Let’s do it again! It’s time to put my list together of the 10 best and worst films of the year. It’ll be the 16th time I’ve put together such a list and you can view all the past years on my website by clicking here.
I’ve reviewed just over 200 movies during 2011 – slightly up on last year. I think it’s been a solid twelve months for cinema but there haven’t been many “stand out” films. I didn’t give out any A+ gradings and the number of A grade films was also lower than I’d hoped.
That said, it was still tough to put together my top 10 list. I started with a short list of about 25 films and had to whittle it down to the following. If you haven’t had the chance to see any of these, hopefully they inspire you to rent the DVD or get to your local cinema over the break.
I went through them in detail on my ABC Digital show with Phil Smith last Sunday but if you missed that, you can hear a shorter version when I last spoke with Spencer Howson a few weeks ago. Just click here.
Worst 10 Films Of 2011
Before I get to the best, I do need to talk about the worst. This list was also hard to put together (so many bad films) but here they are in reverse order…
10. Mr Popper's Penguins will be a perfect production for plainly pleased persons. That said, I thought it was a load of garbage. A guy who inherits a group of penguins and jeopardises their well-being by keeping them in his apartment for his kids and ex-wife to play with. Too silly for me to go along with. Jim Carrey deserves better than this.
9. How Do You Know is an excruciatingly awful romantic comedy. James L. Brooks has made some great films (As Good As It Gets, Terms Of Endearment) but this is not one of them. The characters are overly neurotic and feel compelled to describe every emotion in ridiculous detail. Don't even start me on the farcical plot. I wish you could have seen my facial expressions while I was watching it.
8. Soul Surfer is the true story of a teenager who loses her arm in a shark attack but goes on to be surfing champion. It may sound inspiring but this film is awful. The editing (particularly the surfing scenes) is messy, the dialogue is excruciatingly cheesy and the story is all over the place.
7. Fright Night is dreadful. I don't know if I've seen worse 3D effects in a film this year. Don't even get me started on the weak story that isn't even remotely scary. I'm confused as to why the likes of Colin Farrell, Toni Collette and Anton Yelchin would get involved with this.
6. Yogi Bear is even worse than it looks.
5. The Three Musketeers is really, really, really bad. No, really. Laughable dialogue. Awful special effects. Dreadful acting. Pathetic fight sequences. Ridiculous story.
4. A Heartbeat Away was awful. It's like watching the pilot for a cheesy Aussie sitcom from the 90s that no TV network wanted to buy. I do feel bad when I slag Aussie films. It's like telling your best friend that they have bad BO. Hard to say but you have to do it for the greater good.
3. Big Mamma's Boy has left me sad, flat, depressed. The worst film of the year so far. Even worse is the fact that it's Australian. A cheesy, clichéd comedy about a 35 y/o Italian real estate agent trying to break free of his mother's shackles and win the heart of co-worker.
2. Zookeeper is a crime against the world of entertainment. The film's "message" is rubbish and the story moronic.
1. I Don't Know How She Does It is a write off. A film with seemingly no purpose that centres on a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is trying to juggle her business life with her family life. It takes roughly 45 minutes before anything interesting to happen and the film then limps home with a rushed, pointless finale.
Best Films Of 2011
10. Drive is a crazy action-thriller (and I say that in a good way). It starts out fairly innocuously and then takes a few unexpected turns (some of them quite violent). The soundtrack is one of the year's best and Ryan Gosling is perfect in the leading role
9. Rabbit Hole started out as a Pulitzer Prize winning play and has been brought to the screen by director John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus). It's about a couple who are struggling to overcome the death of their young son. This is a heavy, powerful drama. Both Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman turn in great performances.
8. The Guard features one of the most memorable performances of 2011 - Brendan Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle. He's a policeman from a small Irish town who is helping the FBI to stop a major drug shipment. The accents are tough to follow at times but this is a fantastic black comedy.
7. Albert Nobbs stars Glenn Close as a woman who dressed as a man in 19th Century Ireland to conceal her sexual orientation. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment), this is one amazing character study. Close portrays Nobbs as a person who has completely lost her identity and social skills after having suppressed her urges for so long.
6. Super 8 is awesome! It reminded me of films I loved growing up such as The Goonies and ET. How refreshing it is to see a Hollywood blockbuster focusing more on its characters and plot as opposed to action sequences and visual effects. The child actors are all brilliant and director JJ Abrams again proves his talent as both a director and storyteller.
5. Inside Job is a well-made documentary which looks at the reasons behind the global financial crisis. It's easy to understand (the charts and diagrams are very persuasive) and features many very interesting interviews. A friend of mine calls it "the best comedy of the year". You can only laugh at how crazy some people are within the financial services industry.
4. The Skin I Live In was the closing night film at BIFF and for good reason – it will stick with you long after you’ve left the theatre for reasons I can’t tell you (don’t want to spoil it). It’s about a plastic surgeon who believes he has discovered a new type of synthetic skin. Legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has done it again.
3. Senna is a well-crafted documentary that has the look and feel of a drama. It goes beyond what you might expect and provides an intimate account of Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna and his motivations to succeed. The never-before-seen footage is amazing.
2. 127 Hours gets two thumbs up from me and one thumb up from the leading character. We all know how this story will end (a guy trapped under a boulder cuts his own arm off to survive) but there's a lot more to it than that. It does a great job capturing his deteriorating mind set throughout the ordeal. Wonderful direction from Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and James Franco is excellent.
1. Another Year is more brilliance from director Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky). It revolves around a happily married couple in their 60s who find that all their friends around them are falling apart. Leigh has a great knack for capturing the "human condition" and he does so again here. It's capped off by a unforgettably annoying and/or touching performance from Lesley Manville.
Well that’s it from me in 2011. I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the holiday period and will be refreshed and ready to go again in 2012.
It’s been a fantastic year for me in the sense that I attended the Toronto Film Festival where I interviewed the likes of Geoffrey Rush, George Clooney, Alexander Payne, Charlotte Rampling and Seth Rogen. Back here in Australia, I was fortunate enough to interview Kenneth Branagh, JJ Abrams and the cast of The Inbetweeners.
I was also able to kick start a new 30-minute film show every second Sunday on ABC Digital Radio (broadcast around Australia) and my regular weekly spot on Spencer Howson’s 612ABC breakfast show continues to get an audience thanks to his wonderful ratings (Spencer topped every radio rating survey during 2011).
Very lucky I am.
All Rights Reserved. Matthew Toomey. 2012.