It’s that time again. Time for my second annual year-end awards show listing my favourite films plus a bunch of other categories that I either stole from real awards shows or just made up.
The first thing that needs to be said before we get started is that this was a rough year for film. I don’t think I realized just how rough it was until I looked over my top ten list from last year and my first thought was…wow! 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Social Network, Inception, Kick Ass (yeah I said it) christ even Easy A gave me a smile just at the memory of my realization that it had to be on my list. Last year was a great year for film, better than I think I knew at the time. But, though coming up with a top ten was a little more daunting than I expected (I seriously considered just doing a top eight) I’m still proud of the choices I made and I really think that they represent, in my opinion, the best the year had to offer.
Okay, two quick caveats. 1: I haven’t seen all of this years Oscar hopefuls yet as they won’t be coming to Canada until mid January or even February. Specifically I’m taking about A Dangerous Method, The Iron Lady, We need to talk about Kevin and Margaret which I literally just saw two hours ago so it’s a little early to process it. I know officially those are 2011 movies but I’m going to roll them into 2012.
Also, as some will notice, this years main Oscar hopefuls actually didn’t make my list. It’s not because I didn’t like them, I liked a couple of them a great deal, it’s just because, well, in each case there’s at least ten movies I liked better. So, for the record, The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo are all fine films that you should go and see. But they are not my favourite films of the year. Those are…
10: Crazy, Stupid, Love
Proof that romantic comedies can be clever and break with traditional story structure, Crazy, Stupid, Love is the cinematic equivalent of a book that you didn’t expect to pick up but then you can never put down. With its mature look at divorce and its “how did I not see that coming!” twists and turns, this film is just an absolute treat.
9: Source Code
A science fiction film that isn’t an action film? Yeah, I was shocked too. Source Code‘s story of a soldier suddenly thrust into the body of someone he doesn’t even know on a train that’s about to blow up is like the kind of thing we hope to see from the upcoming big screen Twilight Zone reboot. Look, I know the reaction to Source Code (both from critics and from the people I drink beer with) tended to be that it was good, not great. But I’m here to say that Source Code is a movie that will gain more and more audience every year until it becomes a mainstay on late night science fiction and at whatever the future equivalent of a Video Store is. And God dammit I don’t want to wait ten years to recognize it. I WANT TO RECOGNIZE IT NOW! And so I did. there you go.
8: The Skin I live in
Almodovar’s twisted tale about a disturbed scientist and the mysterious girl that he keeps in a room in his house is so full of surprises that it’s impossible to discuss this film in depth without giving away key plot points. All that I can say is that if you are a writer and you’re thinking about playing with timelines and flashbacks in your upcoming script, see this film first so you can know how it’s done. It’s not for the squeamish by any means, but if you like to be challenged while you’re being entertained then seek this out.
7: Margin Call
Do you want to know how the U.S.A managed to build a mountain of money then somehow fall off of it? Well then check out this sadly overlooked film and you will know, at least a portion, of why it is that a nation so rich can make itself so poor. But it’s not just the economics lesson that makes this film so amazing. It’s the tense story, the great performances, and the filmmakers crazy ability to be opinionated without seeming preachy that made Margin Call one of the best films of the year.
6: Midnight In Paris
Woody Allen continues to be my one “if I had to fuck a guy” pick by showing a consistent ability to be brilliant and articulate and funny and memorable and god dammit HE’S JUST SO FUCKING GOOD. With its time travel plot involving an author visiting his literary idols, Woody Allen manages to show just how much he knows about great artists from history without ever making it feel over the audiences head. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an awesome cast, including Owen Wilson who plays the Woody clone in this one, and does it better than any other actor yet.
5: The Trip
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (two english comedians) pulled off something special here with their heavily improvised film in which they play themselves, travelling across the English countryside reviewing various fine dining restaurants. It could have been a silly romp, but the decision to mix in sub plots about the actor’s families and about the all too familiar (to Canadians) dilemma concerning the merits and flaws of trying to make it big in America vs. taking the success you get at home and being just fine with it adds some serious depth to the whole thing. This movie managed to be hilarious, moving, and intensely realistic. Plus, the scene where the two actors compete against each other with dueling Michael Caine impersonations needs to be seen to be believed.
4: The Ides of March
While everyone’s been going all Clooney eyed over The Descendants (which as I said, is very good. Go see it. Really) they seem to have been glossing over one of the best political thrillers in recent memory. This engrossing and tightly paced film could have easily been directed by Robert Redford or Sidney Pollack as it shows an adept hand at pacing, reveal, and a love for Oscar worthy actors ripping up the scenery with some serious dialogue (check out Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman as they use their oratory skills like they were super powers) Really, when I think about it, this is not a political thriller. It’s a thriller that contains politicians, trying to be more than they are only to discover that they are all too human.
How did this one fall into the cracks?
Hanna tells the story of a rogue government agent who also happens to be a small child. And for the duration of the movie it actually makes sense. And it takes it seriously and it mixes music with action in a way that makes me pray to God that academy voters can extend their memories back to the beginning of the year so that AT THE VERY LEAST this will get a nomination for best score (I’m realistic, this ain’t getting a best picture nod). By balancing its complicated subject matter with its high octane action, Hanna manages to feel like both mainstream entertainment and independent cinema at the same time. Not easy to pull off but the filmmakers were obviously up to the task.
2: Attack the Block
Attack the Block is the best eighties movie to come out of 2011 and quite possibly one of my favourite genre films of all time. This film, about an alien invasion that happens in an impoverished neighbourhood in England, manages to be one of the most socially relevant and at the same time one of the most entertaining films of the year. The dialogue feels so accurate, the characters (a group of teenaged drug dealers that are the only force available to fight the invasion) manage to go from morally reprehensible to sympathetic within a matter of scenes. And oh my god is this sucker well directed. Joe Cornish (his first feature) has managed to make this story feel more personal than any science fiction film since E.T. It’s just an amazing piece of art and, when I saw it, I didn’t think it would be possible for any film I saw this year to top it. That was until I saw…
1: Young Adult
I had already been compiling my top ten list when I went and saw this film and I admit, given the pedigree of people involved (the writer/director team behind Juno) I was hoping it would squeeze on to my list somewhere. What I didn’t expect it to do was kick my ass so thoroughly. Young Adult (The story of a former bad girl, now author, returning to her old home town to steal her high school sweatheart away from his wife and child) is such an incredibly audacious film, equal parts raunchy and tender, that you never know what it’s going to hit you with next.
This movie doesn’t have a single off moment. Everything fits into this hideous but utterly compelling puzzle. From it’s surprisingly understated dialogue by Diablo Cody, to it’s perfectly staged scenes directed by Jason Reitman, to the stellar cast (Charlize Theron once again shows she’s unfairly talented and Patton Oswalt gives one of the most touching performances of the year) Young Adult is, in my opinion, a perfect film. And as far as I’m concerned it’s the best film this year had to offer.
Okay, next up on the awards show we have…
Best Canadian Film
5: Down the road again
2: Daydream Nation
1: Cafe De Flore.
Cafe De Flore is just one hell of a good film that, as they say, sticks with you long after you’ve finished watching.
Best foreign film
5: Life above All
3: Little white lies
2: In a better world
1: the Skin I live in
No shock here as The Skin I live in made my over all top ten. I will repeat what I said in my original review. I just LOVE this bug fuck crazy film.
4: Page One
3: Bill Cunningham New York
2: Project Nim
1: Conan O’brien can’t stop
And he can’t. Conan O’brien can’t stop is one of the most entertaining portrayals of one of the most funny people on two feet who just happened to be having one of the hardest years of his life.
Best Animated film
5: Mars Needs Moms
4: Kung Fu Panda 2
2: Arthur Christmas
1: Winnie the Pooh
It was a slow year for animation (which is a nice way of saying that Pixar took a nap) but even if I’d seen a hundred animated films this year I’m almost sure Winnie the Pooh would still easily top my list. It’s the only kids movie I saw in the last twelve months that really and genuinely made me feel like a kid.
Okay, now for some more personal awards.
Movies you should have liked, but didn’t (Or I’m right and the critics are wrong part 1)
3: Sucker Punch
1: Big Year
Seriously, what was the problem with Big Year? Look, I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece but it’s genuinely funny, well written, and honestly its the best film Steve Martin’s made in a long time. But the studio buried it, the critics panned it, and no one went to see it. Thankfully it’ll be on DVD soon. Ignore the haters, I say it’s worth a look.
Movies you shouldn’t have liked, but did (I’m right and the other critics are wrong 2)
3. Like Crazy
2: Puss in Boots
Do you know who Lars Von Trier’s favourite filmmaker is? I bet you can guess.
5: Tower Heist
4: Something Borrowed
3: The sitter.
2: I don’t know how she does it.
1: Umm….that one Nicolas Cage was in. You know, I think he was a witch hunter? And the guy from Beauty and the Beast was in it too. No it wasn’t straight to video it was in the theatre. No…not Drive Angry, that was actually kind of fun. Aw forget it, I’ll tell you when I remember.
4: Your Highness
3: Paranormal Activity 3
2: Battle Los Angeles
1: Super 8
I had such high hopes for Super 8 and for the first half hour or so I really thought it was going to be something special. Then it turned out the heartwarming alien that we were all supposed to be rooting for was actually kidnapping humans and eating them in an underground cave. Made it tough to be happy when the rag tag group of kids rescued it.
Movie I really wish I liked, but just didn’t
5: Tree of Life
4: Martha Marcy May Marlene
3: Take Shelter
2: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
So many critics that I admire liked this move so much that I realize there has to be SOMETHING there. But, as much as I want to see it I just don’t. All I see is a big art wank with underdeveloped characters and bad music choices. Oh, and surprisingly little driving.
Okay, apologizing in advance…
5: Monte Carlo yeah I said it.
4: Glee the 3D Concert movie just a bunch of good kids.
3: Justin Beiber 3D got some weird looks when I saw this alone.
2: Shark Night 3D Oh come on, you like it too.
1: The Smurfs Yes, I know. in the same stretch of page I just criticized Drive and recommended the Smurfs. I’ll get sterilized in the morning, don’t worry.
And finally, the worst films of the year were…
Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil, Beastly, Prom, Just go with it, Jack and Jill, Textuality, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits, The Three Musketeers, Appollo 18, The Thing, Spy Kids: All the Time in the world, Straw Dogs, What’s your Number? New Years Eve,
and the worst film of the year was…
Tie: Bucky Larson Born to be a star and The Art of Getting by
One was an abysmal comedy that made me wish I was dead. One was a horrendously predictable and horribly over written teen movie that tried to dress it self up as an independent film. Both made me wonder how it was some people actually get funding.
Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with an update about the future of seeeveryfilm (hint, it’s positive) plus a little on what I’m going to be up to for the next little while.
Jacob Spencer AKA Sef.