5) Midnight in Paris
I haven't officially told the other Filles this (for fear of being disowned for eternity and then some), but I have never been a Woody Allen fan. However, Midnight in Paris made me think it was time to give the old guy -- or at least his non-starring films -- another chance. I was completely entranced throughout his latest, City of Love-set film, which takes Owen Wilson's Gil from present day to his dream era (the 1920s) with the strike of a magical time-turning clock. It sounds goofy, but it's quite the opposite, thriving on the dreamy quality of its backdrop and the pleasantly unexplained appearances by historical figures like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Salvador Dali. Molly Ringwald once suggested that it was possible to "OD on nostalgia." If that's true, I think I nearly did watching this, and I'd gladly do it again.
4) Scream 4
This long-awaited (at least in this permanent Woodsboro resident's horror comedy-heavy record books) sequel and possible final chapter in Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven's killer, genre-slashing series, cut me real deep. Sure, the actual opening (if you don't plan on seeing the movie, it's one of those movie-within-a-movie sequences that you either get or want to gut) could have been bloodier, but the parts leading up to it (particularly the Anna Paquin/Kristen Bell scene) were actually ingenious, and it almost made the beautifully brutal ending an even bigger surprise. In my review of the film (which brought Neve Campell's Sidney Prescott back to the home of the first film's events, where a new Ghostfaced slasher was on the loose), I said it might just be my new favourite scary movie. I'm going to retract that because, to be honest, it's not really scary. But it most definitely is one of my favourite new movies. And I'm too much of a fangirl to be ashamed to admit it.
3) The Muppets
I didn't get a chance to review this Jason Segel-penned Muppet masterpiece, but had I found the time, I would have given it one of this year's only solid As. To quote the puppet pals' theme song (and borrow from many heartfelt fan reviews), this smile-a-second musical tribute to Kermit, Miss Piggy and co. was truly the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational and Muppetsational movie of the year. For lifelong fans, like the gigantic presence that is Segel (who originally revealed his fandom--and freakly bod--in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), The Muppets was a fitting return to flat-out punny form after the flop that was Muppets in Space. For those who did not grow up with the furry friends, it was the perfect, meta first meeting (the plot was about the Muppets trying to save their Studio and careers from disappearing). I'm not sure that life really is (as the first song of the film states), a "Happy Song." But when I left the theatre, I certainly felt like it.
2) Super 8
As a toddler, I had two favourite movies: Beetlejuice and E.T. (Yes, I had awesome parents.) Although I definitely fancied myself a mini Lydia Deets, my heart truly belonged to Steven Spielberg's out of this world cinematic creation. I loved it so much that I wore out the VHS tape my mom made of it. Twice. Watching Super 8, an '80s, suburban-set sci-fi produced by Spielberg and directed by J.J. Abrams, I felt like I was phoning home yet again. Like E.T., it gave its intergalactic sidestory just as much screentime as it did its tweenage stars (including Oscar nominee-in-training, Elle Fanning), whose characters were just trying to make a monster movie before a mysterious train crash-landed on their town. Apparently big budget, modern sci-fi films with heart aren't as a alien as I thought they were.
2011 was the year of the Gos'. The actor, who was once only known for his brief stint in the Mickey Mouse Club and a semester or two aboard Breaker High, busted out of his carefully carved, critically-acclaimed indie boy shell (see: Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson) and tried his hand at some mainstream stuff (Crazy, Stupid, Love and George Clooney's The Ides of March). But the role that really stopped traffic was his fearless take on the nameless stuntman in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. From the opening credits (with their wicked Pretty in Pink font) to the extremely grim ending, that film is just like the Gosling every blog has fallen head over feet for -- a beautiful contradiction in terms, purposefully never quite choosing whether it wants to be a straight-up new wave romance or a gritty, Tarantino-without-the-talk mob drama. This off-the-wall, darkly comedic tone made it hard to predict, which is way more than you can say for most action films of recent history. But as you found out fairly quickly, as soon as Gosling's inner gears started cranking and his baby blues opened real wide (either looking at his wannabe lover Carey Mulligan, or his next victim), you were in for one of the wildest joy rides of your life. Or at least your year.
Honorable mentions: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, Young Adult, Martha Marcy May Marlene