We might not be able to catch a ball from more than three-yards, but our hand/eye jazz-hand/threaded-eye coordination is skilled enough to capture the pop-culture zeitgeist of the past year. We may have endured more blackouts than homes affected by Hurricane Irene in 2011, but our love for pop-culture allows its brightest gems to shine through our sober senses. Once again, Instinct has assigned two of its sassiest editors—Jeff Katz, Senior Editor, and Jonathan Higbee, Associate Web Editor—the task of assessing the year in pop-culture, and this year's bountiful list of favorites might include the most eclectic selections yet. To continue the series, Jeff and Jonathan tackle 2011's top films. So, which offerings from the year in celluloid made the final cut?
Jeff Katz's picks
Midnight In Paris
This gets my vote for the most underrated movie of the year. Midnight was beyond charming, ridiculously interesting and very romantic. And I’m the last person to love a Owen Wilson film, but even he was adorable! Some hate on modern Woody Allen, but between Paris and 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I say he should keep finding inspiration in Europe.
Ides of March
The hotness factor on this film was obviously through the roof, but so was the smart storytelling! Ides was a fantastic political thriller that felt both classic but totally fresh and relevant (because we never see sex scandals nowadays). And props to George on the filmmaking itself! Never has corruption looked so damn good.
This gripping espionage tale can be described in many adjectives, but one’s for sure: uncomfortable. Whether referring to the doctor/patient scenes or the hostage/agent mind games, there are more than a few moments that are hard to watch. That said, The Debt is a bad-ass spy flick, of particular interest to those who like WWII-era thrillers.
The Iron Lady
This made my list purely based on Meryl. She’s flawless and transformative, as expected. The film, however, left me feeling a little...sad? Not sure the narrative device (an old, disheveled Thatcher hallucinating memories of powerful times gone by) is the path I would have taken, but Streep (and equally good Jim Broadbent) help save the day with superb acting.
If you went in expecting a film about a wild bachelorette weekend—a la The Hangover—then you (like I) were caught off guard. And for good reason! Bridesmaids was simply hysterical. These ladies somehow pulled off charm and raunch while allowing a true ensemble to shine. I mean, who would have ever discovered Melissa McCarthy without this movie (cause you know you’re not watching Mike & Molly)?!
Jonathan Higbee’s Picks
Another underrated film (and another Ryan Gosling vehicle) makes our list. It's hard to deny Drive when so many other critics at the time of release ignored its unassuming brilliance. A little gory for my usual taste, but with a sweeping, emotional and incredibly modern soundtrack punctuated by an understated performance from my future husband made Drive my surprise favorite movie of the year.
My Week With Marilyn
Anyone in possession of a beating heart fell prey to the magic of Michelle Williams’s transformative and unbelievably realistic portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. Though my heart has long been black, jaded and dead, I too fell victim to the film’s charms. Not the best movie of the year, but Williams’s performance helps that blonde bouffant stick out at the head of the pack.
X-Men: First Class
The flick that introduced me to Michael Fassbender cannot be left out of the list! Thankfully, the reboot of the X-Men franchise with First Class had other merits, too: a totally gay subtext, and the ideal composite of summer blockbuster appeal tempered with an intelligent and gripping storyline.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Sure, We Need To Talk About Kevin was at times so disturbing that I had to fumble around my homosatchel for the bottle of black market xanax. But considering how rare it is for a film to be so viscerally affecting these days, not including WNTTAK on this roster would be a crime. Plus, the nature v. nurture plot hits close to homo, and its exploration of the subject is not only riveting, but beautifully shot. Finally, two words: Tilda Swinton.
It pains me to admit that I was not interested in watching The Help during the time of its theatrical release. But the things a four hour layover in Charlotte during holiday travel will force you to do (and I'm not talking about Grindr adventures in Terminal C)! Boy, while I cursed the airline for the odd layover en route to Kansas City from New York, I was praising it shortly after for allowing an opportunity to watch the clever, cute and socially-conscience commentary on Mississippi in the 1950s. Oh, and move over Viola Davis; Octavia Spencer (Minny) and Jessica Chastain (Celia) were the standouts in this outsandingly-directed film!