The Best Movies Of 2011

// March 4, 2012
Written by Zavero

The one good thing about the Oscars is that it gets everyone, thinking and talking about the movies. So I’m a week late in shaming the self-congratulatory circle jerk that is the Academy but here are my favorites, and then some, from the year 2011.

After the jump the best, the worst, Team Jacob, the apocalypse, and real heroes.

The Top 20
Missed the cut:
The Adventures of Tintin
The Artist
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The Ides of March
Like Crazy
Margin Call
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Source Code
Super 8
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Win Win
X-Men: First Class

20. A Separation / Asghar Farhadi
“What is wrong is wrong, no matter who says or where it’s written.”

A divorce petition sets in motion a series of events, misunderstandings, and quandaries where the question of right and wrong lingers upon every scene of this Iranian domestic drama, which is elevated by an engrossing screenplay and fully realized performances all around.

19. The Skin I Live In / Pedro Almodovar
“The things the love of a madman can do!”

Almodovar blends his trademark themes of identity and gender politics with a disturbing brand of horror to create a dark twisted fantasy topped with a Hitchcockian flourish. Antonio Banderas as a deeply troubled plastic surgeon is his first good leading role in a good movie in a very, very long time. He keeps a beautiful young woman locked up in his house. The reason why is rather fucked up.

18. Red State / Kevin Smith
“People just do the strangest things when they believe they’re entitled. But they do even stranger things when they just plain believe.”

A major departure for the writer/director best known for his dialogue-driven comedies (I think the camera moves more times in the third act alone than it does in the entirety of Clerks and Chasing Amy combined) where a group of teenagers run into a family of Phelps-like fundamentalists headed by a nutty but terrifying Michael Parks.

17. Moneyball / Bennett Miller
“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game.”

Deviating from the formulaic underdog story of the coach that inspires or the player who rises to the challenge, Bennett Miller’s pondering character study of the Oakland A’s general manager during the 2002 season is one of the more thoroughly entertaining movies of the year. I can watch Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill making trades over the phone and dropping Sorkin-isms all day.

(Sidebar: How nice must it be to have an old Brad Pitt play your onscreen persona when in actuality you look more like a young Billy Bob Thorton?)

16. Attack the Block / Joe Cornish
“Allow it.”

Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) friend and collaborator Joe Cornish’s directorial debut about a group of inner city kids defending their block against an alien invasion is too much madness to explain in one text!

15. The Descendants / Alexander Payne
“Paradise? Paradise can go fuck itself.”

Matt King’s (George Clooney) world tailspins in the wake of his wife’s coma and the revelation that she’s been having an affair, and he and his two daughters are forced to face the hard truths and harsh realities of the ties that bind. Alexander Payne’s least angry effort, and most pensive. Just when you’re wondering why a certain simpleminded male companion of the older daughter is even necessary, he and Clooney have a conversation that’s one of the movie’s standouts.

14. Take Shelter / Jeff Nichols
“Is anyone seeing this?”

No one plays disturbed quite as perfectly as Michael Shannon (Boardwalk EmpireMy Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?Revolutionary Road if you need proof), in this case a small-town man plagued by apocalyptic nightmares that convince him to build a storm shelter. Taking out a loan on the house without telling his wife, compromising his job, and distancing himself from everyone he knows are merely occupational hazards. A review on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an entertaining movie, wondered how James Franco’s character must have been feeling about all the chaos that ensues. It’s true, most big event movies discard the psyche, thought processes, and emotional complexities of its characters but Take Shelter—at it’s core a disaster movie without the spectacle of disaster—dives head first into such issues. It’s one of several great movies this year that painstaking explores the aspects of mental illness. How do people perceive you—your family, friends, community, yourself? His descent is painful to watch. His desire to protect his family is noble. The suspense is killing. And it’s of course not without the quintessential Michael Shannon freakout scene.

13. Hugo / Martin Scorsese
“If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around… this is where they’re made.”

Scorsese’s first children’s movie—in the sense that the two main characters are children. Similar to Steven Spielberg’s first foray into animation with The Adventures of Tintin, a family-friendly 3D historical fiction/adventure/mystery allows Scorsese’s imagination to run free, and thus it’s also one of his more overtly personal films. If The Artist is a love letter to cinema, Hugo comes with bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates. It also makes a much stronger case for film history by using new technology to its advantage rather than just aping an old format. I loved when Hugo (Asa Butterfield) takes Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) to see her first movie Safety Last! As Harold Lloyd dangles from a giant clock she gasps fearing he may actually plunge to his death. Of all things it reminded me of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol‘s big setpiece. Decades later that level of excitement, element of surprise, and everlasting magic of going to the movies is still there, and who better than the master to remind us.

12. Certified Copy / Abbas Kiarostami
“Stay with me. Stay. It’s better. Better for both of us. For you and for me. Give us that chance.”

The afternoon spent in scenic Tuscany with a man and a woman raises intriguing questions about the nature of love and life and life and love, offering multiple interpretations and absolutely no answers. A blind viewing is the best and only way to watch it as in typical Kiarostami fashion, nothing is quite as it seems (no, Juliett Binoche does not get murdered in the shower within the first twenty minutes; still, even the basic premise shouldn’t be spoiled). Fans of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset should easily be won over.

11. Young Adult / Jason Reitman
“It was time to look to the future; a new chapter. As she boarded the train for Cambridge, she took one last look at her small town and blew it a kiss, thinking: Life, here I come.”

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reunite for a dark comedy about an ex-prom queen who years later is a divorced ghost-writer of a soon to be canceled series of young adult novels. She returns to the small hometown she proudly left behind with the intention of winning back her high school sweetheart, who she knows full well is happily married with a newborn having just arrived. Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary is the biggest onscreen bitch in recent memory but to Theron’s credit and Cody’s scripting, also one of the more interesting. She’s able to find solace in the former school nerd played by Patton Oswalt and their scenes together are a treat to watch. Unlikeable characters don’t need sympathy, just understanding. Young Adult asks for nothing more.

Special Mention
The Raid / Gareth Evans
“Squeezing the trigger is like ordering take out.”

This will qualify as a 2012 release for everyone else, but I saw it in 2011 and don’t want to wait until this time next year to talk about it. Sony will release it North America in late March, re-titled as The Raid: Redemption with a new score by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.

“1 ruthless crime lord, 20 elite cops, 30 floors of hell” is as accurate a plot description as it gets. While Hollywood action movies have become tiresome and generic in aspiring for nothing more than a car chase, shootout, or explosion, The Raid raises the bar to a level that many won’t even be capable of touching with their fingertips. It’s one of only two movies, along with Gareth Evans’ previous Merantau, to incorporate the Indonesian martial arts school of Penchak Silat, a style of fighting that involves hard hitting hand-to-hand combat as well as a variety of bladed weapons that is crucial to the movie’s energy and inventiveness; giving us something we’ve never seen before. Iko Uwais, the leading man of both movies, is also in charge of fight choreography alongside Yayan Ruhian, who plays the main villain’s right-hand man Mad Dog. These guys are a force of nature. Scene after scene, reactions in my theater teetered between “Oh, Shit!”, “What The Fuck!”, and “Wow” as machetes swung, firearms were fired at close range (to the face, no less), body parts were mangled, and bones were broken, shattered, and destroyed. Going by the old Howard Hawkes axiom of a good movie being three great scenes and no bad ones, The Raid bests that by about eight or nine, or ten great scenes. There’s a hallway fight that would send Oh Dae-Su running for the hills.

With VOD and piracy increasingly threatening the in-theater experience, The Raid is a movie that vindicates the shared experience of moviegoing. Being surrounded by a crowd that simultaneously cheered, cringed, laughed, and applauded throughout—as if we were witness to a live sporting event or parking lot brawl—couldn’t be more rewarding. I’ve never had more fun, pleasure, or joy watching a movie.

10. Super / James Gunn
“Wow, in between the panels. Is that where we are right now? We could do anything here.”

Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, and Captain America: The First Avenger were more commercially recognized but the best superhero movie of 2011 was about the Crimson Bolt—the crime fighting alter ego of a timid short-order cook (Rainn Wilson) who takes it upon himself to win back his wife (Liv Tyler) from an evil strip club owner (Kevin Bacon) and right society’s wrongs while he’s at it. He and his pipe wrench weapon choice kindly remind us, “Don’t steal! Don’t molest kids! Don’t deal drugs! Shut up, crime!” All in the service of doing the right thing.

Along the way he recruits Boltie, played by a hilarious Ellen Page. The two of them make a wonderful hero/sidekick tandem—as teased in the opening number of Juno years ago—that you can’t help but root for no matter how deranged and deluded their actions may be. But the movie really won me over with how big its heart is. Beneath all the comic vigilantism is a deeply moving and poignant character piece about self-discovery and self-worth all but underscored by Wilson’s phenomenal performance. The last beat of the movie made me want to cry. It’s really just about a guy who just wants to win back his love. It’s something worthwhile.

9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / Tomas Alfredson
“It’s the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies?”

Alfredson’s follow-up to the cold, clinical, unconventional vampire movie Let the Right One In is a cold, clinical, unconventional Cold War spy drama starring a who’s who of OG’s led by an atypically reserved and laconic Gary Oldman. In lesser hands, this might’ve been about Tom Hardy’s adventures on the run. Instead, it’s a voyeuristic presentation of international espionage as a bleak and desolate world that chew these men up and spit them out damaged and irreparable.

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / David Fincher
“She’s different.”
“In what way?”
“In every way.”

The plot follows the Swedish version almost beat for beat, the identity of the killer remains the same, so does the resolution to the mystery. But the little things, the minor tweaks, character nuances, and improved details (and a more sizable budget) gives it the look and feel of a completely different movie. It expands where the original left off in examining the consequences of violence, whether from a misogynistic father or perverted legal guardian, and the prevalence of evil passed on from generation to generation. At first I too wondered why Fincher, with carte blanche after The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, would take on his third murder mystery. First of all, he’s mastered the investigative process. Secondly, it isn’t really a murder mystery. He’s not as invested in the whodunit as he is in letting Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, these two outcasts, wander around in the dead of the winter. Mara as heroine Lisbeth Salander is so magnetic, I even liked that prolonged denouement that many have written off just because I enjoy watching her light up the screen. With moments of extreme violence and darkness, there are also moments of tenderness like the morning after when they both tell each other, “I like working with you.”

7. 50/50 / Jonathan Levine
“No one will just come out and say it, like, ‘Hey man, you’re gonna die.'”

In a top ten inundated with end of the world prophecies, the mentally unstable, and ultra violence, it’s worth noting that 50/50 is a life-affirming drama in the guise of a feel-good buddy comedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a young man diagnosed with cancer and given a 50% chance of survival (he doesn’t drink or smoke, and even recycles) and Seth Rogen is his loyal best friend. Their friendship is paramount to our enjoyment, so to speak, in watching them come to grips with such a dreadful situation. Rogen tries to rationalize by naming celebrities who have survived,
“Lance Armstrong—he keeps getting it. The guy from Dexter. Patrick Swayze.”
“But that guy’s dead.”

Where they could’ve easily gone for schmaltz like the similarly themed The Bucket List, they go for sincerity and truthfulness. The scene when he tells his mom is heart-wrenching to watch—you just don’t want to be in that room with them. Or conversely the scene pictured above when you do want to be right there. The one when he’s high on medicinal marijuana, Gordon-Levitt’s face sublimely captures the perennial fear every person young or old has of death; he could be any one of us or our friends. And one scene involving a book made me sink in my seat. Nothing in life is taken more for granted than life itself and 50/50 is the one movie last year that reminded my dumb fucking self to stop and smell the roses, and think of all the people who have come and gone. And stayed.

6. Martha Marcy May Marlene / Sean Durkin
“We’re never really dead or alive. We just exist.”

Here’s a haunting, discomforting, and impressive movie about the troubled soul. John Hawkes plays Patrick, the leader of an abusive cult not unlike The Family—his physical resemblance to Charles Manson couldn’t have been a coincidence in casting—and Elizabeth Olsen is Martha (her birth name), Marcy May (given to her by Patrick), and Marlene (the name every female cult member uses to answer the phone). Why they answer with Marlene, we’re never told. As with most other facets of the cult, Durkin shows just enough for us to fill in the blanks without any concern for the cult’s history, politics, or modus operandi. It opens with Martha escaping, after two years or so of being cut off and completely out of touch with the real world. Soon enough the past, as always, catches up to her. Much of the film feels like a bad dream. Martha’s sister, her last remaining family, doesn’t understand. She can’t understand. As she tries to readjust, she’ll often be reminded of her traumatic time with Patrick and the cult and although presented without ambiguity, there are no clear indicators between flashbacks and the present day. It’s one of the many masterful decisions in the filmmaking, the kind that puts you not just in the character’s shoes but underneath their skin.

Olsen—yes, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley—is a marvel in first feature film debut. Meryl Streep has made a hell of a career playing exuberant and vivacious characters, but here’s a woman who can look at herself in the mirror and break your heart.

5. The Tree of Life / Terrence Malick
“The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”

Brad Pitt is a father in 1950s Texas, but that is literally just a fraction of the equation. Encompassing the beginning, the end, and everything in between, this is the pastor’s speech in Synecdoche, New York visualized. Voiceovers filter in and out as prayers not narration, one cut takes you from one decade to the next—it’s heaven for anyone who worships the altar of Terrence Malick. His fifth film in an elusive thirty year career is his most challenging and profound, capturing the full spectrum of the human experience with immense scope, unmatched ambition, and images so vivid it tingles even the olfactory senses. Many have used the medium to explore the meaning of life, few have actually made one about it.

4. Shame / Steve McQueen
“We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”

Michael Fassbender, who’s fearlessness reminds me of Heath Ledger’s, is Brandon Sullivan, a successful thirty-something New Yorker who regularly masturbates in the office bathroom and spends most of the lonely nights in the company of prostitutes—although he can just as easily eyefuck the woman at the bar to a back alley tryst. When his sister (Carey Mulligan) comes to town and crashes at his apartment, his routine is thrown out of whack and things downspiral from there on. It becomes painfully clear as the plot unravels that his uncontrollable need for sex is a lowly substitute for an even bigger need for human connection. That’s where Shame hits the mark. Passed off as the sex addict movie on surface level, it’s a thorough and insightful look at the crippling effects of addiction, incapacitating nature of sickness, and how loneliness is a place without hope or clarity. Not many employ the long-take as expertly as Steve “Not Bullitt” McQueen. That excruciating single take dinner date tells all. With a background in the visual arts, McQueen is a patient and observant filmmaker that never takes a single frame for granted. His version of Manhattan is uncompromising, isolated, and fully absorbing.

3. Midnight in Paris / Woody Allen
“Have you ever made love to a truly great woman? And when you make love to her, you feel true and beautiful passion and you for at least that moment lose your fear of death? I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face like some rhino hunters I know, or Belmonte, who’s truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds, until it returns as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again. Think about it.”

Owen Wilson balls so hard Owen Wilson nails down the quirks and mannerisms of the Woody Allen surrogate to a T. Rachel McAdams embraces the part of the bitch fiancée with a brazen assurance. Michael Sheen falls victim to a rehash of the the classic Marshall McLuhan bit from Annie Hall. Many pleasant surprises along the way involving Marion Cotillard, Tom Hiddleston, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, and a scene stealing Corey Stoll as Woody proves time and time again that he isn’t finished. A tribute to the finer things in life. Nostalgia, ultra.

I want to go for a nice, long walk in the rain with a pretty girl now.

2. Melancholia / Lars von Trier
“Life is only on Earth. And not for long.”

Depression isn’t often depicted in film in a way that’s fair or authentic. None have ever taken it head-on. Dissociative disorders, schizophrenia, and amnesia all lend to more traditional and enticing (and exaggerated) plotting but depression is characterized by lifelessness and inactivity, making it difficult to capture visually in a way that isn’t boring to watch. Well, bring on Lars von Trier and the end of the world. It may not be the definitive cinematic dossier on clinical depression, but I can’t imagine anyone who’s ever directly or indirectly dealt with it not finding some sort of reliability. Divided into two acts concerning two sisters during a lavish wedding reception and the days before the planet Melancholia, as it were, passes by the Earth, von Trier (having suffered from it himself) isn’t ignorant to how insuperable and paralyzing the condition gets and offers us something that is at once downbeat and inspiring. As Kirsten Dunst, in a career best, wallows in abject misery while everyone from a desperate Charlotte Gainsbourg as her sister to Kiefer Sutherland as her wealthy brother-in-law is helpless in helping her, I think of Sufjan Stevens’ “All Delighted People”, which could’ve crazily soundtracked the beautiful slow motion prologue just as fittingly as Wagner, “I tried my best I tried in vain, oh, but the world is a mess. But the world is a mess.”

1. Drive / Nicolas Winding Refn
“I don’t sit-in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”

Ryan Gosling plays a mechanic and a Hollywood stunt driver by day, getaway driver (and a real hero) by night. He has no name. No family, no friends, no history, “He just showed up here one day,” and imbues an air of mythos and mystery reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name or Alan Delon in Le Samourai. He meets a girl played by Carey Mulligan and falls for her. Albert Brooks goes against type as a ruthless mobster. Oscar Isaac goes against cliché as Mulligan’s ex-con husband. Bryan Cranston is the driver’s mentor. Ron Perlman, another mobster who gets into the mix. It’s no surprise the James Sallis adaptation was originally set up as an action vehicle for Hugh Jackman until Gosling, who’s never played a comic book character or starred in a summer blockbuster, landed the script and handpicked a Danish filmmaker who’s claim to fame was The Pusher Trilogy to rework it as an existential neo-noir. Familiar elements of the heist-gone-wrong, John Hughes romance, Michael Mann’s Los Angeles, European minimalism, the superhero genre, Steve McQueen classics, the western, Taxi Driver, the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, and a hypnotic soundtrack all come together for a movie that is so cool, so seductive, so unabashedly stylish, and so unapologetically cinematic. Refn’s passion for film is just as fervent as the on screen love story. From the font in the opening credits to the scorpion on the back of The Gos’ now iconic jacket that he dons like a cape, the rubber mask, the speech, the music, everything about it is inherently tailor-made for the movies. The Driver holding a hammer and a bullet to a thug’s head in a room full of topless women is almost too perfect.

The most romantic kind of love isn’t unrequited, it’s unconsummated. And Drive is one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. Fewer goodbyes are as touching as, “I just want you to know, just getting to be around you was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Years from now I’m going to look back and remember a moonlit Kirsten Dunst lying naked by the river bank, the birth of the universe, Michael Stuhlbarg operating an old-fashioned film projector, Elle Fanning in zombie make-up, Paris in the rain, “New York, New York”, Big-Alien Gorilla-Wolf Motherfuckers, and that elevator. What a powerful and intoxicating sequence (to steal a line from my favorite character in Midnight in Paris, “true, clean and honest, and it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”) Every time I watch it, I want to pause the movie, stand up, and applaud. If I ever meet Nicolas Winding Refn I would shake his hand and tell him that it’s one of the single greatest moments to ever grace the screen. The crazy things men do in the name of women. Those fleeting moments, in her warm embrace, when the lights dim and time stands still just for you and her, you can live forever. And somewhere “A Real Hero” is playing until the end of time.

Top 10 Lead Performances

Michael Fassbender, Shame
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Kristin Dunst, Melancholia
Peyman Moadi, A Separation
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rainn Wilson, Super
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Top 10 Supporting Performances

Elle Fanning, Super 8
Michael Parks, Red State
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
Albert Brooks, Drive
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Elena Anaya, The Skin I Live In
Shahab Hosseini, A Separation
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter

The Worst of 2011
Dishonorable mentions:
J. Edgar
No Strings Attached
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

3. Straw Dogs / Rod Lurie

If David Fincher’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a shining example of justifiable remakes then this misbegotten update on Straw Dogs is the polar opposite, adding absolutely nothing new to the conversation.

2. Tower Heist / Brett Ratner

Glimpses of the Eddie Murphy of old are slighted by an extremely lazy effort (and lack of rehearsing maybe) by all else involved including but not limited to Brett Ratner, Brian Grazer, Imagine Entertainment, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper, Christophe Beck, Dante Spinotti, Mark Helfrich, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, and Eddie Murphy.

1. Abduction / John Singleton

Spoiler alert: no one gets abducted. Although false advertising is the least of the movie’s problems. It doesn’t even work as the so-bad-it’s-good kind of fluff I was hoping for, unlike, say, Immortals, where Mickey Rourke crushing a subordinate’s balls with a hammer defines guilty pleasure. John Singleton, who wrote and directed Boyz n the Hood a full twenty years ago, should now excise the movie from his résumé and replace it in big bold letters with FLUKE. I’ve always liked Boyz. It was no second coming, but it was clearly made with skill and competence—both completely absent from Abduction. The supporting cast of Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, and Sigourney Weaver all put in the minimal effort required to cash in a paycheck and Lily Collins as the romantic lead can easily be replaced (not the same can be said for her eyebrows) by any budding actress within the same age range, with the same shortage of dignity. The plot itself is an amateur ripoff of Bourne—so amateur that I don’t think Tony Gilroy should feel threatened about anyone gaining up on him any time soon. Oh, and there’s bomb in the oven? But the gravest offense is committed by movie’s star, the embarrassing lack of talent that is Team Jacob—a pawn studios desperately want to launch as the next action hero as The Twilight Saga comes to a long overdue end, or maybe not. Speaking of which, keep in mind this is a guy who was almost fired from Twilight. Almost. Fired. From. Twilight. It bears repeating. A thespian, the kid is not. He’s a trending topic. A hashtag. His line readings and failed attempts at emoting make Paul Walker look like Marlon Brando. He should be credited under the same title bestowed upon Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus in the linear notes of Milli Vanilli’s All or Nothing — “visual performer.” His one skill set is the martial arts and even then the most riveting thing he does all movie is defenestrate an already knocked out thug from a moving train, something a Spy Kid is capable of twice on a Sunday with the thug still conscious. I award you no points, Team Jacob.

Guillermo del Toro’s Mountains of Madness adaptation, despite having had Tom Cruise attached, was nixed by Universal (the same studio who’s very own president admitted to making “a lot of shitty movies”) after being deemed a financial risk at the box office, and Darren Aronofsky is struggling to get a big budget epic about Noah and the second most famed boat next to the Titanic off the ground. It’s no wonder, really, when in 2011 not one of the top five highest grossing movies of the year were original works—all sequels, four of the five based on pre-existing properties, two of those four based on young adult novels (the fourth Twilight installment obviously being one of them), the other two taken from a theme park ride and a line of action figures respectively. Granted Abduction didn’t do gangbusters, it’s the intent here that bothers me—that cash grabs like this ever get made in the first place. I can understand that star-vehicles and safe but redundant franchises keep the industry profitable and allow auteurs like del Toro and Aronofsky to work, in the rarest of occasions, on their passion projects in the first place, but then again 35mm is all but dead, every other blockbuster is taking the quick 3D conversion route to juke the stats, reboots and sequels and prequels and sidequels seem to be the only tentpoles being greenlit, and people are demanding refunds from The Artist (too artsy) and The Tree of Life (too artsy)—alarming symptoms of the declining cultural and moral tastebuds of today’s audience. The kind of audience exemplified in the woman who filed a lawsuit against Drive for having little to do with driving, disappointed it wasn’t the Fast & Furious-like adrenaline rush the trailer suggested. Lucky for her there’s Team Jacob and Abduction. A shitty movie, made by idiots for idiots.

Now the fun stuff:
Best Date Movies

Midnight in Paris
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The Artist

Best Romances
Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, Drive
William Shimell and Juliett Binoche, Certified Copy
Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Crazy Stupid, Love.

Best Bromances

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class
Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell, Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, 50/50
Yes, The Gos appears four times in the romance/bromance categories.

The Dream Team
The Driver, Drive
Rama, The Raid
Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Erik Lensherr/Magneto, X-Men: First Class
Moses, Attack the Block
Getaway driver, special forces member, hacker extraordinaire, Nazi hunter, gang leader. That should do.

Best Action Sequences
Hallway bloodbath, The Raid
Burj Khalifa, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Two setpieces that make fools out of everyone else. Both deserve credit for the sheer physicality required of the actors and minimal reliance on special effects in favor of the basics. The scene in The Raid is Iko Uwais kicking ass, plain and simple. In Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird and Tom Cruise keep the MI tradition of Ethan Hunt suspended from cables in dangerous situations fresh and original.

Best Villains

Yayan Ruhian, The Raid
Ray Sahetapy , The Raid
Albert Brooks, Drive
Mickey Rourke, Immortals
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene

Worst Villains

Michael Nyqvist, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Michael Nyqvist, Abduction
His name in Ghost Protocol, Kurt Hendricks, sounds not like an international terrorist’s but a benchwarmer for the Indiana Pacers, and he drops what may be the most egregious line in the history of cinema when he warns Team Jacob in Abduction, “If you don’t surrender that list, I will be killing every friend you have — Jake, Gilly, neighbors, even your boring teachers. And when I’m finished you’ll be responsible for the death of every friend you have on facebook.”

Worst Performance of the Year Not by an Abduction Cast Member
January Jones, X-Men: First Class
It’s easy to neg on Betty Draper because of the way she’s written, but as Emma Frost proves to be true it’s not the game, it’s the player.

Best Acting in a Bad Movie
Dominic Cooper, The Devil’s Double

Worst Acting in a Good Movie
The entire cast of Bellflower
A movie that’s otherwise worthy of the top twenty.

Motion Capture MVP

Andy Serkis, The Adventures of Tintin, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best New Addition to a Franchise

Dwayne Johnson, Fast Five
Four movies later, they’ve finally figured it out. It’s a significant step forward in the now ten year old series—feel old?—that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Worst New Addition to a Franchise
Penélope Cruz, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Best Cameo/Use of the One-Fuck Per PG-13 Rule
“Go fuck yourself”, X-Men: First Class

Best Scene Under the Influence
“To Love Somebody”, 50/50

Worst Makeup/Aging Effect

J. Edgar
Armie Hammer begs to differ.

Best Helmet

Mickey Rourke, Immortals

Best Glasses
Kat Dennings, Thor

Best Nipple Piercing
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Most Awkward Sex Scene

Most Disturbing Sex Scene
The Skin I Live In

Most Unrealistic Sex Scene
Friends with Benefits

Most Ridiculous Sex Scene
Drive Angry

Most Useless Love Interest, or The Angelina Jolie in Gone in Sixty Seconds Award
Freida Pinto, Immortals, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Least Believable Scientist, or: The Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough Award
James Franco, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Least Believable Special Agent, or: The Roselyn Sánchez in Rush Hour 2 Award
Téa Leoni, Tower Heist

Best Scientist
Jennifer Ehle, Contagion

Best Special Agent
John Goodman, Red State

Best Astrophysicist

Stellan Skarsgård, Thor
The word you’re looking for is “legendary.”

Worst Schoolteacher
Marisa Tomei, Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Best Schoolteacher
Joel Edgerton, Warrior

Best Douchebag

Michael Sheen, Midnight in Paris

Best Eyefucker

Michael Fassbender, Shame

Best Runners

Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (Hall of famer)
Michael Fassbender, Shame
John Boyega, Attack the Block
George Clooney, The Descendants
Chris Pratt, Moneyball

Best Hollywood Agent
Whoever is in charge of Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help, The Debt, Wilde Salome, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus

Nicolas Cage Quotes of the Year
“By the time I got around to Vampire’s Kiss and then Bad Lieutenant and now this movie, Drive Angry and then also Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, I had realized that I’d developed my own style and process and school of acting which is called Nouveau Shamanic. That’s the new style of acting and at some point I’ll have to write a book.”

On Drive Angry: “Well, initially what I was attracted to was the idea that I was going to get my eye shot out. The movie Season of the Witch, I wanted to get my eye shot out with a bow and arrow, and the producers didn’t go for it. We never really got there. Even though they said they would, it never really happened. So when Patrick Lussier said to me, ‘You’re going to get your eye shot out in a movie,’ I don’t know why but I just immediately said yes, I’m in, because it was something that I wanted to do. It’s as simple as that.”

Most Thankless Post-Oscar Nomination Role
Gabourey Sidibe, Tower Heist

Most Thankless Post-Oscar Win Role
Christoph Waltz, The Green Hornet

Parole Violations

Robert De Niro, New Year’s Eve, Limitless, Killer Elite
Al Pacino, Jack and Jill
Tom Hanks, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Larry Drown Larry Crowne

The Movie Everyone Else Liked But I Didn’t

The Movie Every Critic Liked But I Didn’t
Meek’s Cutoff

Most Ill-advised Mustache

Channing Tatum, The Son of No One

Best Mustaches

Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Sacha Baron Cohen, Hugo
Bruce Greenwood, Meek’s Cutoff
Laurence Fishburne, Contagion

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Jeff Cronenweth, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hoyte van Hoytema, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia
Sean Bobbitt, Shame
Robert Richardson, Hugo
Newton Thomas Sigel, Drive

Best Original Screenplays
Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Diablo Cody, Young Adult
Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy
Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan, Shame
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Will Reiser, 50/50
Mike Mills, Beginners

Best Adapted Screenplays
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, Moneyball
Steve Zaillian, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hoissein Amini, Drive
George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March

Best Original Scores
The Chemical Brothers, Hanna
Cliff Martinez, Drive
Mychael Danna, Moneyball
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Howard Shore, Hugo
Patrick Doyle, Thor
Basement Jaxx, Attack the Block

Best Original Songs
“Think You Can Wait”, Win Win
“Shelter”, Take Shelter
“Hanna’s Theme”, Hanna

Best Musical Interlude

Best Torture Scene Background Music, or: The “Stuck in the Middle with You” Award
“Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)”, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Opening Credits Songs
“Nightcall”, Drive
“The Immigrant Song”, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
“Tristan und Isolde”, Melancholia
“The Concept”, Young Adult
“Volare”, The Rum Diary

Worst End Credits Song
“The Show”, Moneyball
The screenplay originally had it as Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind”

Best End Credits Song
“A Real Hero”, Drive
“La Mer”, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
“Dead Hearts”, Like Crazy

Best Posters

Worst Posters
Everyone may have a breaking point, but not common sense.

Pinning these on an intern or the special needs nephew of a suit is too easy. I suspect a plant from Warner Bros.

Nope, not a fake. As Spike Lee put it, “Coonery buffoonery.”

Best/Worst Poster
But of course.

Most Anticipated Movies of 2012
The Master / Paul Thomas Anderson
Django Unchained / Quentin Tarantino
The Dark Knight Rises / Christopher Nolan
This is 40 / Judd Apatow
Prometheus / Ridley Scott
Looper / Rian Johnson
The Place Beyond the Pines / Derek Cianfrance
Gravity / Alfonso Cuarón
Moonrise Kingdom / Wes Anderson
Inside Llewyn Davis / The Coen Brothers
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III / Roman Coppola
The Great Gatsby / Baz Luhrmann
Stoker / Park Chan-wook
Argo / Ben Affleck
Lincoln / Steven Spielberg
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / Peter Jackson
The Silver-Linings Playbook / David O. Russell
Beasts of the Southern Wild / Benh Zeitlin

Last Five No. 1s
2010 – Black Swan / Darren Aronofsky
2009 – Up in the Air / Jason Reitman
2008 – The Wrestler / Darren Aronofsky
2007 – There Will Be Blood / Paul Thomas Anderson
2006 – Half Nelson / Ryan Fleck


← Recording Live From Somewhere’s 10 Most Anticipated Movies Of 2012


  1. DR

    great obscure categories from a surefire film buff. i know this is all matter of opinion here, but, “A Seperation” outside of the top 10? Dude that shit was classic before I even peeped it

    • There’s no way of explaining why it isn’t higher on the list without looking like I hated it and come off as a cold-hearted human being. I admired it more than I liked it.

  2. That was a fun read.

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