Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Favorite Movie Viewings of 2011

Long time no see!

I'll be writing more soon to let you in on how things are going, why I was silent for much of 2011, and why I'll be so much more prolific with blog postings in 2012. But for now, I'll stick with my annual routine of ranking my favorite movies seen in 2011.

Some of these were released in earlier years, but I didn't get around to them until 2011. Overall I watched 62 movies during the year, which felt just about right. Jamie and I don't watch any TV except for some sports games, and we also like to read. I don't really have a "goal" for watching a certain number of movies, but if I did, I'd want to see at least 70 in 2012. There are so many high-quality films out there today, especially if you veer off the main Hollywood track. I'm sure I've missed many other great ones that would have blessed me and changed me.

Without further delay:

Favorite foreign film -- Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had not read the book but Jamie had, so she helped me fill in the gaps in the story as we watched. This first film was highly tense, sharp and brutal. The next two films in the series weren't quite as strong in my opinion, and their plots were even harder to follow without the benefit of reading the books. Honorable mention in this category goes to Tell No One, which was a very intricate mystery tale that almost lost this American viewer who is used to simple plots. But I made it, understood it and loved it!

Favorite action film -- Kick-Ass wins this category, with a surprisingly solid mix of story, acting and effects. Multiple times during the viewing I almost pinched myself and wondered why the big-budget movies like Spiderman, Hulk, Iron Man, etc... couldn't evoke the tension, laughter and horror I was experiencing with this much cheaper movie. District B13 is the honorable mention (also a foreign film) with the best stunts I've seen in years.


Breach -- interesting true-ish story but focused on the wrong character
Pandorum -- excellent sci-fi/horror but chickened out with a tonally wrong ending
Love and Other Drugs -- was this supposed to be comedy, drama, romance... felt too scattered
Never Let Me Go -- I've heard the book was excellent. Stick with that.
The Adjustment Bureau -- a fascinating premise but again chickened out at the end

Best little surprises:

Monsters -- sneakily touching sci-fi story about how all of us (even scary aliens) probably want the same things in life
Solitary Man -- Michael Douglas in a pitch-perfect role and performance... that nobody seemed to notice
Little Children -- if you had paused the movie after one hour and asked who I thought would be the most courageous, honest and heroic character at the end, I would have miscalculated badly
True Grit -- I like that the good guys were flawed and the bad guys were sympathetic

Overall favorites:

5) Social Network -- timely and expertly crafted
4) Kids are All Right -- sparked all kinds of conversation for me, it was like the big-question catalyst just when I needed one
3) Black Swan -- put me inside a crazy person more closely than I've ever been before (and closer than I care to go again, probably)
2) Inception -- genius storytelling that layers it on just barely slowly enough so that I can keep up
1) King's Speech -- a tale both inspiring and important, in ways both national and personal

* These rankings and reviews are from an amateur. If you would like a professional opinion from me, that means I'd have to make money at it. Offers are welcome; inquire within the comments section.


Logan said...

About time to see you back on here my friend!!

Kickass, Inception and Social Network were all awesome...I have not seen the others, even The King's Speech (which I really need to get on).

Look forward to reading your posts again...

Bob said...

What a great day! My blogger friends Michael and Bob Barbanes have both posted after long absences! My life has purpose!

I also loved The King's Speech.

My wife and I go to movies during the Christmas holidays, then hardly at all the rest of the year. We have the "On Demand" function on our cable but hardly ever use it.

That said, I highly recommend The War Horse, We Bought a Zoo (a little hoaky but fun and entertaining) and Moneyball (great book, especially if you are a baseball fan).

Good to hear from you. Looking forward to more.

FishrCutB8 said...

Black Swan was awful; Kick Ass was great.

As the father of a girl who stutters, nothing has been more important than The King's Speech.

Nice to see you're still out there...

Andrew said...

Great to see you!

Ah, more movies to add to the list...

Michael said...

Thanks guys; it's great to be back! This also means I'll have a strong commenting presence on your own blogs as well.

Steve H. said...


I second everyone here in saying I've missed your perspective. Don't leave again!! :)

Have you seen the new American version of Dragon Tattoo yet? I've read the books and they are pretty good.

I agree with most of your opinions but I really did not like "Black Swan" I want my 2 hours of life back on that one (wait, I only lost one because I finally stopped watching it after an hour and read the plot finale on Wikipedia)

"Social Network" was great but then anything by Aaron Sorkin is like a fine wine.

Michael said...

David Fincher is brilliant and normally that would be enough for me to see the American version of Dragon Tattoo, but I just don't think I'm interested in seeing the same story again in my native language. I thought the Swedish one was done very well and am fine with leaving that as my impression of the tale.

While there have been American remakes that were good compared to the foreign original, I can't think of any that were so incredible that I needed to see both versions.

On Black Swan, I certainly didn't enjoy it, but I thought it was executed so very well. Not a movie I'll ever revisit but I felt like it was a great work of art.

Debby said...

We just finished John Adams (HBO movie, 5 DVD set), which we loved. We saw The Debt, which we also liked. The King's Speech was a good one.