We all know that the whole point of these "Year's best and worst" lists is to get you all annoyed that your fave films didn't make the list while I get even more angry that I wasted so much of my life watching rubbish. So in an attempt to defuse the hate, let's loosely group the year's best and worst into vague categories rather than singling out individuals for the love… or the hate. So to kick off this (content-free) list (united by my vague emotional feelings towards various films rather than rigorous argument) with the love, 2011 was a good year for...
1): Westerns: True Grit / Meek’s Cutoff. Very different films – the former a traditional western, the latter a sedate look at a wagon train that’s hopelessly lost - but both used the landscape of the America west to unsettling effect.
2): Social degeneracy: Kaboom / Limitless. One’s about sex, the other’s about drugs, and they both say their respective vices are good and fun. Hurrah!
3): Dancing: Black Swan / Footloose. One involves dancing to feel good. The other… doesn’t.
4): Superheroes: Captain America / X Men: First Class / Fast & Furious 5 / Rise of the Planet of the Apes / 13 Assassins. Yes, Caesar the ape in Rise counts. So does Vin Diesel. And the samurai in the overlooked but amazingly action-packed 13 Assassins.
5): Comedy: Bridesmaids / The Trip. Yes, Bridesmaids was a massive hit (and rightly so), but for mine the Steve Coogan vs Rob Brydon battle of the Michael Caine impersonations was the funniest thing this year.
6): Spirituality: Higher Ground / Tree of Life / 127 Hours. Hey, if sawing your own arm off doesn’t put you in touch with a higher power, what will?
7): People dying: Fright Night / Source Code / Senna. The first was a great re-working of a horror classic; the second was a video game that reset every time our hero failed to defuse the bomb; the third was a brilliant documentary about a race car driver that… well, you can guess how that story ends.
8): Robots: Drive / Real Steel / Hanna. Okay, only the boxing robots in Real Steel were actual robots. But the leads in the other two were so blank (and so efficient at killing), it’s hard to credit them with humanity.
9): Woody Allen: Midnight in Paris. Hey, it’s nice to see Woody get one right after his hit and miss run of late.
10): Best film of the year: Take Shelter. Because this story of a man either losing his mind or having visions of the end of the world is one of the most haunting and terrifying things I’ve seen in a long, long time.
But just in case you were thinking 2011 was the dawn of some kind of new golden age of cinema, rest assured the stench of utter rubbish continued to billow out of cinemas at a steady rate. Especially cinemas screening the following, for which it was a very bad year…
1): Comedies about f**k buddies: No Strings Attached / Friends With Benefits. Because there’s no possible way to guess how all this is ever going to work out.
2): Comedies about anything else: Horrible Bosses / What’s Your Number: Yes, they contained the occasional laugh. With so much good comedy around, they didn’t have enough.
3): Young people: I Am Number 4 / Wasted on the Young / Abducted. Kids: either they’re on the run from aliens, on the run from spies, or on the run from their own despair at being super-rich yet socially isolated.
4): Sequels: Johnny English Reborn / Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Oh good, it’s another chance to get it right… that these films totally threw away.
5): Remakes: Arthur / The Thing / The Mechanic. What better way to salute the classics of the past than by turning them into slightly more polished turds?
6): Musicals: Sucker Punch / A Heartbeat Away. While Sucker Punch was a musical without the music; A Heartbeat Away was… just terrible. Another low point for Australian film
7): The olden days: Red Riding Hood / Burke & Hare. It seems that in the past, people were even worse actors than they are today. Nice outfits though.
8): Jim Carrey: Mr Popper’s Penguins. And the schmaltzy kids’ movie genre claims another once-great comedian. By the look in his eyes, he knows it too.
9): Cowboys & Aliens: Cowboys & Aliens. Two great tastes that taste like aimless, dull crap together.
10): Worst film of the year: Anonymous. Yes, there were others - many others - that were more painful or misguided or stupid. But this sloppy, meandering, pointless take on “what if Shakespeare was, uh, someone else” was the most boring film for 2011. And I’ll forgive a film anything but being boring.
Anthony Morris (this appeared in Forte #523)