CC Issue 14 / Film / TV

2011: The Year Of Good, But Not Great

So the Academy Award Nominations were released this morning. As I made my way down the list I was reminded of the kind of year 2011 was for movies. A year of almost. A year of could-have-been. A year of yawn.

I saw a lot of the nominated movies and came out of every one of them with the same feeling: It was good… but not great. Usually there will be a handful of greats thrown into the mix… movies that really grab you, or that blow your mind… but not this year.

With that being said I want to take the rest of this blog to highlight the (very) few goodies from last year and perhaps bring some movies, albums, or TV shows to your attention. That way, in case you have kids, or a real job, or something else that kept you from seeing/hearing/or watching the following, you can better discern what to spend your money on when that rainy day comes along!

I tried to make a “Top Ten Films of the Year” list – and I couldn’t even get to ten. The Academy seemed to have the same problem (only 9 best picture nominations this year).


1) Young Adult – Jason Reitman

Charlize Theron gives an awesome, completely unselfconscious performance as *that girl* from high school who comes back to her old hometown as a thirty-something Young Adult novelist to try and win back “the one that got away”. Things get crazy from there. Not a lot of people liked this movie but I loved it. The Academy even snubbed Charlize for an Oscar nod, which is a real shame. If you want to see something messy, difficult, funny and real, this is it. (Also, keep an eye on the hilarious and moving Patton Oswalt in the supporting role of Matt)

2) Bridesmaids – Paul Fieg

Now I want to be clear about the fact that I’m not just on the bandwagon about this movie. I saw it last summer the night it came out just because I like Kristin Wigg, and I thought it might be funny. I laughed all the way through. At some points – like the super awkward engagement speech that turns into a duet – I was literally crying and gasping with laughter. It was one of the best times I had in a theater all year and rewatching at home on DVD was just as good. It’s a classic.

3) Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn

Ok I’ll be honest. I just love Ryan Gosling. When it comes to Ryan Gosling I’m like a high school girl. A woman sued her local multiplex this year because “Drive” turned out to be nothing like “The Fast and the Furious” movie she was expecting. So take that as a warning! There are car chases, drug dealers, shot-gun wielding psychopaths, and vicious, violent, face smashings in Drive, but that doesn’t mean it’s an action movie. Instead, “Drive” is a slow burning, long staring, soft spoken love story that LOVES to take its time. And nobody can just lean against the wall and take his time with a stare like Ryan Gosling. Plus – and almost most importantly – this movie has a KILLER soundtrack.

4) 50\50 – Jonathan Levine

I’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of this movie, or if it went by so fast that you’ve forgotten about it. It must have been hard to market this little gem, because all the trailers made it look like “The 40 Year Old Virgin Has Cancer” while the movie itself was much, much, more than that. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to make great choices and do great work and this is no exception. I can’t wait to see him again in this years “Lincoln” and, of course, “The Dark Knight Rises”. If you missed this little seen, poorly marketed movie, do yourself a favor and go see it! As a guy in his late twenties I really related to it – and the script, performances, and direction were all fantastic.

5) Midnight In Paris – Woody Allen

I wouldn’t call myself the worlds biggest Woody Allen fan, but when I like one of his movies I REALLY like it. With this movie, Allen really goes in a direction I never expected. The movie is part hilarious comedy, part romantic nostalgia, and part odd-ball mystery. It’s a fun movie to watch on a date. It’s an interesting movie to watch as an English major. So for me, an English major who watched it on a date with his wife – it was spectacular.

Honorable mentions:

Hugo – Martin Scorsese

Shame – Steve McQueen

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Rupert Wyatt

The Descendants – Alexander Payne


I don’t like talking too much about music. So I’ve included a track from each album so you can just hear for yourself. All of the following have had heavy rotation on my ipod throughout the year.

Panda Bear – Tomboy

Seryn – This Is Where We Are

Radiohead – King of Limbs

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Drive – Official Motion Picture Soundtrack


Ok I’m late to the party here but I just want to bring your attention to the four following shows (in case you live under a bomb shelter and haven’t heard of them). I don’t watch much TV – but these four are essential viewing. (I’m not posting clips for these but track them down somehow and watch them! Not on megavideo though… they got shut down by the Feds.)

Breaking Bad



Boardwalk Empire

Game of Thrones


Well I hope you liked my shortlists. The internet is full of year end best-of lists as well as endless commentary on the Oscars. So maybe since it’s gross, disgusting January you can have a family night this evening and sample one of the above recommendations. You won’t be disappointed.

5 thoughts on “2011: The Year Of Good, But Not Great

  1. I finally persuaded the missus to watch Midnight in Paris (she detests Woody Allen) last week. Sadly I found it pretty lame, but maybe that’s because I adore the Lost Generation and categorically believe it was a better time to be alive.

  2. Nice post. I kept thinking that 2011 was a good year in film but then when I sat down to think of all the classics, I couldn’t. You’re probably right that there was a lot of ‘good’, but not much ‘great’. Speaking of Academy Award nominations, I couldn’t believe that ‘War Horse’ got a nod for Best Picture. Snore.

  3. @Nick – I agree about War Horse, but I guess you can never underestimate the Academy’s love for Steven Spielberg.

    @Joe – Some of my favorite movies have come from the recommendations you’d give in your replies to the “best of” lists I used to send around back in the day. What do you think your top five movies from this year would be?

    • I’m afraid I never watch movies anymore. In fact I watched a total of three from 2011 – Tintin, Jane Eyre and Midnight In Paris. I wasn’t crazy about any – Jane Eyre is decent if you like the story – but your odds aren’t that great if you only watch three films.

      I won’t go into the best film I watched this year – a HK film from 2010 called “Dream House” – because its the most frighteningly violent film ever. In the end the violence kinda works towards a message, but I’m not sure I could recommend anyone else watch it (unless you really like obscenely-violent-make-Tarantino-look-like-Disney shit).

      (Also, I think Suhail and I have discussed “Margin Call”, a film centering around the hours just prior to the 2008 financial crash, on this site. Slower pace, no plot per se, and Kevin Spacey – you’d like that yeah? Jeremy Irons plays a great character. That makes four films from 2011.)

      TV I will recommend is Downton Abbey. I guess its really popular but I like it a lot. You could crudely call it an English “Mad Men” which means its more subtle, set in a better historical period and is just plain better than its American counterpart.

      So, top five films I wished I watched in 2011 (I assume Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas thing doesn’t count):

      1. Drive
      2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
      3. In Time
      4. Haywire
      5. 13 Assassins

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