Are you excited? Because you should be! Here are my favorite movies of 2011, numbers 5 through 1.
Toy Story 3 — I love Pixar all day long. Still, I was nervous for Toy Story 3. Many film franchises have trouble maintaining quality, especially when the first film wasn’t necessarily intended to have sequels. As it turns out, I should have had more faith in John Lasseter and the Pixar gang. They avoid the pitfalls of many sequels because they aren’t afraid of change. Pixar sequels are never a rehashing of old jokes. Toy Story 3 finds Buzz, Woody, and the rest of Andy’s toys being donated to a daycare center as Andy prepares to leave for college. Do they meet fun and inventive new characters? Heck yeah! Are they put in situations that test their friendships in new ways? Oooooh yes.
The Social Network — Believe the hype. It’s that good. Particularly Jesse Eisenberg is that good. I loved Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, but I think that Jesse Eisenberg would have been equally deserving of that Oscar. Sure, Firth had to put on a speech impediment, but if you watch Eisenberg’s usual on-screen persona, his transformation for this film is equally impressive. (I actually did that and wrote about it here.) Maybe The Social Network is particularly relevant to my generation because Facebook is such a big part of our lives. Or maybe it has something more universal to say about the nature of genius and success and friendship. Either way, I love it.
Once — This was a movie that crept into my heart and wouldn’t leave. I had to watch it with subtitles because the Irish accents are sometimes very thick, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment in the slightest. IMDB describes Once as a modern-day musical, and that’s fair enough. It’s about a street musician who meets an immigrant woman, and they proceed to make beautiful music together. That’s not a euphemism — they literally form a band. And of course, there’s plenty of complication and quiet heartbreak. It’s a musical in the sense that they play a lot of music, but people with an aversion to characters bursting into song in the middle of a conversation have nothing to fear. Except for being absolutely charmed.
True Grit — Yes, I have already written a post extolling the virtues of this movie. But here it is again because it’s hands-down one of the best movies that I’ve seen this year. Sometimes I really like the Coen Brothers, and this time they rock my socks off. Their gritty directing style is perfectly balanced by the warmth of the actors’ performances. I’m particularly excited to see what’s next in Hailee Steinfeld‘s career. Even if you think you don’t like westerns, give this one a chance.
The Town — Why do I love watching bank robbers so much? Why do I love movies set in Boston? I have no good answers to these questions. I just do. This movie has everything I need: a little action, a little heart, and an amazing cast. Having never before seen Jeremy Renner act, I was especially taken with his performance. Standing next to Ben Affleck, he seems almost diminutive, but Renner steals every scene he’s in. And speaking of Ben Affleck, he directed this flick. His career seems to be making a resurgence, and I’m happy to see it. I just can’t root against someone who co-wrote Good Will Hunting, is married to Jennifer Garner, and seems like a generally swell guy. My number one pick might not be for everyone, but it works for me.