Sexy Rexy's Top 10 Movies Of 2011

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is my new and improved list for the Best Films Of 2011.

NOTE: You are going to disagree with this list. We here at Game Of Inches have no inherent qualms against disagreement but all comments WILL be done in a civil fashion. Any name calling or disrespectfulness of any sort will not be tolerated.

2011 was a horrible year for movies. I've (maybe) said that a handful of times in recent years but no year in recent memory has ever been as bad as 2011. I thought overall 2007 was a pretty terrible year but at least that year had There Will Be Blood and Superbad. The same can not be said of 2011. You know it's a bad year when a trailer is one of the best things released. You know the year is a bad year for movies when you can't use the cliche "top 11 of oh-eleven". I could barely come up with up with ten!

I will say though that I (obviously) have not seen every movie released in 2011 nor have I seen every movie that has the potential to earn a spot on this list. I have not seen Drive or The Help, I have not seen award darlings The Artist or War Horse (nor do I really care to though- they look boring as shit), nor have I seen (essentially) any movie in which any of its leading ladies have a shot to win an Oscar (I rarely do and so do almost everyone else in America). When I see any of these movies I will update my list accordingly, but considering I have seen a shit ton of films this year, I think it's appropriate to create a list.

10) Moneyball dir. Bennett Miller

Michael Lewis' Moneyball is the greatest sports book ever written and probably GOI's favorite book ever. So we all had extremely high hopes when we saw the movie adaptation. The film fell extremely short of our expectations- which I knew would happen. If you love one medium you're going to hate the other. I went and a saw the film for a second time coming in with much lower expectations and tried to divorce myself from the book. Bennett Miller's Moneyball is not the same as Michael Lewis' version and I tried to watch the movie through that prism.

That still failed.

As I watched the movie I couldn't help thinking "No, no, no! Just do what the book does. Why aren't you explaining that better!?" But objectively speaking, this is one of the greatest sports movie ever made. Those who loved the movie are ones that did not read the book because they are not constrained in the prison of the novel which allowed them to appreciate the movie more.

No sports movie has ever took such a realistic look at a front office like what Moneyball did. Some of the best sports movies are about the team or specific players on the team. No one has ever been bold enough to follow around a GM like what this movie did.

Steven Zaillian (Gangs Of New York, American Gangster, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson's War) are a writing Tour de Force and did a great job not only portraying the excellence and insecurities of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane (as well as the phenomenal acting job by Brad Pitt) but also portraying this world of the new world thinking versus the old world thinking. It's Billy Beane and Peter Brand (based after the Beane's actual assistant GM- Paul DePodesta) using these new statistics to help out their small market team to fight in an unfair game.

As a huge fan of the book, the problem occurs is that the fight that Bennett Miller chooses to portray is a different fight that what Michael Lewis does portray. But the essence of the fight is still the same. The film presents a battle between how Beane and Brand choose the see baseball (FYI: the correct way) and how everyone else chooses to see baseball. The main way the film portrays this fight is through Beane versus Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the Oakland A's manager. Although it was a story line invented for the movie, it works well for the movie so the audience gets a glimpse of the huge battle Billy Beane fights in.

In the book, Billy Beane was taught sabermetric methods from his GM predecessor Sandy Alderson and Beane used those methods to create a winning team the many years before the 2002 season (the movie and book follows the 2002 Oakland A's). Emotionally, I hate the movie for it. Objectively, I think what the movie did was great to help explain to the casual viewer about the overall struggle Beane was faced with.

I thought Bennett Miller (Capote) did a fantastic job with this movie. The purpose of the film is to humanize Billy Beane and a front office that's fighting an uphill fight and that's something that has never been done in movies before. Miller uses a lot of close up and medium shots to help achieve this affect that even though Miller ended up and the low man on the totem pole for this project, I'm glad Miller's vision was the one that ultimately succeeded. I think his use of camera work and framing helped give the movie the feel that it did.

9) Super 8 dir. J.J. Abrams

The best way to describe this movie is that it is a combination of Stand By Me, E.T., and Jaws. It is no surprise that two of those films are Steven Spielberg films and that Spielberg was an executive producer of Super 8.

The movie follows a group of young kids who set out to make a monster picture. While doing so they witness a horrific train crash which in turn causes a mysterious creature to be let loose on their kids' small town.

The film mainly focuses around the young kids specifically Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning) and the film is presented through their point of view. The story is about how these kids grow up and have to while searching for the mysterious creature.

However, the film falls apart in the third act. The movie does a great job throughout the first two thirds of the film in the sense that you never see the creature. The movie is about the children and the creature is just a McGuffin. Like Jaws, the movie worked better when you don't see the creature. In the first two acts, it's all about the kids. You care about these kids and this creature is just a movie device to help see how these young people will react to them. Really, the "monster" could have been anything because I loved these youngsters.

But in the third act you do see the creature and that (not coincidentally) is when the film starts to unravel. The film shifts away from a coming of age story to a straight up monster movie which detracts from the overarching themes and plot.

Overall, the film was enjoyable and I recommend everyone to rent it but because of the third act I couldn't put Super 8 any higher than nine.

8) Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol dir. Brad Bird

Sometimes you need fun, popcorn, action flicks and Tom Cruise is great at making those. You don't really remember what happened throughout the first three Mission: Impossible movies but I bet you do remember that you enjoyed them. The same holds true for the franchise's fourth installment: Ghost Protocol. In a few years this movie will probably fade into the dust, but as for this year (and especially for this weak year) Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocal rightfully earns a spot on my list.

We exist in a new age of action movies. Superhero movies like Spiderman II, The Dark Knight, and to a lesser extent Iron Man made it so that you need character depth in order to create a transcendent action movie. You almost need to take out the action to be a successful  action movie nowadays. That, and a great and charismatic evil villain also helps.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol does not have any of that.

But what it does have a fun action scenes. And Jeremy Renner who is just awesome in whatever he's doing. The movie has the suspense mixed in with the comic relief and sometimes you need that and that is what I enjoyed about the movie. But because in reality it was just another dime-a-dozen popcorn flick, I can only rank it #8 on my list.

7) The Descendants dir. Alexander Payne

The movie follows along Matt King (Clooney) a Hawaiian real estate attorney, one of the descendants of the former king of Hawaii, and the trustee of a great deal of land that him and all of the descendants of the former king own.

Recently, Matt's wife was involving in boating accident in which her life hangs in the balance. Matt must balance preparing his two young daughters for the eventual death of his wife, the fact that he found out his wife was cheating on him, and the fact that him and all of his cousins have to sell the land they inherited "due to something like the Rule Against Perpetuities" (as someone in law school I'm impressed with myself that I actually know what this means) and is going through the process of entertaining bids for the land.

The movie follows Matt King as he struggles to deal with all of the problems that have suddenly come up in his life. He enlists the help of his oldest daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) to not only be a "(wo)man" but to help him and her younger sister Scottie get through these troubling times. The movie rides on the strong acting performances by both Clooney and Woodley and both deserve, at minimum, Oscar nominations for their performances.

The major flaw of the film is that it is way too long. At least 15 minutes could be cut from it. Alexander Payne is a smart man and he knows what he's doing when it comes to making movies but I thought he could have achieved the same effect with a better editing job.

6) Larry Crowne dir. Tom Hanks

A lot of people did not like this movie. At all. It received a "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with only 34% of critics liking the movie and only 44% of fans. That's saying something. At least more than half the people liked Grown Ups. I honestly can not understand why people did not like Larry Crowne.

I get that Larry Crowne is not a very deep movie. I get that more thematic elements could have been brought out, but overall, the movie is a light-hearted romp with Tom Hanks as the focal point.

The movie follows around Larry Crowne (Hanks). He is an optimistic man who loves his job as a manager for a Wal-Mart type store. However, because he never went to college (he spent about two decades in the Navy as a chef instead) he gets laid off. In an attempt to turn his life around he enrolls in community college. The film follows Crowne into his first year in school- two main classes in particular- Mrs. Tainot's (Julia Roberts) Speech 101 class and Dr. Matsutani's (George Takei) Economics 101 class.

These two classes along with a young female student named Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) help Larry Crowne put his life into perspective and eventually allows a blossoming relation between him and Mrs. Tainot.

What I like about this movie is that it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. It's a fun little movie and that's about it. I have seen the film twice now and have enjoyed every minute of it each time. I think this movie was universally panned because people had unfair expectations for it. I went to see it, even after all the negative reviews and criticisms of it, and maybe that's why I enjoyed it more than most. Either way, I think this is just a pleasant and lovely movie to see.

5) 50/50 dir. Jonathan Levine

The movie follows around Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has just gotten a rare type of back cancer. The story is based on the true life of the film's screen writer Will Reiser and about his struggles with getting cancer.

No movie this year has filed me with every single emotion like 50/50 did and the movie is led by the strong performance of Gordon-Levitt. You feel the lows that Adam goes through and well of some of the highs (literally and figuratively).

Adam is helped out by his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and his therapist- a medical student in training- Katherine (Anna Kendricks). I've always been a big fan of Seth Rogen ever since The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up but he shows in 50/50 that he actually does have legitimate acting chops.

The entire movie is about a person who struggles to deal with cancer as well as chemotherapy. While I can not personally relate, from what I've heard, Adam's up and downs are fairly realistic and if you or someone you know has/d cancer I think this movie will be wonderfully touching for you.

4) X-Men: First Class dir. Matthew Vaughn

Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) comes back with another superhero movie and with the best rendition of an X-Men film yet.

The film follows around Charlies Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (James Fassbender) as they first get control over their powers. X-Men: First Class is an origin story about how the first generation of mutants that we've seen in the first three X-Men films came to be.

The main reason this film is great is because of the performance of Michael Fassbender. He steals every scene he is in and it's this performance that will propel him into stardom. I could have watched an entire movie of just Magneto. I wanted the first third of film that involved Lehnsherr (both as a young boy and the character Fassbender played) to last for two plus hours. It was great.

What X-Men: First Class did better than any of its predecessors was to delve deeper into the emotions of feeling like an outsider and it cast actors with actual acting talent as opposed to just actors who happen to look like the comic book drawing. Not only is Fassbender and McAvoy really good in the film but so is the female version of Fassbender (and super hot) Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon who plays a really good and charismatic villain. True, the movie does have January Jones (Betty Draper from Mad Men) who might be the worst actor in terms of talent in Hollywood right now, but considering she literally plays an ice queen in the film and also the ice queen Betty Draper (and also because she is super duper hot) I can let it slide.

The movie is not as good as The Dark Knight or Spiderman II but it falls in the category right below it (joining Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk) and it's light years better than the dribble that the other superhero movies we saw this year like Captain America, The Green Lantern, and Thor.

I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class and I should probably go out and see Shame and/or A Dangerous Method because a) I'm officially a Michael Fassbender fan and b) They will probably easily earn a spot on my revised list.

3) Paranormal Activity 3 dir. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

I know I am going to get a lot of shit for this selection and I don't care. You go on being a hater. Paranormal Activity 3 accomplished what very few films before it accomplished- It was able to scare the ever-loving shit out of movie without using any type of gore whatsoever.

I enjoyed the first Paranormal Activity. It was absolutely not as scary as the commercials painted it out to be (e.g. many of its commercials had shots of just the audience in the theater as they screamed and threw their popcorn in the air) but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The same holds true for the sequel. But the third installment of the franchise? Holy crap. I literally screamed in the theater like a little girl.

Even since Saw came out (yes, movies have been doing it way before Saw but that film helped usher in the torture porn of cinema today), horror movies have been using the cheap trick of gross out gore in order to get scares. This is a cop out. The truly best way (and it is very hard to accomplish) to scare the audience is to build up tension and uneasiness and Paranormal Activity 3 was the best film since The Sixth Sense to accomplish this.

The great thing about this Paranormal Activity is that is uses a different kind of camera technique. The first two movies was filmed using a single camera set on a tripod. What Paranormal Activity 3 did was use a camera that rotated in between two rooms- like an oscillating fan. There was one scene in particular that stuck with me. The parents go out for a lovely evening and leave the babysitter home to watch their two young girls (these girls grow up and become the stars of Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2). The babysitter spends some time downstairs between the living room and the kitchen. The oscillating camera pans back and forth between these two rooms. I knew something was going to pop out and scare the babysitter; however, the problem was that I did not know when. I thought the pop out would occur early on but eventually it seemed to never come. The camera just kept oscillating back and forth. Eventually the movie lulled me into a false sense of security. I almost got so bored because the film spent so much time switching back and forth between two rooms with absolutely no action whatsoever. However, what the film was actually doing was slowly building up tension which was much scarier than the actual pop out itself. Paranormal Activity 3 used this slow build up throughout the entire movie and it's what distinguished itself from the first two.

Now, as a movie in and of itself Paranormal Activity 3 was not very good. The movie is riddled with plot holes and when you think about what happens in Paranormal Activity 3 it does not quite follow along the same guidelines as what we learned about and what we were told in "1" and "2". But I don't care. Ultimately, Paranormal Activity 3 is a horror movie and when I go see a horror movie, I want to be so scared that I piss my pants. That this film (almost) accomplished that goal.

2) Rise Of The Planet of The Apes dir. Rupert Wyatt

I never really wanted to originally see Rise but I'm certainly glad I did. What was so great about the original Planet Of The Apes (the Charlton Heston version not the Marky Mark one) was that it not only was an entertaining story but it was a great science fiction questioning the role of science versus religion. However, the movie studio has bastardized the original thinking people just wanted to see monkeys and that was it. Thinking that Rise Of The Planet of The Apes would fall along this same vein, I was hesitant to see this new one. I was wrong.

While Rise does not even come close to the science fiction classic of the original, it also doesn't try to be. The only hint that this movie is a prequel to the 1968 classic was the title of the movie and the ending credits. Other than that, Rise is its own movie entirely. Sure, the film does touch on the concept of, "What should we really being doing in the name of science?" but it presents the situation that the problem lies within the greed of the owners of the pharmaceutical companies and not of a problem of the scientists who are just trying to help.

The story follows along Caesar (Andy Serkis) a chimp who was saved at birth from Will Rodman (James Franco) a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's. Caesar's mother held the cure to the disease and passed along the genetic material to Caesar. Caesar's mother dies right after giving birth to her son because she went crazy, destroyed a building during the same time in which an investor's meeting was going on, and the security in the drug company had her killed to prevent further mayhem. Will is forced to keep Ceasar in hiding because of his mother's actions. Although Will soon realizes that Caesar's genetic material holds the cure to Alzheimer's and he creates a formula which helps to slow down and looks like it will eventually stop the disease. Will tests his miracle drug on his father Charles (John Lithgow) and the drug works in leaps and bounds.

However, the main purpose of the film is not about pharmacy or drugs but mainly about the life of Caesar. Because of the scientific testing done on his mother, Caesar is the next stage in evolution of primates. He can communicate well to humans through sign language and has the intelligence of a human child equivalent. However, because Will is not supposed to have Caesar, the monkey is forced to seclusion within Will's home.

Unfortunately, one afternoon when the drug starts to fade and the symptoms of Alzheimer's starts to kick in, Charles runs amok and gets berated by his and Will's neighbor. Ceasar goes to help Charles and long story short, he ends up in the equivalent of monkey jail where he's beaten and abused by the caretakers John Landon (Brian Cox) and his son Dodge (Tom Felton).

The movie presents the life of Caesar from special monkey to eventual dictator and overlord of all primates. (I know this sounds silly when I'm writing it, but trust me, the movie does a great job with it and makes it serious) Analogous to how we see Natalie Portman's decent into madness in Black Swan we see Caesar getting slowly and surely beaten down where eventually the world around him forced Caesar to take drastic actions. While I do not like (whether inherent or not) the similarities between Adolf Hitler and Caesar, the movie still causes you to sympathize with Caesar and you want him to create a rebellion and rise up against the world.

The whole reason the movie works is because of the great acting by Andy Serkis. I don't care that he says two words or the fact that Caesar is largely computer-based, the reason Rise works so well is because of Serkis. The computer did not create the facial expressions of Caesar or the movements and the computer did not cause you to relate to Caesar on an emotional basis. Andy Serkis did. I think it's extremely close minded to not even nominate Serkis for major awards. He did the same exact thing as what every other actor in Hollywood does- except he did it in a different room than where everybody else was filming. Serkis brought emotion and depth to a character which helped define the movie. Jean Dujardin is going to win an Oscar for his performance in The Artist without saying a word so why should we hold Serkis to a different standard? I guess many people are worried that if we nominate Serkis then that will lead us down a slippery slope of nominating actors when they solely use their voice in animated works. But what Serkis does that voice actors do not is that he uses facial expressions and body movement to portray his character and to me, that's much more important than vocal inflections. I know Serkis will get screwed but I thought he did a fantastic job.

1) Young Adult dir. Jason Reitman

No movie has stuck with me in 2011 like Young Adult did. In my mind, this was the only film this year that could actually stand on its own with other great movies of past years.

The movie follows Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) a former head plastic of her high school who comes back to her town because her former boyfriend- the typical high school jock- recently just had a kid with his wife. Upset at how her life has turned out and after another night of meaningless sex, Mavis comes back to her town to relive her glory days and attempts to reunite with Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson)- her ex-boyfriend.

Mavis Gary is one of the most complex and compelling females characters in movie cinema. There have been some great female actions roles (Ellen Ripley, The Bride, etc.) and some great female characters (Clarice Starling, Annie Wilkes, etc.) but never has there been a character with so many different layers all at once than Gary.

The thing about Mavis Gary is that she actually is smart. She was not your average bimbo cheerleader but moved to the big city (Minneapolis) and actually made something of herself. She is the "ghost" writer of a once popular, but now dead young adult book series. This is part of how the movie gets its title. Throughout the movie, Mavis is writing the last installment of the series and throughout the movie she writes different parts of the book which happen to correspond with her life. I know it's not the most creative movie device but I loved it.

Mavis is also extremely sociable. She has not outgrown her high school days but she still can enter into any conversation. But with that being said, you are supposed to dislike Gary.

What's great about Young Adult and the wonderfully written script by Diablo Cody (Juno) is that you are supposed to despise Mavis Gary but at the same time you feel for her and grow to love her as a character. This is where the movie really gets its title from. Mavis Gary has not grown up from her high school days. Although it's been over a decade, she still goes to her old school to get drunk and reminisce about the good old days and still acts like she did in high school.

Plus, think about the plot. Mavis Gary is purposefully trying to be a homewrecker. Her ex-flame is in a loving and caring relationship, has shown no indications that he wants to get out of it, and just had a beautiful child. The movie is all about the narcissistic, corrupt, and destructive nature of this woman who never really learned to grow up. Young Adult is the opposite of a feel-good movie, yet it has all the qualities of one. I don't want to spoil the ending for you but it falls right in line with that same theme.

While in town, Gary meets Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). Matt was a fellow classmate of Mavis and Buddy and while in high school he was the victim of a savage beating by his fellow classmates who permanently disfigured him because they thought he was a homosexual. Matt plays the voice of reason to Mavis Gary and Patton Oswalt gives one of the best acting performances of not only his career but of the year. Mavis ends up spending a lot of time with Matt during her stint in town and he helps to guide her along her path.

For those of you who want to relate to a character and who wants them to succeed then this movie is absolutely not for you. However, if you can appreciate the complexities of a character and the subtleties of a performance then I highly recommend Young Adult.

MOVIES THAT JUST MISSED THE CUT (in no particular order)

- Bridesmaids: I love that style of comedy and I can see why everyone was infatuated with it, but personally, I just didn't find it funny like how everyone else did. Although Melissa McCarthy was amazing and I hope she gets a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.

-Win/Win: Great acting by everybody involved but it took way too long to get to its point, it didn't do the greatest job connecting the audience to the characters, very predictable, and at the end of the day I never want to see this film again. This film is almost the quintessential split between "good" and "entertaining".

- Hugo: Everything about this movie was great. The film making was great, the special effects were great, and the acting was very good. However, I was bored as all hell while watching it. Any movie that makes you think "Holy hell this is boring as shit. When is it going to end!" can't earn a spot on my list. This is the quintessential difference between "good" and "entertaining".

- Crazy, Stupid, Love: A surprisingly good movie that completely fell off in the second half. I could have (and wish I did) watched an entire movie of just Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrel.

- Midnight In Paris: Really good movie, WAY too pretentious for me.

- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: A movie that didn't need to get remade. Fincher didn't add anything new to the story and the entire time I just kept thinking, "the original is better". Also, why have a movie set in Sweden yet have everyone speak English with Swedish accents? Clearly the movie can be done and done well when everybody is speaking a foreign language.

- Arthur:
Came into the movie with very low expectations but Russell Brand (while he plays the same character all the time) was very funny throughout the entire film.


Best Movie: Young Adult
RUNNER UP: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
Best Director: Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
RUNNER UP: Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Best Actor: Geroge Clooney (The Descendants)
RUNNER UP: Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Best Actress: Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
RUNNER UP: Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Best Supporting Actor: Andy Serkis (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes)
RUNNER UP: Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
RUNNER UP: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
RUNNER UP: Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos (Larry Crowne)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon (The Descendants)
RUNNER UP: Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball)


db said...

I've never been so afraid of a fan in my life