67.  The Divide

The Divide starts just as New York City is being attacked by bombs of some sort.  In the frenetic confusion, a group of people living in a particular apartment building make their way to the bomb shelter.  And from there the movie is, basically, a closed room look at what happens to people when civilization, as we know it, has ended.  Director Xavier Gens and writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean definitely have a Hobbesian view of things, in that life becomes nasty, short, and brutish.  It’s a bleak look at humanity, as life becomes more and more insanely terrible for the people as power shifts and the constructs of normal life become more forgotten.

66.  Circumstance

Obviously an Iranian film about a teenager and her sexual awakening in a relationship with her (female) best friend is going to pull down the film festival awards and make a splash at the Spirit Awards.  The film is actually much more accessible than I expected it would be.  Most of the movie isn’t a depressing exploration of repression (though I’m not saying that isn’t in there at all), but rather a kind of hopeful look at adolescence in Iran.  It might have been too light, to be honest, some heft could have improved the film.

65.  Thor

I think that, for me, Thor was the weakest of the films that set up The Avengers.  I think it suffered from a problem I’ve had with other potential or actual franchise-starters: too much emphasis on laying the groundwork for future movies and not enough focus on telling a compelling story within this movie.  Of course, looking at the big picture, that’s a reason that The Avengers did so well, it had the luxury of hours upon hours of movies to set up most of the characters.  Chris Hemsworth was a very pleasant surprise to me here, he was fantastic in the movie.  And I realize this goes without saying, but the film needed way, way more of both Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings.

64.  Margin Call

Many people raved about J.C. Chandor’s script, which garnered nominations from both the Academy and the Spirit Awards.  I’m not among them.  The script does do a number of things well.  Turning the 24 hours leading up to the financial meltdown into even a somewhat compelling movie is a pretty impressive feat.  And like Outrage, I got a really good sense of how information moved up and down the company ladder.  But ultimately, it didn’t seem like there was enough there.  After the beginning (which I found interesting, because yay number-crunching), the film hinges around only one or two key decisions, but has seemingly tons and tons of characters, and while all of them are done by quite excellent actors, it isn’t like we get to spend much time with them.

63.  Peep World

Speaking of great casts, this movie boasts a rather impressive collection of underutilized and underawarded talent.  Ron Rifkin is the patriarch of a family that includes Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall, and Ben Schwartz.  As you might expect, given that crew, the family is a little dysfunctional and so by the time we get to the climatic scene the film has been setting up the whole time, which includes significant others Taraji P. Henson, Stephen Toblowsky, Judy Greer, and Kate Mara, pretty much everyone hates everyone else.  The film is framed by Ben Schwartz, who has written a bestseller (which is being turned into a movie) that is a thinly disguised version of his family and their lives.  Now, I watch a lot of mystery shows on TV.  A lot.  And let me tell you, nearly every single one includes a version of this plot.  I’ve seen it done countless times.  So while this one may not necessarily have covered new ground, it did manage to keep my interest, and a lot fewer people ended up dead than usual.

62.  Pariah

The other arthouse high school lesbian movie of the year.  Star Adepero Oduye was touted by many as a contender for the Best Actress Oscar and while she didn’t make my list, I’m not sure it is outrageous to say she needed to be part of the conversation.  The film is maybe a little formulaic, as much as this kind of thing can follow a formula, but it is generally a good watch.  Kim Wayans appears to have mostly retired from acting since In Living Color, but she shows up here in a surprisingly powerful role as a Oduye’s disapproving mother.

61.  Jumping the Broom

This movie seemed to have trouble figuring out its tone.  Sometimes the comedy was very broad, and I seem to recall that how it was pitched in the trailer I saw.  But then it threw in some melodrama and serious stuff.  Not that a film can’t cut across the spectrum like that, but it is a difficult trick to figure out and most often, I find, part of the movie just seems out of the place.  I actually liked the movie least when it was broad.  But when it started delving into some more meaningful, thought-provoking things, I thought the film was quite good, and would have liked it to continue in that vein more often.  The token white person in the movie, by the way, was Julie Bowen.  Who is a pretty solid choice for token white person.

60.  Drive Angry

It would be difficult to overestimate how ridiculous this movie is.  Nicholas Cage plays a guy who escapes hell because some cult kill his daughter and is about to sacrifice his granddaughter.  William Fichtner is called The Accountant and is trying to bring Cage back.  Let’s face it, from those two sentences you know if this movie is for you or not.

59.  Jared is an Idiot

So I use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of this list.  Ranked 59th, I have Think of Me.  Astute observers will note that I already covered this movie in position 111, where I also have Think of Me.  I have absolutely no idea how that happened.  So I’ll take this opportunity to note two 2011 movies I’ve watched since starting this list.  Albatross stars Jessica Brown Findlay as a free spirit still looking for her place in the world who befriends high schooler Felicity Jones and then sleeps with her dad (Sebastian Koch) who is married to Julia Ormond.  It is a decent movie.  Brown Findlay kinda reminds me of Busy Phillips a little bit.  And I’ve more proof that Jones has dynamic screen presence.  And then I also saw Margaret with John.  The film probably deserves way more than a few sentences here, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It has the pedigree and writeups that would suggest it wasn’t for me, but other than being a little long, I thought it was pretty solid.  And interesting to see how everyone’s career has gone since the movie was made.

58.  Scream 4

Scream wasn’t the first self-aware movie, but it might be the most perfect.  Scream 4 is equally self-aware, but that just means we get to witness the odd sight of a movie struggling (and failing) to figure out why it exists.  It may be good, bad, or just a fact that time has passed this franchise by.  We are old hands at meta, and what was clever in the first movie seems tired now.  So, like an aging ballplayer offering glimpses of the bygone glory days, this movie seems to show that the franchise has run its course, even if the script is generally solid and occasionally inspired.  Speaking of inspired, whoever is responsible for getting Kristen Bell, Alison Brie, Lucy Hale, Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, Emma Roberts, Marley Shelton, and Aimee Teegarden all together in one cast should receive some sort of prize or medal or something.

Advertisements