The 50 Best Movies of 2011 :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

By Michael Dunaway

50. War Horse

As a story, it’s heavy-handed and sentimental. As a character study, it’s laughably sleight (as with Spielberg’s ET, the most three dimensional character isn’t even human). The score is John Williams in full nudge-nudge-let-me-tell-you-how-to-feel-mode. But there are some moments of real drama, and some irresistibly beautiful imagery—enough to sneak it into our Top 50.

49. Bridesmaids

Kristen Wiig is brilliant. This remains true despite a concerted effort on SNL’s part to make us hate her—a campaign that Lorne Michaels ran consistently since the ‘90s against some of their funniest women. Unlike The Hangover, which was basically a long (but consistently funny) comedy sketch, Bridesmaids is actually a movie. And it’s going to have staying power in the typically bro-dominated pantheon of film comedy.—Ryan Carey

48. Kati with an I

This simple story of a lovestruck high schooler remains one of the more captivating documentaries of the year. Director Robert Greene’s unique perspective as Kati’s step brother is partly responsible, even while his lens maintains a remarkable neutrality. Moments like Kati preparing for graduation, shopping with her boyfriend or hobnobbing with her girlfriends surprisingly make for a compelling tale. And it’s the earlier childhood footage merging with her ascension to young womanhood that brings it all together.—Tim Basham

47. happythankyoumoreplease

Radnor’s tale of seven young New Yorkers searching for love and self-acceptance probably won’t win much praise among elements of the film crowd who require their films to lay bare the darkness and hopelessness of life. It’s not a tortured existential tour de force. But it’s also not the fluffy fare you might expect from a mainstream sitcom star; its emotions are real and handled with depth and sophistication. Anytime there’s a Sundance film this tightly written, this well-acted, this deftly directed, that sends viewers from the theater feeling uplifted and with smiles on their faces, that’s an impressive accomplishment. Of special note is Tony Hale in a decidedly un-Buster Bluth performance. Casting him as Sam #2 took some imagination from Radnor.

46. The Muppets

The filmmakers’ approach overflows with the same adoration as their characters on screen. A wistfully placed camera pan on a wall adorned with vintage banjos and memorabilia carries with it as much emotion as the kinetic dance numbers in the gratifying finale. Even modern touches like a hilarious barbershop cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” embody the original show’s subversive zaniness.—Sean Edgar

45. The Guard

In the end, it’s hard to tell if this movie is really good or just really cute. The buddy/cop element is (thankfully) handled with taste and never gets saccharine. The side-plot about Boyle’s ailing mother is more a cul-de-sac than an avenue, but for all the less-than-thoroughly explored sub-themes, one has to stop and admire the amount of entertainment crammed into a lean hour and a half. It’s refreshing to get an ethnic fish-out-of-water buddy/cop flick that doesn’t beat you over the head with Irish countrysides, endless pub-going, cheesy predictable dialogue, or anything else we clichĂ©-sick entertainment consumers have trouble tolerating. This film treats you like an adult who can still have silly inappropriate fun while still fighting for what’s right.—Ryan Carey

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The 50 Best Movies of 2011 :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

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