Top 10 Films of 2011

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have time to see all the arty, critically acclaimed and popular movies that come out each year—for instance, I heard Drive was really good, and I still intend to see it when it comes out on video—but there were 10 films that struck me this year, and here they are!

10. Attack the Block – This UK comedy asks the question, what would happen if aliens landed in the projects? A funny concept and one that is executed well, with a young cast that does a great job kicking alien ass while speaking in largely unintelligible (to me) British accents. Seriously, I had to rewind this movie so many times to attempt to hear what was being said, but at least I learned some cool new slang words, like “bare” and “merked.” I wish I’d seen this page before watching the movie. All in all, as alien movies starring kids go, I preferred this one over Super 8, if only because Super 8 had a noted lack of Nick Frost.

9. The Tree of Life – Okay, it was super pretentious and overly long, but this movie was still pretty interesting, and certainly ambitious. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain both do good work as suburban parents here, but the real star is the camerawork, which captures beautiful moments of all sorts, many from the point of view of a child. This innocent approach to the world makes you see it in a new light, and that’s not easy. I still say that Adaptation did the whole “origins of the universe” thing first, but it’s hard to argue with dinosaurs. I just wish there’d been more of them and less Sean Penn walking around a damn desert.

8. The Muppets – It’s so good to see the Muppets back on screen doing what they do best, and for once it doesn’t seem like kids are even invited to the party. There are really no children in the film, in typical Muppet fashion, and most of the jokes and references are aimed at adults who grew up watching The Muppet Show and the original movies. Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s sweet and funny script makes this a Muppet movie worth watching, and Bret McKenzie’s songs (while sometimes a little too reminiscent of songs from Flight of the Conchords) are ideally suited to the movie’s sense of humor. Amy Adams was my least favorite part, but she did her best with a boring role. And with “Man or Muppet” nominated for an Oscar, I’m really hoping to see Bret up there on stage (while Jemaine kicks himself for not helping out).

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Sure, it was an unnecessary American remake, and Rooney Mara may not be the best choice for the title role, but damn if I didn’t have a good time at this movie. David Fincher does a good job directing, and Daniel Craig is both sexy and believable as Mikael Blomkvist. And after seeing this and Melancholia, I’m convinced that nobody can play a rich asshole quite like Stellan Skarsgård.

6. Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig does a terrific job leading this ensemble comedy, which features perhaps the funniest poop-related scene ever put on film. Melissa McCarthy is a standout and deserves every accolade she’s received, while Chris O’Dowd from The IT Crowd makes a suitably adorable love interest. But what really got my attention in this movie was the unusually dark and realistic tone with which it approached the subjects of jealousy, failure and disappointment. We can all relate to these feelings, and Wiig demonstrates them without being too heavy-handed. Oh yeah, and Jon Hamm is in it.

5. Young Adult – Pretty much everyone hated Jennifer’s Body except me, and I can understand that, but otherwise Diablo Cody has been a pretty reliable voice in movies and TV. Charlize Theron does an amazing job in this bitter dark comedy, making me wonder why she doesn’t get cast in more funny roles. Those who liked United States of Tara will be glad to see Cody working with Patton Oswalt again, this time playing a home distillery running, sarcastic, disabled-since-high-school hate crime victim who bonds with Theron’s washed up writer character. As someone who recently moved home for a while, not to mention someone who drinks too much at night and chugs Diet Coke out of the bottle in the morning, I can definitely relate to Theron’s character, which is kind of scary actually.

4. The Descendants – George Clooney looks totally ordinary and not like a sexy movie star in this movie, which helps to ground the plot and makes you remember what a good actor he can be when he’s given the right material. All of Alexander Payne’s movies have been great in my opinion, and this is no exception. Quirky characters, witty writing, a thoughtful tone and solid performances (even from Matthew Lillard!) give this movie a life of its own, and the Hawaiian setting is just lovely.

3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – In this thriller which I’m sure everyone is calling densely plotted, but is in fact rather airy and atmospheric rather than totally plot-driven, features all kinds of recognizable British actors, from reliable standbys like Colin Firth and John Hurt to young hotties like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. They come together to do some cool spy stuff in the 60s, but it’s less James Bond and more Mad Men, with a hefty dose of “What the hell is going on?” interwoven throughout.

2. Midnight in Paris – You don’t have to be a fan of 1920s literature to love this movie, but it certainly helps. From Fitzgerald to Hemingway, all of your favorites are brought to life in this delightful fantasy, where Owen Wilson plays the Woody Allen character to neurotic perfection. Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen play his fiancée and his snobby nemesis, and they totally hooked up off screen, which is cute. And Marion Cotillard is gorgeous as the mistress of various famous artists in the past. What a great idea for a movie!

1. Melancholia – (pictured above) Beautiful, haunting, wonderfully acted (especially by Charlotte Gainsburg), cool end of the world themes—oh yeah, and it features sexy Eric from True Blood. What more could you want from a movie? Unlike all those big budget Hollywood apocalypse movies, which are fun in their own right, this one tells the story of the end of humanity in a personal and intimate way, which makes it all the more scary and devastating. But somehow it feels uplifting, at least for Von Trier, whose movies are usually a lot more bleak (which is funny to say when you’re talking about a movie about the destruction of humanity). See it on the big screen if it’s still out, or watch it on a big screen TV at home, because the visual effects are pretty damn cool.

Short List: The Best Movies of 2010 (and the 5 most overrated)

The Best

10. Hot Tub Time Machine

9. The Next Three Days

8. Dinner for Schmucks

7. The Kids Are All Right

6. I Love You Phillip Morris

5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

4. Black Swan

3. Greenberg

2. Winter’s Bone

1. The Ghost Writer


The Most Overrated

5. The King’s Speech

4. Get Him to the Greek

3. The Social Network

2. Catfish

1. Inception


Short List: The Best Pop Songs of 2010

10. Love The Way You Lie – Eminem ft. Rihanna

9. Imma Be – Black Eyed Peas

8. Alejandro – Lady Gaga

7. Like a G6 – Far East Movement ft. Dev and the Cataracts

6. Rude Boy – Rihanna

5. What’s My Name? – Rihanna ft. Drake

4. Telephone – Lady Gaga Ft. Beyoncé

3. Whip My Hair – Willow Smith

2. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

1. Fuck You! – Cee-Lo Green

Top 20 Liz and Laura tweets

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Liz and Laura are indeed on Twitter, at @lizlaura in case you’re not already following us, and we’ve put a whole lot of nonsense out into the abyss in the last couple of years. But these are a few of the glimmering tidbits of quasi-humor (or even, dare I say it, insight) that we were able to salvage from the rubble.

20. Movies that glorify boring professions: Sister Act (nunnery), Toys (toy factory), Beverly Hills Cop (being a Beverly Hills cop).

19. There was a news promo that said “Drink up! The beverage that relieves stress.” Uhh…beer?

18. Idea for a double feature movie night: Stephen King’s “Thinner” and “The Santa Clause.” Unexplainable weight change=terrifying or hilarious?

17. Michael Chiarello from Food Network and the Moment of Luxury guy from PBS should be a couple and have a fabulous home together.

16. It’s sad to see people partying like douches at Senor Frog’s in Mexico on NYC Prep, because I’ve done the same damn thing.

15. If people are going to complain every time a youthful looking model gets partially nude, the modeling industry is doomed!

14. Only pussies collect unemployment.

13. They should rename the TV show “Hitched or Ditched” to “Humped or Dumped.”

12. Ads for life insurance like to show beaches.

11. How did the disney monorail have a fatal accident? It goes 35 miles an hour and it’s on a goddamn rail.

10. I’d like to see Dancing with the Starfish.

9. Word that sounds like the opposite of what it means: spendthrift.

8. Don’t you hate when you read “Animal Collective” and for a second it looks like “animal crackers,” which are delicious?

7. Who else thinks it’s about time Sting started using his real name? Gordon Sumner: it’s not that bad.

6. Why is it British people say “sport” where we would say “sports,” but say “maths” instead of “math”?

5. The art of note passing is really lost after high school. Why don’t people pass notes in offices more? Maybe they do and I’m just unpopular.

4. Does a pimp share his business secrets on a need-to-ho basis?

3. I hope moon water makes you turn into a zombie. Then when the first moon resort is built, everyone will turn into moon zombies.

2. It’s not cheating if it’s molestation

1. Do you think “Twitter” will ever get into the dictionary? That would be a sad day indeed.

Arbitrarily ordered list of albums from the aughts that Liz likes

2009 music

Ween (White Pepper)

Calexico (Feast of Wire)

The Dandy Warhols (Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

St. Vincent (Marry Me)

The Shins (Chutes Too Narrow)

New Pornographers (Twin Cinema)

Elliott Smith (Figure Eight)

Fleet Foxes (Fleet Foxes)

Animal Collective (Strawberry Jam)

Beach House (Devotion)

Radiohead (Kid A)

Postal Service (Give Up)

Broken Social Scene (You Forgot It In People)

Dirty Projectors (Rise Above)

Iron & Wine (Our Endless Numbered Days)

Modest Mouse (The Moon and Antarctica)

Neko Case (Middle Cyclone)

Radiohead (In Rainbows)

Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)

Joanna Newsom (Ys)

Outkast (Stankonia)

First of all, I find it extremely difficult to order this list in any sort of relevant way. After several stressful minutes of rapid cutting and pasting, I’ve decided to present these to you randomly.

Secondly, I am aware that these are all pop albums. Perhaps that says something for how innovative pop music really is, because an “I’ve got to hear it 100 more times” hook can be written by any band, and at any time. There is, of course, much merit in creating mood, inserting enticing content, or alarming the audience with noise they’ve never heard before, but what will always burn into your brain are those infectious bits you find yourself humming as you live your everyday.

The 5 Best and Worst Horror Movies of 2009

2009 hasn’t been the best year for scary movies. Some have been interesting, others horrifically bad, but overall they’ve been disappointing in their unwillingness to take a chance. Still, a few rose to the top (and sunk to the bottom), and here they are. As always, leave your comments below!

The Best

1. Drag Me to Hell

2. Jennifer’s Body

3. A Perfect Getaway

4. Zombieland

5. Trick ‘r Treat

Honorable Mention: Orphan, My Bloody Valentine 3-D

The Worst

1. The Final Destination

2. Sorority Row

3. Paranormal Activity

4. The Uninvited

5. The Stepfather

Honorable Mention: Quarantine, Friday the 13th (the remake)

The 5 Best and Worst Movies of 2009

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What were your favorites (and least favorites)? Voice your opinion in the comments section below!

The Best

1. Gomorra

2. District 9

3. Precious

4. Taken

5. Up!

Honorable mention: Inglourious Basterds, 500 Days of Summer, Extract

The Worst

1. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

2. Confessions of a Shopaholic

3. The Ugly Truth

4. Bride Wars

5. Observe and Report

Honorable mention: I Love You Beth Cooper, Miss March, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Proposal