20 Best Movie Moments of 2011

THE 20 BEST MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2011

Here’s a list that was almost as difficult to make as my best movies of the year. I wanted to focus on the individual scenes that stuck in my mind all year long and were worth mentioning whether or not the movie was amazing or sub-par but included a moment of amazing filmmaking and had a scene that combined amazing technical skill from behind-the-camera, fantastic acting in front of it and combined to create something beautifully memorable. 2011 had many scenes to chose from and I wish I could have included all of them but at the risk of going insane I tried to limit myself to only twenty when I could have easily made it to 30.

(In Alphabetical order)

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL MOVIES MENTIONED

Adjustment Bureau – The Bathroom Meeting

The Adjustment Bureau was a good sci-fi/romance diversion released early in the year and quickly forgotten about. The best thing the movie had going for it was the dynamite sexual chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt which made a lot of the ridiculousness easier to swallow (Magic Hats). In this scene early on in the film, Matt Damon loses his campaign and runs into Emily Blunt’s character hiding in the men’s room where they have a verbal tennis match with sexual tension bursting off the screen. The scene inspires Matt Damon’s character to give a dynamic speech and gives the audience a reason to care about these characters.

Another Earth –  The story of the Russian Cosmonaut

Brit Marling really got to showcase her acting ability in Another Earth with the juicy role of a MIT student who kills a family in a drunk driving accident. In probably the best scene to show her wonderful acting and great independent filmmaking is a scene where her character is still pretending to be a cleaning lady for the man whose family she killed and transfixes the audience with a short monologue about a russian cosmonaut who starts to go insane from hearing a sound in the loneliness in space. Metaphorical and beautifully told, this is probably Marling’s best example of her as the next best thing.

The Artist – Uggie rescues George

For being a seemingly lighthearted silent, black and white film about Hollywood, The Artist delves into some dark themes of depression, pride, and loneliness. When our main character George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) looks over his old films while drinking, he gets fed up and decides to destroy all his copies of his films, finally feeling washed up and unwittingly starts a fire in his old home. Luckily, his loyal companion Uggie the dog runs out into the street, tracks down a policeman and frantically warns  him about George stuck in the fire in true Lassie fashion. A scene that is a hilarious contrast to the dark subject matter but is also a great scene for the wonderfully trained Jack Russell Terrier who is just as charming and charismatic as our lead protagonist.

Attack the Block – Moses vs. the Aliens

A highly enjoyable genre hybrid of sci-fi/comedy/horror is the British film about a group of teen thugs who try to protect their apartment block from a group of big, black, alien monsters with sharp glowing teeth. The movie is full of many badass, well-crafted scenes culminating in it’s best scene when the group leader, Moses finally owns up to his responsibilities of his friends’ deaths and initiating the attack of the aliens by going on a kamikaze mission to blow them up in his apartment. He runs in a beautifully shot, slo-mo sequence backed by a pulse-pounding soundtrack to a nail-biting climax of blowing up the apartment. Once this scene happened, I discovered what all the hype was about.

Dialogue in clip is in German:

Bellflower – The Beard Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” featured a disturbing scene of it’s main character Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) tattooing her guardian on his chest after he rapes her  as a constant reminder of him being a “Rapist Pig.” While disturbing as that scene, the scene in Bellflower that really got under my skin was when it’s main character Woodrow (Evan Glodell) is knocked out by his ex-girlfriend Milly, after she finds out about his relationship with her best friend and unwillingly gives him a facial tattoo of a full beard. The disturbing idea of being forever disfigured by someone results is a clusterfuck ending that features the memorable moments of The Medusa car gliding down the street in slow-motion and Woodrow walking down the street with a beard tattoo and fresh, bloody handprints on his shirt after his retaliation. Whether it was real or imagined it is correlated to Evan Glodell‘s solid acting and direction.

Bridesmaids – Shit on the street

The scene that was probably the best memorable and talked-about for most people this year is the scene that launched Kristen Wiig as a comedic force to be reckoned with and Melissa McCarthy as one of the funniest people of the year is the ultimate dress fitting gone wrong at a fancy bridal store after Kristen Wiig‘s Bridal party lunch at a Mexican restaurant that gives all its characters food poisoning and bad cases of diarrhea and has McCarthy shitting herself in a sink and Maya Rudolph planting herself in the middle of the street and shitting in an expensive wedding dress. Tasteless and raunchy? Definitely. But, probably the funniest scene of the year.

Carnage – Kate Winslet pukes

Carnage is noticeably a theater piece that gets great mileage out of it’s one location in a New York condo and out of it’s four seasoned main actors. The movie is full of awkward moments, tension, and intense arguments but the most unexpectedly hilarious and awkward is when Kate Winslet projectile vomits all over the living room of Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly to an almost absurd extent. The sequence has great buildup of the character’s dialogue with Winslet’s character complaining of nausea and it’s not often you see such a disgusting and raunchy sight gag in a dramatic theater piece. When such a skilled actress like Kate Winslet uncontrollably vomits in a film, it’s hard to forget.

Drive – The Elevator

A scene of cinematic beauty. Drive is full of memorable scenes but it’s most unforgettable sequence is where Ryan Gosling‘s Driver is in an elevator with Carey Mulligan‘s Irene and an assailant sent to kill the Driver. The scene represents everything great about the movie and it’s mix of dream-like fantasy and brutal violence. Once Driver realizes that he is in crosshairs to be killed, he grabs Irene, the lights dim and he gives her a passionate kiss that almosts transports them into their own element/world of their own that ends with The Driver subduing and crushing the face of the hit man until he is nothing but a bloody mess and Irene watches in horror of what he is capable of. A scene that people will study and try to replicate for many years.

Fast Five – Train Heist

Fast Five was big, goofy, fun and I loved every minute of it. Many people might remember the insanely implausible and fantastic ending chase scene featuring two cars attached to a bank vault plowing through the streets of Rio. As good as that scene is, nothing was as fun and exhilarating as the train heist sequence that for whatever reason had Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Jordanna Brewster heisting cars off of a speeding train onto a speeding truck. The scene quickly turns into a double-cross and ends up with Walker and Diesel defying psychics and jumping off of a bridge into a river below. Completely absurd and utterly insane was what made Fast Five so good. All the rules of logic and common sense were thrown out the window in favor of pure entertainment.

Not the full scene:

Hanna – One-Take Subway fight

People who have seen “Munich” know the badassery Eric Bana is capable of. Hanna was a well-made throwback to old school action/spy thrillers with an 70’s/80’s aesthetic that took us to different exotic locales. Director Joe Wright definitely went wild with experimental shots and camera angles and one of the best moments is a single, unbroken, one-take shot that follows Eric Bana through the streets and down the stairs of a subway station where he is confronted by multiple CIA agents and proceeds to kick all their asses in the same one-take. A seamless merger of art-house cinematography and badass action.

Not the complete scene:

The Help – Abilene gets fired

The Help was a very good film although a bit overly-dramatic and after-school specialish with it’s view but a movie with fantastic performances especially by Viola Davis as Abilene. At the end of the film when the book “The Help” is published to critical success, some of the Jackson Mississippi women make the connections to the writers of the book especially Hilly Holbrook played with perfect cold-heartedness by Bryce Dallas Howard. With a ridiculous scheme about stolen silver, Hilly’s last attempt at revenge is to get Abilene fired and arrested. When the two confront each other it’s a rewarding scene of two great actresses facing off and easily Davis‘ standout moment. When she quits, leaves and her last child she helped raise screams and cries for her as she walks away is a easy ploy for melodrama but damn if it didn’t leave a lump in my throat.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Final Frames

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a complex thriller and a authentic deception of how it truly is to be in a cult and return to normal life afterwards. If it’s even possible to have a normal life afterwards. Elizabeth Olsen gives a fearless performance and the film features numerous memorable scenes and images including John Hawkes as the creepy leader Patrick playing a song to Martha. What stuck with me the most was the ending. The whole film grapples with Martha’s psyche which is constantly paranoid of being found by Patrick or any of his followers and leads to someone suspenseful scenes that have the viewer question what is real or in her head. Before her sister takes her away to get real psychiatric help she sees a young man watching her across her sister’s lake house and later on driving down the road, a man gets into a car and begins to follow Martha who sits in the backseat of her sister’s car with a terrified look on her face. Is she reading too much into the situation or should she be paranoid? We may never know, but the look on Martha’s face shows she’ll never truly be the same.

Melancholia – Opening

I wasn’t blown away by Melancholia like most people were but it did grab my attention immediately with it’s long 10 minute opening that features slowed down footage of Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg on a golf course in beautiful shots that look like stills that are moving in a 3d environment or almost like an oil painting brought to life. It is undeniably beautiful and absorbing especially with the Tristan and Isolde score blaring in the background. It would work on it’s own as it’s own short film that ends in a beautiful effects shot of a planet slowly colliding with Earth. Fade to Black, roll credits.

Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Climbing the tower in Dubai

As thrilling as the Train Heist in “Fast Five” was, it couldn’t touch the nerve-wrecking levels of suspense from the Dubai scene in Mission:Impossible that has Tom Cruise scaling the world’s tallest building and nearly falling off multiple times and ends with running across the building jumping and nearly missing an open window. (He hits his head and I’m surprised he doesn’t get amnesia from the number of times he bangs his head in the film.) It is already a thrilling scene made even more intense knowing that Tom Cruise did a majority of the stunt himself. It is an exhilarating, nail-biting scene made even more intense seen in IMAX and known that Tom Cruise himself could have fallen to his death at any moment. A pinnacle of the Mission:Impossible series and of action movies in general. Although I did wonder how no one happened to see Tom Cruise scaling a building full of all open windows.

Moneyball – Hatteberg’s homerun

It’s amazing when a film takes a true story and the audience already knows the outcome but still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. With the Oakland A’s on a winning streak about to win their 20th game in a row, they are up 11 to 0 and Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) decides to watch the game and break his superstition until an amazing comeback happens and the score is nearly tied at 11 and Billy Beane feels the walls closing in on him, sinking in quicksand, until Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), a recruited player at first base with no first base experience steps up the home plate and blasts a home run out of the park. It’s a stand up and cheer moment that pulls tension until your stomach is in knots that makes the home run that more rewarding, it wasn’t just a home run for Hatteberg, Billy Beane, or Oakland A’s, it was a home run for everyone who was ever an underdog.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Opening Scene

From the trailer you might think that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a fast paced espionage thriller, when in reality it’s a slow burn drama that is given one intense opening sequence. Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is assigned by Control to go to Hungary to meet a General that will give him information about a mole inside British Intelligence. From the very start, something feels amiss and from Prideaux’s point-of-view we can feel in our gut that it is a set-up. Using Tomas Alfredson‘s stellar direction and use of editing and sound, it is a nail-biting scene where everyone might be a suspected killer out to get him. When the operation is blown and Prideaux is shot, it is a shocking sigh of relief but a scene that is a catalyst for the story and sticks in your mind for the rest of the film.

Tree of Life – Creation of the Universe

Tree of Life is a love or hate it movie and when I saw it, I knew it would touch on themes of the origins of mankind but what I didn’t expect was a near 20-minute abstract scene of some of the most beautiful imagery ever seen in a fictional feature length film. Director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki deserve high praise for delivering such a wonderous, awe-inspring montage of beauty of The universe and Earth. The sequence is a modern day companion piece to the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey and ironically used the same special effects expert. The scene itself could be a stand-alone short film that could almost be a discovery channel or IMAX documentary. an unexpected surprise that whether you like the film or not, or whether you didn’t “get” the film or not, there is an undeniable beauty unlike you’ve seen all year or you’ve seen in your lifetime.

Not the full scene but a good HD version of part of it.

The Trip – Michael Caine Speaks

The Trip was a BBC miniseries that was condensed to a two hour drama that works primarily because of the chemistry of it’s stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. A sequence that I saw early on in the year and still made me laugh out loud when I watched the film was the “This is How Michael Caine Speaks…” scene. While eating Rob Brydon talks about his impressions of celebrities being described as stunningly accurate. What results is a oneupmanship match of two outstanding comedians going from early days Michael Caine to old age Michael Caine that at first seems like a competition until you realize that it’s just probably the way they communicate their friendship. A hilarious minute and a half scene that is a highlight of a great movie and I still haven’t decided which impression is the clear winner.

Warrior – Final Fight

Warrior was a surprising sports drama that was cliche/predictable and still managed to be engrossing and entertaining even if it lead up to a climax that was known from the start and even spoiled in the theatrical trailers for the film. If you were like me, it didn’t matter and Warrior was still a satisfying, entertaining motion picture where the final fight was shot with equal brutality and compassion. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy deliver emotionally sound performances that lead to the ultimate form of masculine problem solving in the old tradition of fighting them out. Being a man with an older brother its impossible not to relate to the sibling fight that ends with neither a winner or loser but two brothers who finally settle their differences. When the song “About Today” by the National swells up it’s impossible for even the manliest man not to get a little bit teary-eyed.

Young Adult – Front Lawn Meltdown

Young Adult had some great overlooked performances this year especially in the likes of Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Theron especially was both icy, honest, and pathetic. Theron is a character who writes those cliche young adult novels about girls in High School and after returning to her hometown to ridicule and make fun the people she grew up with, we realize she is just as clueless, selfish, and childish as a high school girl which results in one scene where all her plans for snatching her high school sweetheart away results in a hard-to-watch monologue where she explains to a bunch of partygoers, including her own parents, why she is such an intolerable bitch that becomes more or less an intervention than a tearful reconciliation. Theron’s stellar performance adds pathos to a character that is like a car accident happening in slow motion.

What scene did I miss? What was Your favorite scene? Comment Below. 

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Rated: R 

When we think of a spy movie we imagine Jason Bourne style running and jumping, 007 style gadgetry and Mission Impossible style stunts and face masks. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” based on the 1974 John Le Carre novel is probably more realistic than any of those billion dollar franchises. While we like to think that our nation’s spies are running and jumping through exotic locations, more than likely it is a bunch of men sitting around a room discussing and arguing in jargon and then constantly looking other their shoulders, suspicious of everyone.

George Smiley is a retired MI6 agent whom is asked right before he retires to try to locate a Soviet mole hidden within “The circus” The highest level echelon of the British intelligence during The Cold War.

It’s rare to see a film that is such a masterclass in good acting. The cast is a who’s who of premier British actors. Tinker Tailor would not be the great motion picture it is without its stellar cast. Gary Oldman, in an Oscar-worthy turn as George Smiley is quiet, subdued, but says it all in his eyes behind its wiry rounded spectacles. Oldman is best known to me as roles where he usually unleashes craziness (a Jamaican pimp in True Romance, a drugged out DEA agent in The Professional) and turns in a more toned-down performance that is a pinnacle of an already distinguished career. At first he seems like an odd choice for him to play such a complex role but as the movie unfolds you couldn’t see anyone else filling Smiley’s shoes. Other standout performances include Colin Firth and Toby Jones as members of the circus being investigated as potential moles. Both men always bring A-game performances to their roles especially the underrated Toby Jones whose character is manipulative as he is intimidating. Mark Strong and Tom Hardy who both seem to be everywhere this year turn up in memorable performances. Hardy has a great long monologue early on that displays his great acting chops that are a complete 360 from his bull-like character from this year’s “WarriorMark Strong who is great at playing villains has a fantastic role as Jim Prideaux who is probably the most sympathetic character in the film. The always reliable John Hurt also briefly appears as the head of The Circus in a role he could virtually play in his sleep. What’s best about these actors is that they are all such great character actors that they chameleon into their roles seamlessly that the authenticity of their character is never questioned or feels unrealistic.

The film is based off of a 70’s cold war novel and adapted from a BBC miniseries and from what I can tell does a pretty fair job of getting the most details out of its intricate plot. However its biggest fault is that the movie is insanely hard to follow and that if you blink you miss key information. What some might say is its biggest weakness is all its biggest strength as the film warrants many repeat viewings to fully understand the complexities of the plot and characters. The film’s fantastic trailer also marketed it as an intense suspenseful spy drama and it is but nowhere near as intense as you think (save for a few key scenes including a brilliant conversation on an airstrip and a nail biting opening scene). While some scenes and conversations are intense the movie is much more like a chess match that slowly unfolds in front of the viewer and rewards those who were willing to sit patiently and pay attention, a rare thing in cinema these days.

Director Tomas Alfredson does a great job of balancing the story and characters amidst fabulous production design, costume, and cinematography that perfectly capture the cold, bleak feel of 1970’s London. A great example is the great production design of the room where “the circus” meets. A complete turnaround from his brilliant adaption of “Let the Right One In” that was mostly dark colored with a blue, snowy tint while Tinker is  more of a 70’s washed out, technicolor look. Alfredson reveals himself as a top-notch filmmaker with the direction that’s damn near perfect. The film is a great homage to 70’s era political intrigue thrillers that never compromises the integrity of its story for modern audiences. While I’m happy the age of cold war paranoia has come and gone, thrillers like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is the exception where the phrase “They don’t make em’ like they used to.” is an accurate description.

RATING: 9/10

Warrior (2011): Review

Warrior:
Directed by: Gavin O’ Connor
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
Rated: PG-13

Feature a movie with the saddest thing you can think of, but nothing quite like films about Father-Son relationships, and relationships with brothers will cut men to their core.

“Warrior” is the type of film that feels real enough to be a true story. An underdog sports movie featuring characters fighting against the odds, while battling their own personal demons and overcoming both, usually through the battle itself. Many, like me will compare this to last year’s “The Fighter” with MMA fighting instead of boxing. Even though “The Fighter” was based on a true story, the real characters they were based on, were flawed, cartoonish, and charasmatic enough, that were redemption was satisfying. In “Warrior” its characters are much more introverted, emotionally scarred, and not as lighthearted and loyal to their destructive families, and have to earn their redemptions.

The story concerns two brothers, Tommy and Brendan (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) estranged brothers and sons to patriarch and recovering alcoholic, Paddy (Nick Nolte). Tommy, is a Iraqi War vet, who comes unannounced and nonchalant about his time serving in the military. Immediately he meets up with Paddy, whom he still blames for the death of his mother after they ran away from his abusive household. Tommy is not very talkative and is easy to tell he is tortured by years of bitterness, rage, and loneliness, however he is still unwilling to forgive the remaining members of the family he now hardly knows.

Brendan, once a promising UFC fighter, is now a suburban family man, married to high school sweetheart, with two young daughters, one of which has a heart defect, and works as a high school physics teacher. He fights in strip club parking lots for extra cash, just to pay for the house the bank threatens to foreclose. Brendan is different than Tommy. Instead of a path of anger, hatred, and self-destruction, he chose to carve out a new life for himself with a new family of people and disassociate himself from his past. His wife is extremely unsupportive of his fighting, every since he got seriously hurt in a UFC fight, but now Brendan sees it as the only oppurtunity for his family to stay afloat and protect them. The film now brings them both together, after through different circumstances they end up in a competition called “Sparta” where a $5 million dollar jackpot is the prize, in a 16-man last man standing tournament.

Here is a film, that I really had no interest in, but turns out is completely involving and that’s all thanks to the engaging performances by Hardy, Edgerton, and Nolte. Each character is three dimensional, completely human, and each in need of a redemption, with themselves and each other. Each Brother’s story is given ample screentime and enough to fully care about their individual plight, although the movie never lets us chose sides, which makes the competition that much more intense to watch. For me, Hardy’s plot about training with Nolte was a much more interesting storyline then Edgerton’s been there, done that fighting for his family story. However, once the fights began, Edgerton’s character becomes the center of attention and becomes the audience’s hero and is an easier underdog character to identify and cheer on than Tom Hardy’s pit-bull character of Tommy. The movie never once feels boring or too slow and is always consistently well-acted and interesting even though some dramatic parts feel forced and cheesy.The fight scenes are wonderfully edited, never too fast-paced and easy to tell what’s going on. The Cinematography puts us right in the middle of the action, accompanied by an amazing music soundtrack and sound mix. For a PG-13 movie, the films are as brutal and intense as I’ve seen for a movie with that kind of rating. Also for a film with multiple fights, I applaud Director Gavin O’ Connor for never making the fights boring or repetitive, each one will have your nails dug into the arm rest even though the outcomes are pretty predictable. Besides some cheesy dramatic moments, the film is already over two hours and has a needless subplot about Brendan’s supportive school principal and students, who watch on PPV in a drive-in parking lot. While, it was nice to show the support of Brendan’s character, the constant cuts back and forth between an intense fight scene and a cheering principal becomes laughable. Two of the “Sparta’s” commentators also become ridiculously annoying with having witty, mean-spirited banter between each fight. While funny in small doses, they began to remind me of Gary Cole and Jason Bateman’s commentators from “Dodgeball.” A training sequence that is also a cinematic trope for this kind of movie is ruined by having a awkward split-screen in an attempt to make a more visually interesting sequence becomes a distraction.

Director Gavin O’ Connor previously made the fantastic Hockey drama “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He is familar with crafted the underdog story and brings that to Warrior in a documentary type way with many handheld shots that brings an extra shade of realism. He also directed the abysmal cop drama “Pride and Glory” where Colin Farrell was featured threatening a baby with an iron. (I shit you not.) That film also dealt with the dynamic of brothers on flip sides of the same coin, with resentment towards their father. Warrior, combines both of those into a much more cohesive film. Miracle was a great underdog sports drama, but lacked character development besides Kurt Russell’s character, while “Pride and Glory” had great characters burdened by a mess of a screenplay. Combining those elements together creates a much stronger motion picture.

What O’ Conner did with “Warrior” wasn’t revolutionary or new, but what he set out to accomplish was successful. A well-made, real, family drama centered in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. While the film isn’t without its flaws, it makes use of the characters electric performances, from Tom “Can’t do wrong” Hardy and Joel Edgerton, who I suspect will have many doors open for him after this role. Nolte, I’m sure uses many of his own life trials and tribulations to a character looking for forgiveness for past mistakes, and pulls off a Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” performance. I wouldn’t exactly call the film a modern day “Rocky” but it is probably the best film made about UFC/MMA fighting that doesn’t trivialize the sport. Once the ending begins and the song by “The National” begins to swell up, try to not have your heart strings tugged at. It doesn’t matter how predictable it is, cause if we care about what’s going on screen then it was all worthwhile. “Warrior” was worthwhile.

Rating: 8/10