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Cinema 2011: Best & Worst - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Cinema 2011: Best & Worst
One could reasonably say that these are not necessarily the ten best movies of the year. But they are certainly the ten that had the deepest and longest-lasting impact on me.

midnight in paris10. Midnight in Paris A-

A quintessential Woody Allen film that is more charming than any film he's released in decades. To a lesser degree, a commentary on romanticizing the past, which is itself an act of nostalgia. This movie ran for months in local theatres, longer than any Woody Allen movie I've seen, and understandably so. It's not perfect, but this love letter to both Paris and its history is perfectly lovely. The fun of all the famous historical figures met during time travels after midnight is icing on the cake.

What I said then: Midnight in Paris manages to be simultaneously wistful and grounded in the present; entertaining while making a statement on the nature of living in an idealized past.

weekend9. Weekend A-

A same-sex love story done right. Two young men embark on a standard one night stand, and then find themselves amidst unexpected emotional intimacy. Only a movie out of Europe (in this case, Britain) could represent a gay relationship with such keen observation. Nothing campy or cutesy here: just a couple of guys surprising themselves by their depth of interest in each other, especially when they discover that one is leaving the country in two days.

What I said then: There is nothing particularly intense about it; no melodrama -- just a sweet, but solid, love story, about two guys who fall for each other in different ways that in the end can't be sustained.

melancholia8. Melancholia A-

A movie in two parts: first, a wedding reception featuring all manner of unhappy relatives. Second, the bride, her sister, her brother-in-law and her nephew, alone together, ultimately coming to grips with a planet headed directly toward Earth. This movie moves deftly from bemusing to unnerving, and it sticks with you, both for its arresting visuals and for its rattling performances.

What I said then: And these are the things that set Melancholia apart: it starts off as an intimate family drama, and then, without ever taking the focus off these characters, it slowly works its way into something both grand in scale and rather unsettling.

take shelter7. Take Shelter A-

A different kind of disaster movie -- one where the main character isn't certain if the disaster is really happening or if it's all in his head. There are elements of horror here, particularly in this man's visions of terrible things to come, but they are used in very unique ways. You fear the possibility of something awful nearly as much as he does, even as he looks to others like a nut case. He creates a massive expansion to his tornado shelter and obsesses over it, at the expense of his relationship and his standing in his community. And then the end comes, which throws you for a loop in a weirdly satisfying way.

What I said then: Dreams are often a tired crutch in film, but here they are used with great skill as a means of blurring the line between fiction and reality in one man's mind. We don't know until the very end, indeed the very last minute or so, whether or not Curtis is really crazy. Until then, it almost doesn't even matter: we feel for Curtis, and are afraid for him, either way.

margin call6. Margin Call A-

Perhaps the year's biggest surprise, this movie tells the story of the 2008 stock market crash from the point of view of a select few players at a single Wall Street trading firm. It's still a mystery how this movie got no promotion to speak of, let alone traction -- few people even know it exists. And how many people would think it sounds interesting, anyway? Well, amazingly, this is gripping from beginning to end. It offers an economic big picture through the eyes of a select few without ever being confusing or being condescending. And it's one of the most powerful dramas of the year, with across-the-board stellar performances.

What I said then: This is a story about people much more than it is about money -- and these people come across as flawed, but human, in a deeply affecting way. It makes you wonder, truly, what you would do in their position.

romeos5. Romeos A

How often do you see a love story where the main character is a female-to-male transsexual? Okay, let me rephrase that: How often do you see a love story featuring a female-to-male transsexual that is not tragic? This one presents unusual realism that's rooted firmly in a world where good, satisfying outcomes are possible for all involved -- even an FTM trans boy who is early enough in his transition that his college still insists he live in the women's dorm, in spite of presenting as male. And unlike, say, Boys Don't Cry, the love interest here is another man -- and one who turns out to be kind and good. You simply won't find another movie like this one.

What I said then: Truly, I can't praise this guy's performance enough; it's Oscar-caliber and it's a tragedy that this is the kind of small film that easily gets overlooked.

tabloid4. Tabloid A

Here is a documentary where "truth is stranger than fiction" is taken to new extremes. Former Miss Wyoming abducts and imprisons a Mormon missionary? Fun! Thirty years later the same woman is all over the news again for having her dog cloned into five new puppies? Whaaat? This story gets more jaw-dropping with each passing moment, and the way it's presented, certainly no other documentary ever made has been more fun and entertaining to watch.

What I said then: Tabloid is amazing, plain and simple.

the descendants3. The Descendants A

A slice of Americana spliced with Hawaiian history, as the last heirs to a large parcel of unspoiled island land grapple with both their heritage and each other. George Clooney, as ever, is in top form as the suddenly-single dad who only finds out after an accident puts her in a coma that his wife had been having an affair. And Shailene Woodley turns in a star-making performance as his college-aged daughter. This is the kind of movie that could easily get bogged down in self-conscious "quirkiness" but instead rises above with a nuanced delivery.

What I said then: The Descendants is a surprisingly sad movie; it's not quite as funny as the trailer makes it seem. But it's also deeply affecting.

beginners2. Beginners A

A lovely movie all the way around. Ewan McGregor is Oliver, the son grieving the loss of a dad who came out of the closet at the age of seventy-five -- played with charm and grace by Christopher Plummer. This late coming-out is seen in flashbacks, while Oliver embarks on a tenuous relationship with a young French woman (Mélanie Laurent). Yet again, a movie unlike any other -- you won't find a father-son relationship of this sort that is this loving elsewhere. It's refreshing to see films reflecting a world not just bogged down by oppression but one in which true individuals are valued for who they really are.

What I said then: Unlike virtually every other film these days with gay major characters, Beginners is skillfully written, without even a hint of triteness or cliche; delivered by the cast with realistic nuance and tenderness; and edited and shot with a polish that belies its apparent budget.

hugo1. Hugo A+

A delightful movie on every level: the story, the cinematography, the acting, the humor, the mood, the production design -- yes, even the use of 3-D, which for the first time ever truly enhances the experience in virtually every single shot. Martin Scorsese here presents a love letter to the movies by using the most modern of technology to honor the oldest of silent films. An orphan boy who lives in a Paris train station, winding the clocks left unattended by his drunkard uncle; the Station Inspector (a wonderful Sacha Baron Cohen) trying to nab him; the grumpy old man (Ben Kingsley) who turns out to have a very direct connection to the wind-up automaton Hugo's late father left behind -- all these things combine to make the most timeless of stories of all those told in the cinema this year. This is the kind of movie that will be watched over and over for years to come. An instant classic.

What I said then: Martin Scorsese has created a world of such unerring charm, this is arguably his best film in twenty years. Everything about it is absorbing. The acting, particularly by the two child leads, borders on astonishing.

. . . And here are the five movies I most wished I had not subjected myself to.

the hangover part ii5. The Hangover Part II C

This movie suffers from an acute case of sequel-itis. A complete rehash of the original Hangover, which had bee a breath of fresh air and genuinely funny. Not so much here, where virtually all the same things happen over again, with far, far fewer laughs.

What I said then: I got a few chuckles out of The Hangover Part II, but I spent most of the runtime waiting for it to be over, struggling to keep my eyes from rolling right out of my head.

nénette4. Nénette C-

There's not much to say about this documentary about a popular French orangutan, except that it's dull as hell.

What I said then: At 70 minutes, the film is quite short by typical film standards, and it still feels like an eternity.

battle los angeles3. Battle: Los Angeles C-

Groan. Who needs a story or plot when we can just show two hours of soul-deadening explosions and nausea-inducing hand-held camera shots? How can a movie this loud be this boring? What the hell is Aaron Eckhart doing in this movie? You'd think an alien race blowing it to smitherines might leave Los Angeles improved. You'd be wrong. This movie makes getting your head bashed in during the 1992 L.A. riots look almost appealing. Why don't we just watch that again? The camera work was just as good.

What I said then: It becomes the optical equivalent of white noise so quickly that, honestly, about halfway through the film I checked out. I stopped even trying to care, because it was taking too much effort.

kaboom2. Kaboom D+

Sometimes a movie playing exclusively at a small local theatre like Northwest Film Forum is a sign that it's a near total piece of shit. Not always, but Kaboom is not one of those exceptions. How do you go from an exploration of the fluidity of sexuality to a supernatural witch and the occult and visions of the end of the world? Well, you don't, really. This movie just thinks you do. At least the actors are pretty.

What I said then: It seems to have direction and then spontaneously turns down a road with no traffic signs. The actors and the characters are collateral damage, and in the end so is the audience.

new year's eve1. New Year's Eve D

Just when I thought nothing could be worse than Kaboom, along comes New Year's Eve. At least Kaboom has the excuse of being indie and low budget (though that hardly counts as an excuse). This one is filled with huge, talented stars (okay, Jon Bon Jovie is a huge star; talented? as an actor -- not so much). "Filled" is the operative word here -- filled to overflowing, so that none of them have more than just several minutes of total screen time, giving them no time at all to do or say anything even remotely interesting. This movie is just one stupid, insipid scene after another, not a single one of which feels genuine or real. Do not watch this film, unless you want yet another holiday ruined by a terrible movie.

What I said then: All right, I have to make a confession. I still cried. Just a little. It's very emotionally manipulative, transparently so, and still it got me. It only made me hate the movie more. This movie isn't even worthy of my tears. It robbed me of them. It raped my eyes.

. . . And now for the perennial film log . . .

1. 1/5 Rabbit Hole A-
2. 1/11 Somewhere B
3. 1/13 Blue Valentine A-
4. 1/15 The Fighter B+
5. 1/18 Made in Dagenham B
6. 1/20 The Social Network A- (2nd viewing)
7. 1/22 The Way Back B+
8. 1/23 The Company Men B+
9. 1/25 Undertow B
10. 1/29 Airplane! A ***
11. 2/3 Another Year B+
12. 2/5 Biutiful C+
13. 2/7 The Illusionist B
14. 2/9 Cedar Rapids B*
15. 2/10 Nénette C-
16. 2/13 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action B+
17. 2/15 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animated B
18. 2/17 The Eagle B-
19. 2/20 Barney's Version B+
20. 2/22 Unknown C+
21. 2/23 The Housemaid B+
22/ 2/26 Kaboom D+
23. 3/4 Rango B+
24. 3/9 The Adjustment Bureau B+
25. 3/12 Even the Rain B+
26. 3/13 Battle: Los Angeles C-
27. 3/15 Bhutto B
28. 3/16 The Last Lions A-
29. 3/17 Poetry B
30. 3/19 Paul B+
31. 3/20 The Lincoln Lawyer B
32. 3/22 A Somewhat Gentle Man (B)
33. 3/23 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I A- (2nd viewing)
34. 3/24 The Music Never Stopped B-
35. 3/26 Jane Eyre B
36. 3/30 Of Gods and Men B+
37. 4/6 Source Code B+
38. 4/7 Win Win A-
39. 4/10 Hanna B+
40. 4/12 Certified Copy C+
41. 4/14 When We Leave B+
42. 4/16 Potiche B
43. 4/18 Rio C
44. 4/19 Winter in Wartime B
45. 5/2 In a Better World A-
46. 5/3 Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold B+
47. 5/11 Thor B
48. 5/12 Meek's Cutoff B
49. 5/14 Bridesmaids B+
50. 5/16 Forks Over Knives B-
51. 5/17 Bill Cunningham New York A-
52. 5/23 Queen to Play B
53. 5/25 Natural Selection B **
54. 5/26 Steam of Life B **
55. 5/28 Page One: Inside the New York Times B+ **
56. 5/30 The Hangover Part II C
57. 6/3 Beginners A
58. 6/7 Midnight in Paris A-
59. 6/8 Romeos A **
60. 6/9 X-Men: First Class C+
61. 6/11 August B **
62. 6/12 Funkytown B- **
63. 6/14 Super 8 B
64. 6/19 The Tree of Life B-
65. 6/21 The Trip B+
66. 6/23 Cave of Forgotten Dreams A-
67. 6/25 Cars 2 B
68. 6/28 Buck A-
69. 6/29 Conan O'Brien Can't Stop B+
70. 7/4 Super 8 B (2nd viewing)
71. 7/6 Bridesmaids B+ (2nd viewing)
72. 7/10 Horrible Bosses A-
73. 7/16 Winnie the Pooh B+
74. 7/19 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 B+
75. 7/28 Captain America: The First Avenger B
76. 7/30 Life in a Day B+
77. 7/31 Cowboys & Aliens C+
78. 8/2 Crazy, Stupid, Love B+
79. 8/4 Tabloid A
80. 8/6 Attack the Block B
81. 8/7 Rise of the Planet of the Apes B
82. 8/9 Another Earth B-
83. 8/14 The Help B
84. 8/17 Project Nim B+
85. 8/18 The Guard B+
86. 8/21 30 Minutes or Less B
87. 8/30 Our Idiot Brother B
88. 8/31 Griff the Invisible B+
89. 9/4 The Debt A-
90. 9/6 Bellflower B-
91. 9/8 Mr. Nice B-
92. 9/10 Higher Ground A-
93. 9/11 The Future C+
94. 9/12 Contagion B-
95. 9/14 The Hedgehog B
96. 9/17 Crazy, Stupid, Love B+ (2nd viewing)
97. 9/20 Drive B+
98. 9/22 Mozart's Sister B
99. 9/25 Moneyball B+
100. 9/28 Urbanized A-
101. 10/2 The Lion King 3D A ***
102. 10/6 50/50 B
103. 10/9 The Ides of March B+
104. 10/12 Tucker & Dale vs Evil B
105. 10/16 The Big Year B-
106. 10/17 Beetlejuice B+***
107. 10/25 Take Shelter A-
108. 11/2 Margin Call A-
109. 11/3 Weekend A-
110. 11/5 Tower Heist B
111. 11/6 The Skin I Live In B+
112. 11/7 Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey B-
113. 11/10 Martha Marcy May Marlene B+
114. 11/12 J. Edgar B+
115. 11/16 Revenge of the Electric Car B+
116. 11/19 Melancholia A-
117. 11/25 A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas B+
118. 11/27 The Muppets B-
119. 12/3 The Descendants A
120. 12/4 My Week with Marilyn A-
121. 12/5 War Horse B+ *
122. 12/6 Hugo A+
123. 12/10 New Year's Eve D
124. 12/14 The Look: Charlotte Rampling, A Self-Portrait Through Others C+
125. 12/20 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo B+
126. 12/21 Shame B
127. 12/23 The Adventures of Tintin B
128. 12/27 The Artist A-
129. 12/29 A Dangerous Method A-
130. 12/31 The Iron Lady B-

*SIFF advance screening
**SIFF festival screening
***Re-issue (no review)


2 comments or Leave a comment
Kasim Khan From: Kasim Khan Date: January 31st, 2012 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Thanking you

Not often i come across reviews so honest and similar to my own views. Il be sure to bookmark your work and look forward to reading views again.

Thanking you,

Kasim Khan

cinema_holic From: cinema_holic Date: February 1st, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanking you

2 comments or Leave a comment