Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Another year in the bag, another opportunity to highlight the best (and worst) movies of the year. 2011 ended up being a pretty solid year as far as quality films go (a summer of almost entirely comic book movies and sequels notwithstanding). Here are the ones I enjoyed from the past year or so (some of these may in fact be several years old). As always, several of these may have crude language, violence, and/or sexual situations. If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to or

Best Drama

~The King's Speech

This film started slowly but gained a lot of buzz, primarily from Oscar talk, and ended up setting many records for box office longevity (it was still in the box office top 10 four months in).  And all of that popularity was well-founded.  This movie is a highly enjoyable re-telling of the circumstances surrounding the rise to power of King George VI just prior to World War II, focusing particularly on the speech impediment of George (or Bertie, if you will).  This video gives a better understanding of King George's real-life speaking difficulty.  The one thing the movie lacks is a glimpse into the courage of King George and Queen Elizabeth in leading the British through the war against the Nazis.  If you haven't seen this film, you've missed a gem.

Honorable Mention: Solitary Man, Buried, Get Low, Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows II, Midnight in Paris, The Help, The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Harry Brown, The Way Back

Best Comedy

~ Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Steve Carell reigns a second straight year atop the Best Comedy category.  Plenty of high profile comedies were released in 2011, but not many particularly funny ones.  And those that were funny were also usually excessively crude.  Crazy, Stupid, Love. is one of the exceptions, and has a reasonably good message to boot.  The film focuses on 40-something Cal Weaver, who is blindsided by his wife's revelation that she's been cheating on him and wants a divorce.  What follows is his attempt to fill the void in his life with non-committal one-night stands (with the help of Ryan Gosling) and a bachelor lifestyle.  Throw in a hilarious twist and the movie is an all-around gem compared to its 2011 competition.

Honorable Mention:  Bridesmaids, Our Idiot Brother, 50/50, the Snake Kings scene in Courageous

Best Action

~ True Grit
The wicked flee when none pursueth. Proverbs 28:1
Thus begins the best overall movie of the entire year. I have not seen the original with John Wayne, but I find it hard to believe that it could dare approach the grandeur that is the remake. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as old Rooster Cogburn, but the real star of the show is Hailee Steinfeld as Maddie Ross, the sharp-tongued teenager bent on avenging her father's murder. The movie is first and foremost an action-filled Western, but it also contains some very humorous dialogue. Maddie's banter with a horse trader is particularly enjoyable. After watching this film, I read the book and found it to be fantastic and the film very faithful to it. Once again, the Coen brothers nailed it.

Honorable Mention: The Fighter, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, X-Men: First Class, Source Code, Drive, 13 Assassins

Best Family/Kids

~ The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Oh, what a difference a new director makes.  After nearly running the entire Chronicles of Narnia franchise into the ground with the terrible Prince Caspian movie, Michael Apted (director of Amazing Grace) took over and made what was largely a successful return to the series, though it still had some rough edges.  Particularly pleasing to me was that the most critical portions of the book were handled well in the film.  I look forward to the next Narnia installment, though reports indicate that could be many years away.

Honorable Mention: Tangled, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rio, Courageous

Best Chick Flick

~ Midnight in Paris

No, that's not (necessarily) an oxymoron of a title. But the competition is usually thin, that's for sure. Midnight in Paris is a delightful little film starring Owen Wilson as a daydreaming writer who spends his nights in Paris with the who's who of great 19th and 20th century authors, only to find that his nostalgia for better days is sorely misplaced. A good lesson for us all.

Honorable Mention: Water for Elephants, all but the last ten minutes of Jane Eyre

Best Foreign

~ 13 Assassins

This Japanese film is a great piece involving samurais and honor, superb sword fights and witty banter. Unlike some other recent Asian action films (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), 13 Assassins doesn't involve the same unrealistic stylized martial arts where gravity comes optional to every fight. Instead, it's the story of twelve honorable samurais who take on a vicious and cruel leader at no thought to their own lives.

Honorable Mention:  White Ribbon, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, John Rabe, Intacto, Downfall

Best Indie

~ The Tree of Life

I've already reviewed this film here, so suffice it to say that this great work is well-worth watching for the patient film lover.

Honorable Mention: Solitary Man, Get Low, Kill the Irishman, The Way Back, Harry Brown, Midnight in Paris

Best Documentary

~ Waiting for Superman

This doc gives a maddening inside look at some of the reasons why the public school system in this country is in the terrible state it is.  It follows the story of several students (mostly lower class, but does include an upper class child as well) as their parents attempt to find the best education possible for them, and the struggles they encounter along the way.  Every American should watch this film.

Honorable Mention: Kimjoniglia

Best Movie You've Never Heard Of

~ Get Low

This delightful little drama stars Robert Duvall as a southern hermit who has cut himself off from everyone because of guilt over past sins and mistakes.  He eventually decides to host his own funeral while he is still alive.  Check it out.

Honorable Mention: Buried, Harry Brown, The Way Back

Worst Movie of the Year

~ Easy A

While there was some competition for this award (Jason Bateman nearly took it home for a second straight year with The Switch), ultimately I had to go with this Christian-bashing, unfunny modernized telling of The Scarlet Letter.

Honorable Mention: The Switch, Due Date, I am Number Four, the last 10 minutes of Jane Eyre

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »