2011 was a good sport. There were threats of apocalypse, boy band reunions, singing film directors, and strange “NOOOOO!!!!” inclusions into Star Wars movies. And, despite all of that, 2011 still offered some fantastic entertainments. While we certainly got some important works of art delivered to us this year (there will be a blog on my favorite films of the year around Oscar time), I’m going to, in this blog, list the most fun entertainments I encountered this year. So, without further ado, and without categories, I give you my ten favorite entertainments of 2011.
10. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation‘s first season was not very good. It was eerily similar to The Office and the jokes were stale. I kept with it, and in the second season I could see glimmers of excellence shining through. Now, after the near-perfect third season, I can’t think of another show this consistently fun to watch. Each character brings something fresh and interesting to the show, and the addition of Rob Lowe might be the single most brilliant creative decision all year. Parks and Rec might be a show that takes some time to get in to, but you’ll be so glad you stuck with it. Ron Swanson. Ron Swanson. Ron Swanson. Ron Swanson.
9. Horrible Bosses
For those of you who saw Horrible Bosses with me in the theater, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you couldn’t hear anything anybody was saying because I was laughing so hard. I couldn’t help it. I was so surprised by the unbelievable comic timing, the hilarious, brilliantly engineered gags, the fantastic supporting turn by Colin Ferrel, that it didn’t occur to me that there were other people around me. But don’t worry, I’ll probably never laugh that hard again. It was a once in a lifetime moment. Something magical happened to me when I saw that movie for the first time. It is one of the most fun and engaging movie theater experiences I’ve ever had.
8. Middle Brother – “Middle Brother”
Deer Tick, Dawes, and Delta Spirit merged into one this year, and it was glorious. It has been a long time since an album has so completely absorbed me. From the melancholy, Sunday afternoon drawl of the opening track, “Daydreaming,” to that Buddy Holly-esque title track, I can’t even come up with enough positive adjectives to compile an accurate description. Deer Tick’s James McCauley is the standout vocalist on the album, and his verse in the Dawes cover, “Million Dollar Bill,” is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. I have listened to this album over fifty times since November, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. It is absolutely a blast to listen to.
7. Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Brad Bird, the master director behind The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, thought he’d make his leap to live action filmmaking with a high budget blockbuster sequel. The Mission Impossible franchise is one of the more uneven movie franchises I can think of, with the quality ranging from the passable original film, the deplorable second film, and the fun and exciting third film. However, Bird’s film is a horse of a different color. With the additions of Jeremy Renner (adding much-needed credibility to the ensemble) and a plot that actually makes sense, Ghost Protocol succeeds in almost every way possible. From the perfectly conceived prison-break that opens the film to the much publicized skyscraper scene, this film works remarkably well. The direction, the effects, the performances (yes, Tom Cruise is good), and the plot all work together in a way that few action movies can duplicate. This is popcorn entertainment at its very best.
6. tUnE-YaRdS – “W H O K I L L”
Merrill Garbus’s sound perfectly replicates that feeling you have when you get off work, or eat a good meal, or take an extremely refreshing dip in a hot tub. Her music makes you warm, giddy, excited. The beats are electric, interesting, innovative. “W H O K I L L” is one of those rare albums evolves with each listen. It shows you something new with each play through. The real standout song on this album is the opener, “Bizness,” which might be the grooviest thing produced all year.
Breaking Bad may be the “best” show on television, but Louie is by far the most entertaining. Louis C.K.’s tour de force of awkward, gritty, dark, hysterical, and poignant subject matter is one of the most rare and pure examples of storytelling I’ve ever seen on television. He writes, directs, produces, edits, and stars in every episode, and with that kind of creative control, C.K. has done remarkably well. This year, we were treated to one of the most awesome moments in television history because of this show. I think that’s something we can all be thankful for.
4. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
You wanted to be Indiana Jones when you were younger. You wanted to kill bad guys, get the girl, find treasure, solve centuries old puzzles, climb tall buildings, and make hilarious one-liners whenever you did something amazing. You wanted to walk away from explosions that you caused. Well, you never will. You will never do any of those things. So the next best thing is picking up this game. It is the single most fun experience I’ve ever had playing a video game. It’s like the best Indiana Jones movie you never saw. Don’t act like you’re not interested because you’re “not into video games.” This isn’t a video game. It’s THE video game.
I’ve already written a review of Hugo, so I’ll just say this. If you’ve ever said that 3-D has no place in the movies, or that it’s nothing but a gimmick that is used primarily to steal our money, then I highly recommend you go see this movie at once. If you’ve ever wondered what makes the silent-era films so magical, but you’re afraid you’ll be too bored to sit through them, then go see this movie. If you want to see one of the most inspiring, beautiful, and touching love letters to film ever made, go see this movie. Go see this movie. Now.
2. The Felice Brothers – “Celebration, Florida”
For their newest album, The Felice Brothers have constructed an angry, strange, atmospheric, and terrifying series of songs that entertain like few can. After honing their almost Dylan sound for years, the brothers have changed things up a bit by adding electronic drum kits, noise machines, group harmonies, and other surprises. The album is loud and mean and it knows exactly what it wants. It wants you to dance, to sing, and to nod your head in agreement. “Yeah,” the album makes you say, “the world really is a strange place.” We all need to be reminded of that every now and again.
When I began making this list, I immediately knew what would take the top spot. Hanna absolutely blew me away in every regard. Joe Wright, the director of Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist, had never really impressed me all the much in his previous outings. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t even bother to see this movie in the theater. I figured it would be another middling success from a director whose promising talents seemed to be hiding behind a very stiff upper lip. But, lo and behold, by the time I actually got around to watching this movie, I instantly fell in love. The action is perfect, the dialogue is snappy, the performances are outstanding, and the soundtrack is gorgeous and groovy. I can’t say enough good things about this film. It is absolutely entertaining in every sense of the word, and it is the most fun I had all year.
Some of the least entertaining entertainments this year
- David Lynch – “Crazy Clown Time”
- Your Highness
- Sucker Punch
- Jack and Jill
- Lou Reed and Metallica – “LuLu”
- Owl City – “All Things Bright and Beautiful”
- The Green Lantern