Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Separating from 2011

It's that time of the year again ... the time to leave the year behind and release my rankings for the best -- and all the way to the worst -- films of the previous year.

I do it every year on the morning the Oscar nominations are announced, and this year, I set a record for movies seen in the previous year: 121. That beats my previous record (set in 2009) by eight. Funny, I don't necessarily feel like I put my mind to it much harder than before -- maybe I got in more movies "casually." (Define that as you will.)

I'll continue to see movies from 2011 -- not for a couple weeks, but I will. However, I will not continue to rank them. These are the rankings that will go down in the annals of my personal record book.

Let me just start by saying that 2011 was a weird year. A friend and fellow film critic characterized it as a year where there were many very good but few great films, and I kind of agree with that. Only my top three films are films I would not change a single thing about. However, it would not be a stretch to say that I love my top 30 films, and that I agonized each time a film I loved inevitably inched downward on the list. (In case you are puzzling over the semantics of this paragraph, apparently you can "love" a film without it qualifying as "great.")

On mornings like this, I usually like to let the list itself do the talking. So, here it is:

1. A Separation
2. Red State
3. Take Shelter
4. Another Earth
5. The Arbor
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
7. Anonymous
8. Moneyball
9. Melancholia
10. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
11. Shame
12. Hall Pass
13. The Artist
14. Crazy, Stupid, Love
15. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
16. Paul
17. Rubber
18. Water for Elephants
19. Meek's Cutoff
20. Cedar Rapids
21. Win Win
22. A Better Life
23. Captain America: The First Avenger
24. The Guard
25. Certified Copy
26. X-Men: First Class
27. Hugo
28. The Ides of March
29. The Future
30. Margin Call
31. Warrior
32. Bill Cunningham New York
33. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
34. Buck
35. Senna
36. Young Adult
37. J. Edgar
38. Everything Must Go
39. Surrogate Valentine
40. Bridesmaids
41. Martha Marcy May Marlene
42. Contagion
43. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
44. The Tree of Life
45. Terri
46. Beginners
47. The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
48. Weekend
49. Rango
50. Higher Ground
51. Our Idiot Brother
52. Jane Eyre
53. Tabloid
54. Like Crazy
55. Super 8
56. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
57. Midnight in Paris
58. The Help
59. The Adventures of Tintin
60. Take Me Home Tonight
61. Jumping the Broom
62. The Lincoln Lawyer
63. Hanna
64. Limitless
65. The Trip
66. The Descendants
67. I Saw the Devil
68. Insidious
69. Super
70. Attack the Block
71. Madea's Big Happy Family
72. The Devil's Double
73. Gnomeo & Juliet
74. Pearl Jam Twenty
75. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
76. The Sitter
77. Bellflower
78. Your Highness
79. Horrible Bosses
80. The Beaver
81. Drive
82. Hobo With a Shotgun
83. Green Lantern
84. Mars Needs Moms
85. Skateland
86. In Time
87. Circumstance
88. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
89. Submarine
90. The Adjustment Bureau
91. Sucker Punch
92. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
93. Carnage
94. Battle: Los Angeles
95. Friends With Benefits
96. Mr. Popper's Penguins
97. War Horse
98. The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman
99. Apollo 18
100. Trollhunter
101. Red Riding Hood
102. 50/50
103. Thor
104. Source Code
105. The Perfect Host
106. Miral
107. We Bought a Zoo
108. The Thing
109. From Prada to Nada
110. Fright Night
111. Just Go With It
112. The Green Hornet
113. Beastly
114. No Strings Attached
115. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
116. Cowboys & Aliens
117. Drive Angry
118. The Hangover Part II
119. The Change-Up
120. Trespass
121. 30 Minutes or Less

Movies I most regret not getting to see before the deadline: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Margaret, Project Nim, Rampart, The Skin I Live In, We Need to Talk About Kevin

And I've never done this before, but here are a few "notables" to give my list a little context:

Film that kept getting better the more I thought about it: Melancholia
Film that kept getting worse the more I thought about it: The Ides of March
Film I was really too tired to be watching: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Film I will probably like the most better on second viewing: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Film I wish I could have ranked higher, but it felt wrong: A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
Film I wish I could have ranked lower, but it felt wrong: Drive
Similar sins, (almost) the same ranking: Apollo 18/Trollhunter
Biggest surprise, director: Kevin Smith, Red State
Biggest letdown, director: Alexander Payne, The Descendants

I could probably write up a few more, but let's just get this out on the interwebs, shall we?

This is the only time of the year that I really beg for you to comment. On the day I finish my rankings, I'm giddy to discuss what I've done and compare and contrast it with your own impressions of the previous year. So please, stop in for a comment or two, won't you?


Don Handsome said...

Thanks for sharing Vance. My main comment for you (in this venue) is that I’m loving how mixed your top 20 is. You’ve got some films ranked highly that I definitely don’t agree with, but you’re unafraid in your list making. Kudos on your off-the-beaten-path picks like Red State and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, and Paul. Oh…I added …Orgy to my Netflix queue as well.

I would definitely add that Martha Marcy May Marlene DEFINITELY needs some more care as its insultingly low. So I’m glad to see that you’ve made mention of that.

Nick Prigge said...

As typical, a bold, different Top 10. I like it, though I'm ashamed to admit I haven't seen the first two. Though that's just because "A Separation" only FINALLY gets released this weekend in Chicago. So that will change soon. And I have "The Arbor" at home on Netflix. AND "Another Earth" was spectacular.

ANNNNNND "Trespass" vs. "30 Minutes Or Less." That's a real Royal Rumble. I would say I thought "Trespass" was worse only because I enjoyed it more, which might not make sense.

Emil said...

Looks like a nice and personal mix, which is always something I enjoy seeing in these kinds of lists. I can't comment too much on most of the films as I haven't caught up much with last year yet, but I will say that I'm happy to see some adoration for Crazy Stupid Love and Paul. Two films I really enjoyed.

Vancetastic said...

Don - Yeah, I'm ready for my second MMMM viewing. No doubt. As for the other three you mentioned ... I love movies where scary, gun-toting redneck/religious types pose a threat, I guess. (I just noticed that those other three titles have this thematic link.)

Nick - Thanks much. I'm very glad to know that you think bold decisions are typical for me. I like to think that I don't just gravitate toward what I think is being lauded by other critics -- I know I don't, but I'm always conscious of whether that comes across in my writing or not. That said, I did say at the end of this post that there were movies I wish I could rank higher or lower except that it "felt wrong," which means that I must be conscious on some level of being perceived as a total wackadoodle.

I'm excited for you to see and report back on A Separation. Of course, I'm also excited for you to see Red State, but it's a polarizing film so my recommendation comes with that asterisk.

Emil - Yeah, Paul really knocked it out of the park, didn't it? There may have been a couple creative decisions in the third act that kept it from being even higher, but I obviously loved it. Same deal for Crazy, Stupid, Love. That's an especially interesting one, because when you hear somebody list the apparent faults with it, you can kind of nod along in agreement. Then again, all you have to do is think back to how you felt after watching it to know that most of that stuff didn't impact your enjoyment -- and may have actually enhanced it, in a way (all that playing with the structure of a "typical" romantic comedy). Thanks for the comment!

Groundskeeper Willie said...

I'll join in the chorus and praise Vance for the eclectic mix of films in the top 20 or 30 spots. This list reads like the personal feelings of an omnivorous filmgoer, and that's really fun to see, as most Best Of lists are nothing but Oscar bait.

I'll be using this list as I play catch up in 2012. (As I did in 2011 with the previous list; I never would've given Tangled a chance if you hadn't rated it the #2 film of that year, and I really enjoyed it.)

Other thoughts:

-- I was really really pleased to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil make the top ten. I think it was my favorite film of 2011.

-- Okay, I *have* to see Red State immediately. You ranked it the second-best film of the year, and just last week my buddy saw it and ranted on Facebook for days about how fucking terrible it was. Seriously, for days. Anything that polarizes my friends to that degree is a must watch.

-- I agreed with you about the relative quality of the three Marvel comics adaptations and the two fuckbuddy films. I can't explain why I saw *both* fuckbuddy films.

-- What didn't you like about Rise of the Planet of the Apes? I really enjoyed it while I watched it, although I have to admit that it's fallen in my estimation the more distance I get from it. Probably because the non-ape characters were pretty two-dimensional. But it had Draco Malfoy being mean to apes!

Vancetastic said...


(This is now your new acronym nickname.)

I love the description of me as an "omnivorous filmgoer." Not only is it totally accurate, but it describes my proclivities in a way I'd never considered them before. Hooray for what was probably just an off-the-cuff characterization.

Red State is very confronting, so some people are bound not to like its approach. If your friend hasn't already ranted too many specifics about it, try to go in knowing as little about it as possible.

Glad that Tangled was such a win for you. I like to think that's why I do what I do.

Regarding ROTPOTA (speaking of acronyms, possibly my favorite of the year), I just hated every single thing having to do with human beings. Not only did James Franco totally mail it on, not only was Freda Pinto completed wasted, and not only was Draco Malfoy one-dimensionally hateful and ridiculous, but that scientific bureaucrat who hated apes -- oh how he hated those apes! I'm afraid that was too much writing/directing/acting ineptitude for me to appreciate the ape stuff as much as I should have (though I did appreciate those parts).

Ah, but I too saw both fuckbuddy movies. Then again, I also saw 119 other movies.