorsese has crafted a touching and poignant tale that is carried by Asa Butterfield’s very talented performance (Jude Law, though appearing only briefly as Hugo’s late father, gives a very touching performance as well, as he usually does; bit parts are where Law really shines, I find). However, Butterfield’s performance lives in the shadow of two fantastic portrayals alongside his: Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Georges Méliès, and Chloe Moretz’s portrayal of his goddaughter, Isabel. Moretz here proves once again (as she did in Kick-Ass and Let Me In) that she is one of the most talented child actors today, as Isabel’s insatiable curiosity and drive is a perfect counter to Hugo’s subdued motivation. Kingsley provides the emotional and historical anchor for the film, however, as his turn as the legendary filmmaker is one of his best yet. He pulls off the impressive feat of making you hate him for his apparent cruelty to Hugo in the opening, yet then turns around and makes you feel incredible empathy for him as memories of his life and failures come flooding back to him.
                It’s undeniably a departure for Scorsese, but there is a loving feel to the entire film that suggests it’s not out of character in the least. Scorsese clearly loves film history, and after watching Hugo, I’d be surprised if you didn’t love it as well. – Brandon

Recommended If You Liked Hugo: The Artist

#8: Beginners

            Mile Mills’ Beginners is a movie about love, but more importantly, it is a movie about love of all kinds. Love in the young and the old, between a woman and a man, or between a man and a man, between a father and son, between people and animals. Mills knows that love comes in all forms, and no one kind eclipses any other.
                This knowledge likely comes from the personal experience that the movie is based off of, as Mills’ father came out of the closet to him late into his life, after the death of his wife and a lengthy forty year marriage. Beginners is the fictional retelling of this story, featuring a set of great performances from Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor. It’s honest and endearing, and effortlessly humorous. It’s clear that Mills has experience with the subject matter, because the whole film has a very authentic feel to it. The concept isn’t forced and feels natural, and the comedy arises so organically that Mills’ good humor (presumably) is the only credible source. This is a supremely happy film with a lot of good to say about love, and one that cannot be missed. – Ryan & Brandon

#9: Take Shelter

                Take Shelter is a horror film of a different kind. There’s no scares, no monsters, no deaths– just a eerily familiar sense of dread that extends itself throughout out the film, and the fear that everything you have could easily be swept away.
                The film plays out like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, as simple family man Curtis struggles with visions of an apocalyptic ending. Is he insane, or is there truth to his visions? Though directors like Nolan or Shyamalan would play this premise for a twist, Nicholas skillfully uses it as a struggle his protagonist goes through simultaneously with the viewers. Curtis is aware of the history of mental health problems in his family, even self-diagnoses himself.. but he can’t seem to shake the feeling that his visions are true, building a massive storm shelter in his backyard.
                Michael Shannon gives a performance that is Oscar worthy, so it’s a shame that he wasn’t nominated. Jessica Chastain, who seems to be everywhere out of nowhere this year, stars as his wife and is also great. It’s one of my absolute favorites of the year, and I highly recommend everyone check it out. – Ryan

#10: The Descendants

                Like 50/50, The Descendants is a film that is equal parts sad as funny – the difference lies in the way it juggles these emotions. While 50/50 had a sort of roller coaster effect, The Descendants adopts a singular tone of seriocomedy that persists throughout the film. The characters say things with straight faces throughout, and no moment of levity goes unpunctuated by a shot of George Clooney’s wife in a coma.
                What makes The Descendants work is George Clooney’s incredible performance. As Matt King, Clooney exudes a sense of eerie calm that, in a strange sort of way, conveys the enormous burden on him that a more animated performance could not. Within the first 45 minutes or so, we are introduced to Matt King, and Matt King’s problems. A comatose wife. A wealthy family who wants to sell a tract of land that the people of Hawaii want to remain untouched, a cause pushed by a cousin played ably by Beau Bridges. A boater who feels responsible for the accident that landed King’s wife in the coma. His daughter’s out of control behavior at college and disrespectful attitude toward a father who had no idea what he’s doing (played by the very gifted young actress Shailene Woodley). And, of course, the sudden knowledge of his wife’s prior infidelity.
                It’s a lot weighing on Clooney, and his performance lets us feel it just as much as him. For once, we aren’t wondering “how is he going to handle all this,” but rather, “how are WE going to get out of this?” It’s something Payne does very well, better than many directors – his situation is our situation.
                The Descendants is tragic and uplifting at the same time, and while you may not leave in spirits as high as other tragicomedies, you’ll leave satisfied and happy with the way things worked out for Matt King. – Brandon

Honorable Mentions

The Artist Though you’re likely to see it because of it’s probable Best Picture status come tomorrow night, Michael Havancizicicdhfdhfldhfs’ little silent film is a movie you should check out no matter what. Though the fact that its a silent film is pretty off-putting for most people, it’s a definite crowd pleaser– funny, entertaining, and nostalgic. Don’t be suprised if you see some of your friends touting how much they liked the film on Facebook in the very near future.. – R

Terri Terri is a funny and often poignant coming of age film about “the fat kid” in your English class, and how each and every one of us can use a helping hand at one point or another.  – R

The Muppets  I’ll say this about a few movies in this list, but this was the most fun theater experience I had all year. Don’t be discouraged because the main cast of The Muppets are all made of felt, minus Jason Segal and Amy Adams. The film is incredibly funny, the songs incredibly catchy (they were written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Concords) and the Muppets incredibly Muppety. You don’t have to be a fan of the series to enjoy this cheerily optimistic ride. – R

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I think David Fincher may be the best director working in Hollywood today. His films are always meticulously crafted, beautifully shot, and nail bitingly suspenseful—almost at a Hitchcock level. Dragon Tattoo is no different, although it does seem to lack the personal spark that Fincher’s other works have. Either way, Craig and Mara deliver awesome performances in a whodunit that’s wickedly dark and twisted. – R

Warrior I can’t  blame you if you didn’t catch Warrior in theaters this year, or even if you ignored it on DVD. It really seems like a movie that flew under the radar. Warrior finds Tom Hardy at levels of ass kicking that will make any Batman fan excited for his take on Bane this summer, and Nolte gives the most heartbreaking performance of the year, and most likely the one that has brought me closest to tears.  You had an excuse, now you don’t—make sure to check out the most underrated film of the                                                       year.  – R
Like Crazy If you liked Blue Valentine… I greatly enjoyed Like Crazy, firstly because of my quickly developing crush on Felicty Jones, whose performance here I believe should of garnered much more Oscar attention than it did. Secondly, while not all moments of the film hit their marks, certain moments feel so real that the heartbreak is almost unbearable. – R

Super This is a great film. It alternates between black comedy – the montage of Rainn Wilson, as Frank D’Arbo/The Crimson Bolt, bashing criminals’ heads with a wrench, comes to mind – and satire of the superhero genre. It’s dizzying how quickly it changes course, and is almost always disturbing in it’s incredibly violent and sexual content (there’s a particularly unnerving rape scene). This just makes it all the more unique, however. It’s disturbing nature and overt black comedy make it an exciting, memorable film that I thoroughly enjoyed. –B

Super 8 This Abrams-Spielberg homage to early Spielberg films and 80s kids adventure flicks has a great premise and moves along wonderfully thanks to a sizable dose of meta-film elements in the first two acts, but flies off the rails and becomes a routine action film in the last third. It’s a bit disappointing when that happens, but the first hour is so stellar that I can’t help but recommend it as an effortlessly enjoyable, entertaining film. – B
Horrible Bosses  Horrible Bosses is my favorite comedy of the year. Both the guys and the bosses kill it, and its got I think the most consistent laugh to joke ratio of anything released this year. Even if it loses steam in its third half, it’s worth it just to see Jennifer Anniston go bananas. – R
Midnight In Paris I’m a huge Woody Allen fan, and Midnight in Paris is a pretty light and fluffy piece of work, but a really enjoying ride nonetheless. If you’re a fan of the period it idolizes (Hemmingway, Cole Porter, etc) – then it will probably be love at first sight for you. – R

Win Win There’s something wrong with my head sometimes that forces me to connect Paul Giamatti only with his role in the probably forgotten Big Fat Liar. Unfortunately, this connection makes me forget how great of a character actor Giamatti can be, and he’s great here in Win Win, a wrestling/family-story comedy/drama. He makes just getting out of bed each morning seem like a herculean effort. – R
The Ides of March This is a film that had a lot of promise, and delivers half-heartedly. George Clooney directs Ryan Gosling and a supporting cast of Hollywood greats in this political thriller that, though entertaining, ultimately fails to deliver due to a somewhat jarring end – the film concludes just as things heat up. Nevertheless, it’s a fun ride and has another fantastic performance from Gosling. – B

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Action movies are usually pretty hit-or-miss for me, and a lot of that relies on how much the sequences bring in the viewer to the mix of the action, as opposed to just blowing up a bunch of CGI skyscrapers in their faces. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are tons of CGI explosions in Ghost Protocol, and a fair share of cheesy plotlines and dialogue. However, it succeeds where it counts—creating some of the most elaborate, fun, and creative action sequences in recent memory. – R

Submarine This is my favorite of the honorable mentions—Richard Ayodae’s debut is highly British, highly funny coming of age story about a young man named Oliver Tate who attempts to both lose his virginity and save his parents’ marriage. It’s super Wes Anderson-y and super French New Wave-y (which won’t mean anything to non Film students) but it’s really clever and unique and I think everyone should give it a try. – R

The Adventures of Tintin You’ll probably enjoy Tintin much more then you’re expecting you will. It’s the most fun Speilberg seems to have had behind the camera in years, and for my money, it’s a better Indiana Jones then the last Indiana Jones was. It’s another action movie that excels in creative and unique action sequences, and its animated nature doesn’t make it too kiddy at all (gunfire, alcohol, etc are still introduced). It’s a slice of old fashioned adventuring fun. – R

Attack the Block Allow it, bruv. Attack the Block is a british Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead) produced film about a group of inner city teens facing off against some vicious extraterrestrials. It’s well made and a ton of a fun, and it’s not getting even close to the attention it deserves. – R
We Bought A Zoo Sure, We Bough A Zoo may be overtly endearing, really cheesy and sometimes just plain silly. It’s director, Cameron Crowe (Fast Times, Say Anything, Almost Famous) has always had a problem balancing sentimentality. But when a film leaves you this cheery and optimistic after, who cares? If you let your cynical side shut up for a brief two hours, you’re sure to enjoy the wacky tale. Oh, and Matt Damon’s pretty good in it.
Carnage Carnage is a film that largely relies on one conceit—the entire movie takes place as one scene, in one room. Two couples (played amazingly by an all-star cast) slowly go from polite to each other’s throats after their kids get into a fight at school. It doesn’t always work, but there’s enough enjoyable moments within it to make it worth a watch. – R

War Horse War Horse’s ridiculous preachy trailer probably gave it more crap then it deserved. War Horse is a surprisingly engrossing old-fashioned story by Steven Speilberg, who proves here again that even on his most mediocre projects, he’s still one of the best visual storytellers of all time. The film is kind of a Saving Private Ryan meets ET adventure, and though it sometimes veers too much to the cheesy or odd, most of it works very well as a WWI film, an interesting time we don’t see much of in movies, thanks to the whole WWII thing. – R

Another Earth Another Earth is an interesting little sci-fi movie where the sci-fi elements (a parallel Earth being discovered) take a back seat to the emotional and dramatic turmoil that results. We hear developments through distant radio broadcasts and the looming shape of the twin planet overhead, but the film’s focus stays firmly on the protagonist’s struggle in the midst of unbelievable circumstances. – R
Young Adult Young Adult reunites Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (the team behind favorite Juno) as the two see just how unlikeable they can make their protagonist, played by Charlize Theron in what I promise is one of the best performances of the year. Like a lot of the honorable mentions this year, it doesn’t always hit, but when it does, it hits surprisingly well.  – R

Scream 4 The fourth outing in the Scream franchise returns the genre to its roots after the dreadful digression of Scream 3 – fun, self aware horror that has some comment about the modern day to be made. While it does not reach the heights of the first film, it manages to be a supremely entertaining, better-than-average slasher romp that modern Hollywood so rarely gets right. – B

Contagion This latest film by Steven Soderbergh is an absolutely terrifying examination of the way the world would react to a sudden pandemic. Hypochondriacs such as myself, stay clear – it’s a great film, but it will chill your bones. It’s packed with good performances though, and is typical Soderbergh – very much worth your time. – B
The Best Performances of the Year
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
George Clooney, The Descendants
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
                Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
                Viola Davis, The Help
                Elisabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
                Charlize Theron, Young Adult
                Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
The Best Scenes of the Year

Beware: Here there be spoilers.

#1: The backyard fight in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
                Few romantic comedies would dare handle as many plotlines as Crazy, Stupid, Love. dares to handle – and this scene shows precisely why. To have every single plotline explode in a single event is an incredible feat and very difficult to pull off, yet CSL manages it with aplomb. Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Kevin Bacon, and that guy who played the Zodiac all get great laughs in this outright brawl between the leading men of the film.
#2: The Creation of the Universe in The Tree of Life
                Beautiful. There is little else that need be said; this is an incredible sequence that does more with visuals than some films can do with plot.
#3: The pawn shop robbery in Drive
                Up until this scene, Drive had been a film about the Driver’s relationship with the woman next door, and the tensions that caused. After this scene, Drive became a violent and brutal run from the mob. You see it coming, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring when it actually arrives.
#4: Magneto kills the Nazis in X-Men: First Class
                An incredible scene in an otherwise flawed film, this became the defining moment in First Class for me, representing everything about Magneto that I would come to love in his original film series appearances. He’s a merciless, disturbing killer, and the vengeance was palpable.
#5: Trainwreck from Super 8
                The poster child for Super 8, the train wreck is the highlight of the film. From Charlie screaming “PRODUCTION VALUE!” right before it, to the intense moments running among the wreckage as things are exploding, it’s a riveting sequence that captures precisely the kids adventure vibe Spielberg and Abrams were going for.

(Notice: This post’s formatting was murdered by Blogger, so I’m going to upload a PDF with the full formatting because it looks nice at some point.)

One thought on “The Best of 2011 in Film (Guest Post with Ryan Brown)

  1. Katy says:

    Ryan I am sure this is the first of many blogs or other columns I will read in the future that you have had a part in – will always be an avid follower simply because… I am a mom:) Mrs A

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