Here’s my favourite movies of 2011. To be honest, nothing got me really excited this year but there was still plenty worth watching. I’ve limited myself to films released in Australia during the year, and used this list from the At the Movies website as a guide.
I’d love to know what you’re own favourite films were, and to get the ball rolling I’ve allowed DA (Devil’s Advocate) to give an alternative opinion …
Lost and lonely Annie becomes the maid of honour for her childhood friend Lillian, only to discover that Lillian’s new best friend already has everything planned. Hilarity ensues.
It’s as funny and heartfelt as I’ve come to expect from the best of the Apatow sponsored productions. I didn’t find the gross out moments and the more zany characters as uproariously hilarious as many people did, but it’s a solid film all round.
DA Says: An uneven pastiche of Saturday Night Live skits with a few half-hearted attempts at poignancy thrown in for good measure.
9. Barney’s Version
A fictional bio-pic covering the life of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), as told from his own point of view. The film covers his three dysfunctional marriages and his friendship with the disturbed, “Boogie”.
There should have been more focus on Barney’s friendship with Boogie considering the turn of events part way through the film. Instead the focus is on Barney’s wives, which still makes for a beautiful movie. Also, the scenes with Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman are so superb that it hardly matters.
DA Says: A life-spanning story crammed into a few hours that would have been saved by the sense of fun it starts off with, except that it quickly slides into manipulative, boring melodrama.
8. Never Let Me Go
Three children grow up in a country-side boarding school where they are taught to fear the outside world. Beginning with an unexpected confession from one of their teachers they slowly learn of their fate and struggle to come to terms with it.
There’s a line right near the end that I hated. It really did almost ruin the movie for me. But what comes before is quite hard to fault. The film takes a great concept, drags it in an unexpected direction and then wrings it for every bit of pathos that it’s worth – all while remaining masterfully understated.
DA Says: A miserable film about miserable people in a world even more miserable than the average indie film maker would have you believe of our own world. If it wasn’t for Melancholia, this would be the most horribly and pointlessly depressing movie of 2011.
7. Midnight in Paris
A man, who is a little too fond of nostalgia, travels toPariswith his fiancée and her conservative parents. There his point of view is slowly changed by a series of bizarre events that may involve time travel.
It’s an unassuming, light hearted film and I think that’s how I like it when it comes to Woody Allen. I’ve seen about ten Allen films now, and this is the only one that comes close to capturing the charm of my favourite, Annie Hall.
DA Says: Every character is hideously underdeveloped, especially the historical figures, and the obscure references come so thick and fast that half the audience is likely to be alienated within the first half hour.
6. Red Dog
A community of somewhat troubled miners in Western Australia’s far north are united by their shared affection for a stray dog.
You can believe the hype with this one – most of it anyway. It’s equal parts funny and touching, and despite it being filled to the brim with Aussie-ness, the cultural cringe is somehow kept to a bare minimum.
DA Says: Cliché’ ridden and full of unrealistic “ocker” characters. Plus the American central character reeks of pandering to US audiences, who are likely to be too distracted by Hollywood to care about this expensive but disappointing Australian film.
5. The Adventures of Tintin
In Tintin’s first feature film (of blockbuster significance at least) he meets future BFF, Captain Haddock, and gets caught up in a global adventure after buying a model ship that holds a valuable secret.
Terrific fun that is loyal enough to the source material without isolating newcomers. Visually it’s probably the best use of motion capture filming to date.
DA Says: The relentless mayhem exhausts rather than entices, and the motion capture characters still look creepy.
4. The Guard
An unorthodox policeman takes on a gang of drug smugglers who’ve come to his small Irish town.
The Guard feels a bit like In Bruges’ little brother, which is fitting seeing as the directors of the two films are in fact siblings. The Guard not only borrows the former film’s star (Brendan Gleeson), but also much of its charm, dark humour and melancholy. Meaning it’s not as good, but it’s still hugely enjoyable.
DA Says: Don Cheadle is wasted as a one dimensional FBI agent in this needlessly potty-mouthed and predictable mess.
3. X-Men: First Class
The story of how Professor Xavier’s group of super mutants came to be, and more importantly, how the villain Magneto turned into such a bad-ass.
Actually, I wish the film had focused even more on Magneto, as he is surely the most interesting character in the franchise. Still, this is a great superhero tale. It feels a little darker and classier than previous instalments, which may be an obvious direction to take considering the success of The Dark Knight etc., but it seems like the right choice here. At the very least, First Class goes a long way toward washing away the bad taste left over by the Wolverine prequel.
DA Says: A film lacking in style and wit, with a second half so clunky and drawn out that it makes the whole thing seem three hours long.
2. Super 8
A group of kids living in a small US town in the 70’s investigate a series of incidents after they witness a bizarre train crash.
It all got a bit silly for me by the end, but the start was so good that it hardly mattered. The child actors are fantastic and they have some wonderful dialogue to work with. Plus, the big action set pieces (ie. the bits where lots and lots of things blow up) are pretty damn spectacular.
DA Says: A messy combination of over the top effects and nostalgic sappiness.
A mother passes away, and her two children reluctantly travel to the Middle Eastto fulfil her last wishes. Along the way they uncover disturbing details of their mother’s life, and more than a few family secrets.
Incendies is a decent mystery film. It keeps you guessing, and the final reveal is satisfyingly shocking. It’s also a great drama with plenty to say about the destructive cycle of hatred that infects so many people’s lives. But it’s the way these two elements are masterfully combined that make it something special.
DA Says: An over-long, humourless melodrama full of ridiculous coincidences.
Another Year, Black Swan, Catfish, Harry Potter 7: Part II, Melancholia, Paul, Senna, Tangled, True Grit
Likely Favourites If I’d Bothered Watching
127 Hours, Arthur Christmas, Attack the Block, Autoluminescent, The Beaver, Drive, The Fighter, How I Ended This Summer, Inside Job, Moneyball, Project Nim, Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Snowtown, Submarine, Tucker & Dale Versus Evil, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Worst/Most Disappointing Film
Pirates of the Caribbean 4
Happy Feet 2 (runner up)