It’s only right, this time of year, to take some time for reflection, to look back at what the last 12 months brought us. We’ve had our share of great experiences, of memorable moments, of fun times. We have laughed together, though sometimes we were embarrassed about it (more than once, to be honest), we’ve cringed together, and we’ve cried a little, too. Together we have reunited with old friends to learn some new songs, and we’ve even danced to some old ones. We’ve gone on some fanciful adventures, traveled to exotic locations, welcomed some new friends, and kindly shown others the door. We’ve encountered heroes from on high and heroes from the past, and they’ve helped to defeat some great and terrible villains.
Oh, but there have been some bad times too. But we’re not here to talk about those.
We at Stars & Popcorn want to remember this year not as the year another batch of lousy, forgettable films infected the cinema landscape, another year in which words like “horror” and “suspense” were thrown around until they lost all meaning. We like our assassins competent and stylish, as opposed to just questionably stylish. We like our sports films smart and heartwarming, not utterly hackneyed and devoid of charm.
So let’s take this time to celebrate some of 2011′s greatest, most memorable and most fun films. Each entry on this list was placed with the utmost thought and care, and we recommend you take some time on a rainy day to experience these great movies.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with Mary Poppins. Heck, we think she’s a classy lady, but she’s kind of lost touch with today’s rough-and-tumble, and maybe even slightly sociopathic, youth. That’s why we need someone like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Hesher to help kids get through their issues by smoking out with grandma and lighting cars on fire.
He’s a life couch for a new generation, and perhaps one of the most effective in movie history, because you never see the bastard coming. Halfway through talking about an orgy in the back of his van, you’ll realize it’s all a strangely applicable metaphor for finding happiness in your life. While you might take a little comfort in that, it won’t make it any less awkward for you, which all just adds to the beauty of the character. It’s a great film, though it’s not for the faint of heart or for those with high moral standards. Everyone else will love it though.
There is no stranger film on our list than Terrence Malick’s trippy, existential opus The Tree of Life. Rife with symbolism and lacking a defined narrative, except where that narrative intersects the universe’s lifespan, The Tree of Life plays like the home movies of a fairly typical family in Waco, Texas, if those home movies were framed by monologues that coalesce spiritual musings with an existential sense of insignificance. Brad Pitt plays an enterprising man and strict father, husband of the more sensitive Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn spends a few minutes showing us he can brood with the best of them.