2016 has been a fairly successful one at the movies so far. I’ve been to the movies 13 times but most of that was catching up on some late 2015 releases. (Top 25 blog now available for dissection!) Of the 7 new releases I’ve watched, I’ve loved two (10 Cloverfield Lane and Hail, Caesar!), was pleasantly surprised by another (How To Be Single) and liked a few a great deal (The Witch, Zootopia, Midnight Special). And I also saw a giant stinker that I’ll be holding over my brother’s head for the rest of eternity (Deadpool, obviously). My actual anticipated list for this summer is uncharacteristically short but don’t mistake that for apathy or disinterest. While there’s a lot of movies I’m on the fence about this summer, the ones I am excited for, I am absolutely hysterical over.
I’ve been uncharacteristically absent from the 2015 movie scene so far (only 4 new releases and 9 theatre trips!) but I’m hoping to more than make up for lost time this summer. Last summer’s movie crop turned out surprisingly well (at least in my opinion) so hopefully this year follows suit.
Oh the films of 2014, it’s safe to say that we got along quite well. I made 56 trips to 10 different movie theatres to see 47 different films: 41 new releases, 5 hold-outs from 2013 (Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Her, the R-rated super-cut re-release of Anchorman 2 and Frozen) and a 10th anniversary screening of Saw. The rest of my 56 trips were comprised of one encore each of The Fault In Our Stars and 22 Jump Street, 2 return visits to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and an admittedly ridiculous 5 repeat viewings of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thanks to the modern marvels of VOD, the ever-shrinking theatrical window and the fact that it’s March (ha), I ended up seeing 70 total releases from 2014. I was feeling extra opinionated this year, so alongside my Top 25 is some new categories. (Presented with jump links because we fancy now that we moved to WordPress!) (And all spoiler-free because I’m nice like that!)
I felt like I should pay tribute to Saturday Night Live as the 40th anniversary was the talk of the town this weekend. But this is one of the few instances where I actually have no idea what to say. SNL has always been in my life and more importantly, been a part of my life. I’ve never known a world without SNL and frankly, I don’t care to. It feels a bit weird to make such adamantly sentimental and loving statements about a show that is so often looked down on – accused of either being past its prime or never having been funny at all – but I can’t help how I feel. “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” takes me to my happy place. I honestly don’t know who I would be if I didn’t hear those magical seven words every Saturday night growing up.
I have vividly clear memories of watching SNL for the first time. It was the spring of 1996, I was 10 years old and up with the flu and a fever. My younger brother was tucked away in bed and I was being tended to by my parents in the living room. My mom spread a sheet out on the floor for me (she would sleep on the couch in case I needed anything during the night) and I can still remember how cool and refreshing the sheet felt against my fever-warm skin. 11:30 rolled around (though it seemed much later to a delirious 10-year-old) and my father turned the muted TV to Saturday Night Live, as (I’d later find out) he often did. I was familiar with the show only by name and reputation – I was a fan of Nickelodeon’s kid-oriented sketch shows, Roundhouse and All That, and knew that those shows were based on that model. And I knew it was something I was not allowed to watch, a fact I had learned 2 years previous when Nancy Kerrigan (I was obsessed with figure skating for a few years in my childhood) hosted and my parents tuned in and told me about it after the fact.
But for some reason, this night was different. As fate would have it, Jim Carrey was hosting and my parents were tickled by The Mask. By monologue’s end, Dad had unmuted the TV. Mom was still attending to my illness, pressing a cold washcloth to my forehead, but her attention slowly began to shift from me to the television. The first sketch was Carrey joining in on Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan Cheerleaders routine. It was weird, it was manic, it was… amazing? The next sketch was the soon-to-be-iconic sight of Carrey with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan’s Roxbury Guys. Incredible. The third sketch featured Carrey as an overzealous lifeguard supervising Will Ferrell sitting in a Jacuzzi. The three of us were in hysterics.
Even in my feverish haze, I remember feeling like I was getting away with something. Did my parents forget I was in the room? Is this a treat because I’m sick? Do they figure I’m not retaining any of this because I’m fuzzy from the cold medicine? Anytime any joke or event happened that I knew (or extrapolated) was “inappropriate,” I would squint my eyes (squint, not close. I obviously wasn’t going to stop watching!) and pretend to have fallen asleep, not for fear of embarrassment but for fear that my Dad would feel pressured to change the channel. There was no way he could change the channel.
I accidentally never got around to writing my “Best of 2010” last year (I finally posted a commentary-free version today, just to finally have it out of my hair.) which is a shame because I was much more enthusiastic about that year in film than I was about 2011. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the films in 2011. I did! There were plenty of fine films. And that’s kind of the problem. Most of them were perfectly fine. Some of them were pretty bad. (Looking at you, Sucker Punch.) But for the most part, there was no Scott Pilgrims, Black Swans or Social Networks. Oh, don’t get me wrong: there were a handful of 2011 releases that truly floored me. (One in particular that I found so spectacular, I paid to see it twice IN A ROW.) But for the majority of the year, when I walked out of the theatre, I was more interested in talking about my dinner plans than I was about discussing the film I just spent $12 on.
It’s not that I expect every film I see to blow me away, I just would like to walk out of a movie and have something to say about it. And sadly, in 2011 that was rarely the case. In fact, until the last few weeks of the year, I was having trouble coming up with a Top 10, let alone a Top 25. Then I saw a couple of movies (no list spoilers, I’ll discuss this further below) that reminded me why I love going to the movies, why I love sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and experiencing a film on a big screen for the first time. So I went back, rewatched (with a new attitude) some 2011 films I had previously been lukewarm on and composed this list. Some of them I loved, some of them I just liked. But of the 69 different 2011 releases I saw, of the 57 trips to the movies I made (51 different movies: 41 new releases, 2 repeat viewings of Drive, 1 encore each of Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, X-Men First Class and Horrible Bosses, the 10 films screened at AMC’s Best Picture Showcase, special event screenings of Sixteen Candles and Taxi Driver and of course, the American debut of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair at the New Beverly), these are the ones that stuck with me. Are they the best 25 movies in all of 2011? Heck if I know. But they are the 25 films in 2011 that I talked about when I left the theatre, films that made me feel something, movies that reminded me why I love movies.
Oh and fear not, this post is SPOILER-FREE. Unless you consider basic, broad plot details spoilers in which case, I think you’re being a bit silly. But hey, it’s your life.
Early enough in the year to still be effective, late enough in the year that I had to strike 2 films off the list (The Green Hornet and The Adjustment Bureau) because their release dates already passed!
For time and sanity’s sake, I tried to restrain myself for these reviews and mostly kept it to a sentence or two. I’m sure you’re disappointed.