Film Critic Noah Golden offers these "best of" picks from 2011. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.
- For some laughs — “Bridesmaids”
I walked into “Bridesmaids” expecting little and wound up laughing more than I have in a long time. There’s something magic in the film, despite the rather unoriginal plot. Instead, the magic is in the extremely funny ensemble cast (including “Saturday Night Live” alums Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rose Bryne, Ellie Kemper and the standout Melissa McCarthy) and a tight script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Say what you want about roles for woman in comedy, but “Bridesmaids” shows that women can carry a raunchy comedy just as well, if not better, than the “wolf pack” in “The Hangover.”
- For some romantic comedy — “Crazy, Stupid Love”
Finally a smart, funny Rom-Com! While it’s not your traditional “boy-meets-girl” story, “CSL” is about romance, told through the eyes of three generations of couples. There’s Cal (Steve Carell in a low-key performance) and Emily (Julianne Moore), a long-married couple whose relationship is on the skids, Jacob (Ryan Gosling, showing a great ear for comedy), a stylish ladies-man and Hannah (Emma Stone), a driven law student, and Robbie (Jonah Bobo), a 13-year-old who lusts after his 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton). The great actors, funny script and warm tone make up for the occasional veer into sappy, predictable romantic comedy territory.
- For some drama — “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (see )
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a captivating little film that walks the fine line between drama, character study and psychological thriller. It stars Elizabeth Olsen (the sister of those entrepreneurial twins) as a twenty-something who moves in with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her husband (Hugh Dancy) after spending two years living on a hippie, cult-like commune. Flashing between her life in the cult and her time at her sisters, the film delves into Martha’s psyche, scarred by her stint under the thumb of the cult’s charismatic leader, played wonderfully by John Hawkes. Between its fascinating story, fluid direction and talented cast, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of my favorite films of 2011.
Runners-Up: “The Descendants” (George Clooney and Shailene Woodley’s tender performances and Alexander Payne’s smooth, laid-back direction elevate a seemingly simple story into an emotionally rich family drama ) & “Beginners” (see )
- For some action — “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (see )
Remakes and adaptations are generally frowned on, but David Fincher’s version of Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller (which was also a top-notch Swedish film in ’09) is by far the best thriller of 2011. It follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and independent, deeply wounded hacker Lisbeth Salander as they try to put together the pieces of a 30-year-old cold case. Rooney Mara’s fierce performance is nothing short of breath taking and Fincher’s direction is incredibly cold, brutal and fluid. It’s rare when this level of talent, both behind the scenes and in front, connect with such great material to create a film that is both extremely suspenseful and impeccably made.
Runner-Up: “Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - Part 2” (see )
- For Something Off The Beaten Path — “Terri”
Films about high school misfits are usually unoriginal, unrealistic or preachy. “Terri,” a sweet, unassuming indie by Azazel Jacobs, manages to not just to avoid those pitfalls but soar above the competition. It tells the tale of the title character (newcomer Jacob Wysocki), an obese loner who lives with his ailing uncle. Sensing his struggle, Assistant Principal Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) decides to take Terri under his wing, who soon starts a burgeoning friendship with the troubled Chad (Bridger Zadina) and sweet Heather (Olivia Crocincchia). In a season full of aliens, explosions and giant robots, “Terri” is a small-scale film that feels totally authentic and really captures the angst, solidarity and discovery of teenagehood.
- For the whole family – “Hugo” (see )
“Hugo” has just about everything you’d want in a family film: adventure, comedy, drama and even a history lesson. The film, the first family friendly Martin Scorsese helmed flick, stars a wide-eyed Asa Butterfield as Hugo, a orphaned little boy living in the bowels of a Paris train station. After meeting a spunky girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), Hugo is thrust into the center of a mystery involving the girl’s secretive grandpa, a rusty automaton and the early history of motion pictures. It has an enthralling story, flawlessly beautiful cinematography (even in 3D!) and wonderfully charming comedic sequences featuring Sasha Baron Cohen which all come together to create a film that is nothing short of a masterpiece both as a family film and ode to the medium itself.
- For some intellectual stimulation — “Melancholia”
Many critics raved this year about Terrence Malick’s “Tree Of Life.” While that film had some interesting cinematography and symbolism, it was a rather slow and pretentious piece of filmmaking. Well, this is what “Tree Of Life” should have been. Artistic, beautiful and rife with though provoking themes, “Melancholia” is controversial filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s meditation on depression, life and death featuring a brilliant performance by Kirsten Dunst. Sure its slow pace and semi-abstract sequences may alienate some viewers, but (unlike the slow pace and abstract sequences in “Tree Of Life”) they are all used as tools by a master filmmaker for a distinct reason: to envelope us in the headspace of a woman severely depressed. “Melancholia” dug into my head and really touched me on an emotionally level more than almost any film this year.
- For something foreign — “Incendies”
Remember the beautiful novel “The Kite Runner?” And remember the lackluster 2007 film adaptation? Well, “Incendies” is what that film should have been. This Canadian-made, Arabic-language film is heartbreaking, beautiful, intense, captivating and just about everything you’d want from a movie. The film is about two Canadian siblings who journey back to their mother’s Middle East homeland after her death. There, they discover long-buried family secrets that make them rethink their entire family history. “Incendies” isn’t for the weak of heart, and some of the twists in the third act seem a bit manipulative, but overall, it’s a one of my favorite films of 2011.
Runner-Up: “A Separation” (a moving and fascinating Iranian drama about a crumbling marriage and gender roles in 21th century Muslim culture).
Noah Golden is a film critic and ournalism student at Quinnipiac University, a Patch former intern turned freelancer, the Managing Editor of Interactive Media for Quad News.Net (Quinnipiac's student-run online newspaper), a director/writer/crewmember on QU's Q30 News, an alumni of Middlesex Community College, a writer, a theater nerd, a dedicated mac user, a drummer, a singer, a pop culture addict, a sarcasm connoisseur, a driven person, a lazy guy and absolutely nothing else.