Peter’s Top 6 Films of 2011


Going over the lists, I’ve got to say…2011 was a pretty disappointing year in film. I’ve done a top 6 list for the past two years and there’s always been a struggle to pick a favourite film. (last year, 3 impressed me so much that I gave them all first place.)

This time around, there’s no film that immediately jumps to mind as deserving of first place – I’ll rank them anyway, because my mind enjoys such things, but I could rearrange most of this list without any mental anguish.

If I lived in America I suspect “The Muppets” would be a clear winner, but here in the AU it doesn’t come out for another two weeks, so it shall have to wait for my 2012 list.

Looking at the “runners-up list” (or, more accurately, the relative shortness of the runners-up list) it also seems that I missed a lot of big movies this year, which could account for my disappointment in the year’s offerings. A few that I mention are late-2010 films, but I didn’t see them until this year, and I don’t want my laziness to result in them missing out on being on a list, so shh. Shh your face.

To the lists!

Peter’s Top 6 Films of 2011:

  1. The Adventures of Tintin: As I said above, “Peter’s favourite film of 2011” isn’t as big a deal as it may have been in years part. Having said that, I loved Tintin. The animation was mind-blowing and flawless (the best animation I’ve ever seen in any movie, ever. Blew both Avatar and Pixar’s offerings out of the water) and as a pure adventure film, it completely works. We get about 80 minutes in before the movie even pauses for breath – if that’s not your cup of tea, you might find it a bit overwhelming, but I loved it every minute of it. This is a film that I’ll definitely be seeing at the cinemas again.
  2. Bridesmaids: I like Bridesmaids for a lot of reasons, but most of all because it’s funny and sweet. It’s a genuinely amusing, well-put-together film with fun characters and strong structure. I showed this (rather trepidantly, as I know several people who don’t like it) to my fiancee a while back, and she’s still quoting it back to me.
  3. The Social Network: I was actually quite perturbed when this film didn’t win the Oscar – it’s a fascinating tale of the rise of Facebook. (If 2008-2012 is remembered for anything, I’m pretty sure it will be the start of Facebook.) The Social Network is a great movie from a great director and a great writer with a great soundtrack, about an integral part of our lives and how it came to be. What won? A movie that (while good) could quite frankly have been made any time in the past 30-60 years.The Social Network is the best depiction of the 2000s that we’ve seen on film, and it’s a great watchable film to boot. I’m obsessed with creators and geniuses, so the movie particularly pressed my buttons.
  4. Tangled: If I’d seen this a month before I did, it would have challenged 2010’s winners. As it is, while it’s making it onto the 2011 list, it’s only above Captain America and PotC 4, both of which are frankly on here as fillers. I utterly adored Tangled when I first saw it – I kept track of and rated every film that I saw in January 2011, and Tangled earned itself a 9/10. Then I got it on Blu-ray, and a few viewings later, realised that it’s a 7 or 8 out of ten at best. Still a solid film that I’d recommend to most, it’s just not the near-perfect princess film I remember it being.
  5. Captain America: As I mentioned, this part of the list is mostly filler. I quite enjoyed Captain America. At the same time, I could quite happily die without ever seeing it agin.
  6. Pirates of the Carribbean 4: This film is mostly on the list as a reward for being much better than 2 or 3 were. (and due to a lack of competition. What a slow year for film.)

Runners-up (in no particular order)

  • The King’s Speech: God, the runners-up list is just embarrassingly small this year. There were only three other movies I’d even consider putting in my top 6…The King’s Speech, as I’m sure everyone from your grandma to your gardener have told you, was a solid and watchable film. I enjoyed it plenty, and it’s probably the most “safe” film you’ll ever see. The swearing is the only thing that could offend anyone, and it’s in the film for an extremely good, non-emotional, plot-necessary reason. I don’t think it deserved the Oscar, but that’s due to its competition, and not because there’s anything wrong with the film itself.
  • Super 8: Another extremely safe, extremely solid movie. I enjoyed this movie on almost every level, but it left me with nothing but a few quibbles and a desire to write a sequel. My sequel idea: it turns out (SPOILERS FOR SUPER 8) the alien was actually a scout from an evil alien race…a race with the power to alter people’s minds when they touch its skin. Think about it – the only people on the side of an alien were those who had touched its skin. I think the film would have been much stronger if Johnny “Child” Protagonist had made the moral leap that “trapping aliens is wrong” through his own moral compass, instead of through being mind-controlled by the alien. That’s the main reason it’s not on my top 6 list – the film stuck with me, but only because of its elements that could have been improved.
  • Saw 3D: Saw 3D is not on this list for its own merits as a film; like Return of the King, it’s representative of the Saw series as a whole. But if Saw 3D had done a lot more wrapping up of the other films, and less “having its own separate plot”, it would have been slightly worse for Saw 3D and slightly better for the series. This was a solid entry into the Saw series, but not an ending, and the series suffers for its lack of a definitive end. Also the “3D” part of the title is dumb when you own it on regular 2D DVD.

Never-rans (films that possibly would have been in the above lists, except…I never saw them.)

  • Films That I Would Have Liked To Have Seen But Missed For Logistical Reasons:
    • Sucker Punch – I’m a huge fan of Zacl Snyder, and while there were countless negative reviews of this film, I also had some trusted friends recommend it to me. I would have liked to have checked it out.
    • Thor – Such a weird choice for director (Gilderoy Lockhart.) Reviews of this were solid, and I’ll check it out on DVD, if only as part of the lead-up to The Avengers. Let’s face it, that’s the sole reason this film was made.
    • Sherlock Holmes 2 – Loved the first, will see the second as soon as I get a chance. I’m not sure if it’s even come out in Australia yet, but I definitely haven’t had a chance to see it yet.
    • Rise of the Planet of the Apes – solid cast, solid reviews, came out at a time when I was solidly booked.
    • The Iron Lady – I’ll watch Streep in anything. Again, I’m not sure if it’s out in Australia yet, but I’m filming in two weeks, and so probably won’t get a chance to see it until DVD.
    • Red Riding Hood – I was actually quite interested in seeing this flick – the director is the lady behind the first Twilight film, which blew me away: she managed to turn a terrible novel into a much less terrible film. (she refused to churn the rest out at a ridiculously fast pace, and so got booted from the sequels and directed this instead.) I’m curious to see it based purely on her involvement.
    • The Rum Diary – if you haven’t already heard of this, each part of my explanation as to why I want to see this would require its own explanation. If you have, you know why I want to see it. Has this come out yet? I feel like I haven’t even seen it advertised.
    • Red State – I’ll be honest, I would watch almost any film Kevin Smith decided to put out. A horror film about a Fred Phelps-type character? I’m there no matter who’s directing. But because he decided to be a bit of a dick about it, this didn’t come to a cinema near me, so I’m waiting for the region-free DVD release.
    • Winnie the Pooh – I have actually been looking forward to this film for quite a while, and it wasn’t until I was putting together this list that I discovered it was released straight to DVD a few months ago in Australia. That’s a real pity, I was looking forward to seeing this one in theatres. I would have put it on my Christmas wish-list if I’d known.
  • Films I Would Have Seen If I Had Heard Any Buzz or Gotten Any Recommendations:
    • Scream 4 – I’m a huge fan of the original two Scream films (and much less so of the third), and even though they didn’t get Kevin “Dawson’s Creek” Williamson back for this one, I still would have seen it…if anyone had had anything at all to say about it. Just one recommendation, that’s all I would have required.
    • The Adjustment Bureau – I heard that this film flopped because, like The Shawshank Redemption, the title didn’t give anyone a hint as to what it was about. Dudes, learn to title your films better. If I’d known what the heck this movie was about, I probably would have seen it. I like me some Matt Damon.
    • The Three Musketeers – I was actually a bit excited for this; the Three Musketeers are dying for a reboot. They’ve got a well-known catchphrase, epic characters, sword fighting…so much cool stuff that I could see this generation of kids really getting into. But apparently it was crap, and so I didn’t bother.
    • Puss In Boots – I missed the last two Shrek films at the cinema, but if people had come out of this one singing its praises, I’d probably go see it. No one is.
    • Your Highness – the trailer for this was actually really funny, with a bunch of actors that I liked, and there hasn’t really been a medieval comedy since Robin Hood: Men In Tights. But the reviews absolutely panned it, and it was apparently non-stop fart jokes. I do not like fart jokes, especially those of the non-stop variety.
    • Red Dog – JB have been going mental for this film, pimping it like crazy. No human I know has recommended it though, and the one or two reviews I read were not enthused. Typical of Australian film, really.
    • Horrible Bosses – decent cast, had the potential to be this year’s Hangover, but I didn’t hear a word about it, and so I assume it was terrible.
    • War Horse – now that I have read this, I have no reason to see the film. Seriously, read that. It’s gold, and may save you two and a half hours.
    • The Help – I might have seen this, but my first exposure to it was someone saying “Hey, you know to tell a story about racism in years gone by? Tell it from the point of view of a black character, not a white person learning to be less racist” and I knew that no matter how good the film was, I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking that all throughout the film.
  • Films That I Avoided:
    • The Hangover, Part II – I enjoyed the first enough to see it exactly once. Maybe if the reviews had claimed this to be far, far better than the first I would have seen it, but anything less and I knew I wouldn’t bother.
    • X-Men: First Class – My embarrassing secret: this year, I saw X-Men and X-Men II for the first time. I am still yet to check out III and Wolverine, and so I don’t want to see First Class until I’m all caught up.
    • Cowboys & Aliens – I’m just going to put it out there; I’m starting to get sick of what should be fun and silly premises done extremely, extremely seriously. Transformers is the big culprit, but other people are doing it to. If you have a silly name and a silly premise, do a silly movie. People like silly movies. They don’t have to be animated, they don’t have to be for kids, they don’t have to be comedies – adults like a silly movie done well. Ultra-serious is starting to get on my nerves.
    • Transformers 3 – enjoyed the first enough to see it once, avoided the second, and while this one is said to be better, I feel like my life is not going to better if I see it.
    • The Smurfs – I love the Smurfs. I have a handful of episodes on DVD, and I really enjoy them as a franchise. But the film? The film looked like it was propelled out of the same shitty studio that made Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks. I’m sick of ultra-serious films, and I’m sick of classic franchises being shat upon.
    • Mr Poppers Penguins – I saw one trailer for this film. I watched that trailer again and again, and tried to deconstruct it, tried to work out how they’d managed to so perfectly make a trailer that caused me to have absolutely no interest in seeing a film.
    • Anonymous – if this was the equivalent of The Social Network for 4chan, I would definitely have seen it. The film’s actual concept simultaneously irritates and bores me.

Notably Missing

    • Cars 2: I’m not saying anything here you haven’t heard a thousand times before: Cars 2 is the disappointing conclusion of Pixar’s excellent run of films. Even Cars had a lot going for it – Cars 2 is irredeemable. From its main character to its plot to its dialogue to its themes to its genre, there is nothing that I can honestly praise about this film. Sad.
    • The Green Hornet: From the writing team behind Superbad, this was a weird film that didn’t quite understand what it wanted to be. Were we meant to like Seth Rogan? Was it a straight superhero flick, or a deconstruction, or a parody, or…yeah. I walked out of the cinema trying to work out if the effective ending saved the film, but a few days later couldn’t remember anything that wowed me, and now (about a year later) I can’t remember anything I really liked about the movie, except “who made the coffee?” part, which was less than 10 minutes of the film.
    • Paul: There were two writers behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – Simon Pegg, who starred, and Edgar Wright, who directed. They split this year, and made some separate films – Edgar Wright wrote and directed Scott Pilgrim, currently my second-favourite film of all time, and was a writer on The Adventures of Tintin, my favourite film of the year. Simon Pegg wrote Paul, which is buried down here in the “movies that utterly failed to impress me” area. The cast and tone of this was 100% Apatow (the man behind 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and most of the similar films that have followed) but he wasn’t involved at all. I expect so much more from Simon Pegg, especially when he’s doing sci-fi.
    • Bad Teacher: I went and saw this mainly because I had some time to kill, and I’m glad I did, because it demonstrated to me that no matter what he’s working with, Jason Segel can improve any film. His scenes in this were so good that it almost made the film worth seeing. Not quite, but almost.
    • Green Lantern: I’ve been informed that most of the problems I had with this film are from the source material, but dear god there were a lot of problems I had with this film. A few times they lamp-shaded them (“now you’ll realise how impossibly unlikely it is for this alien to be humanoid…” “Hope is green. Why? It just is!”) but for the most part, they had to just run with them. My biggest problems both relate to a (SPOILER FOR GREEN LANTERN) twist at the end. Firstly, after they’ve proved that “Hope beats fear” (theme subtlety yay) why does the bad guy still go and use fear? Hasn’t it been firmly established that a) they don’t need it to win, and b) using it leads to bad bad shit going down. Secondly, the guy who turns out to be evil is called “Sinestro”. Seriously. Sinestro. “What a twist!”
    • Black Swan: Technically a film from 2010, I didn’t see this until halfway through the year. I thought the special effects were phenomenal, but pretty much nothing else about the film did it for me.

Honourable Mentions:

    • A Few Good Men: Definitely not a movie from this year, but one that I first saw in January of this year, it utterly wowed me. I’ve seen it a few times now – the “You can’t handle the truth!” may be as close as I have ever seen to a perfect scene in film. Flawless.
    • Catfish: Another 2010 film that I saw late, this was fascinating. The less you know about this film going in, the more you’ll enjoy it – I think that’s the film’s official tagline, and it’s completely true. I knew nothing about it, and had a ball. Check it out, but don’t read any reviews or watch any trailers first.
    • Coraline: In my 2009 list, I said that this movie “didn’t leave me thinking as I walked out of the cinema”. Seeing it on Blu-ray changed that – not because the movie is any different, but because the special features are simply phenomenal. I recommend picking this movie up almost for the special features alone (although once you’ve seen them, you’ll want to watch the film again and again. I know I have.)

Here’s to 2012’s films! I’m already looking forward to The Muppets, The Dark Knight Rises, and Brave (Pixar’s first attempt at a female-driven film, and hopefully an confirmation that they can still produce films better than Cars 2)