Lisa Marie’s Picks For The Best 26 Films of 2011

Here’s the final post in my “Best of 2011” series, my picks for the best 26 films of 2011.  I’m just going to let this list stand for itself but I do want to make clear that these are MY picks and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the writers and editors on this site.  You can read Leon’s picks right here and I’m sure that my fellow writers will be posting their own picks over the upcoming weeks.  I’d also like to point out that I have limited my picks to films that I’ve actually seen this year — as opposed to just blindly jumping on the bandwagon of assumption as so many other film bloggers have done this year.* I have yet to see War Horse, Albert Nobbs, The Iron Lady, or We Need To Talk About Kevin, for instance.  However, I have seen both The Descendants and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and no, neither one of them is on my list because, regardless of what the jack-booted thugs of professional criticism may insist, I didn’t feel either one of them deserved to be listed as one of the best films of the year.  Ultimately, watching a movie is an individual experience and every individual opinion is legitimate.

(By the way, I’m doing a Top 26 list because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers.)

Without further ado, here are my top 26 films of 2011:

1)      Hanna

2)      Higher Ground

3)      Shame

4)      Hugo

5)      The Artist

6)      The Guard

7)      Bridesmaids

8)      Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

9)      Young Adult

10)  Sucker Punch

11)  Incendies

12)  Melancholia

13)  Super

14)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

15)  Win Win

16)  The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

17)  Martha Marcy May Marlene

18)  Jane Eyre

19)  Terri

20)  50/50

21)  Take Shelter

22)  Drive

23)  Soul Surfer

24)  Bunraku

25)  One Day

26)  Like Crazy

Hopefully, I should be posting reviews of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Incendies sometime next week.


* You’d have to be made of Stone to claim to be a film critic and yet not realize how unethical that type of behavior is.

Lisa Marie Reflects on Soul Surfer (dir. by Sean McNamara)

As I was writing up my review of Shark Night 3D, I found myself thinking about Soul Surfer, another film that came out earlier this year and also featured a character losing an arm to a shark.  Oddly enough, both Shark Night and Soul Surfer feature supporting performances from former American Idol contestants.  (Carrie Underwood has a small supporting role in Soul Surfer.)  Beyond that, however, the two films couldn’t be any more different.

Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who, back in 2003, lost her arm to a shark.  I can still remember when this happened because, despite the fact that I live in one of the most land-locked parts of the country, it really, really freaked me out.  I have a morbid fear of somehow losing a limb whether by shark attack, car accident, or Jigsaw Killer.  (I guess, in my case, car accident would be the most likely possibility.)  I couldn’t help but look at the endless footage of a seemingly cheerful Hamilton being interviewed without wondering how I would react if the same thing happened to me.  Would I be able to stay as positive as Hamilton? I hope I could but, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t.

That’s one reason why I avoided seeing Soul Surfer when it was first released to theaters and instead only saw it once it showed up On Demand and I was looking for a movie to watch before bedtime.  Once I actually saw it, I was surprised to discover that Soul Surfer is an effective (if predictable) film that is occasionally even touching.

The film opens with some truly beautiful scenes set in Hawaii and rather quickly establishes Bethany Hamilton (played here by AnnaSophia Robb) as a normal teenage girl who just happens to be a very talented surfer.  Hamilton loses her arm about thirty minutes in and the rest of the film is devoted to her struggle to come to terms with both the loss of her arm and her newfound fame.  The film ends with Hamilton’s triumphant return to competetive surfing and, in its undeniably sincere and old-fashioned way, it makes for an undeniably touching moment.  Robb is likable as Hamilton though the film’s true heart and soul is provided by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.  They play Hamilton’s parents and both of them prove they are capable of making even the most mawkish of lines effective.

Soul Surfer was popular with audiences but got slammed by critics who complained that the film was 1) predictable and 2) far too manipulative.  I would say that these critics are missing the point and their criticism has more to do with their own need to show off their cynical credentials than anything they may have actually seen on-screen. 

Yes, Soul Surfer is emotionally manipulative and yes, the film is predictable but so what?  

The important thing is that the film works.  

That’s a lot more than you can say for the much more cynical Shark Night 3D.