Monday, January 02, 2012

Ed's Top 20 Films of 2011

They sure are happy to have the Number One spot.
First off, I'd just like to wish everyone reading this a Happy New Year. I hope that you all had a great couple of days and are quietly dreading the return to the normal grind of working life as much as I am. (If you work in a capacity that meant that you have not had any time off over the last few weeks, my heart goes out to you. I worked over Christmas and New Year the last few years and it is the worst.) I saw the New Year in by getting ferociously drunk in a cottage just outside of Blackpool with a bunch of my friends, and it was terrific.

However, that gallivanting means that I haven't had chance until now to compile my best of the year list, and I feel that it would be wrong to launch into the business of the New Year without putting a bow on the old one, so hear for your delectation is my list of the films that made 2011 special for me, complete with links to my original reviews where possible. (In cases where I have not yet submitted a review, I have written a few words about the films in question and I will provide a fuller review at a later date.)

1. The Artist
2. Senna
3. The Skin I Live In
4. The Tree of Life
5. Midnight In Paris
6. Attack The Block
7. Submarine
8. The Muppets

As someone who grew up loving The Muppets, as well as many of the other creations of the late, great Jim Henson, I was so excited to see a new film featuring the characters that I was almost afraid of building my expectations up too much. How could any film measure up to the one I had in my head, the one that would pay homage to the classic characters whilst also making them relevant again? Well, turns out that letting Muppet-superfan Jason Segel write and star was a masterstroke, since his and Nick Stoller's script - along with Bret McKenzie's hilarious songs and the ever-reliable Muppet performers - created a joyous celebration of Henson's work that cleverly played up the supposed irrelevance of The Muppets, in the process making them seem more vital than ever. A funny, touching and delightful return that somehow exceeded my expectations.

9. Tyrannosaur
10. Take Shelter
11. Drive

Nicholas Winding Refn's '80s-inspired thriller about a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who becomes involved with a woman (Carrey Mulligan) and is forced to do terrible things in order to protect her was a strong contender for my film of the year when I first saw it back in September, but as the months wore on it faded a little, and despite the excellent performances (particularly from Albert Brooks in a terrifying supporting role as a gangster), brilliant soundtrack and beautiful photography, it ultimately left less of an impression on me than the films above it. A really strong film, but this was such a strong year that it ultimately got booted out of the Top Ten.

12. Rango

Gore Verbinski's Rango was a tremendously pleasant surprise, considering that Verbinski, as the director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, is responsible for two of the worst blockbusters of recent years and it reteamed him with Johnny Depp, who's work of late has been spotty at best. It was refreshing, then, to see Depp deliver a hilarious performance as Rango, a pet lizard who finds himself caught up in a Western (with tinges of Chinatown) and for Verbinski, who also co-wrote the screenplay, to utilise the freedom of animation to create a fast, smart and inventive film that nicely filled the "intelligent family film" spot for the year, which was left vacant when Pixar dropped the ball with Cars 2.

13. Kill List
14. The Guard
15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two
16. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I dread to think of the day when Brad Bird directs a film and that film does not appear in my best of list. The director of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille turned his considerable skills to the venerable Tom Cruise franchise with spectacular results. The film peaks with the vertigo-inducing Burj Khalifa sequence, which leaves the latter half struggling to match the (literal and figurative) heights of its first, but it's a superior blockbuster that delivers spectacle on a grand scale with wit, verve and charm.

18. Bridesmaids
19. Benda Bilili!
20. We Need To Talk About Kevin

And, because it shouldn't all be happiness and light, here are my five biggest disappointments of the year, in alphabetical order.

Cars 2, Hugo, NEDS, Never Let Me Go, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

Note: Disappointment does not mean "worst," since the worst films of any given year are almost invariably the ones that had no ambition behind them and so are best forgotten. These films made more of an impact on me because they were the ones that had ambition, or at the very least were made by people who I have high expectations of, but which, for whatever reason, failed to realise their potential.

Right, that's 2011 over and done with (apart from the many, many great films released last year which I have yet to see but which I will be catching up with over the next couple of weeks/months as they hit DVD) so let's move on to 2012. Last year was pretty great for me and this blog, and I have great hopes that 2012 will be even better.