Someone once told me, “Best of lists are for people who can not come up with anything else to write about.” I hate to say it, but he had a point. My list is a very lazy writing exercise, but it is also designed to bring attention to great films. Many of these films made almost no money. They were great films, that either never found an audience or were produced knowing that they would probably not make money. Also, before one of my TWO valued followers sends me a note saying some of these films came out in previous years, you are correct. Many of these films I saw via Netflix. The only rule was that I had to watch the films during 2011.
21. Hanna – great action film about a teenage assassin raised by her ex-spy father near the Arctic Circle. This tells the story of her journey after she decided to tell the CIA that she is alive and they come to hunt her. Hanna was the best written feminist character of 2011 who did not have a tattoo.
20. Red State – Kevin Smith is not the first name you would think of to direct a action movie about a “Westboro Baptist Church LIKE” church in the south west who kidnaps young boys in order to kill them for their sexually deviant lifestyle. However, he pulls it off. Kevin Smith of Clerks and Dogma fame made a film that is the anthesis of his more traditional work. There is very little humor. There is not cameo appearance by Ben Afflac or Matt Damon. Instead, this film shows the behavior of a group of fundamentalist Christians who have corrupted the word of God in an attempt to satisfy their own blood lust. Smith has been heavily protested, and receives death threats, for his film Dogma and his regularily protested by Westboro Baptist Chuch. This film could be a reaction to those events. Whatever his reason, Smith created a very different type of film, but one that works. I am curious about what he will do next.
19. Beautiful Boy – OK, I have a little bit of a crush on Maria Bello. She is a great actress who consistently makes great film choices (after Coyote Ugly). She takes chances. She is vulnerable and is not afraid to go places as an actress that she has not been before. She could very easily take on roles in simple TV drams, but instead takes on a conflicted role as the wife and mother dealing with the decline of her marriage, to the very underrated Michael Sheen, coupled with the shocking news that her son has murdered multiple people by opening fire at his school. The film never shows the violence, but only the aftermath. The parents struggle with trying to put their life back together while trying to understand their role in their son’s rampage. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/beautiful-boy/
18. Client 9 – this a documentary on the rise, battle and fall of Elliot Spitzer. Spitzer could have potentially been President of the United States in 2016. In five years, no one will know who he is. Spitzer was the Govenor of New York who was kicked out of office after it was discovered that he had been hiring prostitutes for years. The documentary is a great study of what he was (both good and bad) and what he could have been. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/client-9-the-rise-and-fall-of-eliot-spitzer/
17. Blue Valentine - I was wrong about Ryan Gosling. I thought he was an overrated hack, but this year he was in four very good films, The Ides of March, Drive, Crazy, Stupid, Love and Blue Valentine. Valentine is a films showing the beginning, middle and gradual end of a marriage. This film kept you guessing by showing clips in non-chronological order, like a memory. When you are in a relationship, you do not think of it as a time line you think of it as a highlight real. You have days when you remember the moments where you loved the person you are with more than you thought possible. Other times, you are consumed with pain by their thoughtless and selfish behavior. With most relationships, there is no good guy, no bad guy, just two people trying to make something work. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/blue-valentine/
16. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Was it as good as the previous version? I thought so. Was American Lisabeth Salendar as good as the original? I did not think so. Is this a very good movie? Oh yeah!!! David Fincher is a genius. He proved it again. He made edits to the original story to cut the length, but the cuts worked. He got very good performances out of an all star cast. Trent Reznor is continuing with his David Burn like evolution from underground rock god, to Oscar winning film composer. It is a good movie that lived up to the hype. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-2011/
15. The Company Men – Roger Ebert is famous for saying that a good film should never make you sad. This film will make you sad. It is very appropriate for the age of the recession. This film tells the story of how three men in different stages of their lives and careers deal with the recession and being downsized. It is powerful, sad and at the end of the day gives hope. I would recommend renting this in about two years when the recession is over. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/the-company-men/
14. Casino Jack – Jack Abramov is an evil person and deserved to go to jail for a long, long, long time. If you do not believe that watch this bio pic staring Kevin Spacey. This tells the story about how lobbyist Jack Abramov used money he received from his clients, to funnel to Speaker of the House Tom Delay, who also did some time, who sent money for reelection campaigns to members of congress who would then do favors for Abramov’s clients. It will make you sick. Also, if you want to know a little bit more about Ralph Reed, one time candidate for Lt. Govenor of Georgia, watch this movie. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/casino-jack/
13. Margin Call - Yes, I have a special place in my heart for Kevin Spacey. So does Independent Spirit Awards. This film received multiple nominations including writing, directing and ensamble cast. This film tells the story of 36 hours in a Lehman Brothers LIKE company that realizes that it has overleveraged it’s position and has to make some drastic decisions or the company will fail. This film subtly addresses issues that led to financial problems that hurt Wall Street and crippled Main street. This explores how some of the people who run financial analysis have Doctorates in Engineering and instead of going into research and development in manufacturing or go work for NASA take the much larger paycheck and go to work on Wall Street. This explores how people knew that the bottom could fall out well before the crash and choose to do nothing to advance their careers or protect their insignificant pieces of turf. This also shows how people are willing to compromise or completely disregard their ethics for money. The cast is outstanding; Paul Betney, Demi Moore, Kevin Space, the painfully underrated Stanley Tucci (Merryl Strep keeps casting him in her movies so she might think he is pretty good), Jeremy Irons and several up and coming actors. Go watch this movie and then go to the bank take out every dime and put it in your mattress. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/margin-call/
12. X-Men First Class – I am not a comic book guy. I have never been to Comic Con. I have not liked any of the Spiderman movies. The only comic book films I have liked are: V for Vendette (the best comic book movie of all time), X-Men (Robert Downey makes this film), The Dark Knight Series (Christopher Nolan always gets the benefits of the doubt), 300 (I think I should probably be in the gym instead of writing this) and the X-Men films. Note: Wolverine is NOT a real X-Men movie. Wolverine sucks. The X-Men is more in the spirit of the Planet of the Apes films and not as much as Super Man. X-Men is really the story of discrimination and how we treat people who are different. The X-Men films hav been interpreted as a referendum on gay rights (especially the third film), detainment at Guantanimo and Anti-Semitism. This film acts as a prequel for the original batch of X-Men films that came out a few years ago. This is especially interesting as it shows how Magnetto (Michael Fastbender and then eventually Ian McKeller) discovers his power at Auschwitz and has his personal evolution from victim to vigilante to viscious murder. X-Men succeeds for the same reason that “No Country for Old Men” and “In the Line of Fire” succeed, they have a moral unflinching, uncompromising protagonist and a charismatic, entertaining villain that we all root for because he is the most interesting character. Check out the Trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/xmen-first-class/
11. Warrior – I am not a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fan. After watching Warrior, I am now interested in it a little. Warrior tells the story of how two brothers who have not spoken in 12 years are both competing in “Sparta” winner take all, 16 person, 5 Million Dollar winner take all Mixed Martial Arts tournament. This seems to be a story that would make a very bad made for TV movie on ESPN, but this explores the characters and without spelling everything out lets you know why they are really fighting. These are not men who are macho and want to show the world how tough they are, one is fighting to save his family’s home and the other is fighting to support a fellow Marine’s family. The hub for this family drama is their father played brillently by Oscar Nominee Nick Nolte. Nolte plays a recovering alcoholic, three years sober, who now goes to mass every day and who use to train both of his sons in wrestling. We only see the “reformed” father and not the person he was. He is the reason the brothers do not speak. The marine left home when he was 14 with their mother who could no longer take the abuse of Nolte. The other son refuses to let his father see his grandchildren due to something that is never explained that occurred three years ago.
On the surface, this is a MMA movie. That is too shallow. It is really about forgiveness, empathy, doing the right thing when it would be much easier to do the wrong thing. Everyone has taken a shortcut sometime in their life. This is a mistake. We take the shortcut because we see what we want and the compromise we make destroys the goal we had. Shortcuts are discovered and will destroy you in the octagon and life. Fortunately, there is another round and if you are brave enough to test yourself you can be great. Check out the trailer: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/warrior/