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February 21, 2012

Matt's Best and Worst Things of 2011 Awards


2011 is far and gone at this point, so why not dole out some awards? There was so much new and notable from last year in every form of media and a lot of it deserves some love and recognition. That's why I've decided to make up my own awards to give out in categories I also made up. Forget about an Oscar or that lame gramophone statuette! These are Matt's Made-Up Awards of 2011. 

PhotobucketBest Plot Device that is Never Explained – Midnight in Paris

A surprise hit during the summer and Woody Allen's highest grossing movie to date, Owen Wilson plays Gil, a confused and creatively lost screen writer on vacation in Paris with his fiancée. He wants to venture into writing serious literature and not just Hollywood fluff scripts, and hopes to find it in the streets of of the city that inspired artist alike.

Soon enough, something happens that gives Gil just the motivation and inspiration. I won't spoil it here, but trust me when I say it is unexpected and is never fully explained how it happens. For those who have seen the film, you know what I mean that the plot device that Allen uses really doesn't need any explanation. Doing so would lose focus of what is more important to this story, which is how Gil goes about finding what he needs in his life and not what he wants. Check out Tom Heistman's review he did back in June for more info (spoiler free). Personally, this is my favorite film of 2011.

Honorable Mention – Another Earth
A science fiction drama centered around two people and how their lives are affected by a second Earth as it comes closer to our planet. The parallel world is not the focal point of this movie but serves as a backdrop to the plot. This "Earth B" is never fully explained how it came to be, only speculated in brief moments. Just like Midnight, it offers a great vehicle to the story. Explaining it with facts and wordy science would only bog down the film's allure.

Best NPH Appearance – Prince Gumball (Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake)

If you're a fan of Neil Patrick Harris, then 2011 must have been a medicated overdose. Not only did he make it into more movie blockbusters this year in starring roles, but he also managed to sneak into the Muppets as well.

Out of all of them, though, I enjoyed his voice work behind the character of Prince Gumball in the gender swap episode of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. If you never have watched an episode of AT up to this point, consider checking this episode out. Not only does NPH bellow out a sappy and funny romance song, the pay off at the end of the episode is hilarious and fitting with what the show is about. There are some nice nods to Sailor Moon and the Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask in littered about too. May favorite 12 or so minutes of TV of last year.

Honorable Mention – The Muppets
He only appears for a brief moment and says only a line or two of dialog, but it's funny and a nice little aside. I won't spoil it here. Just go see the Muppets already!

PhotobucketGood and Bad Acid Trip – Rayman Origins (Good) / Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (Bad)

Awarded to media that embodies the spirit of “This is some trippy 'effed up shit right here!” whether it stems from artistic style or subject material. Like an acid trip, it can wash over in pleasant and gentle wave, or crash like a horrid and twisted tsunami. Either way, it's always fun and fascinating to observe.

The best trip of 2011, Rayman Origins, exceeds in delivering a brightly colorful palate and moments where you wonder just what the hell is going on. Characters and enemies have a similar bright and weird charm to them that even when a boss looks massive and horrifying you can't stop smiling. Shadow Planet, by contrast, bleeds ink and oil like it's pouring out of Hunter S. Thompson's drug soaked brain. The game certainly lives up to its name sake as going on this adventure is a trip into a dark and twisted cavern complex as in games like Metroid. Seeing how the bits of the background and scenery work and flow is as mesmerizing as it is haunting. (Authors Note: I do not condone the use of any illicit substances.)

Honorable Mentions – Child of Eden (Good) / Shadows of the Damned (Bad)
I'll give this to Q Entertainment with Child of Eden: They have tapped into making a fireworks simulation of candy flipping. Shadows of the Damned is a bat shit crazy journey through Hell itself. Coming from the twisted mind of game designer Suda 51, this isn't a surprise. Harold Barrnet goes into more detail on his three most important games of 2011.

PhotobucketWorst Movie to Watch on a Train – Source Code

Another movie I wish I ignored the TV spots and trailers for. Chances are you know what this movie is about and that the train it takes place on blows up again, and again, and again... It seems like a one trick plot point. Director Duncan Jones, however, creates a very well contained and engaging science fiction tale that exceeds his first film, Moon.

Focusing around a scientific experiment that allows a subject to relive the last 8 minutes in the body of another person. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to discover who planted the bomb to stop a larger threat to the city of Chicago. Though not without some problems – such as a heavy reliance on exposition – sci-fi such as this only comes around once in a while. Even if you can't stand Gyllenhaal, I implore you to look past him and give this movie dedicated watch. Just not on a train. That would be too unsettling.

Honorable Mention – None
Hollywood met its 2011 quota for train-wreck movies with Source Code: 1.

PhotobucketBest Album to Jam in Space – Starscream, Future Towards the Edge of Forever

Can we send another shuttle up into space, NASA? Just give us all one more time to enjoy all the glory of such a feat? No, not to do any of that boring research like how spiders can weave a web in zero-g. I want it done for the sole purpose of putting the progressive rock chiptune band Starscream on a rocket so they can jam their tune out to the cosmos. Future Towards the Edge of Forever builds on old game hardware and live instruments that create an amazing melodic and experimental electronic album. Listening to it makes me wish I can reach the outer limits one day, but if all I get is this music, then I'm cool with chilling here on Earth.

Honorable Mention – Nicolas Jaar, Space is Only Noise
Not space in the sense of being up past the stratosphere, but more like a vacuum (I guess?). At any rate, Nicolas Jaar puts up some very ambient tunes on this release. Very peaceful in some parts and very haunting in others. Something I wouldn't mind space walking to.

PhotobucketBest Game to Watch – L. A. Noire 

Something incredible happened in 2011 – a family member didn't mind watching me play a video game. In fact, she even asked me to keep on playing after I was ready to take a break. Moments like this don't often happen in this house and L. A. Noire has been the sole game to achieve that this year. I can't say much about playing the game, but if you enjoy manipulating objects while the game literally speaks the answers to you, then grab that tommy and fedora. The base mechanics to driving and gun play may not be sound, but the interrogation and character banter kept my sister engaged longer than any other game since Barbie for the NES.

Honorable Mention – Assassins’s Creed Brotherhood
Alright, I know this scraping the bottom of the 2011 barrel with this pick, but even though it is a game from 2010, it happens to be the second game that a family member actively sat down and enjoyed watching me play. I was shocked when one of my sisters didn't mind L.A. Noire. I almost had a heart attack when the other said keep playing Assassins's Creed. Then she basically admitted to having a crush on Enzio. After that, all the game watching made sense.

PhotobucketMost Difficult Movie to Watch – Martha Marcy May Marline

Do you like cats? Do you hate seeing anything bad happen to them? If you can't stomach the thought, then I doubt you'll be able to handle a movie about cults. Martha Marcy May Marline is full of uncomfortable moments even in settings when you think the title character, Martha (wonderfully played by Elizabeth Olsen), is safe.

Told in a non linear fashion, Martha escapes from a cult and tries to find peace and comfort with her estrange sister. The movie jumps back and forth between moments with Martha at her sister's cottage and her time spent with the cult in upstate New York. It all blends together that at times is very confusing but also clear and apparent at what parallels writer/director Sean Durkin is attempting to draw between the two “homes.” This may be 2011 most challenging film to soak in that rewards patience and paying attention to detail.

Honorable Mention – The Tree of Life
2011 was the first year I was able to sit through an entire Terrance Malick film. He's not an easy filmmaker to take in, and the Tree of Life is no exception. The movie is more about themes and imagery of life and death than having coherent plot about a Texan family in the 1950's. It's not impossible to grasp what Malick is going for as he states eloquently early on: “The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.” That single line perfectly illustrates what this tale is about and the theme runs through the whole course of living life from our start here on Earth, even going into before and after all of that.

PhotobucketI'm Glad I was Wrong – The Muppets

I should learn by now that movie trailers only ruin a the surprise of everything. It also doesn't help that each time I see a reboot trailer I get a sick twist in my stomach. That's what happened when I saw trailers for the Muppets. After being inundated with TV spots, I had written it off the latest adventures of Kermit and the crew as another lame attempt to update an old franchise.

I feared I was going to get a another reboot of the Looney Toons on the big screen before going to see it. I want to take this moment to apologize to Jason Segal and the fine people of Jim Henson productions. You guys did it! Everything that makes the Muppets whimsical and charming are here. All the bad gags, cheap slapstick, and silly songs play into full force. It may pander to the heartstrings of nostalgia, but it is earnest and sincere. All of us fans wanting for one more time to “light the lights,” this is a sweet little love letter.

Honorable Mention – ?
I can't think of being wrong about anything else in 2011.

PhotobucketWorst Cancellation – Sym-Bionic Titan 

Yeah, it sucks when the shows you watch suddenly end before the story has time to pan out. Sometimes it's because of lackluster ratings. Sym-Bionic Titan on the other hand got the ax because it wasn't "toyetic" enough. A show about giant robots fighting aliens and they couldn't make one lousy toy out of any of it? This happens from time to time, but honestly, no one with the license even gave a half-assed attempt at it. The show's premise is basically teenagers piloting a giant robot against monstrous aliens. More than just Voltron and its ilk, Genndy Tykolvsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory) adds his own flourishes, making this tale focus more on character but still with a lot of solid action. My favorite TV show of last year, and if you end up watching it, don't be too disappointed at how it ends.

Honorable Mention – Community
Okay, okay! This should probably be the “winner” but as of now the show is still going. The plus side is that the fan support of this show is far and beyond what Sym-Bionic Titan can muster. Even right now there is enough fan support to warrant a season to wrap up a fitting finale, which is way more than what Titan got.

PhotobucketHardest working Actor of 2011 – Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes/The Adventures of Tintin)

No surprise that in another awards cycle, Andy Serkis gets the raw deal again. 2011 saw Serkis star in two motion capture roles. One was Capt. Haddock in the Adventures of Tintin, which is very admirable and gets feel of the bumbling drunken sea-captain down to last drop of whiskey. The other, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Serkis plays Caesar, a super intelligent ape who leads an uprising to escape captivity. Both are really great performances, but it's his role as Caesar the ape that takes his craft, and motion capture acting, to a whole other level.

Honorable Mention  – Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marline)
She only had two roles this year, but one of them must have been a tough to go through. Half the stuff she has to go through on-screen in this psychological character thriller is enough to give me the creeps. The other half is having to deal with advances from John Hawks, and at that point I would have check out at the first mention of it in script read through. Bravo to Miss Olson for doing all of than and giving one striking performance.

PhotobucketFree Music so Good You Feel You Should Buy it – BADBADNOTGOOD's BBNG 

I love jazz. I also love free music. Therefore, Toronto jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD win this one by default. Putting my bias aside for a moment, you really should check out their self titled mixtape along with their live performance (which is also free I might add). Their music has some very relaxing beats that have a very hip-hop vibe. I definitely recommend listening to their cover of some Legend of Zelda tracks too.

Honorable Mention – Dumbo Gets Mad
Some very trippy psychedelic rock from this once Italian (now L.A.) based rock band. The whole album is free with a Facebook post or tweet. If you really like it and enjoy giant black discs, you can purchase a physical copy, and I highly recommend you do so.

PhotobucketBest On Screen Death – The Bum (Louie – Bummer / Blueberries)

Give it to Louis CK throw a joke into the vortex of dark comedy. The second season of Louie offer loads of the self loathing and random happenings that give the show a nice edge with often hilarious results. I will admit, I felt quite bad for the Bum in the episode Bummer / Blueberries when he eats it. Seeing the whole scene unwind I felt horrified, shocked, and, above all, uncontrollable laughter. The way it is handled and the comedic timing of the whole “joke” being played out is some of the best stuff Louis CK has done this year. A lot can be said of the show, but this on-screen death of some random bum just takes the top prize.

Honorable Mention – Michelle Monagham (Source Code)
It's one thing to have one really cool death scene. Michelle Monagham in Source Code delivers a dozen of them. Best one by far is the tripped out face warp/melt/explosion that hundreds of computers surely overheated in the excitement of processing. It's really cool, but not really that funny compared to the winner.

Congratulations to all the winners! To receive all gift prizes please send a $50 processing and handling fee to me by contacting through twitter. See you in 2013 for this year's best/worst.