In Our Opinion

BEST OF 2011 CHOICES FROM FIR’S WRITERS

By • Dec 24th, 2011 • Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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BEST FILMS OF 2011 by Roy Frumkes

So much fun to do these, but always hanging over them, for all of us I’m sure, are the possible choices we might have made had we only seen a few more…

THE SKIN I LIVE IN – Almodovar remains one of the world’s great modern filmmakers. Here, his elaboration on EYES WITHOUT A FACE has some great plot twists and revelatory moments.

LIMITLESS – I’m very impressed when Hollywood surpasses itself by giving us intelligent scripts and direction. I couldn’t have cared less about the promise of the film’s log line: “What if a pill could make you rich and powerful.” I mean…who cares? Invisible — now that’s a pill I’d take. But fortunately, the film went way beyond its promise. Editing, cinematography, emotional investment – all terrific.

SOURCE CODE – Same genre, and even better. Duncan Jones does such a fine job realizing the potential of this taut, intelligent, complicated thriller. Jake Gyllenhaal has had two fine performances in a row (the other: LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS). But I must add, I thought it was the worst title of the year. I have trouble remembering it, and I don’t know what it means.

THOR – Kenneth Branaugh, an actor’s director, makes sure his cast shines in this Summer tent-pole extravaganza.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – Woody’s done alright since he left NYC. The real-life elements in his latest foray are a bit flaccid, but once you arrive at that gorgeously lit street at midnight, all fantasy breaks loose. The less you know the better, but the EXTERMINATING ANGEL joke is a riot (forget I said that…). The man refuses to make films for lowbrow audiences, though I’m told this was actually his biggest hit.

THE GUARD – What a great screenplay. When I put the DVD in the player, I know I’ll have the subtitles on, but still. Terrific, cynical performance by Brendan Gleeson. Don Cheadle lags a little behind, but isn’t bad.

CAPTAIN AMERICA – I think I’m in a lonely camp with this one, but Joe Johnston has a grip on nostalgia like no other current director. The narrative is thoughtful, the images beautifully framed, and his subdued color palette is simply lovely. I still can’t get over him using Rondo Hatton in ROCKETEER (just out on BluRay), and I thought he got a bad rap on THE WOLFMAN. There was a lot to like in that over-produced film, not the least of which was that he actually paid homage to the Universal original, unlike the remake of THE MUMMY.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – On this one I’m going to be boringly redundant. A textbook example of how tight editing can rescue a film from CGItis. And as my friend Tony Lover likes to say, “An E-motion picture.”

THE DESCENDANTS – Affectionately offbeat, uniformly well-acted.

J. EDGAR – DeCaprio and Armie Hammer, I assume, each had their own make-up artists for the grueling older age makeups. Bravo for DeCaprio’s. Too bad about Hammer’s. The film is hurt by this discrepancy in makeup artistry, but the screenplay is all poetry of the kind that graced THE SOCIAL NETWORK last year. And Eastwood…well, I really liked HEREAFTER, which should tell you how I feel about the guy. Much as he’s appreciated, I don’t think he’s appreciated nearly enough.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – As good as the original, and the extra fifteen or so minutes helps clarify things. I liked Michael Nyqvist better than Daniel Craig (who was very good), I think the war of the Lizbeths came out a draw, and Stellan Skarsgard gives one of the best supporting performances of the year.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: GAME OF SHADOWS – This is a fascinating one for me. I strongly disliked the original. Not just didn’t enjoy it; I was offended by it. This one I had real fun with. It seems like they solved everything that bothered me, although Downey remains a tad too smarmy. But the gay subtext between him and Jude Law is much stronger and much more satisfying, the villain and the villain’s henchman are better, and the action and set direction are just as good if not a smidge better.

That’s twelve, so I can’t mention THE DOUBLE HOUR, DETECTIVE DEE (I’ll leave that for Mark Gross), HUGO, STAKELAND, and THE SUPER. Not to mention my own THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD.


BEST AUDIO-VISUAL MEDIA MOMENTS OF THE YEAR

* Paul apologizing for the flying saucer taking too long to leave (PAUL).

* Hopikins taking a cell-phone call during an exorcism (THE RITE).

* The Academy Awards Obit Montage with each of the deceased celebs slowing smiling.

* The house collapsing on Green and his wife (KILL THE IRISHMAN).

* Wilson selling Bunuel on THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL [forget I said that…] (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS).

* Casey Anthony’s expressions on being acquitted (TV – July).

* “I’m not gonna kiss ya!” as delivered by Tommy Lee Jones (CAPTAIN AMERICA).

* Hearing Morricone’s music at the beginning of the new THE THING.

* Caesar realizing something’s wrong with John Lithgow and helping him use his fork correctly (RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES).


BEST DVDS/BLURAYS OF 2011

I CLOWNS (Raro Video)

SILENT NARUSA (Criterion)

ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, NOT OF THIS EARTH, WAR OF THE PLANETS (Shout Factory)

MOGULS AND MOVIE STARS – 7-PART DOC (Warner Bros)

KISS ME DEADLY (Criterion)

LOST KEATON – 16 SHORTS (Kino)

BEN-HUR 59TH ANNIVERSARY BOXED RELEASE (Warner Bros)

THE ESSENTIAL LAUREL & HARDY SOUND SHORTS AND FEATURES (RHI Entertainment)

CITIZEN KANE DELUXE BOXED RELEASE (Warner Bros)

THE SANDS OF THE KALAHARI (Olive)

And from the various on-line Archives:

THE OUTFIT, PHAEDRA, ROLLING THUNDER, THE WHITE BUFFALO, THE BLACK SLEEP, THE AMBULANCE, BILLY TWO-HATS, QUEEN OF BLOOD, THE BIG BOODLE, MY GUN IS QUICK, DARK OF THE SUN, THE SAINT COLLECTION, HICKEY AND BOGGS, THE MUSIC LOVERS, THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT.


Continue to Mark Gross’ picks…

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3 Responses »

  1. Decent list, Bryan! The only disagreements of the films mentioned that I have seen would be TREE OF LIFE. I could not stand that film. I think Refn’s DRIVE is one of the best films that I have seen this year.

  2. Just got back from a GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO screening and really enjoyed it. I need to re-watch the original film now and I can’t wait to revisit Millennium Trilogy again on paper.

  3. I am surprised that SHADOW OF THE HAWK”, from Columbia, got little attention. Its worth getting!

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