July 1, 2011

Half-Way, Holmes: The 10 Best Movies I Saw This Year

6 down, 6 to go. With the year half over, I thought I'd do a half-time report of sorts and post a list of my ten favorite movies that I watched for the first time this year. Unfortunately, nothing that was released this year made the cut, but then again I haven't watched a lot of 2011 films so far and probably won't until the year draws to a close. I'll be posting related lists every Friday for the rest of the month, so stay tuned.

#10 BLUE VALENTINE - It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while I'll watch something just for the sake of being relevant in the film-loving community, and such was the case with this movie which I had no desire to see otherwise. Typically, I'm not a fan of movies about doomed relationships despite how much I can relate to them, but BLUE VALENTINE hit me on a personal level that very few films have. No matter how deeply in love two people are, this film brings to light the sad fact that it can suddenly all fade away with seemingly no reason whatsoever. To boot, it's a gorgeous film and well-acted by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. I much prefer it to another film from last year that it gets compared to a lot, RABBIT HOLE, which may show up on my "most disappointing" list.

#9 127 HOURS - Many have complained that director Danny Boyle's stylish tendencies were a bit overwhelming in 127 HOURS, which took away from the story that the film was trying to tell. I, however, found the style aspect of the film to be its saving grace because it added "color" to a film that could have been boring in the hands of a lesser filmmaker due to the inherently downbeat nature of the story. The sequence where James Franco fantasizes about the Gatorade bottle in the back of his truck, amongst other things, is easily one of my favorite moments in any film that I've seen this year.

#8 SUNSHINE - One of the most visually-stunning films of the last decade, in my opinion, and a good companion piece to modern-day Sci-Fi films like SOLARIS and MOON. It would probably be higher on the list if it weren't for the controversial and much talked about conclusion of the film. It wasn't so much that I had a problem with the awkward, unexpected turn that the film takes in the back end, but rather the execution. Otherwise solid, and what an amazing score by John Murphy.

#7 ELECTRIC DRAGON 80000V - I went into this bat-shit crazy Japanase film with no expectations and almost blind if it weren't for the fact that I saw director Sogo Ishii's post-apocalypse punk epic BURST CITY prior to this and at least knew what sort of filmmaker I was dealing with. While I wasn't a huge fan of BURST CITY as a whole, this sixty-minute juggernaut of manga-style action mixed with relentless, heavily-distorted rock n' roll blew my mind and had me clapping like a seal and fist-pumping like a cast member of the Jersey Shore on Meth by the time it was over.

#6 SANTA SANGRE - Prior to seeing this, I had an appreciation for director Alejandro Jodorowsky's work, but I never considered him to be much more than an interesting albeit very pretentious filmmaker. Well, it's still the case now that I think about it, but I can't deny that SANTA SANGRE is one of the most ming-blowingly beautiful genre-bending films I have ever seen.

#5 FROZEN - To say that I was impressed with this film would be a huge understatement. I was one in a long line of Adam Green nay-sayers prior to seeing this, but FROZEN proved that he's capable of making a great film, or at least that he's competent at what he does, which is far from what I got with his so-called "old-school American slasher" HATCHET. What surprised me the most about FROZEN was how well it was paced considering the plot, and the amazing score, which, to me, enhanced the film in a way that was unlike anything else I've seen this year, with the exception of THE SOCIAL NETWORK and maybe SUNSHINE.

#4 SLING BLADE - I'm not sure what finally provoked me to watch this staple of 90's American cinema, but it sure surpassed any expectations I had for it. For about two hours, or whatever the running time of this was, I was so mesmerized by the amazing quality of this film and how genuinely endearing it was that I completely forgot how much of an egomaniacal douchebag Billy Bob Thornton is.

#3 THE FIGHTER - Really had no desire to see this and only did so because of Christian Bale. Ended up absolutely loving it and I don't understand why so many people are hating on Bale for his performance in this, seemingly just because he won the Oscar and not John Hawkes. Considering who he played, I think he nailed it. I also thought Wahlberg was fine, but then again I don't mind him as much as a lot of people I know do. Despite how much I enjoyed it, however, I have no desire whatsoever to see it again any time soon.

#2 BLACK SWAN - Just when I thought I wasn't gonna get a chance to see this on the big screen, I finally got a chance to do so when my shitty local theaters decided to jump on the bandwagon building up to Awards season and finally show it in favor of what ever 3D garbage was out at the time. And what a great cinematic experience it was. It held up well when I revisited the film on DVD, but I don't want to push my luck and watch it again any time soon with hopes that I can preserve my positive outlook on the film and not grow tired of it.

#1 THE SOCIAL NETWORK - When I compiled a list of my favorite films from last year back in January or February, this was at the top of the list. After watching more films from last year that I never got around to over the last few months, it's still my favorite. It didn't blow me away or hit me with the impact that some of the other films on my list did, but when I combine how much enjoyment I got out of the film, how awesome it was on a technical level, and how rewatchable it is, none of the other films come close.


  1. Great list man. Like you, I'm lacking in 2011 movie views but I'm hoping to remedy that with Tree of Life and Super 8 sometime soon.

  2. Awesome list, Aaron. I think you are absolutely right about 127 Hours. Those little moments made the film, plus they nicely conveyed a person's thoughts as they are going slightly mad and their mind starts drifting off into these scenarios that are almost like daydreams.

    Also, I loved Teardrop, but Bale's performance was certainly worthy of the Oscar. Bale is one of the best actors working (and one of my favorites), but I think people hate on him 'cause he's an asshole. That's kind of why I like him.

  3. Thanks, guys. I'll be posting more lists throughout the month... like the dreaded WORST list.

    Matt: I think people are just tired of Bale, but I think he's still one of the most interesting actors working today. He definitely deserved the Oscar even though I would have been happy if Hawkes won.

  4. Me too. It would have been great to see Hawkes win because he was fantastic, but I think Bale's time had come. He did become a bit over saturated, but seeing him play a supporting character in The Fighter, as opposed to doing something like Terminator Salvation, put my faith back in him as someone that likes to make good films and play interesting characters. Also, can't wait for your worst list!

  5. A few years ago Bale was someone who's films I'd watch just because he was in them, but that's kinda changed in recent years as his popularity grew and he started doing shit like TERMINATOR and PUBLIC ENEMIES. He still has some artistic integrity left, but at the end of the day you can't really blame the guy for accepting a 20+ mil paycheck to do a shit movie.

  6. One of the great things about Bale is that he's been able to do both mainstream blockbusters and smaller independent films. I mean, this is the guy who went from The Machinist to Batman back to back! At least he got his Oscar for a good film and not a mediocre one that everyone knows is a throwaway to previous work.