Town Square

Story's the thing: The best and worst movies of 2011

Original post made on Jan 6, 2012

Only two movies made it onto all the Weekly film critics' "best" lists for 2011, and they've got one thing in common: a focus on good old-fashioned storytelling.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 6, 2012, 9:41 AM


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

It seems apparent that today's critics do not know what to do … other than to play monkey see, monkey do with all the other critics, which leads to just pushing gruel and pabulum onto the unwary distracted moviegoers.

I see several movies in multiple lists that I think were faux efforts, put together by the democgraphic cutters and pasters in Hollywood, namely "Tree Of Life" and "The Descendents". Both were pretty bad, but whereas Descendents was watchable in a linear sort of way it was ridiculous in its trashing of the dying woman only telling the story through one point of view … and of course they had to get George Clooney to tell that story. It was as bad as the other Clooney nonsense, "The Ides Of March" … I wish I had had the idea to march away from the theater on the day I saw that dog.

The only movie I thought was new and interesting was "Paris At Midnight" which delighted all the people in the theater I saw it with, but even it was mostly an homage and apprecition of Woody Allen and must have provoked the interesting American Masters documentary on Woody which was better than just about all the movies that came out last year.

Movies are getting very bad as a general rule, they are more testbeds for psychological manipulation and advertising these days. There are some movies that are decent but very few, and of all the movies our critics are letting us down by treating most of them with anything but contempt.

We are lucky in Palo Alto to have a testbed of our own for looking at movies in a more … notice the qualitifier, innocent way - namely the Stanford Theater. It is so much for me to go and see some of the best movies every made in a different time and have the difference impressed on my in a theater from the era as well.

But never fear, now we have 3D. :-(

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

HUGO was surprisingly good. I fully expected a children's film, but was surprised to find a sophisticated and well-made drama about a man who lost his way following the advent of film.

SUPER 8 was also surprisingly good. Although it was very reminiscent of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, it was more of a story of a boy who lost his mother and found his way through friendship and forgiveness in the face of adversity.

DRIVE was very good. In fact, it is the anti-FAST and FURIOUS. The story was thrilling and much deeper than most chase films. It is also amazing that Albert Brooks can play a mobster so very well!


If I had to put money on the film that critics from the Academy would choose, I think that they will embrace HUGO. It is the story of film-making as told by a master film maker (Martin Scorsese) embracing the best use of 3D thus far in cinema.

However, on a personal level, I think that the best film of 2011 was JANE EYRE. The story is timeless and the acting, sets, cinematography and suspense were mesmerizing. I just can't understand why this period film isn't receiving more love from critics. Yes, it is "slow" -- but no slower than other Oscar-winning films (see THE LAST EMPEROR, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, DANCES WITH WOLVES or OUT OF AFRICA).

I expect that we might one day watch some of these films at THE STANFORD THEATRE if we are lucky in our old age!

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

@ Anon:

Have you watched HUGO yet? I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is it a period piece from the first few decades of film (Paris circa 1931), but it is the ONLY film made in 3D where the 3D part of it didn't feel like a novelty. It also invoked the type of "heart" story that was common in the golden age of film.

Again, HUGO is NOT a kid's film. Although some kids might appreciate it, most younger kids would likely fidget throughout the film. However, adults and teenagers will enjoy this film immensely.

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Posted by AMRW
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

@Nayeli - you're sure surprised a lot!

I thought Super 8 was outstanding. A great young man coming-of-age story that even appealed to my 35 year old female self.

I also enjoyed Cedar Rapids. It has some very funny moments even though it didn't seem like it was marketed very well.

Insidious was a great horror movie this year. The premise was different than any other horror movie I've heard of. No spoilers here but it explored a side of paranormal activities that I've read about but never seen in a movie.

Bridesmaids was hilarious. Raunchy at times, but still hilarious.

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Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Worst film of the year was Melancholia. In fact it is on my list of all-time stinkers. At the end, when the earth is destroyed I wanted to cheer. No more films by Lars von Trier, Bruno Dumont, Jean-Luc Godard and other masters of pretentious Euro-schlock.

Tree of Life was a close second. I spent the first half of the movie desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to stay awake and the second half desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to fall asleep.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm


Yeah, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed those films. In fact, my husband wiped some tears while watching HUGO. We both liked it even though it was nothing like what we expected.

@ David:

I have been told that people will either love or hate TREE OF LIFE. My husband very much liked Malick films (like THE NEW WORLD and THE THIN RED LINE) which have a different "pace" for storytelling. On the other hand, I find them incredibly boring and almost "preachy."

I won't watch MELANCHOLIA just because of the possibly racist and Nazi sympathizing director, Lars von Trier. Even if he was "joking" -- it was a terrible choice of a joke.

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Posted by [email protected]
a resident of University South
on Jan 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm

We enjoyed Hugo. It is great story telling and the 3-D worked for me.

We also thoroughly enjoyed two films that the critics did not favor-- Midnight in Paris and Sherlock Holmes. Downey and Jude Law are fun to watch.

Looking forward to seeing The Artist.

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Posted by buzzw
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm

without a doubt, the phrase of 2011, no contest, you will agree is ''horsing around'' (!)

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Posted by Marvin Upshaw
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

"The Descendants" was a very good film, very real. Don't underestimate it. "Bridesmaids" had some funn scenes, but not as funny as first "The Hangover". I walked out of "The Help" after the first 15 minutes, too contrived. Same went for "Ides of March". Wasn't interested in the characters and couldn't stand looking at that woman journalist.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

> Posted by David Lieberman,
> Tree of Life was a close second. I spent the first half of the movie
> desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to stay awake and the
> second half desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to fall asleep.

Your review was better than the movie. For me "Tree of Life" was
not only one of the worst movies I have ever seen, it was full or
pretension and vanity, and the critics, and the puppets on the
Internet pumped it up so full of hot air it must have been either
mass advertising and bribes or mass delusions.

I saw that movie on the day it came out at Palo Alto Square.
During the movie the sound kept going out but it was only
towards the end that people started complaining because the
movie was so ridiculous that people thought the sound going
out was part of the movie.

I am sure there were obtuse people in the theater that sat
entranced in the movie and never noticed it that still are
raving about how brilliant and innovative dropping the
soundtrack out like that was, and how a lesser director would
never have thought of anything like that.

I really disliked that movie, but even more I despise the
culture of clueless sycophants that sing the praises of
something they cannot even recognize except by the
external comments and cues they get from supposed
critics. Ugh.