Thursday, February 23, 2012

Best of 2011: Nos. 4 & 3 (Dan)

My countdown of the best movies of 2011 continues with Nos. 4 and 3.

4. "50/50"

Another gut-wrechingly ignored film in Oscar season this year is "50/50," a beautiful and hilarious story of a young man who is diagnosed with cancer and struggles to deal with life when things start unraveling. Joseph Gordon Levitt (who has never been a part of a bad film, to the best of my knowledge) plays the lead character and the perfect straight man to Seth Rogen's bumbling, borderline man child Kyle.

Based on the true story of screenwriter Will Reiser's struggle in his 20s, "50/50" is a dry walk through coming to terms with death, and prioritizing along the way.

Not only will this movie make you laugh about cancer, the last 15 minutes will make you cry like you're watching "Field of Dreams." (It's a part of man-law: you can always tear up at "Field of Dreams," and now this movie is on that list.)

3. "Ides Of March"

What seemed at first as a desperate attempt to get some fanfare (the list of stars in this movie is longer than this blog post. Maybe.), "The Ides Of March" was actually on par with what expectations were raised to.

Ryan Gosling, who is slowly making a name for himself as a legitimate actor in this post-"Notebook" world, plays a budding political campaign manager. He's full of ideals, believes that good can be done in politics andd is willing to put his back into making it happen.

Sounds pretty naiive, right polito-cynics? Well, right you are. Slowly, things begin to unravel  in a seemingly simple primary race, and Stephen (Gosling) is slowly sunk into a game of lies, deception and immorality that will either break him or make him one of the monsters he hopes to defeat.

The films name is extremely apt in that the story plays out on a nearly Shakespearean level. Powerful characters are crafted with ease and made to fall. Also Shakespearean is the full weight of acting greats that play in the film. Of course there's Gosling, George Clooney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but there's also Marisa Tomei and the criminally underestimated Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright.

The film plays out as a political nightmare for our hero, leading to a series of  well done twists and turns that leave you feeling like you are flying through the rings of political hell.

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