I watched 68 movies in 2011, not including all the bits and pieces I caught while channel-surfing. The first movie I watched in 2011 was Easy A and the last was The Help. Overall, I think it was a solid year for movies, with a particularly strong summer crop of films. Unlike my top ten books, I've only included movies that were released this year.
10) Cedar Rapids: Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a staggeringly naive and genuine insurance salesman in a small Wisconsin town. Lippe attends a conference in the big city, Cedar Rapids, and hijinks ensue. This wasn't a big hit at the box office, but if you love Ed Helms as much as I do, you'll want to check this one out.
9) Rango: This is the only animated film on this year's list, and like any great animated film, it's not just for kids. Johnny Depp brings life to a chameleon who finds himself the sheriff of Dirt, a small Western town with a serious water issue. The CGI is amazing, and the allusions to classic Westerns are fun, especially the homage to Clint Eastwood.
8) Super 8: J.J. Abrahams is an unapologetic Steven Spielberg fan, and this film can simply be described as Speilbergian. A young boy, with the help of his movie-making friends and a displaced alien, learns to live after his mother's death. I recently watched this one again with the girls, making it even better the second time around.
7) Hugo: A beautiful family film from Martin Scorsese. A young boy and an old man help each other connect to their pasts while forging new futures. Even though we didn't pay the extra money for 3D, I love the irony of Scorsese using 3D to pay tribute to early film. Almost makes me want to see it again, in 3D.
6) Soul Surfer: This was perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for me. I had absolutely no interest in seeing this movie, but after nothing but raves from other parents, I gave it a shot. I'm sure you've heard about Bethany Hamilton, the girl who lost her arm in a shark attack. Her story is truly inspiring, and I have to admit, this one brought tears to my eyes, more than once.
5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Another big surprise. I have to say, I was never a big fan of the whole Apes franchise, but the trailer for this movie got me in the theater. This is a creative and thought-provoking prequel. I watched this again with Meg and the girls, and like Super 8, it was even more fun the second time around.
4) The Descendants: I made sure to read the book before seeing the movie. I loved the book, #5 on my top 10, and the movie is an excellent adaptation. I'm a big fan of Alexander Payne and George Clooney.
3) Midnight in Paris: Gil Pender, an unfulfilled writer, magically finds himself in 1920s Paris. He mingles with Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Salvador Dali. His experience in the past forces him to make the future he's always wanted. I haven't enjoyed a Woody Allen movie this much in a long time.
2) Bridesmaids: Kristin Wiig is brilliant. I'll be disappointed if she isn't nominated for an Oscar. Come to think of it, this movie should be nominated for Best Picture. It is hands down the funniest movie of the year, but it's also a poignant take on the changing nature of friendship.
1) Win Win: Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a lawyer/wrestling coach. To make ends meet, Flaherty takes in a troubled teen, who just happens to be a wrestling prodigy. Alex Shaffer plays the kid, and he's fantastic, reminded me of a young Sean Penn. Amy Ryan, one of my favorite actresses, is great as the wife. This a movie about people quickly losing hope, finding unlikely lifelines, and creating a new path.
Let me know what you think of my choices, and of course, I'd love to hear what you enjoyed watching this year in the comments, maybe some movies to watch in 2012. Your top movie, top 3, 5, 10, whatever works for you.