“These Go To Eleven!”, PSD’s Best Films of 2011.

29 12 2011

Click Thru for our 11 Best Films of 2011 and a few honorable mentions.

Last year saw a three-headed Cerberus-like film-beast engulf our 10 ten lists, with Nolan’s dreamy INCEPTION (still my pick for #1), A KING’S SPEECH, and of course that Facebook movie that showcased Aaron Sorkin is still one of the most important writers in the game.  Instead 2011 seems to have more variety, more choices, and more opinions then 2010.   It felt like a true sports filled year with Moneyball capturing everyone’s eye and films like Warrior showcasing the newest “MAJOR” sport MMA.  Major filmmakers like Spielberg were back with horses and that darn RIN TIN TIN, Scorsee went all 3d (WHAT!?), Alexander Payne returned from his hiatus, and George Clooney helped Ryan Gosling become even more of the “IT” guy for 2011.   On top of that Andy Serkis truly made an argument for a CGI based character getting a nomination, Michelle Williams brought back Marilyn like never before, Emma Stone followed her “Surprise Golden Globe” love with an even better more defining character in THE HELP, and Documentaries brought out the best of the best!

We’ll start things out with a very quiet and underrated Documentary.

11.Bill Cunningham New York – The ultimate loner has given more to NYC then we ever knew!

A triumph in showing a hermit-like man with a soft and talented side.  I left this documentary, after seeing it at DIFF 2010, being blown away how this small-man with his camera, riding New York on his bike, captured so much more then just the fancy fashion world.  He captured the pomp, the stance, the wealth, the power, the beauty, and the truth of the world’s most dynamic city.  And yet he himself is still such a cloaked figure, such a shy subject, and sadly such a misunderstood person.  It’s a documentary that asks whether the people that “cover” or “report” on things deserve their own respect and coverage.  Bill Cunningham certainly deserves the recognition and I hope you give this film a chance because you’ll also find yourself amazed at just all that he accomplished with that camera and that darn bike.

10.  Warrior – Dear MONEYBALL lovers – STOP IT!

Ok it may seem a bit harsh to throw Brad Pitt under the bus for a good film like MONEYBALL, but i’ve read way to many reviews saying it was a great baseball film and even worse the best sports film of 2011.  NO, it really really wasn’t (Please go to ESPN 30 for 30 to see the best sports on film).  The baseball moments were to magical, and didn’t reflect the actual truth of the games.  The epic 19 game winning streak was the highlight of the “baseball” in the film and it just seemed cheap and glitzy to me.  Where as the fighting, the training and the reality of WARRIOR were all based on how well they showcased the world of MMA.  It might help that the UFC has engrained a certain “style” to things with TV shows like “The Ultimate Fighter”.   Overall all though the MMA world is still very misunderstood sports entity.  It has neither the recognizable history of boxing or the beauty of the other major sports.  Its brutal, its violent and it embraces both those elements with every fight.  The beauty though is in the true athletic feats and intelligence behind the training.  We’ve seen how important it is to be “well-rounded” in the sport of MMA.  Its not just the biggest-baddest fighters that win because they can CRUSH people.  No the sport utilizes some of the world’s oldest martial arts to give advantages to fighters.  It’s so much more the “sweet science” then Boxing ever was or is.  I loved the way in which Warrior showed the “calming” influences of Frank’s way of training. That reality was only possible because of the films ability to work with MMA trainers like Greg Jackson.  The realism in WARRIOR is why its in my top ten and MONEYBALL is not (i’m sorry MAJOR LEAGUE created a more realistic “ball game” then Brad and the Gang.).

9.  The Future–  A talking cat, time travel and Miranda July = SOLID!

Another DIFF film, gotta say James and the Cool Gang sure do pick some quality films!!  The Future showed a meaner and thus more realistic love story then the “cute” ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.  We get to witness the breakup of a couple, but the film does it through the eyes of a talking “dying” cat, in a cage many miles away from said couple.  The film is unique, different and is totally Miranda July’s voice.  A voice that deserves to be heard more and more!!

8.  Red State– Did 40-year-old Kevin Smith just reinvent himself?  Must have been the Weed.

Ok the line above was a shout out to Kevin’s awesome stand-up about turning 40 (and how he finally tried weed and boy HE LOVES IT!).  Well RED STATE has nothing to do with Bluntman and Chronic.  It doesn’t have Jason Mewes in it and no Ben Affleck doesn’t have a cameo.  Instead Kevin gives us a tense, difficult, and misunderstood world.  Michael Parks gives easily one of the best performances of the year and channels Rutger Hauer like no human ever has before! John Goodman‘s character really reflects the country as a whole, I think, and that makes his “choices” so damning.  Kevin Smith has always ruffled feathers (DOGMA ANYONE!!!), said what he feels with no filter, and stood up for his opinions.  It doesn’t really matter if ya like him or not, his latest film is something you wouldn’t have guessed he did.  The film is worth watching just to see a side of Kevin we’ve never really seen before on the big screen.

7.  Short Films – 1. THE STRANGE ONES – A quicker more dark version of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD.  2.  PIONEER – the best darn bedtime story I’ve heard!  3.  THE DUNGEON MASTER – Don’t mess with the nerds of the world!!

I happen to love short films.  I’ve seen at least one “shorts program” at every festival I’ve covered, I’ve even traveled to small town,USA to see the best darn short film festival in the nation (in my opinion – yeah shouting out to the 24fps film festival in Abilene!).  I have the same stance on short stories as I do on short films. They are the most truth-filled elements of literature and film-making respectively.  They are usually the best places to recognize up-and-coming talent both behind and on screen.  They are the easiest to “sit” through when they are bad and more enjoyable when they are good.  They usually allow for more thought after viewing/reading and give the audience a real role in “deciphering” the film/story.  Short films/stories are more then just simple little shorter versions of the “real” stories and films.  They are the the most open, the most daring, and the most interesting pieces of film and story.  These three shorts all impressed me with their own jaw-dropping moments and revelations.  For THE STRANGE ONES its simply one “act” that the Man does to the Boy that changes this simple “road” film into a dark statement piece.  I’ve now seen the film 4 times and each viewing I get goosebumps at the final sequences.  PIONEER continues to show the subtle beauty behind David Lowery’s work.  He’s not afraid to film kids, each of the shorts I’ve seen of his in festival play have had kiddos on screen a lot longer then ol’ Orsen Wells ever wanted to see.  PIONEER though really captures the mystic of our parents “teaching” us lessons.  The back and forth between Will and Myles is just magical.  DUNGEON MASTER has its own fun ironic magic to it.  The humor is dark and the twist is well worth the pain of seeing the “Master” treated so horribly.  Watch out for what you wish for is so true in this short.

6.  My Week with Marilyn– And the Oscar goes to MARILYN…. I mean MICHELLE!

I had the chance to pick the brain of the Director of the film, Simon Curtis.  Simon talked about how they were able to utilize some of the actual locations to really give the film an authenticity.  That’s was is so appealing about the movie itself.  It seems so authentic to Marilyn.  We get to see behind the cloak of one of Hollywood’s most misunderstood figures.  It’s a very fun and entertaining look with a underlying darkness to it with what we all know happened to Marilyn.  The film doesn’t try and make any drastic statements or go beyond the “week”, instead it gives us a full complete look at how Marilyn came and then left London with as big as bang as anyone could have wished.  Michelle Williams is worth the price of admission alone!

5.  Pariah – Why can’t we just realize that Gays, Lesbians, and Transgender people ARE PEOPLE!

One of the most powerful films of 2011 showcases how ones sexuality defines us so drastically.  We see in Dee Rees Directorial debut one of the most bold and ballsy films about “coming out”.  The movie has a poetic element and the final poem of the film will make you tear up…in Joy for this girl.  Dee Rees isn’t just a new director she’s a new freaking force!  The Lone Star International Film Festival was awesome enough to bring Dee to Fort Worth Texas to showcase her film.  Listening to her discuss being able to showcase this story makes her proud.  Well, Dee watching your film makes us thankful you had the courage.  A moving film that will have you discussing the importance of being honest and true to ourselves about what is really important in life.  POWERFUL!

4.  Super 8– J.J. Abrams created his very own Goonies film.

J.J. Abrams has brought us so much over the last decade.  Whether you like his TV endeavors or his constant love of Sci-Fi on the Big Screen.  You might be excited or even afraid of him re-igniting the Enterprise, but without question SUPER 8 is a perfect homage to all that is great about Steven Spielberg.  I felt like a kid again watching this film = Success.

3.  Drive – Forget Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks is where the gold is at!

I love the kick ass jacket with the scorpion (I mean I am a Scorpio – even after “they” changed the dates).  I love the kick ass soundtrack.  I love the kick ass driving in the film.  I love the opening chase ending at a Lakers game.  I love many things about Drive.  Mainly and most importantly is the single darkest role of the year.  Albert Brooks was smart, vile, mean, cruel and the perfect over-the-top Villain for Nicolas Winding Refn epic film.  Its easily the coolest film of 2011.

2.  The Descendants – O where the hell have you been Alexander?

This film had a lot going for it.  Wonderful screenplay that showcases the beauty and history of the 50th US State.  Excellent acting from George Clooney, Beau Bridges, and Robert Forster.  Great introductions to young stars Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, and Nick Krause.  Its a really tragic story with a heartbreaking twist and yet the pace of the film is almost perfect.  There isn’t a moment that lags or a scene that doesn’t feel right or important.  Their isn’t anything drastic or over-the-top and so it all seems plausible and thus even more heartfelt.  George’s most human role maybe ever.  Alexander Payne is easily one of the finest Writer/Directors right now and his bold look into human characters is refreshing, funny, and resonates for quite a long time.  One more shout out to the lovely folks at LSIFF for bringing Nick back home to Texas.

1.  Buck – The epitome of a true gentleman.  Meet Buck Brannaman.

Simply the most heartwarming film of 2011.  Minus the Horse Whisper elements, the sheer guts and intelligence Buck Brannaman showcased in wanting to “train” horses in a less violent manner should be a lesson for all of mankind.  Buck is a really amazing man.

Honorable Mentions:

3. The Help

A lot of powerful performances that need to get recognized.

2. Win Win

Simply my favorite Writer/Director over the last decade has been Tom McCarthy.

1. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

An inspiration to everyone in the form of a little red puppet.  Incredible!


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6 01 2012
January 2012 Calender – Why its NOT the End of the World as we know It! « Pearl Snap Discount

[…] (January 6th) make your way over to the Magnolia Theater to catch one of our top 11 films of 2011, the moving PARIAH.  The debut feature film from writer/director Dee Rees is […]

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