It was the best of times … 2011

31 12 2011

As the few minutes left in 2011 quickly wane, I wanted to reflect on all the good that has come from this trying year of 2011.  As Lester Burnham said in “American Beauty” – and I quoted on my senior page in the yearbook – it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world.

No matter the general consensus of film in a year (and I don’t think it takes an expert to tell you this wasn’t a stellar one), the top 10 list is a reminder to all critics and readers that there will always be something to celebrate.  Even amidst all the chaos of the year, we found reasons to be happy … and thus a way to be happy.

Much was said about high profile divorces – Demi and Ashton, Sinead O’Connor, Kim Kardashian – but the whole world tuned in for the Royal Wedding.  Even with the American divorce rate soaring and half of all marriages are unable to last, it was love that brought us together.

Much was said about our military’s inefficacy in Iraq as we pulled out the last troops in December, but Seal Team Six gave Americans something to be proud of as they flawlessly took down the elusive Osama bin Laden.  Failure and cynicism may make for an interesting editorial page, but it was success that captured the attention and the heart of America.

Much was said about the dumbing down of youth with mindless blockbusters like “Transformers” grossing a billion dollars worldwide and mindless literature like “Twilight” flying off the shelves.  Yet the young generation – my generation – proved it was hardly an empty one by turning out in record numbers on the opening day of the final “Harry Potter” movie.  If you couldn’t feel a real magic from the movie, you had to take comfort in seeing that the experiences of reading a book and going to a movie theater, thought be many to be endangered, were alive and well.

So while our president may have abandoned hope and change for 2012, I, for one, am full of it.  I am confident that all will pan out for the future, especially given how willing filmmakers were in 2011 to tackle some of the toughest issues facing our society.  In my top 10, you will see movies committed to showing us how to live, how to love, and – most importantly – how to change.  Like Owen Wilson’s Gil Pender from “Midnight in Paris,” living in the past only works as a fantasy.  We have to live in the now; we have to face its challenges; we have to accept pain as a natural part of progress.

So, without further ado, here were the 10 best movies I saw in 2011:

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WTLFT: October 2011

28 09 2011

Can I get a collective “WHOOP WHOOP” for my return from the first month of college hiatus? [pause] If any of you all are still out there (doubtful), you can be louder!  So I’ll need you to comment (shameless plug for commenting).

While I’m on my winning streak of humor, I’ll funnel this goodwill into making you read my post about what to look forward to in October.  Reviews will be coming soon for “50/50,” “Drive,” and “Warrior” with hopes that I’ll find time to squeeze in “The Debt,” “Contagion,” and “Moneyball” somehow between classes, homework, and a social life of sorts.

October is my probably my favorite month of the year, not just for the selfish reason that it’s my month of birth.  It’s a great month to be outside; I’m especially excited this year that I will be out of Texas and in a place where I can experience fall and changing seasons.  It’s also a time of changing seasons at your movie theater, out with summer leftovers and slightly dumpy September fare and in with late-year commercial fare and some early awards plays.  Here’s what 2011 has to offer us in the month of October:

October 7

The best of the month may come in its first weekend with “The Ides of March,” a political thriller written, produced, and directed by George Clooney, who also puts in some time in front of the camera.  The real star is Ryan Gosling as a campaign manager torn between opposing sides of a presidential race.  The movie will surely have important and relevant implications for the way that the modern campaign is run and will no doubt be a major player in the Oscar race this year.  Even if it’s just an early check on your best of 2011 laundry list, this has to be a must-see for every cinephile.

Meanwhile, “Real Steel” … yeah, can’t say I have the highest of hopes for that.  “Transformers” already gave me plenty of clanging metal this year.

On the other side of the tracks, there’s Juno Temple in “Dirty Girl,” a story of sexual mores in 1987 Oklahoma.  It stars Juno Temple, who will have a role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” so it may be worthwhile to see just to say you knew who she was before her breakout (if indeed she does do that).

In case you haven’t had enough Jessica Chastain this year between “The Debt,” “The Help,” and “The Tree of Life,” she also appears in “Texas Killing Fields,” which – no offense to the talent involved – looks like one of those C-list movies you’d find on the “just added” section of Netflix streaming between “Tangled” and “The Expendables.”

This weekend also brings a strange extreme with “The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence,” which looks to overcome the sequel slump by presenting a story of life imitating art (if you want to call the gross-out horror film that shocked audiences last year art).  It’s a must for sadists and horror fanatics; others would do best to just stay home.

October 14

This Friday marks my birthday … and Hollywood celebrates by releasing two remakes and a Jack Black comedy.  Mental confetti just splattered the walls of my brain.

“Men of a Certain Age” gets a big-screen adaptation after cancellation – but directed by “The Devil Wears Prada” (I’m actually being serious here) – as two aging Frat Pack comedians and the guy who has hosted “Saturday Night Live” the second most times in history go on a trip to fight their ennui by taking a trip in “The Big Year.”  Wait, maybe this is a remake …

Meanwhile, ’80s nostalgia runs rampant as “Footloose” and “The Thing” both get updated.  Note to bloggers/columnists: the question “Why aren’t the originals sufficient?” has been asked and answered dozens of times before.

Off the mainstream, “Trespass” begs the question of whether or not the Academy can revoke Nicolas Cage’s Oscar.  But on a more positive note, one of my favorite modern directors, Pedro Almodóvar, is back with his latest film, “The Skin I Live In.”  It didn’t get the strongest reviews out of Cannes, but it looks haunting and beautiful.  Plus, I’ll see just about anything he makes.

October 21

I’m legally prohibited from sharing any thoughts on “Martha Marcy May Marlene” until it hits theaters in Houston – but for now, enjoy the trailer.  And if you are really that curious about the movie, listen to “Marcy’s Song,” a tune from John Hawkes that plays briefly at the end.

How many times can we remake “The Three Musketeers?”  I’m calling it now that in 2022, the kids from “Slumdog Millionaire” will star as Athos, Porthos, and whatever Jamal’s final guess was.  Last year’s October release “Secretariat” gets remade for 2011 as “The Mighty Macs,” this time featuring the woman ahead of her time as a college basketball coach.  “Paranormal Activity 3” gets slightly creative as it goes back to the origins of the horror from the original, but it’s still a sell-out.

On the indie circuit, “Margin Call” boasts a quasi-“Contagion” level of prestige but doesn’t seem to be generating much buzz.  I guess that post-“Inside Job” and “Too Big to Fail,” recession backstories may be old and tired.

October 28

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing about amazing movies that play at Sundance in January and then having to wait to see them until the end of the year.  Hopefully my patience will be rewarded with “Like Crazy,” the movie that everyone emerged from the festival talking about.  Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin are two hot talents rising in the industry; hopefully this catches on with the mainstream and helps their careers skyrocket.

“In Time” could be an interesting mix of high-octane popcorn blockbuster and political allegory … or the trailer just gave off false notions.  I’ll have to hover over this one for a little while before deciding what my schedule for seeing it is.

The director of “2012” and “Independence Day” is making a movie with Oscar buzz?!  In what world do we live now?  Might as well check out “Anonymous” … apparently Rhys Ifan’s performance is startlingly good.

I wasn’t a big fan of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” but “The Rum Diary” just looks like Hunter S. Thompson light.  Even with Johnny Depp back, this doesn’t look like it can drum up a lot of enthusiasm.  Speaking of not drumming up a lot of enthusiasm, how about “Johnny English Reborn?”  Waiting 8 years between installments doesn’t do you a lot of good when the original didn’t do particularly well.

So, are you more excited that I’m back burning up the blogosphere or that October is coming soon?  Take the poll, leave a comment, do whatever – but make your voice heard!








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