Last week -- while saddled with flu-like symptoms -- I made a list of eleven movies from 2011 that I didn't particularly enjoy. Thankfully, it's a new week, and my flu-like symptoms have subsided. (I'm going to live!) In celebration of my second lease on life (and the fact that I'm currently on vacation in the Midwest and -- even though I grew up here -- I forgot just how nice people are; it's contagious) here is a list of my ten favorite movies from 2011.
10.) 'Warrior' I am not a fan of MMA. "Kimbo Slice": That's my attempt at naming an MMA fighter without looking. I think it may be correct because I had to look that up around the time 'Warrior' was released. I can't name another. No one saw 'Warrior,' which is somewhat surprising because I'm under the impression that there are a lot of MMA fans out there. Perhaps they decided to use their money to watch real MMA fights instead of a movie about MMA fights? I remember sitting at my local neighborhood pub in late August when a commercial for 'Warrior' played in-between innings of a baseball game. The reaction at the bar was something along the lines of, "Good lord, that looks awful." I had seen 'Warrior' and knew that it was not awful, but I knew that there was no way that 'Warrior' could lose that perception. But, yes, the story is that good. And, yes, I cried during 'Warrior.'
9.) 'Horrible Bosses' I just could not stop laughing during 'Horrible Bosses.' And I wasn't alone. And that's pretty much it! It's a comedy and it made me laugh, a lot. So, that's why it's here. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day -- between this, 'Going the Distance' and Day's 'SNL' hosting gig -- have proven to be quite the comedic duo. And I also feel that the world has been waiting for a good 'A Snow Falling on Cedars' subplot, so it's nice that we, as a society, finally have that. Also: I'm can't think of a time that I enjoyed Colin Farrell more.
8.) 'Attack the Block' 'Attack the Block' was everything that I wanted 'Super 8' to be. Whereas 'Super 8' paid homage to "alien films involving adolescents" of the past, 'Attack the Block' paved bold new ground. And the best part: the aliens. For a couple of reasons. Thankfully, 'Attack the Block' skips the recent trend that aliens must be lizard-like and scaly, and instead delivers an all black four-legged creature with glowing teeth. Also, the aliens aren't after revenge or Earth's resources (spoilers): they're following the pheromones of a female that splattered onto a group of kids after they killed her. So the actions of the aliens are completely based on biology -- which is kind of how nature operates. So, yes, 'Attack the Block' just may be the most reasonable movie of 2011.
7.) 'X-Men: First Class' My second favorite scene in any movie from 2011 comes during the climatic battle to end 'X-Men: First Class.' Where most action films go for the bigger and better explosions, 'First Class' ended with a coin slicing through the villain's forehead in a slow motion sequence intercut with a screaming Charles Xavier. It was horrific, beautiful, nuanced and brilliant.
6.) 'Win Win' If 'Win Win' had come out later in the year, instead of in March, it would have the 'Little Miss Sunshine'-type buzz that indie darlings get during awards season. In other words, the "it's not going to win, but it's a feel-good movie that everyone seems to like"-type buzz. (For the record, 'Sunshine' was released in late July.) I mean, it has all of the elements: quirky families, sports, second chances, Jeffrey Tambor. Jeffrey Tambor!
5.) 'Hugo' I knew nothing about Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' before I saw it. That's a problem. With this job, I have that luxury because the only thing I'm investing is my time, not my money. So, yes, a movie that transforms from a children's story into something completely different is best seen with as little knowledge as possible -- but how is the average adult moviegoer going to know this movie is for them, not their kids? Regardless, 'Hugo' was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2011. And quite possibly the best 3D I've ever seen.
4.) 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' If I were making a list of "Most Annoying Movie Titles" from 2011, this would be second only to 'Real Steel' (because I had a bat habit of typing "Reel Steal"). I saw 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' on the same day that I saw 'Melancholia,' another film (that has grown on me exponentially) with an overwhelming sense of dread that I almost included on this list, too. In 'Melancholia,' the dread is real. In the first scene of the film, we see Earth destroyed by a rogue planet called Melancholia -- so we know that's coming. In 'Martha Marcy May Marlene,' we have no idea if the dread is even real, but it's definitely palpable. And, unlike 'Melancholia,' the ending is vague. This is understandably polarizing, but I'm a sucker for vague endings. And that's why 'Martha' makes the list and not 'Melancholia.'
3.) 'The Artist' A year ago, you would not be able to convince me, no matter how much booze you made me drink, that I'd include a black and white silent film on a list of movies that I enjoyed. But, alas, here it is. The only reason that it's not higher up on the list is because I do think that it's about 15 minutes too long. I wrote about this last week, but I think the reason 'The Artist' works so well is that even with such a highbrow concept -- a black and white silent film being made in 2011 -- the story is not quite the auteurist wet-dream that you would believe. And it is a testament to the acting that my memories of 'The Artist' include words, yet this is a movie without many words. To put it another way: Even though 'The Artist' is a silent movie, I didn't feel like I was watching a silent movie.
2.) '50/50' I was so sure that '50/50' was going to be a dud. Something about the notion of a "cancer comedy" just screamed 'Funny People 2.' (It didn't help that both films starred Seth Rogen.) My favorite scene in any movie from 2011 is right after Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets high during his first chemotherapy session. As 'To Love Somebody' by the Bee Gees plays, Adam takes walk out of the hospital that's equally surreal and disturbing -- almost, in a way, seeing his own future in the form of the debilitated and the dead. But he can't help but laugh. Of course, the marijuana is a big reason for this; but it's almost as if Adam is laughing in the face of his own demise. It was at this point that I realized that '50/50' was certainly not 'Funny People.'
1.) 'Rango' I almost skipped 'Rango' because I had it confused with 'Rio.' Halfway through 'Rango,' I leaned over to my girlfriend and asked, "When are the birds going to show up?" Boy, I'm sure glad that I didn't skip 'Rango.' I've sung its praises at Vanity Fair, Movieline and now here. Admittedly, perhaps it was my less than enthusiastic perception of what 'Rango' was supposed to be that influenced my now unadulterated love. I mean, 'Rango' is just so weird. And I love 'Rango' for being this weird, because it certainly didn't have to be this weird. 'Rango' certainly didn't have to include a hallucinatory scene involving Clint Eastwood driving a golf cart, but it did.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes 'Star Wars' a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.
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