Videogum

Favorite Movies Of 2011

By staff / December 28, 2011 - 10:00 am

For whatever reason, and for better or for worse, Videogum doesn’t traditionally spend a lot of time talking about the things that it genuinely LIKES. It’s a weakness, and we recognize it, and we’re so sorry. (This has been going on for awhile now though, like, you know, since day one, so it probably won’t change, either. Oh well.) In reading the site one might even get the impression that we don’t like anything, which is not true! At all! We love so much stuff. It’s crazy how much stuff we love. Because at the end of the day, after all of the jokes about garbage monsters and liars and eye crimes and what have you, we still hold onto the belief that the world can be a wonderful place full of joy and wonder. I mean, that’s not even remotely true for the 80 percent of the world’s population that is starving and has no access to clean drinking water. But for those of us who are white and middle class and spend all our time on the Internet talking about what matters–movies and TV and vlogs–this place is GREAT! So, white people with Twitter accounts, let’s take a break for complaining and spend a little time CELEBRATING!

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Here are OUR favorite movies of 2011:

Beginners
We cannot state enough how good Beginners is. It’s just such a soft and charming and wonderful movie. Is it perfect? No! But few things are. (For example, his relationship with his girlfriend is very cute and everything, but it’s pretty unjustified. The thing is, though, that’s almost always the case in movies about people falling in love. They meet at a party and now they’re in love. It’s fine. Don’t worry about. Besides, she’s fucking BEAUTIFUL, so WE GET IT.) There were so many ways in which this movie harkened back to the indie films of the ’90s that it should have been annoying and felt dated, but somehow it didn’t. It worked. It was as if Mike Mills just pulled all the best parts from that era, because there were some good parts, and only used those. (Haha. It is as if he did that. There is no way to know whether or not that is exactly what he did.) Also, Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer were very good in it, but can we talk about the MOM for a second? Good mom. Love that mom. Love this movie.

Drive
What is there even left to say? The cinematic Tumblr darling of 2011 was great. We would like to see it again soon. We do think it got a little bit too MUCH credit, insofar as the Internet was acting like this was some kind of touchstone film that was more innovative than it was, when really it was a crazy good soundtrack, a very handsome cast, and a dark and brooding plotline that was about as thin as something that is very thin. It was really an exercise in aesthetics more than anything else, but that’s fine, because this thing had TERRIFIC AESTHETICS. We’re just saying that it’s not the next Pulp Fiction or whatever. It had nothing to say, and it didn’t make any structural or cinematographic breakthroughs. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just the most fun to watch and that we aren’t still listening to “Real Hero” on a regular basis.

The Tree Of Life
This movie is very “controversial,” if that is what it means when some people hate a thing and other people like it. Does anyone love it? We doubt it. It’s not exactly lovable. And, OK, the part where they’re running through the heaven desert and going through doorways is a bit senior art school thesis project corny. But the movie was genuinely beautiful. Someone disparagingly commented in the Gummys thread that it was like watching a screensaver, which is not as cutting as that person would probably like it to be, because you can get pretty deeply entranced by a good screensaver. But also, that’s just nonsense. The long codas of space and time combined with the time-jumping scenes of a rural childhood were totally engrossing, like watching a visual poem, and it’s fine to criticize the movie for making a simplistic idea about time and mortality that most children eventually stumble over into an all-encompassing epic, but the fact of the matter is that just because the idea is simple doesn’t mean it isn’t basically the most important idea and something we all think about all the time, and someone very talented was very ambitious in their attempt to wrestle that to the ground, so how can you get mad about it? Do what you want, we’re just saying.

Margaret
Full disclosure: we haven’t actually seen Margaret. What are you going to do? Take away our Critic’s License? We never bothered showing up for the test. Kenneth Lonergan’s first film, You Can Count On Me, is one of our (well, Gabe’s, Kelly hates it) favorite movies of all time. OF ALL TIME! Margaret is his long-awaited follow up that got tangled in disputes with the studios and what have you. Based on the things we have read, it is an imperfect movie, obviously, but it’s also very good in a lot of important ways. We will eventually make our own decisions about it, and we understand if you don’t like us anymore for including a movie we haven’t seen on our Best of the Year list, but sometimes it is nice to just be excited about seeing a thing, and no movie is more perfect and enjoyable and well crafted than the movie you haven’t actually seen yet. FOUR STARS A++.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This is just a great spy movie. Filled with great actors. You should see it. The End.

Another Earth
We had a few problems with Another Earth. At points it was overly cheesy, a lot of the major moments felt kind of emotionally manipulative, and there was that part where she washed the woman’s sweater and it was like, COME ON, why would she ever have washed that? But it was easy to pick out the problems we had with this movie because the parts that we didn’t have problems with WERE SO GOOD! We think lots of people may have had trouble with the science-fiction-without-even-the-suggestion-of-scientific-reasoning aspect of Another Earth, but that was what we liked most about this movie. It was like an incredibly beautiful Twilight Zone episode. No time was wasted explaining how this other Earth came into existence, or why its existence didn’t mess with the tides or WHATEVER, because honestly who cares, and instead the movie focused only on how the discovery of the second Earth effected life and relationships– specifically, the lives and relationship of John and Rhoda — on our Earth. It allowed the creative aspect of science fiction and the emotional aspect of a drama to come together and produce a gorgeous sci-dra that everyone should see immediately. Also, Britt Marling is beautiful and gives an incredibly beautiful soft&strong performance and boy is she beautiful. See this if you haven’t! Right now!

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Elizabeth Olsen, like Britt Marling in Another Earth, was a great surprise in Martha Marcy May Marlene. The two movies are similar in that they each rest almost completely on the shoulders of a (for the most part) unknown actress, and each actress delivers a strong, quiet performance that makes a movie that could have easily gone one way or the other, go way in the direction of being VERY good. Good job, you guys! You’re both beautiful! Really, cults are so fascinating that just the hint of one would have peaked our interest enough. Really again, if there were a TV channel that was 100% documentaries and movies about cults that would probably be the only TV channel we’d even bother watching because holy crap they are the best. And the worst! Oh, just the worst. (But also, THE BEST!) Anyway — this movie. Even though there was less time spent on the cult aspect than some of us would’ve like, the way it switched back and forth between the cult days and the post-cult days was always jarring and done very well. And remember when the new girl in the cult commented about how it was so strange that all the babies they had in the cult were boys, and Elizabeth Olsen said that the people in the cult “always have boys”? Ahhhh!! Oh, that was so good. So many hints and even crazier things than what we’re able to see, which are some VERY crazy things. What a creepshow! Cults!

Bill Cunningham New York

An adorable, heartbreaking, and heartMAKING look into the life of BIll Cunningham, fashion photographer for the New York Times. This one is available to watch instantly on Netflix. Please do that! You won’t be sorry. It’s a documentary and Bill Cunningham rides a bicycle and he is so kind and charming and and you will love it, we promise. That’s all. Are you watching it yet? Put it on.

Bridesmaids

It’s a difficult thing that Bridesmaids got the kind of attention that it did this year, because we kind of feel like now to say that you are a fan of the movie Bridesmaids, you’re really saying that you’re a fan of what the movie Bridesmaids proved about woman’s role in comedy, or something along those lines. Like, you’re championing this movie because it is a great movie, yes, but MORE because of what it represents in the bigger picture for all of womankind. Which is a fine enough thing, if that is what you want to say about it. But that isn’t really what we want to say about it. Mostly we want to say that it was a great comedy that we really enjoyed. We thought women were funny before (let alone these particular women whose JOB it is to be very funny) and we still think they are funny now. And we hope that Bridesmaids paves the way for more women-y comedies to come out and not be talked about because they’ve opened up some huge discussion about the role of women in comedy, but because they are very funny comedies. It is THE NINETIES after all.

Midnight In Paris
Because Woody Allen movies have never been our favorite, we didn’t go into this movie thinking we would have any strong feelings about it either way. Even while watching the movie, before the REAL action began, we couldn’t stop thinking about how all the actors seemed like they thought they were in a play, and how they all seemed like they were spending the other characters’ lines practicing in their own heads for the next like THEY were going to say, if that makes any sense — and that was distracting. But then Owen Wilson got in the cab to the past for the second time and we finally understood why everybody was so crazy about this movie this year! Because it is wonderful and charming and SUPER WEIRD! And while we sometimes find the discussion about the destructive nature of nostalgia to be done to death and incredibly self-satisfied, the movie’s take on the topic felt honest, playful, and never really over-the-top. Even while they were hitting you right over the head with it, which they were pretty much the whole time. Maybe it’s because Marion Cotillard is so pretty? Who knows. But, this movie was really a beautiful delight. You couldn’t even tell Owen Wilson was playing Woody Allen because as it turns out Owen Wilson is ALWAYS playing Woody Allen! Who knew! Just a joy ride from when Owen got into the cab the second time until the end. Can’t wait to see it again.

Endnote: Due to our busy schedules keeping up with the latest trampoline gossip and breaking fart news, we don’t actually have time to watch ALL of the movies, so we are sure that there are some really great ones that would have made this list if we’d only seen them, but we didn’t. Life is funny that way. LOL.