A lot of critics, be it film or otherwise, have made comprehensive lists of their best and worst of the year. I’ve done it before too; but frankly, while there were more than a handful of films I enjoyed this year, and a couple or so I absolutely loved, I’d feel like a fraud if I gave a top ten. Thus, here are my best five movies of 2011
A brilliantly assembled documentary that shone a light over the stratospheric rise and tragic end of one of the most enigmatic sportsmen who ever lived. Ayrton Senna had god given talent and a penchant for speed that formula one hadn’t seen before his arrival or since. Asif Kapadia’s doc avoids going down the talking heads route and is all the more impressive for it; instead working from archive footage of races and interviews. Genuinely one of the most impressive documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Now here is a film that really came in under the radar due to a Lionsgate (who don’t press screen their movies in Ireland) release. A real shame, as many people should’ve seen this poignant and real comedy/drama as possible. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is typically superb playing a character based on the movies writer, Will Reiser, who was told he had a 50/50 chance of survival after a doctor stoically reveals he has cancer. Seth Rogen provides laughs as the abrasive, but concerned best mate, while Anna Kenderick is a nice love interest. This is just a lovely film with some very affecting moments.
Another release that never got a theatrical run, James Gunn’s second film as director split critics down the middle. Gunn has a dark sense of humour and can write the shit out of a character; with Super he gave Rainn Wilson the material for a surprisingly brilliant lead performance. Ostensibly a vigilante movie, it drew inevitable comparisons with Kick Ass, and both films could exist in the same messed up universe. I watched Super the first time and really liked it, then watched it again and loved it. It’s violent, hilarious and frequently as unhinged as its damaged lead. Do yourself a favour and seek it out. I can’t wait to see what James Gunn does next.
Drive is easily the most critically lauded film on the list and it’s easy to why. This is a production conceived with a clear vision and executed with a similar clarity. Nicolas Winding Refn wanted to homage the Michael Mann crime movies of the 80s, and make a quintessential antihero flick. If Drive was produced a few decades ago it would’ve been a Western; the fact that it involves cars - despite the title - is almost inconsequential. Ryan Gosling is utterly magnetic in the lead role and every inch the credible movie star Hollywood is pushing him to be, while the relationship at its core subtly beautiful. A wonderfully atmospheric and compelling film, Drive will age like a fine wine and be revisited by film students for years to come.
I’ve had a habit over the years of favouring movies that resonate emotionally with me as my top choice and Warrior is no different. Again, criminally not press screened by Lionsgate (despite the stunning growth of Mixed Martial Arts in Ireland) it opened to minimal fanfare to those outside of the MMA community. The reaction from those that did see it was nothing short of ecstatic. A simple triumph over adversity sports tale that becomes a heart wrenching family drama, the actual fighting is used effectively but sporadically until well after an hour in - then its blistering action and dramatics until that National song over the closing credits. It made me want to stand up and cheer, and it made me want to ball like a toddler. I’ve seen Warrior more than any other film this year for a reason - it’s my favourite and in my opinion the best film of 2011.