Last Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out the most coveted trophies in Tinseltown to a number of mostly predictable winners. Sometimes, I think the ceremony should be called the “Harveys” or the “Weinstein Awards” since most of the winners are somewhat attached to the you-know-who of Hollywood.
Oh well, enough about the Oscars. Let’s talk about Casa de Lola’s favorite films of 2011.
It took me a while to compile this list, because the ladies at Casa de Lola and our readers look at me for recommendations and I wouldn’t want to disappoint them. So after a thorough analysis of my year at the movies and not before moving titles up and down the top 10 list, I settled for the films below. The selection is a blend of docs, indies and Oscar-nominated films.
10. Another Earth
Another Earth is the proof that a good idea, not a whole lot of money, and a talented skeleton crew can go a long way. Although this science-fiction meets chick-flick does not provide all the answers to the questions it raises, it sparks conversation as it explores the human need for second chances and redemption. In a world of overrated dumb blondes, writer/producer/actress Brit Marling is not just a breath, but a tornado of fresh air.
9. Like Crazy
Anyone who has experienced the agony of long-distance relationships can connect with the characters in this film. Felicity Jones is the unusual face in this immigrant tale that chronicles the emotional roller coaster of those who had the pleasure of falling in love with a visitor in this country. The soundtrack is impeccable. I probably listened to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Ingrid Michaelson a gazillion times.
Available at Redbox on March 6th.
I had the opportunity to watch this documentary when it premiered in Sundance last year with a crowd that was not very familiar with Senna and could only describe the film as a Formula-1 documentary. I saw audience members leave the theater asking themselves “how did I not know about this man?” Since I actually grew up cheering for him every Sunday morning for years, I had tears in my eyes even before the film’s opening credits rolled in. What I wasn’t prepared for or just didn’t realize was the magnitude of Senna’s character. He was a driver like no other, but an even greater human being. Director Asif Kapadia was able to capture Senna’s essence by employing a phenomenal use of archival footage. The feud between Senna and Prost could not have been better written if they were fictional characters. I knew of Senna’s victories and what he represented to the Brazilian people, but I had no clue of what it took to get him to that status.
7. Jane Eyre
You don’t have to ask me twice to go see a film starring Michael Fassbender. Although his most talked about film last year is Shame, I prefer him as Mr. Rochester a thousand times plus two. Director Cary Fukunaga’s spin on the classic has become my favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre. Mia Wasikowska delivers a profound performance by giving plain Jane a sex appeal that comes from within, through words. In my book, this film was responsible for some of 2011′s best achievements by a cast.
6. The Help
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the circumstances presented on this film were very much real just a few decades ago. The saddest part is that if those circumstances were still true today, I could easily pinpoint a version of every character in the film living in my surroundings. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis are the real reason you would want to see The Help, but any film starring Emma Stone is a must-see, until, of course, she makes a bad one. So far, her record is clean. I’m pretty sure that Jim Carrey would agree with me on that.
5. The Artist
How do you get someone to go see a black-and-white, silent feature-length film? Easy. You get Harvey Weinstein – I hate to keep mentioning him but the guy is who he is because of his acute taste for films – to love it then the rest is history. This Oscar winner is really a winner. It only takes a few minutes to get hooked on the story. You won’t even realize that you’re watching a silent movie after that. I’m a big fan of the Golden Era films and actors like Clark Gable and Cary Grant. French actor Jean Dujardin, now an Oscar winner, embodies the class and charm that is characteristic of the Hollywood actors of that time. One of the many highlights of the The Artist is Dujardin’s sidekick, a Jack Russell terrier named Uggie. I’m not a dog person, but the pup in this film is award-worthy.
Still playing at a theater near you.
I confess. I only wanted to see this film because Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the owner of the sexiest dimples in Hollywood, is in it. The film surpassed my expectations (of a sad Cancer movie) and it secures JGL a place in the list of the most underrated actors of our generation. The script, which was based on the writers personal encounter with the Big C, is not bad for first-timer Will Reiser. Although the producers like to emphasize that 50/50 is not a romantic film, Anna Kendrick and JGL’s chemistry is what makes the plot a whole lot brighter.
3. The Descendants
“This film is a life lesson, you know?” said my dad. And it is. Writer/Director Alexander Payne is the master of dark comedies. He can make audiences break a smile even as they witness the most complex and delicate situations on film. We all know how phenomenal George Clooney is in every role he plays, but in this film, upcoming actress Shailene Woodley steals the show. It was also really nice to see Matthew Lillard in a role that does not resemble “Scooby-Doo’s” Shaggy.
Out on DVD on March 13, 2012.
2. Bill Cunningham New York
Call him the original cool hunter. Fashion photographer and The New York Times columnist Bill Cunningham is a New York City landmark. The reserved and intriguing legend opens up for the first time to give an intimate peek into his world. Mr. Cunningham is one of those few genuine souls that inhabit this world. He is the ultimate workaholic, who dives into his craft to escape the distractions that constantly test his Catholic faith and upbringing. This documentary is definitely, the most heartwarming film experience that I had last year.
This is my very favorite film of 2011 for so many reasons, but let me start with Brad Pitt, because he is responsible for a few of those. If you follow my posts on Casa de Lola, you should be familiar with my tiny obsession for this man. In all of my years of Brad Pitt fandom, I have never seen him in such a poised, flawless performance. This is the sort of role that not only him as an actor but also his fans have waited for so long. Brad is the star and producer of Moneyball. Like many spectators, I’m not a baseball fan, but since Brad went leaps and bounds to get the story to the screen, I was confident that this was a film that I would have to see. Add Aaron Sorkin to the equation and you just can’t have a bad film. I love the pace and wit that Sorkin employs on words and how Jonah Hill and Brad execute his text. This is THE film of Brad’s career. I hope that he does not follow through with his retirement plans, because I’m not prepared for a Bradless Hollywood. That would be a world with no sunshine. No one wants that. Not to mention that he has six children and a skinny baby momma to feed. He must keep on working.