Sometimes, it seems like the most you can ask of Hollywood is to not make you feel like you’ve actually lost brain cells after seeing a movie. But, surprisingly enough, 2011 had quite a few worthwhile offerings that not only didn’t turn audiences suicidal or homicidal, but provoked more than one-half to a single thought. Here’s Behind the Hype’s alphabetized list of the best the film industry had to show for itself in 2011.
50/50: This film, directed by Jonathan Levine (of The Wackness fame), brings Will Reiser’s biting, yet heartrending script to life with a combination of a pristine ensemble cast (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen, and Anjelica Huston) and a non-sentimentalist approach to the depiction of cancer. Read BtH’s original review here.
Beginners: Mike Mills’ sophomore feature more than usurps his debut, Thumbsucker. Detailing the emotional woes of a middle-aged man named Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) as he comes to grips with the death of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who recently came out in the twilight of his life, Oliver meets a semi-successful actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent). The unlikeliness of finding love throws both of them for a loop that makes for an engaging and memorable series of obstacles. Read BtH’s original review here.
Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig’s moment to truly outshine the rest of her Saturday Night Live brethren came in May when Bridesmaids, one of the most cogent comedies written by a female since Clueless, paraded the reason why every woman dreads being a bridesmaid (minus the high-strung antagonist that is Helen [Rose Byrne]). Read BtH’s original review here.
A Dangerous Method: Apart from the acting of Keira Knightley in this historical biopic, the story told in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method is a significant elucidation of both sex as the undoing of one’s mental stability and the birth of modern psychology. Read BtH’s original review here.
Drive: This film in particular was the one that stood out in 2011. Although highly divisive in terms of what an audience will tell you about it, Nicholas Winding Refn distinguishes his directorial abilities with a combined use of Los Angeles’ seductive backdrop paired with an appropriately nihilistic leading character (Ryan Gosling). Read BtH’s original review here.
Hugo: Martin Scorsese rarely disappoints, and Hugo is no exception to the rule. Read BtH’s original review here.
Jane Eyre: Another indication of Michael Fassbender’s prominence in 2011, Jane Eyre is a classical take on Charlotte Brontë’s seminal 1847 novel; the dark undertones of the story are given equally dark overtones via the cinematography of Adriano Goldman.
Like Crazy: Even if it is a bit on the cheesy side, Like Crazy does cheesy right by candidly revealing the gradual decline of the relationship between Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) once they are separated due to the restrictions of her visa. Read BtH’s original review here.
Martha Marcy May Marlene: Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen were undoubtedly shaking in their stilettos this year after Elizabeth Olsen’s stark and intense performance as an escapee of a cult in the Catskill Mountains. Read BtH’s original review here.
Shame: Very few mainstream actors would appear to have the courage for the explicit and intransigent plot of Shame, but Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan rise to the challenge of being unmerciful in their portrayal of a brother and sister with few sexual boundaries. Read BtH’s original review here.
The Skin I Live In: Pedro Almodovar + gender reassignment as vengeance = Perfection. Read BtH’s original review here.
Sucker Punch: This might be a source of contention for some. Zack Snyder, renowned for his direction of 300, takes a more, shall we say, feministic angle in Sucker Punch, starring Emily Browning as a mental patient awaiting a lobotomy. Read BtH’s original review here.
Super 8: What could be better than peanut butter and jelly? J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. Plus, it also makes up for Elle Fanning agreeing to be in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. Read BtH’s original review here.
We Need To Talk About Kevin: We’ve all seen school shootings unfold on the news over the past decade, but with Lynne Ramsey’s razor sharp adaptation of the award-winning novel, We Need To Talk About Kevin, the perspective shifts entirely. Read BtH’s original review here.
Young Adult: Ennui never seemed so palpable in Diablo Cody’s third writing effort, Young Adult (excluding her revision of the oh so panned Cher/Christina Aguilera movie, Burlesque), in which the anti-heroine, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), explicates all of the reasons why you can never go home again. Read BtH’s original review here.
Honorable mention: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (because of Gary Oldman), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (because it’s the end of an era), The Iron Lady (because of Meryl Streep), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (because of David Fincher), The Descendants (because Alexander Payne is the shit), and Midnight in Paris (because it’s Woody Allen).