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Laramie Movie Scope:
Top, bottom films, etc. of 2011

Best, worst and ruminations on 2011 films

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 19, 2012 -- Here is my list of the best and worst films, best actors, etc. from the year of 2011, with the usual caveats. There are a few top films I have not seen for various reasons, and I have definitely missed (on purpose) most of the year's worst films. My picks for the best and worst films and many other categories, such as best actor, director, etc. are listed below. As you can tell by the date on this article, I am running way behind my usual pace this year for a number of personal reasons.

Among the films missing from my “best of” lists are “Melancholia” (which actually made my “worst” list instead and “The Artist,” which was good, but not great. Both were good films which were wildly overrated for different reasons. “Melancholia” tells pessimists what they want to hear: That people are earth are scum and deserve to die, and that the rest of life on earth, including actual scum, doesn't deserve to survive either, and a whole bunch of other medieval nonsense like that. “The Artist” was a nice little black and white, silent romantic comedy. A bit thin for an Oscar winner, and it lacks the narrative sophistication you expect from a great film.

Below the list of top films are a list of honorable mentions, followed by lists of my picks for top director, top actor, top foreign film, etc. Those lists are followed by lists of the worst films, overrated films, funniest, saddest, etc. I've added a couple of Dubious Distinction awards as a satirical comment on certain awards that seem to be based on factors that are literally skin deep. My top 10 lists include more comedy and films starring black actors, two varieties of movies absent from most top 10 lists. Drama is easy, but comedy is tough to get right. This is a good year for documentary films. I've got five in my top 10 list and there are plenty of other good ones this year as well.

Page navigation: Honorable mention Best of by category Funniest movie,   Saddest movie Scariest villain Overrated movies,   Best movies you haven't heard of,   Worst movies,   Dubious Distinctions.

Best 10 films of 2011

1. Hugo[4 stars]

I've always been fond of Martin Scorcese's films, but this one is really magic, a heartfelt ode to the art of making movies, and a beautiful one at that. Also the year's best 3D film.

2. Midnight in Paris[4 stars]

This is one of Woody Allen's very best films, a soaring feat of imagination, warm, funny, and full of human insight, too.

3. Moneyball[4 stars]

Simply one of the best baseball movies ever made. This film gets at baseball from a different perspective from most baseball movies, and it is also more universal. This is about anyone who has ever fought the system.

4. The Descendants[4 stars]

George Clooney continues his remarkable run of great movies, following up on “Up in the Air” from the previous year. Clooney stars as a father trying to raise his children and get past the death of his wife, while loaded down with too much emotional baggage.

5.The Interrupters[4 stars]

This powerful documentary about “violence interrupters” in Chicago has one of the most honest and sophisticated depictions of an American Muslim I have seen in the movies.

6. The Tree of Life[4 stars]

Not really one of the best films of the year in terms of the basics. Although deeply flawed in places, I had to give it a lot of extra credit for being the most ambitious film of the year. All it does is tackle the meaning of existence, life, death, the universe, and all that. It also looks great, and there are wonderful performances, too.

7. 13 Assassins[3.5 stars]

I had a distinct feeling while I was watching this film for the first time that I was watching what will become known as a classic film in the Samurai genre. Of course it helps to have seen a lot of Samurai movies, and I have. I do think this is going to be considered a classic.

8. Pariah[3.5 stars]

I expect to be hearing a lot from young director Director Dee Rees after her impressive breakout film “Pariah.” Black women aren't seen often as leading ladies in dramatic films like this, let alone films about lesbians. This film is about extreme stress in socially conservative black families when their young daughters choose to live as lesbians. It is revealing and powerful.

9. Paul[3.5 stars]

A brilliant science fiction comedy spoof by the guys who brought you “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have proven themselves to be the best spoofers around. This is the best spoof of a science fiction film since Mel Brooks' “Young Frankenstein.” This film also shows plenty of love for science fiction, and the nerds who love it.

10. The Lincoln Lawyer[3.5 stars]

A lot of critics had to re-evaluate their opinions of actor Matthew McConaughey, or at least they should have, after his great performance as a sleazy lawyer with a heart of gold. He's not a weasel, he's a badger. When he is cornered, the teeth come out. Bad guys beware! This guy has dangerous friends in low places.

Honorable Mention

Source Code[3.5 stars]

This is the best science fiction film of the year. It is a romantic drama involving a time looping agent trying to figure out who is blowing up the train he is riding in.

We Were Here[3.5 stars]

A fine documentary film about the early days of the fight against AIDS in San Francisco. It is told by the survivors from the front lines of the battle against that deadly disease.

The Help[3.5 stars]

This is the most popular film among the Academy Award contenders, and it had some of the best performances by actresses of last year, including yet another blistering performance by double Oscar nominee Viola Davis. Maybe one day she won't be passed over in favor of less deserving actresses and get the Oscar she deserves.

More lists below

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Links to reviews of all the films below are indexed in the following web pages:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through L
M through Q   R through S   T through Z

Best director

1. Martin Scorsese -- Hugo
2. Woody Allen -- Midnight in Paris
3. Dee Rees -- Pariah
4. Terrence Malick -– The Tree of Life
5. Alexander Payne -- The Descendants

Best actor

1. George Clooney -- The Descendants
2. Brad Pitt -- Moneyball
3. Owen Wilson -- Midnight in Paris
4. Matthew McConaughey -- The Lincoln Lawyer
5. Demián Bichir -- A Better Life

Best actress

1. Michelle Williams -- My Week With Marilyn
2. Kristen Wiig -- Bridesmaids
3. Viola Davis -- The Help
4. Meryl Streep -- The Iron Lady
5. Glenn Close -- Albert Nobbs

Best supporting actor

1. Albert Brooks -– Drive
2. Jonah Hill -- Moneyball
3. Brad Pitt -- The Tree of Life
4. John Hawkes -– Martha Marcy May Marlene
5. Robert Forster -- The Descendants

Best supporting actress

1. Melissa McCarthy -– Bridesmaids
2. Janet McTeer -– Albert Nobbs
3. Jessica Chastain -– The Tree of Life
4. Shailene Woodley -– The Descendants
5. Octavia Spencer -- The Help

Best adapted screenplay

1. Moneyball -- Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
2. The Descendants -– Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and Alexander Payne
3. Hugo -- John Logan
4. The Lincoln Lawyer -- John Romano
5. The Help -- Tate Taylor

Best original screenplay

1. Midnight in Paris -- Woody Allen
2. Pariah -- Dee Rees
3. Paul -- Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
4. Source Code -- Ben Ripley
5. The Tree of Life -- Terrence Malick

Best cinematography

1. The Tree of Life
2. The Descendants
3. Hugo
4. Midnight in Paris
5. War Horse

Best editing

1. The Interrupters
2. The Tree of Life
3. Moneyball
4. We Were Here
5. Midnight in Paris

Best music

1. Midnight in Paris
2. The Tree of Life
3. The Artist
4. Hugo
5. War Horse

Best documentary feature

1. The Interrupters
2. We Were Here
3. Undefeated
4. Page One: Inside the New York Times
5. Limelight

Best animated feature

1. The Adventures of Tin Tin
2. Puss in Boots
3. Kung Fu Panda 2
4. Rango
5. Winnie the Pooh

Best foreign language film

1. 13 Assassins
2. A Separation
3. Point Blank (À bout portant)
4. Trollhunter
5. The Strange Case of Angelica

Links to reviews of all films on this site are indexed below:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through L
M through Q   R through S   T through Z

Funniest film of the year

Paul[3.5 stars]

Saddest film of the year

Pariah[3.5 stars]

Scariest villain of the year

Choi Min-sik as Kyung-chul in I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda)[3 stars]

The year's most overrated films

All of these films have won awards or have been highly rated by some critics groups, or have won praise at some film festivals, or are just overpraised by critics. These are listed alphabetically.
The Artist[3 stars]
The Hunger Games[2.5 stars]
Melancholia[1 star]
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1[1 star]

The year's best films you've never heard of

Another Earth[3 stars]
Bellflower[3 stars]
A Better Life[3 stars]
Blackthorn[3 stars]
Coriolanus[3 stars]
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front[3 stars]
Happy Happy (Sykt lykkelig)[3 stars]
The Interrupters[4 stars]
Limelight[3 stars]
Magic Trip[3 stars]
The Other F Word[3 stars]
Page One: Inside the New York Times[3 stars]
Pariah[3.5 stars]
The Perfect Host[3 stars]
Point Blank (À bout portant)[3 stars]
Project Nim[3 stars]
Rejoice and Shout[3 stars]
Rebirth[3 stars]
Square Grouper[3 stars]
The Strange Case of Angelica[3 stars]
13 Assassins[3.5 stars]
Trollhunter[3 stars]
Tuck and Dale Versus Evil[3 stars]

The Worst Films of 2011

While I saw most of the best films of the year, I purposefully missed nearly all of the reportedly bad films, including Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Jack and Jill, The Roommate, Shark Night 3D, Hoodwinked Too! Hood VS. Evil, The Darkest Hour, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, The Three Musketeers and The Ledge. Those are all wide release films which made it to most cities and town in the U.S. I also missed most of the limited release bad films, among many others, so this is not in any way a list of the worst of the worst films, just the worst of the films I saw. After all, I don't get into the movies for free, and I don't like to waste my money. I did see The Green Lantern, Battle Los Angeles and The Green Hornet which are supposed to be bad, but I liked them anyway. Careful as I am, I did get fooled into watching the following bad films anyway:

Melancholia[1 star]

This is supposed to be a highly-praised art film that has won a lot of acclaim, so it is massively overrated. It is very slow-moving, very depressing and the characters in it are just unbearable. They are the kind of people I would run screaming from if I was somehow unlucky enough to find myself in a room with them. Having to put up with these twits for over and hour was just awful. You know what is going to happen right away because the film gives away the whole plot right up front, but it takes forever to get where it is going. Give me “2012” any day over this anti-scientific piece of crap.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1[1 star]

This film is one of the worst films (along with the rest of this ridiculous series) ever made which has also made a huge, ill-gotten fortune. This is not an art film, but it is similar to some bad art films in that it takes forever for nothing to happen. The two whiney, sulking, wimpy lovers, Edward and Bella are not at their worst in this film, but close enough. I want to shake them and yell “grow up!”

Wrath of the Titans[1 star]

I liked the first film, “Clash of the Titans,” but this is much, much worse. The plot is awkward and the characters are uninteresting. This was also slightly overrated by some critics.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance[1.5 stars]

Like “Wrath of the Titans,” I went to see this because I liked the first film. This too, is a sequel, like most of the films released this year. This was vastly inferior to the original. It was bigger, louder and the whole Ghost Rider myth was re-written in a way that robs Johnny Blaze of what little humanity he had left. Eva Mendez was also missed from the original. A total flameout. At least this was not overrated.

I Melt With You[2 stars]

Another bad art film. Slow-moving, depressing, boring. But at least this was not overrated. It is among the lowest-rated art films of the year.

Dubious Distinctions

The honorary Roman Polanski Juicy Jail Bait Award, also known as the “Breakthrough Actor” award or the “Newcomer” award (insert Beavis and Butthead snickering here) is the first dubious distinction award. The second dubious distinction is the Marilyn Chambers Memorial Nudity Award.

The jail bait award is usually won by very attractive, very young women, or girls, some of whom are pre pubescent, or at who least look like they might be, and who get high praise from critics for performances which aren't all that great. Why is this you ask? Because most film critics are men and most men (especially older men) have trouble remembering actors at the end of the year for awards purposes unless they are very young and pretty. O.K., so they are dirty old men.

Past winners are Saoirse Ronan for “Atonement,” Anna Paquin for “The Piano,” Ziyi Zhang for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” of course Polanski's old flame, Natasha Kinski for “Tess,” and most of the cast of “Thirteen.”

The award this year goes to Chloë Grace Moretz for “Hugo”. She has been widely praised for her performance in this film, as well as her performances in “Let Me In,” “Kick Ass” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” but this isn't just because she is very young and very pretty, the juicy jail bait factor. She is also very talented, which takes a lot of the fun out of this award. I think this girl is going to continue to be successful when she gets older, unlike some past winners.

The second dubious distinction is the Marilyn Chambers Memorial Nothing Left to the Imagination Nudity Award:

Michael Fassbender wins the 2011 nudity award for his full frontal sex scenes in “Shame.” I didn't much care for the film, but I am envious of Fassbender, if you catch my drift. Past winners of the nudity award include, Anne Hathaway for “Love and Other Drugs,” Kate Winslet for “The Reader,” Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel,” and Maria Bello for “A History of Violence.”

The Critic's skin deep award:

A number of critics downgraded their reviews of “A Week With Marilyn” just because, in their expert opinion, they thought star Michelle Williams didn't have the right size and shape to portray Marilyn Monroe properly. Really. A New York Times review complained that her breasts weren't pointy enough. The Guardian review was a lot more detailed: “Marilyn reportedly wore a size 12 to a size 16, depending on which website you are reading. What is pretty much common knowledge is that Monroe's top measurement was 36D. Williams looks half that size. And she has almost no hips at all.”

It isn't about the acting, it's just about looks, with some critics. And there is a common wishful-thinking misconception about Marilyn Monroe's size, too. She was tiny. The Snopes article, based on a fashion editor who actually tried on some of Monroe's famous costumes, says she was a size 8, and was never more than a 10, even when she was at her maximum weight. Her waist was a mere 22 inches and her bust a modest 34, according to this Bloomberg news article which is backed up by other articles written by people who handled Monroe's costumes at auction. Regardless of her shape, Michelle Williams gave a great performance.

Links to reviews of all the films are indexed below:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through I
J through L   M through N   O through Q   R through S   T through Z

Page navigation: Honorable mention Best of by category Funniest movie,   Saddest movie Scariest villain Overrated movies,   Best movies you haven't heard of,   Worst movies,   Dubious Distinctions.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2012 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)