Jim’s Best of 2011 List

I love and hate the idea of doing a Top 10 of the year. After an absolute favorite it's kind of hard to quantify. Really, how do you really differentiate between 7 and 8? Also, writing 10 reviews at once is kind of a pain, so I tend to gloss over some things, but what the hell? This is why I write for my own site. The idea is a bit absurd if you think about it, but it's also kind of fun, so...


The list...


Special Mention: Tree of Life

I am putting this here because as much as I enjoyed (?) it, I don't really care if I ever see it again. This is sort of like reading James Joyce. I understand the importance, I understand the artistry and all that and I completely agree that this is a brilliant film. But, that's about it.

If you see it and love it, I totally understand. If you see it and hate it, I get that too. But it is a remarkable film in that it's completely original and completely true to the intent of the filmmaker and that is far too important to overlook. Read my full review here.


10) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

I have seen part of all of every Harry Potter films. They are, for the most part, solid and enjoyable films that capture the spirit of the books and, by and large, achieve what they set out to achieve. A lot of the films consist of first act set up, there is a lot of pandering with characters and magic-ey things, and a lot of unnecessary scenes that go on far too long. But they are what they mean to be.

Deathly Hallows part 2, though, really hits something spectacular. In particular, the pensive scene. Oh, man that pensive scene. There is more style, heart, and sophistication in that sequence than in all 7 previous films combined.. It is solidly paced, well acted, the moments that need to hit do, and in the end it is a solidly fitting end to an unprecedented cultural phenomenon.


9) Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

Spy movies are fun. They just are. I mean, they are complete B.S., but they are fun B.S. There is a reason spy museums aren't more popular. There are only so many hidden cameras you can see before you've seen every hidden camera .

This is why I love the show Mission: Impossible and some of the movies. At their best they are pure fantasy escapism. Our heroes get to do cool stuff with cool stuff all for the sake of our safety. Ghost Protocol hits it dead on the screws. It's basically a multi phase heist film, but a damned good one. There are some truly stunning action scenes and a solid story. The ending was a bit... much, but all in this stands as one of the best of the series. Well worth it if you are willing to completely abandon disbelief and just go with it.


8) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This is a rough one. Really rough. Like, you aren't ready for how rough this is. I have always been fascinated by what goes on out of view. Closed doors, covered windows, even the secret back areas of businesses you go to every day have always represented the unknowable to me. That guy who lives down the street that you never talk to, whose name you don't know, well he has a life as long and as rich as yours, you just don't know that story. Thing is, not all of these are good stories. That is what "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is about. It's dirty laundry, and what people will do to keep that laundry unaired.

Fincher does what Fincher does best here. Every shot is beautiful, every performance is dead on. Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross deliver another stunning score, Steve Zallian nails it with the script, and the acting... just damn. Don't think of this as a remake of the original film, but as a different adaptation of the book. It is a different film, but just as effective. That being said, it is assuredly not for everyone.


7) X-Men First Class

It was physically impossible for me to care less about this film than I did when it was announced. Then the previews came out... nothing changed. Then the reviews that were... really good. I still didn't care. Between X-Men 3 and Origins I had been so thoroughly burned that I just didn't have it in me to care anymore.

Well, then New Year's Eve hit and I found myself couch bound with food poisoning. I figured to give it a go as, worst case, it would take my mind off my delicate condition.

I was very surprised. This thing has a solid story and direction, great direction, and really sets up what will/has come quite well. Fassbinder nails it, Bacon was terrifying, even the surprise cameo worked. Not the best of the series, but very solid and a film I would watch again.


6) Six Month Rule

You haven't seen this, but hopefully you will. This movie did not make my list because the director and star did a show with us, more the opposite. I wanted him on the show because of how much I enjoyed this film. Very few movies tell honest relationship stories from an authentic male perspective. This is an authentic love story that you will be able to relate to. It's honest and refreshing and well worth your time. Read my full review here.


5) Hugo

I paid to see a 3D movie. Yes, I did. And I stand firmly behind my previous statements. It is a cute gimmick, but it doesn't really add anything.

This is a movie made with people like me in mind. It is a loving tribute to the power and history of film, what it means and can mean to us. This Scorsese kid pulls off something spectacular here. He made a touching family film that isn't trite or saccharine.


4) Moneyball

I am a fundamentally logical person. The idea of doing something one way because "that's how it's done" has always felt absolutely ridiculous to me, especially in our current world. 15 years ago people scoffed at the idea of renting movies online, or the idea of stores without physical locations. 6 years ago the idea of a phone without buttons was unheard of.

Before that, Billy Beane came up with an idea that was even more insane. Challenge 100+ years of baseball tradition. Stop trusting scout's instincts and start looking at numbers. The idea of doing something new or different in baseball is... well, it's easier to change the US Constitution. But he did it. This is how. Even if you don't care for baseball, this is a hell of a movie. If you are a baseball fan, regardless of if you remember this time period or not, you will love it. It is a fascinating and riveting story of someone who saw a new way of doing things. Well worth it.


3) The Descendants

Alexander Payne does three things well.

1) He gets great performances out of great actors.

2) He tells personal stories about people growing.

3) He makes good movies.

All three of these are on full display here. Fantastic script, beautifully shot, and Clooney absolutely kills it. Read my full review here.


2) Warrior

This thing was poised to be number 1 on my list, but more on that later. If you want to know my full opinion, check out the show we did on this. This is a movie about heart, forgiveness, loyalty, anger, redemption, love, passion, what it means to be a man, family and how much they can let you down, and so much more. The fights are AMAZING because each one means something. It's not about the punch, it's about what the punch is about. If you want my full opinion on this, listen to the show we did about it. I kind of go off.

It is easy to discount this as a Rocky knock off, it is also wildly incorrect. That would be like calling Moneyball a Bad News Bears knock off because they are about underdog baseball teams. There is so much more going on here. From the first frame you know how the final fight is going to line up, but that doesn't matter because you don't know how it's going to turn out. The anticipation, the wondering, the BUILD is what it's about. It's about caring how it turns out. It's about not wanting to choose sides, but finding yourself doing so anyway. Warrior is an absolutely inspiring and powerful film.


1) The Artist

A while back I'd started to hear about this silent, black and white movie that was making all kinds of waves on the festival circuit. I heard people gushing about how inspiring and wonderful it was. It was one of those things that I though would flash in the pan and then be forgotten until it hit DVD. Then it made the Austin Film Festival where I was lucky enough to see it. I cannot think of another film that I stood to cheer out loud and applaud.

I could go on and on, but I've already done that here, so yeah, check that out.


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