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Our Favorite Movie we Saw for the First Time in 2011, New or Old - 12 Days of TMA

Yay! Merry Christmas! Today we wrap up our 12 Days of The Movie Advocate Series with the favorite movie we saw in 2011, new or old.

Justin says:

Jaws

It's shameful to admit, but until this year, I had never seen Jaws. I don't know how I avoided it for so long. I didn't really go out of my way to not watch Jaws, it just sidn't happen. After a while, I was concerned that it would be too hyped for me to enjoy, kind of like the first time I saw Casablanca. Beyond that, I've only been to the ocean once and the idea of sharks doesn't really scare me at all. So one day last spring, my wife sat me down and finally made me watch Jaws.

I seriously can't believe how good this movie is. In a way, I'm glad that it took me this long to see Jaws because I don't think I would have appreciated it as much as I did if I saw it at a younger age and before watching thousands of movies. Aside from being 100% enjoyable, Jaws has technical perfection in terms of how the story is told. Every thing about the movie works towards advancing the theme and the plot. This is probably the first movie I've seen that made me notice the sound editing in a good way... and got me excited about it. Jaws is Spielberg's best movie by far, and I say that as a huge life-long Indiana Jones fanboy. Discovering Jaws was a little like when you make a new friend and it feels like you've known each other forever.Stats:I watch the majority of movies on Netflix Instant because the nearest theater is 30 miles from my house. Luckily, it's easy to look back on what you've watched using their system.In 2011 on Netflix Instant, I watched 107 feature length movies, some multiple times. The average rating of all those movies is 3.54 stars out of 5.73 of those movies I was watching for the first time. The average of those movies is 3.35 out of 5 stars.

My favorite new new movie I saw was We Need to Talk about Kevin.

Best movie watching experience: Goon at watching hour during the Starz Denver Film Fest.

Movie I thought I would love but didn't: X-Men: First Class

See you in January!

Ryan says:

Melancholia

I can’t think of a movie in the last five years that I had a more immediate and personal response to. I love Lars, so I knew I was going to at least like Melancholia, but I wasn’t prepared to fall for it the way I did. I don’t want to get too personal here – but here I go anyway. My friend Kyle killed himself back in March after a mostly hidden battle with depression. It left me reeling. It felt like a personal attack – like, WTF? What a dick move! Why didn’t he just NOT do that, you know? Melancholia made me understand. Perhaps Justine exhibited a few more obvious symptoms of crippling clinical depression than Kyle did, but her unbridled euphoria in finding out that the world would indeed be ending after all; that it wasn’t just the way she felt, struck an unexpected chord. At one point, Justine says: “We're alone. Life is only on Earth. And not for long. All I know is, life on Earth is evil. Nobody will miss it." She is the Earth; the Earth is her. I guess that’s how Kyle felt – if the world just wouldn’t end, goddamnit, it was time to take matters into his own hands. It’s the logic of a sick mind, but it’s logic nonetheless. Did I mention it’s funny! Like, for reals funny! The opening wedding-gone-awry scenes are so preposterously and hilariously uncomfortable, the countdown to Armageddon can’t start soon enough. It’s also the most visually beautiful movie I saw this year – Von Trier’s super-hi-def-slo-mo Wagnerian prologue is a stunning achievement that could stand on its own as one of the best movies of the year. He’s known for being a Dogma-95 minimalist, and I’m glad he’s lowered (or raised) his standards for cinematography. The deeply personal nature of the story to both director and star clearly had something to do with the success – I don’t know that Penelope Cruz (the original actress cast in Dunst’s role) would have had nearly the same devastating effect. And, for all of Melancholia’s bleak nihilism, it’s ultimately exhilarating and strangely life affirming, strangely enough. To sum up: I laughed, I cried, then the world ended. Go see it.Ben says:

Sign of the Cross (1932)

I never considered myself a Cecil B. DeMille fan in the slightest. The Ten Commandments was omnipresent on cable during the holidays growing up, so I always just associated him with the bloated, 4-hour long sword and sandal epics of the 50's. All of that changed when I saw his mad masterpiece, Sign of the Cross. Sure, this chronicle of the persecution of Christians in Nero's Rome contains plenty of righteous religious chest-thumping, but it’s pre-Hays Code, so it also features feral lesbian debauchery, a Christian being impaled on the tusk of an elephant, Claudette Colbert’s boobs, and one of my favorite bits of stunt casting, Charles Laughton as Nero, reveling in his character’s wickedness and chewing his way through even the most inconsequential scenes. It turns out, DeMille’s work in the 30’s stands head and shoulders above the popular and pandering fluff I always associated him with. The director works wonders with a pre-widescreen square frame. If you’re an art buff, you would do well to brush up on your Giotto compositions before diving into Sign of the Cross. This movie holds many, many wonders for lovers of the movies. And if you’re taking time out of your Christmas celebration to read this blog, chances are that means you!

Runners up: The Cameraman, Midnight in Paris, Ken Russell's The Devils, Spider Baby, California Split, Drive, Hugo

Josh says:
Midnight in Paris

"Adriana: I can never decide whether Paris is more beautiful by day or by night.

Gil: No, you can't, you couldn't pick one. I mean I can give you a checkmate argument for each side. You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can't. Because
you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you
can see these lights, the caf├ęs, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe."

"Hi, my name is Josh and I love Woody Allen too much."

"Hi Josh"
It started with "Manhattan" and continued through "Match Point." Yes there were bad movies in there, but I held out hope, especially after reading an article that said he still felt he could make the "perfect American movie." So bold and yet so tantalizing ... "Woody my friend,
you could do that if you only made me laugh again" I thought.

Then I saw "Midnight in Paris" and I remembered what I loved about his works.They are, at their core, a man asking legitimate questions in the face of world that is increasingly uninterested in him and what he has to say. They are funny and true and talk about big themes in small contexts, and of course they are obsessed with the past and completely neurotic in a good way.

Midnight is all of that and more.

Owen Wilson gives his best Woody Allen impression (the best yet I'd say) in a romantic comedy about time travel and how nostalgia colors our everyday lives. That description sounds complicated, but it's really not and it's really fun. I don't want to give anymore description as it will just make it sound silly and spoil it in the long run, but I will say a healthy understanding of English lit 101 will help you get a lot out of this movie.

Allen does a great job of balancing a big cast with bigger characters and our perceptions of them and of course you can't get a better backdrop than Paris. As expected the script is witty and bright and I would list this as Wilson's best performance in years. Course you have to deal with Rachel McAdams for a bit, but I promise it's worth it. It may not be the "great American movie" (specially because it's in Paris), but I think it hits it's mark.

Honorable mentions: "Source Code," "Hugo" and "Moneyball"--- Overall I think this was a down year for new movies by the way.
Luke Says:
The FP

Not the best movie I saw this year, but my favorite for sure. The FP feels like a movie that shouldn't exist. With it's creation, it's almost as if we're ushering in an era of "anything is possible" movies, which is one of the most exciting things about this movie. The thing with artistic technology is that, when it's created, only those with a lot a money get to use it, or decide how it's used. Think Photography. Heck, think Painting. All the incredibly early stuff is beautiful, but all the risks the early artists took were either minute changes in the common style, or subtle hints at their true motive that they were unsure would ever be noticed by anyone. Then, as the technology became more widely available, the number of artists not only increased, but the number of risks being taken increased. A really easy way to visualize this is by thinking about the history of recorded music. The early recordings were an awful lot of jazz standards and classical music. From there, the technology became minorly more accessible, and people started taking one or two risks (granted, they were safe bets, but bets none the less) and recording "hillbilly music" (Appalachian folk, roots blues, etc). Move up the years and you get rock and roll groups, leading up to punk music, hip-hop, grunge, "indie" rock, various forms of electronic music, all leading up to the current era of music production where having a polished sound is easy enough to get on a small budget that the aesthetic of lower quality recordings has made a ... come back ... if you can call it that.

This trend can easily be seen in relation to movies. More and more movies are coming out with staggeringly low budgets ... but that doesn't mean that summer blockbusters are going to be easily crafted at home any time soon. The difference between the gradual democratization (maybe "increased accessibility" are better words) of music recording technology and movie making technology is, frankly, making movies is still currently more difficult. Camera's still need good lighting in order for the picture to come out "right," you still need actors who can evoke some sort of emotion, and then you have the combined difficulty of putting in the right music. Sure, you can cut those things out entirely, but that is going against the point (and heading down the trail of an entirely different argument: What makes a movie a "movie?" Is a 5 minute youtube vlog a "movie?" What separates that 30 second shot of your nephew playing football from Transformers? Is this a movie?

The FP is the kind of movie that shows that we, eventually, will be able to have full length feature films that are comparable to the slag we're handed on a weekly basis from big studios. Which means a few good things and a few bad things. The main good thing is that we'll have a greater variety of movies out there ... and the bad thing is that the ratio of good to bad movies will probably remain the same. So instead of just having a whole bunch of crazy good movies coming out, we'll have an enormous amount of movies coming out, and it'll be even harder to find the "good" ones. BUT, the cool thing is that we'll be able to decide what that means for ourselves. Which, again, brings us back to The FP. I don't know very many people who would like this movie as much as I do, and that's okay, because I think it's "good," and that's all that matters.

We sincerely hope that you've enjoyed reading our second annual 12 Days of the Movie Advocate as much as we've enjoyed putting it together. Here's to another great year of movies, conversation and fun!

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