Contributor Ben Travers lists his picks for the 12 best films, by genre, of 2011.
Let the prissy critics have those indie movies no one’s heard. After all, at the end of the year no one’s able to see them unless they live in New York or L.A. Let’s discuss the movies we all saw, or at least had the chance to see. These are the best films of 2011, by genre, that received a wide release in the U.S. of A.
So anyway…the (temporary) honor of Best Action Movie goes to Hanna, director Joe Wright and actress Saoirse Ronan’s far superior follow-up to their first collaboration, Atonement. Though certainly one of the most unlikely (and unappreciated) wide releases of the year, Hanna is nevertheless an extremely engrossing, high-octane jolt of calculated action bravado.
Yes, it’s about a 16-year-old assassin who’s assigned to kill a government intelligence officer…by her dad…after being raised in the wilderness…for her entire life. Yet Hanna offers many widely appealing action staples: a very cool man vs. a small army fight scene, plenty of chase sequences, and a this-time-it’s-personal third act twist. Don’t be afraid, people. Embrace the oddity. At least, after you see M:I 4.
Runner-up: M:I Ghost Protocol (journalistic integrity only goes so far)
If the Academy Awards nominated actors for their body of work in a year rather than a singular performance, I would not only be pulling for Antonio Banderas – I would expect him to get his first career nomination. Though his work separately in Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In and Puss isn’t quite substantial enough for the Academy’s high standards, the two polar opposite turns together show Banderas’ surprising versatility. Between the two, though, it’s his frisky kitty that sticks. The soft growl, the purred pickup lines, and the outrageous exclamations all add up to a uniquely comical performance. It’s Banderas who holds Puss in Boots together during the dull flashbacks and less compelling supporting characters. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
Nevertheless, the movie itself couldn’t be in better shape. Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes through the seven levels of grief with a command unbefitting to his young age. Seth Rogen, as his friend, is his usual frat-boy like self, but this time we get to see more of the brotherly love and less of the fraternity hijinks. Finally, Anna Kendrick continues her ascension in my heart, er, I mean, my list of young, talented actors. She pulls off some difficult scenes that ask her to be both professional and inexperienced, uncomfortable and comforting. The trio works beautifully together to bring home a darkly and warmly funny script worthy of all the awards it gets, and, just as importantly, your hard-earned money.
Runner-up: Contagion (more on this later)
Craig Brewer’s loving tribute to the Kevin Bacon-starring original was the pleasant surprise of late summer thanks to Ren MacCormack’s new Bahston accent, Kenny Wormald’s excellent interpretation of a role previously perfected by a beloved American actor, and some impressive dance numbers paired with catchy new tunes. There are so many small moments of joy to be obtained along the way, as well, I won’t ruin them for you. Just see it – maybe then I won’t have to write another recommendation.
Runner-up: None (come on – there aren’t any good dance movies anymore)
Crazy, Stupid, Love is none of those things. It’s genuine in every beautifully orchestrated scene. It’s funny in its small moments and its bigger ones – especially one featuring the whole cast together (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about). It sweeps you off your feet like no other movie this year. Hence, best romance – not romantic comedy.
Runner-up: The Adjustment Bureau