Top 10 of 2011 – Brandi’s Picks

8. 50/50
directed by Jonathan Levine
screenplay by Will Reiser

50/50 sets itself up with a precarious plot and then does everything, everything right to make it work. This dramatic comedy about a young man with a rare form of cancer is perfectly cast (anyone who doubted Seth Rogen’s ability to handle this sort of material never watched Freaks & Geeks; anyone who doubted Joseph Gordon-Levitt never saw him in anything), follows a rhythm with its screenplay that sucks the viewer in, and earns every emotion it asks you to feel (with no small thank you to the ladies on screen: Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Houston). Impeccable construction of delicately balanced relationships: this is my theme so far…

7. Drive
directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
screenplay by Hossein Amini
from the novel by James Sallis

…and the gorgeous film Drive combines that theme with, finally, a little spectacle. Ryan Gosling as a mysterious man known as The Driver—he drives for films, he drives for crimes, he just drives—and Carey Mulligan as a mother coping while her husband is in jail form an unlikely bond that complicates Driver’s life, even as his old friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston) is already doing that for him by taking up with some criminals. Y’all, there is a reason that the “unlikely bond” is one of the great clichés of cinema, and the way these two beautiful young people dance around each other is it. Place that against a backdrop of fascinating, brutal gangsters (Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman) and let a director who isn’t afraid to bask in the joy of speeding cars, splashing blood, slow motion kisses and throbbing music go wild, and we are privileged to get a film that slams us up against the wall and has its way with us, alongside all the characters.

6. Attack the Block
written and directed by Joe Cornish

Oh, darling Attack the Block! You are everything that proves why “alien invasion” just had to be a film genre unto itself. Spectacle + character once again, with a huge dose of subverted genre expectations and giddily cool monsters to go with it. Carefully channeled exuberance at its best. This film deserved to be a much bigger hit than it was; every “us against them” film to be made in the future can learn from its willingness to place the action in an unexpected setting, let the characters be true to themselves, and know that all hell can break loose even if your budget’s a bit lower than J.J. Abrams’s is.


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Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

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