Monday, December 26, 2011

Luke's Top Ten Movies 2011

2011 was a huge year for sequels and blockbusters but not a whole lot of it lived up to the hype. I adore shallow, pop culture, genre junk, but not even I was sated with many of the year's offerings. Green Lantern, Transformers 3, Cowboys and Aliens and Battle LA were all pretty godawful. Captain America was meh, and I couldn't even bear to sit through Pirates of the Carribean 4. Your Highness was like Danny McBride took a shit in my brain. 2011 was a year where not even the geniuses at Pixar could get it right! Cars 2? WTF was that all about? How did those cars build a city when they have wheels instead of hands?

So an odd year calls for an odd list with some odd choices. These are the movies I enjoyed the most. Not the best made, or the best written, or most likely to win an award - just my personal favourites. I didn't see Tree of Life if that's what you're wondering. I only saw films where the major characters were invited to join S.H.I.E.L.D. by Samuel L. Jackson at the end. Although I did see Jane Eyre. And no, it's not on the list.

Join me after the jump to read all about my Top Ten Films of 2011...
First a quick statement - the most noticeably absent film on my list is The Muppets, and that's because the cruel puppetmasters behind it have arbitrarily delayed the release here in Australia until January 12th. So I've not yet seen The Muppets, but let the world know that I totally love Muppets in general, and they would have to have completely screwed it up for it not to have appeared on my list. So more on that later...

Okay, this first one only just scrapes in, and you're going to be so pissed when you see it here.

10. The Green Hornet
Let's get divisive right off the bat. Yes, this looked like shit. No, I didn't have any interest in seeing it either. But then I did manage to catch it a couple of months ago and, despite myself, I really enjoyed it. It's easy to deride Seth Rogan's stoner schtick, but he's an affable character and his enthusiasm for unlikely superheroics is contagious. But best of all everybody looks like they're having a lot of fun, and had room to move and play around with the material. If they're having fun then I'm having fun. It will make purists crap kittens, but for me Gondry took a relatively tired concept and squeezed some energy and style out of it. In a better year, this couldn't possibly make the list, but hey... the year was kinda' shit. 

9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The biggest problem with Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that it's a Planet of the Apes movie. Because when it's a smaller tale about the relationship between James Franco, his ailing father, and a super smart chimp, the film is brilliant. It only struggles for me in the latter part where the subtlety of Andy Serkis' engaging performance is lost as the film wildly attempts to bridge to the larger mythology. But when it works, it's engaging and emotional, exciting and intimate. And that fucker Tom Felton will bully anything! I want to see a film where he nipple cripples a giraffe. 

8. Attack the Block
Murderous chav children in a South London council estate speak gibberish and fend off an alien attack. It's a small film with far more character and punch than most of the major films released this year (kids vs. aliens prove far more effective than cowboys were, despite the glut of talent involved). I liken it to Shaun of the Dead, although it's far harsher in tone, full of grit and viscera rather than continual laughs. And brace yourself some hardcore slang - watching it, we wondered if the American release had subtitles. Truth, bruv!

7. Super 8
Director J.J. Abrams wrote a love letter to Steven Spielberg and we got to read it. If you were a kid in the late seventies or early eighties then this film punched you so hard in the nostalgia button that you were weeping golden memories for a week. Sure, much of the suspense and wonder slowly dissipates as the alien menace is revealed, and there are some plot holes you could ride your flying bike through, but the sentimental ending more than makes up for it. 

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
There is very little character in this film, which is essentially a whole lot of screamed exposition across a 2 and a half hour battle. But it's still joyous to see this epic series finally come to an end, culminating in the much anticipated Harry vs. Voldemort throwdown. It's a huge accomplishment, and I've often preferred the pared down movies to the rapidly expanding manuscripts. I have to give mad props to cast, crew, and audiences alike for making it through to the end. Fist bumps. 

5. Drive
A taut, tense and increasingly gruesome thriller which builds steadily and then roars towards the finish. The only film on my list that doesn't have aliens, superheroes or explosions, but actually features quiet moments and real humans. Gosling kicks ass in this as a man of little words, a scorpion jacket, and a penetrating gaze (my guess is that this movie was almost called "Stare"). It's unsettling, but from the opening heist its impossible to look away from. It feels "real", and is a grim reminder that I used to watch great, small, clever films before the glut of comic book and eighties nostalgia blockbusters. (Plus, I've been on the roads of LA at night, and this film shoots Los Angeles like the scary shithole it actually is. It's huge, brown, smoggy and ominous - more like Bladerunner than anything else).

4. Thor
Let's just pause for a second. The dormant film student inside you is saying, "Wait, you preferred Thor to Drive?! THIS IS BULLSHIT". Look, I enjoyed myself more in Thor. I like rainbow bridges. Drive is a real film, and a well-made film, an award-winning respectful film, and it's great, but I'm not going to watch it for pleasure. Thor I'm going to be able to watch again and again. I watch Batman and Robin again and again and its a total piece of shit. But I'm a genre man. A pop culture man. An armchair Houdini, always looking to escape. You need to accept that to move on with this list...

Norse Gods are incredibly awesome. Even so, Marvel thankfully had the sense to handball the potentially silliest Avenger to a wise and capable director. Branagh successfully juggles the breezy adventure of the crazy Kirby and Lee original comics, with the broad Shakespearean angst and drama that is brewing in Asgard. Add an earthbound Asgardian-Australian Chris Hemsworth bellowing at a waitress for more mead, and the well-rounded Kat Dennings, and this solid romp doth please thou. 

3. X-Men First Class
The swinging sixties version of the X-Men is surprisingly the best yet, thanks to standout performances, a clever script, and some deft direction. Like Singer before him, director Vaughn expertly manages budget ad time constraints to create a tightly focused and cunningly economic story that squeezes every last drop out of what it has to work with and still manages to satisfyingly expand upon the mythos. Leading a cast of C-List mutants, Fassbender gives a breakout performance as Magneto, proving definitively that Wolverine is not the only badass; and nobody was complaining about the generous serving of Bacon.

2. Sucker Punch
This is a controversial choice, as I'm fully aware that the majority of (the few) people that saw it, seem to absolutely loathe it.It's a lurid, uneasy fever dream that fails to adequately establish its own rules and often grapples to even make sense. It's part music video, part fairy tale, and part cartoon. It's a bold experiment - most would say a failed experiment - but I can't help but be entranced by the unfaltering audaciousness of it all. If you are able to concede its premise, then it plays out like a twisted burlesque/action version of Walt Disney's Fantasia - a series of music-backed experimental vignettes, tied loosely together by a shared theme. Your mileage may vary, but I recommend the extended version if you're prepared to give it a try.

1. Tintin
Yes, I'm an unabashed fan the characters and the original comics, but by the end of it all I was a bigger fan of Steven Spielberg. This film is Spielberg completely unleashed! No longer constrained by the physical world, he dives into his new toybox with a joyful reckless abandon, creating innovative and imaginative sequences on a scale that we have never seen before. Couple this with stunningly beautiful animation and perfectly pitched performances, and the result is a rollicking old school action adventure story that explodes with the force of one hundred Indiana Joneses. No other movie this year was able permanently affix my idiot grin, so Tintin is easily my choice for number one. See it.

1 comment:

  1. HA you have the Finnish Tintin poster. I completely agree with all of these. GODDAMMIT AMERICA, go see Tintin.