Well, it’s almost time to close the book on 2011. Now seems as good a time as any to look back on some of the best movies I saw this year. Ironically enough, not all of them were actually released in 2011. But they were the ones that meant the most to me or affected me the deepest.
1.Never Let Me Go (UK, 2010)
When I reviewed this 2010 release back in August, I wrote that the film “forces the viewer to confront the big issues: What value does a life have, when, God knows, history is replete with examples of cultures valuing some lives above others? Can you transcend your circumstances or is your fate already etched on the wall of the universe?”
Those words are true now. Just thinking about the movie’s horrifying premise makes my heart ache.
2. The Muppets (USA, 2011)
In a year filled with tired retreads, endless reboots and franchises that refused to die, the return of Jim Henson’s felt and floppy-eared creations was a breath of fresh air.
Boasting a great script from star Jason Segel and partner Nicolas Stoller, this tale of putting the old gang back together again lovingly recaptured the anarchic spirit of the original 1970s/80s television show without ever devolving into cliche.
If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say that it was one of the best two hours I’ve spent in a movie theater in years.
3. They Died With Their Boots On (USA, 1942).
What director Raoul Walsh’s epic tale of George Armstrong Custer lacked in historical accuracy (which was much) it more than made up for in the charismatic performance of Errol Flynn in the lead role.
When I reviewed the movie in October, I concluded: “So with “They Died With Their Boots On,” give Hollywood an “A” for storytelling, but an “F” for its remembrance of history — a problem the nation continues to struggle with.”
That still works now.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger (USA, 2011).
This was one of the two superhero franchise movies I saw this year (Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” was the other one).
Joe Johnson’s depiction of the star-spangled World War II hero was hardly deathless art. But it was great popcorn entertainment. Chris Evans brought the right amount of 1940s idealism to the role. And newcomer Hayley Atwell smoldered as the strong-minded Peggy Carter.
Writing about the movie shortly after its July release, I concluded that even though Captain America “is a vehicle to sell toys, fast-food tie-ins and all manner of merch … [it] never forgets its first responsibility: to tell a good story and to keep audiences entertained.”
5.Criminal Investigator (USA, 1942).
Another film, viewed in 2011, but hailing from another era. It was one of several featurettes that popped up in my Netflix queue this year. Writing about it in September, I said: “Despite boasting some laughably wooden acting and a bushel basket’s worth of newspaper business cliches, this surprisingly taut featurette is still consistently entertaining.”
Sounds about right.
There were plenty of other movies this year that captured my attention. Some I’d seen before. Some I wish I’d never seen at all. But the above is a fairly representative sample of my favorites from the past year.
Feel free to leave a list of your favorite movies from the past year in the comments section.