The Top 20 Films of 2011 — One Year Later

As we wrap up 2012, the “best of” lists are coming out in full swing. I am diligently working on mine (expect new posts for movies, video games and music in the near future), but I thought it would be fun to take a look at *last* year’s best films. I originally came up with a top ten in January, but there were more than a handful of films I had yet to see at that point. Now, one year later, I have seen pretty much every major picture from 2011 that caught my eye, and I can now provide a more accurate representation of my favorite films from last year. I have also expanded the list from 10 to 20, as 2011 turned out to be a pretty solid year of movies. For the sake of reference, here is a link to my original top 10 movies from 2011.

Cedar Rapids [2011]

20) Cedar Rapids

My favorite comedy of the year, one that was unfortunately overlooked by most.

Margin Call [2011]

19) Margin Call

One of the best ensemble casts of the year. Absolutely worth watching just to see Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons butt heads.

The Descendants [2011]

18) The Descendants

A tad overrated, but George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make this immensely watchable.

Win Win [2011]

17) Win Win

Can Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan be in every movie? Please?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

16) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yeah, this remake was completely unnecessary, but David Fincher delivered the goods here. Rooney Mara deserves all the props she has received for her performance.

The Ides of March [2011]

15) The Ides of March

Politics suck. This film shows you why. Oh yeah, and it has Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney AND Paul Giamatti.

A Separation [2011]

14) A Separation

A startling look at the dissolution of marriage from an Iranian perspective. Its title works in multiple ways.

I Saw the Devil [2010]

13) I Saw the Devil

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent; in a nutshell, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

Attack the Block [2011]

12) Attack the Block

Subtitles may be required for some of its English, but damn if this isn’t one hell of an entertaining flick.

We Need to Talk About Kevin [2011]

11) We Need to Talk About Kevin

An especially difficult film considering recent tragic events, but it features a phenomenal performance from Tilda Swinton.

Young Adult [2011]

10) Young Adult

Jason Reitman can do no wrong in my book. Great stuff from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt as well.

13 Assassins [2010]

9) 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike’s samurai homage has one of the most unforgettable and epic battle scenes I have ever seen.


8) The Artist

Although not my personal favorite, I can get behind this as Best Picture. Endlessly charming.

Hugo 3D [2011]

7) Hugo

This one is a real treat for film lovers. Brought a whole new sense of appreciation for the work of early director Georges Méliès.

Moneyball [2011]

6) Moneyball

A faithful adaptation of a terrific sports book, this is a baseball movie that can be appreciated even by non-fans.

The Skin I Live In [2011]

5) The Skin I Live In

One of the most disturbing films in recent years with an unforgettable twist.

Shame [2011]

4) Shame

Not enough can be said about Michael Fassbender’s performance of a man who has hit rock bottom with his startling sex addiction.

Take Shelter [2011]

3) Take Shelter

A thought-provoking look at mental illness with the best ending of any film from last year.

50/50 [2011]

2) 50/50

Still the biggest surprise of last year. A cancer film that manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Drive [2011]

1) Drive

Still my top choice after a full year. Gosling, Mulligan, Cranston. That soundtrack. Drive just oozes style.

Honorable Mentions: 
The Adjustment Bureau
Everything Must Go
Tucker & Dale vs Evil

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my choices? What was your personal favorite film from last year, now that we have a year’s perspective?

Movie Review: 50/50 [2011]

50/50 [2011]

50/50 [2011]
Director: Jonathan Levine
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

Cancer sucks. There’s no denying this. It’s especially devastating when the disease strikes a young person, someone who hasn’t even come close to living a full, healthy life.

This is the story of 50/50; the title, naturally, meaning the odds of beating this form of cancer.

Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old healthy male, the type of guy who doesn’t drink or smoke, and one who regularly jogs throughout his hometown of Seattle. He works at the National Public Radio, has a long-time girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a devoted best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen). By all accounts, he is a normal dude who is enjoying life.

Lately he has been having lower back pain. It’s a minor hindrance at first, but the pain never goes away and starts to get worse. He goes to the doctor and hears one of the scariest words in the English language: CANCER. As in, he has a rare form of spinal cancer that has a 50/50 survival rate. Commence shock.

50/50 [2011]

Adam’s only real option is to undergo chemotherapy in an attempt to reduce the tumor. He also sees a psychologist, the very inexperienced Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick), who goes through the protocol on how to help cancer patients. In a nutshell, his world has spun upside down.

As he tells his friends and family, they all react differently. Adam’s mother (Angelica Huston) naturally panics and wants to move in with her son, but she already has her hands full with her husband (Serge Houde), who has Alzheimer’s disease. Adam’s girlfriend, Rachael, has a hard time coping with the illness and does not act in the most appropriate manner. His buddy Kyle is sympathetic, but frequently pushes him to use cancer as a way of getting laid.

It’s obviously a difficult situation for all involved. 50/50 chronicles all of this, showing equally the plights, feelings and emotions from Adam, as well as everyone in his life. This is a battle for all of them.

With such a dark subject matter, 50/50 could easily be nothing more than depressing. While the film certainly has a bleak feel to it, there are plenty of well-timed moments of humor to break up the sadness. This is largely thanks to Seth Rogen, who is much-welcomed comic relief, even though his character often acts like a complete knucklehead.

50/50 [2011]

While Rogen helps with the laughs, Joseph Gordon-Levitt absolutely shines in the lead role. This guy sure has come a long way since his 3rd Rock from the Sun days, hasn’t he? His portrayal of Adam is amazing, as he flawlessly shows us the entire gamut of emotions that are natural to the cancer process. Shock, anger, sadness, acceptance. Hell, he even shaved his head on camera for the role. Yeah, he was great in Inception and (500) Days of Summer, but I think this is going to be his coming out party.

I would be remiss not to mention the performances from Philip Baker Hall (Bookman!) and Matt Frewer, two fellow cancer patients that Adam meets during chemotherapy. Hall, in particular, is a favorite of mine, and it was great to see him in this small, but important, role.

Movies like 50/50 are a rare breed. This is a film that will tug on your heartstrings just as often as make you laugh. I am not the kind of guy who cries during movies, but I was holding back major tears during this. Everything felt so REAL, and it’s absolutely tragic that people have to go through something like cancer. 50/50 is one of the best movies to come out so far this year. See it if you haven’t already.