What the hell, everyone else has a year-end list, I want one, too.
I have questionable taste. That is a well-established fact. Anyone I’ve ever dated and forced to sit through an endless parade of dubious films can attest to this. Sure, I occasionally enjoy some “good” movies, maybe even things that qualify as legitimate “cinema”, but for the most part the movies in my collection share a few similar traits: guns, blood, boobs, and explosions, usually all four. I didn’t see every movie that came out this year, but I saw a crap ton. That said, here are my favorite movies from 2011, in roughly descending order.
Big surprise, I know. No one else (especially no one else on this website) has called Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Drive” the best movie of the year or anything. I like to take risks. A friend described “Drive” the classiest B-movie ever made, and he’s absolutely right. Equal parts 70s tough guy flick, modern pseudo-western, and chase movie, “Drive” is moody, tense, and brooding just to the point where you’re about to lose it, then, out of nowhere, it comes at you with shocking bursts of graphic violence. Ryan Gosling had a big year, and “Drive” is the highpoint.
Attack the Block
Writer/director Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” poses a very simple question: what if aliens invaded the hood? The short answer in this case is that a group of roustabout London street toughs will give them all the hell they can handle. A near perfect mixture of sci-fi, horror, action, comedy, and social relevance, “Attack the Block” is fun and funny, full of adventure, and genuinely moving.
The Last Circus
“The Last Circus” is one of most bizarre, out of control, wonderful movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. Director Alex de la Iglesia’s surrealist take on the Spanish Civil War is a meditation on love, longing, fascism, revenge, and, of course, the circus. Beautiful, brutal, and creepy all at the same time, “The Last Circus” follows third-generation sad clown, Javier (Carlos Areces), as he pines for a sultry aerialist. His obsession leads him down into a dark spiral of madness that has him at one point pretending to be a dog and licking Franco’s hand. Full of strange, striking images, “The Last Circus” is black comedy, revenge film, and love story all rolled into one.
A young boy sees his mother murdered in front of his eyes, only to grow up obsessed with finding her killer and avenging her death. Part tale of vengeance, part struggle to right a horrific wrong, part story of coping with trauma, “Boy Wonder” plays out like a grim superhero origin story, and is one of the my favorite surprise finds of 2011. Do yourself a huge favor and check this one out.
I didn’t have more fun at a movie this year than when I saw “Trollhunter” at SIFF. The premise is simple, Norwegian trolls of lore are real, though kept secret by the government. When a group of film students stumbles upon the last remaining troll hunter, they discover so much more than they expected. While not a fan of found footage films, “Trollhunter” does one thing most of the genre doesn’t, it gives the monsters a good amount of screen time. And it doesn’t hurt that they look rad. The best part of the film is that Otto Jespersen as Hans, the hunter, plays his part absolutely straight. “Trollhunter” is hilarious and legitimately frightening at the same time. Not an easy feat to pull off.
Hobo With A Shotgun
Jason Eisener’s homage to 70s sleaze and exploitation started life as a trailer, and the Canadian director managed to keep the manic energy of his original idea, and expand that chaos into a full-length motion picture. Rutger Hauer may be the most grizzled human being alive, and plays the titular vigilante hobo on a mission to rid his town of pimps, pushers, outlaws, and scumfucks of all stripes. This movie practically screams to be seen at a drive-in.
I Saw the Devil
“I Saw the Devil” was on Todd’s top ten list last year, but for the rest of us mere mortals, we had to wait until 2011 to see Kim Ji-woon’s brutal revenge film. So I feel fully justified putting it on my list for this year. Two of my favorite actors, Lee Byung-hun (“A Bittersweet Life”) and Choi Min-sik (“Oldboy”), face off in this retribution-fueled story of becoming a monster to catch a monster.
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