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