31
Dec
2011
Random Pop Culture Question of the Week
Best of the Rest 2011-Film
the Staff
Best of the Rest-Movies

Random Pop Culture Question of the Week is a bi-weekly journey into the headspace of the Review to Be Named gang, in which a pop-culture question is posed, answers are sought, and discussions are generated about issues and hypotheticals from throughout the realm of pop culture.

Jordan

Even giving myself five honorable mentions on my top ten films list, I still had to cut out nearly 20 movies to make my list. So here, in short order, are several more movies worthy of your time and attention from 2011, in one sentence each: Take Shelter is a well acted and tense thriller about a man grappling with the possibility of insanity or the coming of a great storm. The Skin I Live In is Pedro Almodovar's best film since Talk To Her, a deeply creepy story of a plastic surgeon gone mad, his pet project/prisoner, and the tragic events that tie them together. Submarine is the funniest and most accurate film about being a teenager I've seen in years, playing out like Rushmore with a bit more viciousness built into its core. 13 Assassins was Takahashi Miike's best work in years, a Samurai epic that can stand side by side with the greats and look damn good doing it. Meek's Cutoff was a slow, deliberate film, but one that made each difficult choice feel pivotal and featured a career best performance from Bruce Greenwood and great work from Michelle Williams. Midnight in Paris was Woody Allen at his best, a smart, funny, sleek little movie about our tendency to always assume another time is better and to tinge the past with rose colored glasses and a romantic nostalgia. The Muppets was everything I wanted it to be, hilarious, heartwarming, absurd and just a fantastic return to form for some of my favorite felt friends. The Guard features a stellar and hilarious central performance by Brendan Gleeson, and puts a darkly funny spin on the buddy cop genre. Melancholia was Lars Von Trier's take on the end of the world and the way depression can ruin lives. Need I say more? Finally, while I ultimately thought We Need to Talk About Kevin had some serious flaws at its core, Tilda Swinton gave a phenomenal performance as the mother of a son involved in a school massacre, and the film used it soundtrack better than any movie I saw this year (though Drive came close), and for those things, if nothing else, it is worth seeing. 2011 was a very good year for movies if you knew where to look, and if you didn't, well, that's what these lists are for.


Michael

Unlike Jordan, I saw next to no movies this year. If you were wondering why I did a list purely of trailers this week, well, there's your answer. But it is my firm belief that even if I had seen every film this year, I would have liked nothing more than The Tree of Life. I'm a sucker for all of Malick's films, but this one struck me as the perfect balance of intellect and emotion, beauty and brains, and, yes, grace and nature. I even loved the dinosaurs. I can understand why it may be disliked by some - some kind of perceived "pretentiousness" that likely says more about the accuser than the film - but for me it was the best film of the year, a film that takes every advantage of the medium and turns it into something greater. My biggest surprise of the year was Beginners, a film better known as "the one where Christopher Plummer plays an old gay guy." The movie got a bit of press based on the fact that it portrays homosexuality in older age, and that part of the movie is indeed a sweet story. But such a reductive summary covers up what the movie is really about - the joy of Plummers new-found identity offers a counterpoint to the unhappiness of his son (Ewan McGregor) and his new lover (Inglourious Basterds' Melanie Laurent), the film's true stars. The film's quirkier elements (voice over, an adorable talking dog) are toned down enough that they never become intrusive, leaving a delicate, sad story with a lot of heart. It's been under-appreciated since it came out, but it's definitely one of this year's best. Also, the goddamn Muppets, who also have a talking dog, but is still way funnier. And as a sourpuss musical-hater, I can still hum some of the tracks from memory. Thank goodness it lived up to the high expectations.


Rachel

I'm going to keep the love for The Muppets going, because really, it was amazing. I nearly died when evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) rapped his evil monologue. Also, those chickens clucking "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green might be one of the best things about film this year. The entire movie was clearly Jason Segal's love letter to the Muppets, and one that managed to perfectly balance being referential and reflexive while staying entertaining and unobtrusive.

Also, I want to declare my love for Midnight in Paris. It may sound blasphemous, being a film lover from the the greater New York metropolitan area, but I am not a Woody Allen fan. But I am a Hemingway and Fitzgerald fan, and if I could go back in time to any place at any time, it would be Paris in the 20s, so really, this film was a home run. It took me a long time to see this movie, with basically everyone I have ever met/talked to telling me that I'd love it, but I was glad I caved and watched it. It still exhibits some of the many issues I have with Woody Allen (namely, his treatment of women), but it manages to hide them by treating Paris as tenderly as Allen typically treats New York, and showcasing the city and a moving, relatable story superbly.

Finally, I'd like to give a shoutout to my favorite completely awful romantic comedy of the year, Something Borrowed, which I probably like more than I should because the main character is named Rachel and she has a nice haircut.

Can't wait for a 2012 full of movies! Thanks, kids.

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Note from Rachel: Unfortunately, my brilliance is sometimes a finite resource. Send us your ideas for future installments of Random Pop Culture Question of the Week on twitter @reviewtobenamed (follow us here), or shoot us an e-mail at reviewtobenamed@gmail.com.

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