Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bests of 2011

Happy New Year! Based on what I’ve seen so far (and there are notable exclusions, like Carnage, Coriolanus, Margaret, Mysteries of Lisbon, A Separation, War Horse and I’m sure several others that I don’t even know I’m missing), here are my bests of the past year at the movies:

Best Utterance of a Monosyllabic Word, Human: Adam’s pre-surgery “Mom” in 50/50

Best Utterance of a Monosyllabic Word, Primate: Caesar’s “No” in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Chase Sequence: The ride across the salt flats in Blackthorn

Best Epic Action Sequences: 13 Assassins

Best Unintentionally Hilarious Action Sequence: The brawl of the elderly in The Debt

Best Imitation of Classic Spielberg Action, Minus Narrative Momentum: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Close-ups: The Descendants

Best Use of 3D: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Best Enhancement of a 2D Subject: The depiction of Pieter Bruegel’s The Way to Calvary in The Mill and the Cross

Best Diorama: George Melies’ toy shop in Hugo 3D

Best Unexpected Visual Effect: Jane’s rapidly unlacing corset in Jane Eyre

Best Visual Representation of a Life Cut Short: Egg shells and cookie dough in Into the Abyss

Best Use of Color: The dashes of red throughout We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Approximation of the Production Design of a Brock Landers Movie: The Taggart Transcontinental offices in Atlas Shrugged: Part I

Best Depiction of a Historic Period: Meek’s Cutoff

Best Reenactment of a Historic Event: The multiple assassination plot that opens The Conspirator

Best Reimagining of a Historic Figure: Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

Best Channeling of Early Pacino: Ryan Gosling’s wide-eyed simmering in The Ides of March

Best Documentary: Senna

Best Reason to Keep Believing in People: The Interrupters

Best Reason to Give Up on Movies: Immortals

Best Makeup: The dark contacts and Charles Foster Kane-esque girth of Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar (I’m not kidding)

Best Nostalgia Act: The recreation of the opening credits number of The Muppet Show in The Muppets

Best Cinematic Allusions: Rango

Best Graceful Elucidation of Statistical Complexity: Moneyball

Best Graceless Elucidation of Statistical Complexity: Margin Call

Best Sign That Hollywood Doesn’t Trust Audiences to Comprehend Metaphors: The literal shit pie in The Help

Best So-Awful-It’s-Great Line of Dialogue in a Genuinely Awful Movie: “Lock him up in the elephant!” in Red Riding Hood

Best Prop: George Smiley’s glasses in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Use of Actors as Props: The A-list disease vessels in Contagion

Best Missing Prop: Dr. Rutledge's pipe that wasn't there, but might as well have been, in Source Code

Best Weapon: Driver’s hammer in Drive

Best Appendage: Michael Fassbender’s sledgehammer in Shame

Best Nudity: Ryan Gosling’s (obscured) full frontal in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Best Sex Scene: Catfishlingus in Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Best Kiss: Driver and Irene in Drive

Best Portrayal of the Insecurity of Young Love: Jacob and Anna in Like Crazy

Best Portrayal of the Isolation of Hidden Love: Russell and Glen in Weekend

Best Portrayal of Committed Love: Tommy and Tess (and, for that matter, Tommy and Frank) in Warrior

Best Music: Drive

Best Musical Moment, Performance: The singing of the Soviet national anthem in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Musical Moments, Classical: “Lacrimosa” and the mysterious spire of creation and “Ma Vlast” and visions of childhood in The Tree of Life

Best Marriage of Musical and Emotional Crescendos: The fortification of Hogwarts to Alexandre Desplat’s “Statues” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Heartbreak: Certified Copy

Best Misery: Melancholia

Best Burden: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Paranoia: Take Shelter

Best Triumph: Warrior

Best Awe: The Tree of Life

Best Conclusion, Epic: A storm brews on the horizon in Take Shelter

Best Conclusion, Intimate: Lisbeth realizes she's alone in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Object of Affection: Melanie Laurent's Anna in Beginners

Best Jackass: Jon Hamm’s Ted in Bridesmaids

Best Dog: The terrier in The Artist

Best Bulldog: David Carr in Page One: Inside the New York Times

Best Beaver: The Beaver in The Beaver

Best Rabbit: Hanna's breakfast offering in Hanna

Best Literal Depiction of Childhood Trauma Starring Michael Fassbender: X-Men: First Class

Best Suggestion of Childhood Trauma Starring Michael Fassbender: Shame

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Nick Nolte in Warrior

Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role: Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre, Shame, A Dangerous Method)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Elle Fanning in Super 8

Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role: Charlize Theron in Young Adult

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Debt, The Help, Take Shelter)

Best Picture Without Flaws: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Picture With Glaring Flaws: The Tree of Life

What are some of your bests of 2011?


Anonymous said...

Best Fast Train Ride: Source Code

Unknown said...

Let me throw in a few to start off:

Best Movie to Be Hidden From the Viewing Public: "Margaret"

Best Reason to Never Aim a Film Camera Directly at a Light Ever Again: "Super 8"

Funniest Film of the Year: "Carnage"

Best Motivation for Aspiring Filmmakers: "Red State" Because after 10 films, Kevin Smith has learned so few lessons about the art of filmmaking. If he can do it, so can you and probably better!

Best Depiction of True Love in a Married Couple's Relationship: "Take Shelter"

Best Performance from an Actress I Least Expected It From: Kirsten Dunst in "Melancholia"

Best Performance That Elevates an Unextraordinary Film: Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard"

Best Reasons I Can Give to Be Suspect of Homages: "Super 8", "Hugo" & "Rango" (I think I'm going to duck after that one.)

Best Depiction of Emotional Dysfunction in Men: The collective performances of Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon.

I will add that I would like to hear more in depth how you felt about "Tinker, Tailor". I knew you weren't much of a fan of "Let the Right One In", so I was surprised you took to this one more. While I think it's a very good film and extremely well made, I thought the emotional payoff fell just a bit short, particularly with a key relationship that was integral to the ending but revealed too late for it to work.

Richard Bellamy said...

Well done - I agree with a lot of your picks, the funny and the sincere. Meek's Cutoff was definitely the best historical depiction, and The Tree of Life sure incorporated the best awe. Glad to see Theron up there for her performance, and the best performers in multiple performances have definitely been Fassbender and Chastain.

The chase in Blackthorn is definitely the best of the year.

Also agree with Best Dog from The Artist - though the best animated dog is Snowy from Tintin.

One of the best scenes Spielberg has ever staged is the scene in which the Brit and the German cut the wire away from the horse in War Horse, which also includes Spielberg's best effort to depict Germans as real people. Rango definitely has the allusions but the use of Bernard Herrmann's music from Vertigo in The Artist is certainly dramatic.

The movie I was most surprised about liking - Young Adult.

Best tribute to moivemaking - The Artist

Best realism - Emily (Michelle Williams) loads a single-shot rifle in real-time in Meek's Cutoff.

Best frights since the appearance of the creatures in The Descent: the demon face AND the boy dancing to "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" in Insidious

Best surprise location: Hanna escapes from the high-security installation and it turns out she's in Morocco!

Best mermaids: Pirates of the Caribbean

Best depiction of a waiter in a foofy restaurant: Shame

Best depiction of how easy we wish writing were: Limitless

Best dialogue overheard in movie audience:

(During Shame: Brandon is frantically screwing a whore from behind after he fails to get it up with a woman on a normal date.)

ELDERLY WOMAN: Who's that woman?
HUSBAND: A prostitute, I think. I don't know.

Craig said...

Best Ego: Joyce McKinney in Tabloid

Best Ethan Hawke Joke: Horrible Bosses

Best Wedding Toast: Charlotte Rampling in Melancholia

Best Loading of a Gun: Michelle Williams in Meek's Cutoff

Best Use of Silverware: Albert Brooks in Drive

Best Literal Interpretation of Life Biting You on the Ass: Melissa McCarthy's monologue in Bridesmaids

Best Reason to Not Wear Short-Shorts: Tom Hollander in Hanna

Best Reason to Hate Rural Life: The slack-jawed yokels gathering round to gape at the plowing scene in War Horse

Best Evidence Aaron Sorkin Knows Even Less about Baseball Than Facebook: Moneyball

Best Evidence Flash-Mobs are the Deepest Pit in Hell: Friends with Benefits

Best Performance in a Movie Hardly Anyone Has Seen: Rachael Harris in Natural Selection

Best Calm: The final scene in The Descendants

Best Creation: The Tree of Life

Best Destruction: Melancholia

Ed Howard said...

Best Sex Scene: Catfishlingus in Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Awesome! I've got just one.

Best Tongue-in-Cheek Use of 3D: Werner Herzog convincing a professor to throw a spear towards the camera in Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

The Film Doctor said...

Nice work, Jason. Here are some that come to mind:

Worst Waste of Time: "In Time"

Best Film to See If You Are Primarily Interested in Burning Alien Flesh: "The Thing"

Best Reason to Restrain Oneself: "Just Go With It"

Best Movie to Not See If You Want to Keep Your Illusions about the Integrity of Daniel Craig Intact: "Cowboys and Aliens"

Worst color of the year: "Green Hornet" and "Green Lantern"

Jason Bellamy said...

First, @Steven: I will add that I would like to hear more in depth how you felt about "Tinker, Tailor". I knew you weren't much of a fan of "Let the Right One In"...

I will definitely be writing a review of Tinker Tailor, hopefully before the end of the week, and it'll address some of the issues you mentioned. As for Let the Right One In, it might be an issue of subject matter. Vampires don't do much for me, so it's hard for me to fall in love with any movie about them, however well made.

Jason Bellamy said...

OK, terrific contributions, all! I knew you wouldn't let me down. A few of my favorites ...

* "Best Reasons to be Suspect of Homages" from Steven ... While I had much more love for Super 8 and Hugo than you did (the first one more on the homage front, the second one just because it captures childhood wonderment), I was left pretty cold by Rango which delighted me only when alluding to previous films, and to no satisfying end, beyond the immediate joy of recognition.

* "Best realism" from Hokahey ... Both you and Craig noted that gun-loading scene, and it's terrific -- not just because it takes such a long time but also because it's clear that she knows what she's doing. She's probably not the fastest loader, but she knows her way around a gun. Great moment.

* "Best depiction of a waiter in a foofy restaurant" from Hokahey ... Great call there. I'm not sure it's exclusive to foofy restaurants. But he's certainly the waiter who Just Doesn't Get It, and we've all been on the other end of that encounter.

* "Best dialogue overheard in movie audience" from Hokahey ... Sadly typical. I feel like I have one that should go on this list, but I might have blocked it out.

* "Best ego" from Craig ... Damn! I meant to mention Joyce and in deciding how I was going to reference her, I ended up forgetting to include her. (I was leaning toward "Best Villain Who Insists She Isn't a Villain Unless Villainy Equals Attention, In Which Case She's All For It")

* "Best Calm" from Craig ... Great call! I've also found the scene just before that, where they spread the ashes at sea and Payne gives us a shot from underwater looking up toward the floating leis, to have really stuck with me. It has a beautiful calm, too.

* "Best Creation" from Craig ... Of course!!

* "Best Tongue-in-Cheek Use of 3D" from Ed ... Part of me wonders whether Herzog was drawn to that man because of the chance to see spears in 3D (many of them are shot away from the camera) or because he just found the man curious, like so many Herzog subjects.

* "Worst Color" from Film Doc ... Thankfully of all the films you listed I've seen only some scenes from Green Hornet, which is truly painful. But your list reminded me that I managed to sidestep some duds.

Thanks again, all!

Helen said...

While I can't match the wit of this list, I'll offer:

Best use of the national flag: Saved by the Union Jack in "Attack the Block"

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Jeffery Wright's Missing Pipe: (Sincere Golf Clap) Bravo.

Jason Bellamy said...

Helen: Another glaring exclusion; I need to see Attack the Block! It keeps showing up on best lists. Thanks for writing in!

Bryce: Thank you, kind sir.

Adam Zanzie said...

Best Celebration of White, Jingoistic "Christians": Machine Gun Preacher, which I am very proud to say I did *not* see in 2011. But based on the title and premise, I could already tell it was going to suck big time. Oh, Marc Forster, WHY???

Sam Juliano said...

Jason: I was all ready to name CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS as the best showcase of 3D, until I saw Wenders's PINA near year's end. I dare say Wenders may have eclipsed even Herzog (and Scorsese) on this count. 13 ASSASSINS definitely wins for the action sequences, and love JANE winning the corset and the prize there for the toy shop in HUGO! The use of color in KEVIN? Interesting. And thew heartbreak in CERTIFIED COPY is indeed palpable. But I found myself nodding with many others here, and nice to see a little love, no matter how modest for THE CONSPIRATOR, which I though better than some gave it (or didn't give it) credit for. And yes, absolutely there on THE MILL AND THE CROSS.

This is hands down the most creative presentation I've seen on the year-in-review anywhere. Nice.

My conventional list of the Ten Best are as follows:

1. The Tree of Life
2. Mysteries of Lisbon
3. Bal (Honey)
4. Of Gods and Men
5. War Horse
6. A Separation
7. Melancholia
8. The Artist
9. Hugo
10. Jane Eyre

Of the 'nearlies' it broke my heart most to leave off:

Win Win
The Mill and the Cross
Le Quattro Volte
Certified Copy

Jason Bellamy said...

Adam: "Why?" That seems to be the question we ask of so many directors these days. Not quite sure what that means though.

Sam: Thanks for your thoughts. Your top 10 and near misses include a whopping nine films I haven't seen, which suggests that I have a lot to still look forward to. And that's exciting.

Adam Zanzie said...

@Jason: This is off-topic, but I finally found that great comment you left on my Dragon Tattoo review. Apparently Blogger flagged it as "spam", but I was able to restore it. I should be able to respond to your comment the minute my site lets me leave comments on my own posts again--which it hasn't been letting me do in the past 24 hours, for some strange reason.