This DVD will fortunately not destruct in five seconds.
For me at least, the year in film started with a bang in the form of Gregg Araki's crazysexycool apocalyptic collegiate comedy Kaboom and ended with the whimper that was Stephen Daldry's flat, feeble 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. In between those two bookends, 2011 proved a pretty great year for movies, particularly if you thought outside the Hollywood box. After lumbering through a mostly fallow winter, spring and summer, the big movie studios rebounded with a strong fall slate of releases that included the bold new works from veteran filmmakers (Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh among them), star vehicles that actually emphasized brains over brawn (Moneyball, The Descendants) and even a few above-average franchise entries (Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, Paranormal Activity 3). And when Hollywood faltered, the independent and international film industries picked up the slack. If you lived nearby an art house or had access to a video-on-demand service, every month brought a steady stream of terrific titles that ran the gamut of genres, from ultraviolent samurai tales (Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins) to moody Westerns (Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff) to stories of young love in bloom (Andrew Haigh's Weekend). Some years, I struggle to decide which films absolutely deserve a place on my Top Ten list. This year, I struggled to decide which ones I could leave off without too much regret. (That explains, by the way, why my list of Honorable Mentions includes another twenty-odd movies I couldn't bear not to single out.) So without further ado, in one of the best years for movies in some time, here are the best of the best.
Don't let the NC-17 rating scare you off -- Shame is one of 2011's very best movies.
The new indie drama Shame, which opens in limited release on Friday, certainly earns its NC-17 rating, what with the full-frontal nude shots of its leading man and lady (Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan), as well as several prolonged and ultra-revealing sex scenes and its frank depiction of sex addiction. Despite all of this erotically-charged content, the movie itself isn't particularly... well, sexy. That's largely intentional of course, as director Steve McQueen is clearly more interested in stroking moviegoers' intellect than their libidos. The same can't be said of the following movies from the past two decades, all of which were designed for maximum titillation value, but turned out to be about as erotically-challenged as Zooey Deschanel's latest Manic Pixie Dream Girl on New Girl. And we're not talking about soft-core Skinemax titles, which are un-sexy in their own distinct way. These were all studio releases with big (or semi-big) name actors and actresses pretending to get it on for our benefit. Really guys, you shouldn't have. No, seriously... you shouldn't have.
That rattling sound you hear is me rolling my eyes at the following ABC News headline: "Sex and the City fiend: Show turned me into Samantha." For the uninitiated, Samantha is the character who provides most of the Sex on Sex and the City, unless you're watching it on TBS. With the SATC movie opening next week, I assume ABC wanted to capitalize on it by running this absurd piece projecting blame. A rapper once famously said you can't turn a ho into a housewife; Sex and the City is now apparently doing the opposite. I can only see this working to my advantage when I buy my ticket on May 30th.