Film

PopMatters Picks: The Best TV, Film, and DVD of 2011

Just like Sisyphus, forever pushing his immense boulder up a hill filled with possibilities, it's time for PopMatters to take on the task of coming up with the year's very best. While arduous, the results speak for themselves.

Another year, another try at bringing together 12 months of vastly divergent entertainment into one consensus overview. While getting unlike minded people to agree on anything is a fool's paradise, it's interesting to see how the end result comes together. Among the many items appearing on this week's worth of lists are titles that almost all thought worthy (Drive) or at least everyone could appreciate (The Help). The flukes, however, are always more fascinating. In film, something like Rise of the Planet of the Apes made a strong showing while surefire Oscar bait like The Descendants and Shame barely made a dent. Similarly, mainstream popularity appeared to motivate at least a couple of choices. Bridesmaids may be headed toward a showdown with the other nine Best Picture nominees, but the Academy Award hopeful could only hope for the amount of artist affection it finds/found here.

TV, on the other hand, has become the domain of the derivative. Not that this means the choices are bad - far from it. The medium remains one of the strongest in all of entertainment. What it does indicate, however, is the difficulty newer series have in breaking through to the top. Certainly, some among the 30 are new or nicely settling into their sophomore strategies, but when 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia continue their annual appearances, it's like creative deja vu all over again. In fact, ratings and a regular spot on the PopMatters list seems to go hand in hand. Yes, there are anomalies and flukes, but they are far outweighed by the small screen stalwarts that come to consistently represent the cream of the crop. We aren't arguing with the choices so much as mentioning the fact that you're probably aware of at least a few of the titles as you click through.

And then there are the ancillary categories. Guilty Pleasures in both broadcast and big screen amusement always seems to create conflicting bedfellows. Indeed, one groups hated entry can also be another misunderstood gem (are you listening, Sucker Punch???). Similarly, Independent and Foreign Film always seems to coattail and intertwine with the regular movie list. Still, it's interesting to see the amount of love for a quirky British fright film like Attack the Block or the trippy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Performances almost always complement the Best Film choices, since they are almost never mutually exclusive, and DVD remains a mystery. What with Blu-ray buying up as much commercial real estate in the home video marketplace as any other item (with, perhaps, the except of live streaming), the selections become more personal...and some might argue, problematic.

All of which we use to prepare you for one week of (mis)guided group think. It's hard enough to immerse yourself in this much media and come out of it sane, let alone with a solid understanding of what you've seen or heard. The studios don't make it any easier. The holiday season is a traditional dumping ground, every possible contender for any accolade being piled on top of one another and all screaming for acknowledgement. Worse still, the gift giving dynamic allows for specialized packaging of product previously released, making the finalization of any feature a tough assignment. In the end, however, the staff has stepped up and given it their best shot. The results are guaranteed to make you smile, sneer, and snark all the way to your Twitter peeps. They also represent what we believe are the true representation of the year's highlights.

-- Bill Gibron

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image