If You Haven't Seen It, It's New to You: The Best of 2011

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If You Haven't Seen It, It's New to You: The Best of 2011

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Guides | January 3, 2013 | Comments ()


A perceptive reader of the site might note that I review very few movies. This isn't simply because there are other writers ahead of me on the roster, but more because I'm a lazy and terrible human being who always has already made plans when Dustin pleads that if I don't review a movie he'll be forced to leave his children to be babysat by wolves. In my defense, I have it on good authority that the wolves of his neighborhood are of the highest moral fiber.

So by god, if you are not in the demographic that sees films in the theaters, then this it the list for you. This is the list of movies you can see now in the comfort of your own home, instead of being forced by other "best of 2012" lists which to actually go to a theater and interact with other human beings.

Here are my favorite movies of 2011, in no particular order, because rankings are fascist.

The Ides of March: As a political junkie, I could watch films like this every day. Anything that digs into the game of politics is like oxygen to me. And anything that manages to make a tragedy of the process is even better.

Attack the Block: Novel alien invasion. Non-posh British. Nick Frost. I don't need much else.

Moneyball: As an Oakland A's fan, I see this film as a documentary of tragedy. Using tricks of stat geeks to find valuable niche players for peanuts is fantastic. So fantastic in fact, that there's nothing to stop the Yankees and Red Sox from using the same ideas once they see it works, except they'll pay the niche players ten times what you can offer and you're back to square one. Not that it matters since you repeatedly let MVPs and Cy Young winners leave in free agency, leaving behind Scott Fucking Hatteberg and Jeremy Fucking Giambi. But don't let it get you down, at least you lost in the first round of the playoffs for five straight years to take the sting off of it. This movie is supposed to be about the triumph of the underdog, instead it documents why I stopped watching baseball sometime around 2005.

Hanna: I know that Ender's Game is well into filming at this point, but the idea I immediately had after seeing Hanna was to cast Saoirse Ronan as Ender. Children are not just little adults, but neither are they as naïve and simplistic as our stories often make them.

Bridesmaids: This movie made me laugh. A lot. And I don't have anything to say that can really elaborate on that.

The Adjustment Bureau: This was my favorite science fiction film of 2011. It has its flaws, generally around the way the end collapses into a pat and easy success, but even the flaws force a conversation about free will versus fate. I tend to judge films based on what they make me think about, rather than how particularly good the film was in some objective sense. This film keeps making me think months later, which I value far more than the trips it might make in telling a story.

X-Men: First Class: To me, the appeal of the X-Men in general has always returned to that place of being an outsider who is simultaneously reviled by society and looked to for salvation. And the best X-Men stories have played on that tension of Magneto and the Professor, of the villain who makes complete and absolute sense, who argues that "peace was never an option."

Turkey Bowl: This never even got a real theater release, just going straight to Netflix out of the film festival circuit. It's an odd running time at an hour so that's not a terrible surprise. You know how every once and a while a really good sitcom has an extra long episode that stands alone and knocks it out of the park? It's that one episode that you show to people to get them to watch the rest of the show? Turkey Bowl is that episode of a sitcom even though there aren't any other episodes. Plus, it is fantastically quotable, and since no one else has seen it, you get to sound awfully clever yourself.

Sound of My Voice: This was my second favorite science fiction film of 2011, and like the other it stands because of the thinking it provokes. As I wrote in a review of this film a while back, it gets what mystery is supposed to be. It provides answers that spark more questions, but not in an empty sort of cop out. In producing more questions it accomplishes that trick of deepening the mystery rather than trivializing it.

Paul: This is not a great movie that will be watched again and again by future generations. The movie is one extended inside joke to lovers of science fiction. From a certain point of view, it's hardly even a comedy, because almost all of the humor is based on the audience recognizing something from another movie. Scientists say that on a neurological level, humor is when the brain makes an unexpected connection between unrelated things. That's why jokes lose their power once we hear them more than once. It's also why when we have an idea, a fantastic intuitive leap, often our first impulse is to laugh. If you see this movie with someone who doesn't eat, sleep, and breathe science fiction, they will stare blankly at the screen for most of the film's duration, not because they don't get the jokes, but because they don't even recognize that jokes are being made. But if you love science fiction films, this is the most fun you can have with your pants on. Or not. It's on DVD now, so lock the children in their cages in the attic and go to town.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • GoreMotel

    Disagree about Paul. My girlfriend LOVES Paul and has absolutely zero science fiction experience, or interest, outside of the original Star Wars trilogy. I think it's more like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz in that it's funny if you don't get the homage, but if you are familiar with the respective genres, there's an additional level of entertainment.

  • Dragonchild

    I hated "Moneyball" not because it wasn't faithful to the book, per se. I understand a dry analysis of just how good Beane's approach was requires some human drama injected into it. The problem is that while the screenplay did TRY to inject some human drama into it, it didn't work. At all. The dialogue was flat, the tension was contrived, the actors were flat, and even during the streak my wife and I were getting bored. There is no progression, no climax, and only afterthought for resolution. There isn't much character development and even the arcs that do resolve (of which there are very few) don't result in any changes in behavior. The writer had absolutely no idea how to translate emotions into a narrative flow -- not for lack of effort, going as far as spending way too much time developing totally irrelevant arcs like Beane's failed career as a player and his relationship with his daughter. The problem is that the real Beane STARTS the story as a family man with his player career far behind him so these were plot points made up from whole cloth with NOTHING in the story to give them any suspense. And the movie ends when the season does, so why the hell would it matter anyway?

    "Moneyball" is also a tragic case of just how fragile the story of brilliant analysis is. It must be translated into fiction by top-notch writing skill. When even mediocre talent gets their hands on this sort of story, the result is disastrous boredom.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I just saw Take this Waltz on Netflix...I still don't know how I felt about it, but it certainly made me feel which usually is a mark of a good movie.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Wh... Why-... Am I missing something? I mean, these are all great films...from 2011.
    ... Is this...
    Wh... Sorry, why 2011 again?

  • God of Bal-Sagoth

    He does it every year, since he rarely sees the current year's releases in theaters. It's for a laugh.

    Alternatively, you could read the intro.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Well colour me a NYE-drug binge-recovering moron.
    Lesson learned.

  • Johnnyboy

    Adjustment Bureau was sci-fi by Chinese menu. Pick one from each column.

    Column A (protagonist):

    1) Senator
    2) Rebel Hillbilly
    3) Dishwashing Savant
    4) Irreverent Grandmother

    Column B (heroine):
    1) roller derby queen
    2) ballerina
    3) diner waitress
    4) part-time welder

    Column C ("Bad guys"):
    1) Drug Lords
    2) Giant mole rats

    3) Agents of space-time continuum

    4) Hometown bullies

    Column D (Distinctive feature of "bad guys"):
    1) Gold front tooth
    2) chainsaws for hands
    3) squeaky voice
    4) funny hat

    Column E (overarching theme):
    1) it's good to be lucky
    2) love endures
    3) love stinks
    4) ennui above all

    God that movie was utterly idiotic, formulaic garbage. They should have picked all 1's. Now THAT movie I would have paid to see in the theater!

  • John G.

    I've seen all these

  • Mitchell Hundred

    No love for 'Margin Call'? I am disappointed. That movie seems to get overlooked at every turn, and I cannot understand why.

  • googergieger

    So no one but me has seen Nameless Gangster?

  • BWeaves

    Paul: ". . . almost all of the humor is based on the audience recognizing something from another movie."

    Thanks for this. I will not see this movie, because I'm sure I won't get the jokes. I really hate it when movies do this. It dates them terribly.

    I remember watching a Marx Brothers movie, and not finding it funny. I could tell where the jokes were, but didn't get them. At one point Groucho is playing a private detective. They zoom in on the glass window of the door of his office and it said, "S.Q. Quale, P.I." and my grandfather laughed. He then paused the movie to explain it to me. Back in the 1930's, women were not called chicks or birds. They were called quale. And underage girls were San Quentin (the prison) Quale, hence Groucho's "funny" name S. Q. Quale.

    I remember listening to a repeat of Abbott and Costello do their "Who's on First?" routine on some radio program. I've heard the routine many times, and it always makes me laugh, because it's timeless. This time, however, they threw in some political jokes (1940's or 50's), and the audience howled, and I just didn't get the references at all (because I heard it in the 2000's).

  • Guest

    Terrific list but No Drive (Best Movie of 2011), Source Code, or Crazy Stupid Love?

  • God of Bal-Sagoth

    I know, right? It's almost like people have different opinions about their favorite movies.

  • AudioSuede

    Not to pick on you too hard, because you're making a common dig, but since you're the most recent person I saw saying this in a comment thread on an entertainment blog, I'll say this here (it's not directed strictly at you):

    What is the point of posting purely subjective lists of the best or worst of anything in entertainment if it's not to promote discussion? See, the way I see it, if this piece was typed, edited, and published without any expectation of disagreement or indeed encouragement of alternate opinions to be presented in an open comment thread directly attached to said list, that would essentially be a narcissistic enterprise taken by a writer who considers their opinion so valuable as to be purely definitive and therefore above any disagreement or casual discussion by strangers on the free internet public forum on which the information was presented.

    So by that same logic, condescending to anyone who posts, as Guest did here, a differing opinion from a Best Of list is implicitly stating that you not only believe that the author of this article was a total narcissist, but that you read the piece, scrolled down through the comments seeking anyone who may have disagreed with the author, and sniped at them because you either think the entire exercise is stupid (which would make you complicit in a stupid exercise) or that you think the author is, in fact, above reproach.

    Basically what I'm saying is: Obviously people have different opinions, and Guest knows that, because why else would he or she have written that comment, and what are you doing making fun of Guest when you're neither participating in the conversation about the article or doing anything productive with your life other than trying to tear down an anonymous stranger for adding to the free exchange of ideas available to him or her on a Best Movies list on a popular blog that is free and open to the public on the internet?

  • Maguita NYC

    Agree. But if I may adduce in a more simplistic reasoning process in regards to this particular site:

    This is Pajiba, as previously encouraged by Dustin Rowles himself and explained to me on my first day of "Pajiba disorientation",

    We the Pajibans are expected to disagree, disparage, discourage, discredit, and all around diss whatever the "Overlords" post that we may or may not agree with. It is an exercise in challenging creativity and thoughtful oddities in snark, while toeing the line of assholish ridicule without necessarily crossing borders (Rule #4).

    Which of course brings about TK's Rule #5, that goes along the lines of something like: Fuck you, fuck the lot of you.

  • Tinkerville

    Attack the Block is an absolute masterpiece. It's one of those movies where if I run into a friend (or stranger, who am I kidding..) who hasn't seen it yet, I grab them like a mad man and scream in their face until they promise to get around to watching it. Believe.

  • Ponytail

    Hated it. The main characters reminded me too much of all the mouthy teenagers on the estate I grew up on, and I couldn't bear to sit through two hours of it. So, now if someone recommends it, I have to wonder if we share the same taste (I also didn't go a bundle on "Paul" though I do normally like Pegg/Frost colloborations).

  • Two hours? The film is about 80 minutes long, and there are even a bunch of other characters with their own subplots if you don't like the main ones. (And what's missing from Paul that makes previous Pegg/Frost collaborations work is cowriter/director Edgar Wright.)

  • BendinIntheWind

    So, SO heartily agree.

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