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My Favorite Movies of 2011 (with some hateful comments…

Before the official awards get announced, and between New Year’s Day and the annual January release of a Liam Neeson-against-the-world-action-movie it is time for me to summarize thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours I spent on movies last year with my top 10 favorite movies and assorted other comments.  Per usual, let’s start with the bad news.

The Most Overrated Movies of 2011 (overrated and by coincidence they actually suck as well)

1) Hugo – I fell asleep for five minutes in the middle of this movie (2nd time in my life I have ever fallen asleep in a movie). Critics are gushing over this film that has a plot for children, but a high minded, boredom-inducing style that seems suited for pretentious senior citizens.

2) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – If Colin Firth is involved, being overrated is always a threat (I’m sorry, the “handsome Colin Firth” – this guy is the male Cate Blanchett who is “beautiful”).  But this movie outdoes itself.  The first spy thriller to not have a single thrill.  The conclusion of the film packs the punch of a 4 year old girl.  A major cast, a major disappointment.

3) Drive – We get it ladies Ryan Gosling is wonderful.  He talks like he’s from Brooklyn, despite being Canadian, he looks sleepy and before his abs developed, liking this art house favorite made you feel less shallow than your old feelings for Paul Walker.  And he had a huge year in 2011 (two of his films made the top 10), but Drive was as Adam Carolla so eloquently put it, “a highly stylized piece of sh*t.   The reviews for this film set the bar high.  The opening sequence was so cool it managed to exceed the reviews.  The remaining 90 minutes were a mess of awkward smiles by Gosling (seriously it was a weird performance at best, and an unintentional portrayal of a special needs human being at worst), an awful attempt at a love story and violence that was so gruesome and out of the blue that it seemed to simply be there to evoke a stomach turning reaction.  A weird and dumb movie.

Vacant expression and weird smiles got him a Golden Globe nomination.

4) Meloncholia – This movie about the possible end of the world and the end of a marriage is part two of the highly stylized piece of sh*t triumvirate.  On the plus side Kirsten Dunst looks incredible naked.  On the negative side the movie is odd and relatively plotless.  And I can still never forgive Lars Von Trier for the film Antichrist. And the Dunst love is for her breasts.  They may say her performance was amazing, but it was one note misery – my blog has more nuance of misery than her performance.  They just were impressed by her rack.  That’s it.

5) The Tree of Life – (the third in the stylized piece of sh*t trio) the only reason this is not the most overrated film of the year is because some critics had the good sense to call it nonsense.  Terrence Malick is nothing short of a cinematic villain.  His movies suck.  I made the mistake of thinking “Oh Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are good actors so maybe this movie will be different,” ignoring the fact that Pitt and Penn are incredibly self-important artists of “the craft” and actually heightened the chances that this movie would be pretentious garbage.  No point in describing this movie because it had no point or plot.

Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Terrence Malick have raised the bar of pretentious film-making to new heights

The Movie I Was Most Surprised to Like

Warrior – I actually highlighted this movie’s trailer on my blog as a sure fire crap bucket.  The preview was cheesy and was clearly making a ploy to be the “Rocky of MMA,” which to me is like trying to be “the Rocky of prison rape (see my podcast on January 17th)”  But the movie turned out to be really solid.  Well acted and largely void of sports movie cheese, not to mention it featured the best set of traps in Hollywood history, courtesy of the clearly ‘roided up Tom Hardy.  No movie this year forced me to acknowledge that my pre-conceived notions were wrong more than Warrior.

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

I saw a lot of movies this year and these were my favorites.   I feel no need to justify my choices and I do not care what yours are.  If they are vastly different than mine you are wrong.  So without further adieu:

1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Nothing makes me happier than a high-minded, patiently-crafted popcorn movie.

My favorite character from my favorite movie of 2011.

2) The Ides of March – Nothing new in terms of revelations of how scummy politics is, but I thought this was a brisk, tense, extremely well-acted film.

3) War Horse – if you can look past the (intentional) old school, Hollywood cheesiness you should leave the theater with a smile on your face.

4) Crazy Stupid Love – best romantic comedy since 500 Days of Summer

5) 50/50 – All the humor and sadness you’d expect from a cancer movie.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is going to be 2012’s less ripped, more versatile Ryan Gosling – it is his time to break out big time.

6) The Descendants – Another Clooney flick on the list (Ides was the first).  Really enjoyed just about every minute of this movie.

7) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – might have made the list simply for Rooney Mara’s performance (and her acting was good too), but I really enjoyed the movie – shortest 2 hours and 40 minutes I have spent in a theater.  I think David Fincher is the best director working right now not named Christopher Nolan.

The Girl With The Oscar Ambition

8. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – let it be known that I never abandoned my fandom of Tom Cruise and I was rewarded well with this excellent action movie.  See it on IMAX also – some really great shots.

For the 10th time this year I will tell you - TC is the best sprinter in Hollywood history and MI4 uses that skill to the fullest.

9) X Men: First Class – The first comic book movie post-The Dark Knight that I felt brought gravitas and high quality to the comic book genre.

10) The Artist – A silent movie that almost turns silence into a foreign language.  If not for War Horse, this would have been my feel-good movie of the year.

Thanks for reading – I hope to have my movie review show up and running by the end of this month (www.YouTube.com/JLMovieLife) – you can subscribe now if you like.  So my reviews will hopefully be funny videos this year, or at least videos.  Great news for you anti-readers!

Have a nice weekend.

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Movie of the Week: The Ides of March

There was a lot riding on the movie of the week this week.  First it represented a critical tiebreaker in the 2011 Ryan Gosling competition.  I loved Crazy Stupid Love and he was funny and charming in it, despite the presence of his nasaly, quasi-Brooklyn, Marlon-Brando-in-The-Godfather-despite-being-only-30-years-old-voice.  Then came Drive, the critically-acclaimed, artistic piece of sh*t.  It had a great opening sequence and then was as if someone took the movie Faster starring The Rock, reduced the muscles, kept the minimal dialogue and plot and added a European director with a love of himself.  So The Ides of March would be the final vote in a split decision loss or victory for Ryan Gosling’s 2011.

No less important was the movie for George Clooney.  For me George Clooney, as I have said many times before, is the high school quarterback that does math club and a capella.  Girls love him, guys can’t hate him because he is good at football, but the losers really love him because he is the rare cool kid who uses some of his cool capital to do activities with them, rather than bully them.  Hollywood is largely the math club and a capella group.  They love that Clooney has not squandered his Ocean’s 11 mass appeal on starring in only big blockbusters, but he has passion projects and intellectual works and other giant bags of over-indulgent boring films.  Loved Clooney in Out of Sight, loved him in Oceans 11 and really enjoyed, more recently, Up In The Air.  These were football films for Clooney.  Sleek, cool and fun to watch (and Up In The Air had a dose of math club in it too).  But in between those movies were a heavy load of self-important crap.

Good Night and Good Luck – overrated and boring, but the fact that the cool kid was doing them required the geeks to support it, or risk losing Clooney to football entirely.

Syriana – not bad, never should have won an Oscar (he grew a beard – what is this a comedy festival or the Oscars) and the film was adequate.

And then there was Michael Clayton, his biggest critical success, which was the most average of corporate thrillers (it cannot hold the jock of Michael Mann’s The Insider, for example, but garnered the equivalent nominations and praise 11 years apart).

And this is without mentioning one of the worst film’s of 2010 The American which was all Clooney all the time and terrible, but somehow escaped with mediocre reviews instead of Bucky Larson reviews.

Together Clooney and Gosling seemed very poised to enter the “J-L Debonair Overrated Hall of Fame” joining current inductees Colin Firth and the television show Mad Men.

So Gosling Brando and Clooney Christ had a lot to deliver with The Ides of March.  And in my opinion, they did.

I think it is an Oscar contender, but what do I know.

This movie is a brisk and tight 100 minute experience (its sharpness is probably due to the fact that it is based on a play, Farragut North).  Unlike Moneyball, for example, I could not complain of any fat needing to be trimmed.  The cast is strong, with the four main characters played by Gosling, Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.  Jeffrey Wright, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood handle the remainder and between those seven actors you have some serious chops carrying the film.

It follows an Obama-esque candidate (Clooney – all white, not half-white) on the campaign trail, specifically their fight to win the critical Ohio delegates for the Democratic nomination.  Gosling is the whiz kid, who probably has an Ivy League pedigree, based on his position and yet still sounds like a mush-mouthed Brooklynite.  Don Corleone-ing aside, Gosling is quite strong as the character that undergoes the most development throughout the film, from idealistic whiz kid to hardened, cynical political operative.  The whole cast is great  and I could not ask for much more from a movie.  It is lean, well cast, well acted with a story and themes that are very current.

Final Grade – A