2011 is coming to a close and of course, it’s time for introspection and seeing how far you’ve come and how much things have changed in a year. This has been a banner year for me – one of my favorite years of my life. My birthday is early in the year (February), so I end up categorizing years by what age I am, rather than the actual year. 25 was a good year for me, and I look forward to seeing what 26 holds for me. And, in the spirit of end-of-the-year reflections, I’ve prepared 5 “11 for ‘11” lists (I couldn’t think of 11 categories, though if you have suggestions, I may just add it on). Today, I’m going to list my 11 favorite movies from 2011! Now, I realize a couple of these aren’t critical favorites, but they’re movies I had a fantastic time seeing, and probably would happily own.
11. Fright Night – Okay, this wasn’t a critical favorite, but it was one of the best popcorn movies I saw this year. I’m unfamiliar with the 1980s version, so this new version had unexpected twists and turns and was genuinely delightful. Collin Farrell truly was terrifying as a vampire, and Anton Yelchin handled the protagonist role very well. It’s not for everyone, but for an action/horror flick, you can’t do much better.
10. X-Men: First Class – I know almost nothing of X-Men beyond what I’ve seen in the films, and X-Men three was still a disappointment. I was happy, then, when First Class turned out to handle the material well. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were fantastic as early version of our favorite hero and villain, and the movie was good as a prequel.
9. Melancholia – I’ll be honest. I tried so hard when watching this movie, and I ended up turning it off about 3/4ths of the way through. It is certainly not for everyone, and I don’t give up on movies easily, but it still made my list for one reason: I could not stop thinking about what I’d seen. It’s a beautiful, haunting film, and I’m sure had I finished it, it would be higher up on my list. As it is, I give it the honor of mentioning it, and how fantastic of a performance Kirsten Dunst gives, but with the caution that you should not watch it if you are depressed.
8. Like Crazy – This movie is remarkable, but was marketed very poorly. The story takes a much different tack than the trailers show, but it is still a pleasant, engaging film. Anton Yelchin (yup, this is the second time he’s appeared on this list) offers one of my favorite performances of the year, and Felicity Jones steals the show. The movies is mostly improvised, which gives it much more of an air of realness and “truthiness” than most other movies this year. Beautiful film, especially for anyone who has experienced the heartache of trying to make a relationship work long distance.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – This had to make my list, you know. For a finale of a huge series that has changed the course of Young Adult Literature, this movie was up to the task. It was everything I wanted it to be, and was a fantastic way to say goodbye to characters who have been friends for almost a full decade of my life.
6. 50/50 – It’s no secret that I have great affection for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and his performance in 50/50 did not disappoint. The characters were realistically depicted, and the movie was emotional without being cloying. It made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time.
5. Bridesmaids – Females in comedy was one of the big story of 2011, and Bridesmaids is one of the best female driven movies in existence. Men took a backseat to female comedy full of wit and gross-out jokes in equal measure. And, for once, the females were realistic, well-rounded characters. Plus, Kristen Wiig. You can’t beat Kristen Wiig.
4. Paul – Speaking of Kristen Wiig, I was so happy to see a movie that has her acting alongside Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. A fantastic hilarious buddy comedy, the film took on geek culture in a way only Simon Pegg and Nick Frost could. Seth Rogen as the voice of Paul the alien was one of the best voice-acting jobs I have heard in a long time.
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Though it took me a long time to figure out what actually happened at the end of the movie, I put this in my top three on the strength of the cast and the acting. Not only is this a who’s who of British male actors, it’s a thrilling espionage tale, and a beautiful adaptation of a book of the same name.
2. Drive – Within the first ten minutes of this movie, I commented that Drive was going to be one of my favorite movies of the year. It is one of those that grabs hold and doesn’t let go. Ryan Gosling is one of my favorite actors, but with this movie, he took things to a completely new level. After seeing it, I couldn’t get his character out of my head: Is he a sociopath? Or is he mentally damaged? Is he perfectly aware of what he’s doing but has found some way to rationalize it? What happened to him in the past? There’s such little information given about him and the performance is played in such a delicate manner than it could go any number of ways. One of the best films of the year.
1. Martha Marcy May Marlene – I wasn’t prepared to like this film. I’d heard good things about it, but went into it knowing nothing about the plot or even anything about the actors, which is probably one of the best ways to see this movie. It is truly a subject that doesn’t get addressed very often in films, and the clash between someone who is trying to recover being in a cult, and the people who are trying to help her. The movie shows us only a couple of years snippet of this young girl’s life, so it is not plot-driven but more about the characters. The younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen makes a splash in a big way and carries this movie.
There are, of course, still a lot of movies I need to see and this list will adapt and change as I do see those movies, but it’s what I have for now.