Posted by: Scott Groves | January 26, 2012

My two favorite movies of 2011

I’ve had some time now to look back at the fifty or so movies I saw in 2011.  Although The Descendants is getting a ton of praise on the award circuit right now, I heard from two reliable sources that I would personally hate it.  Therefore, I’m waiting for George Clooney’s most recent film to hit DVD so I can check it out at home.

Of the movies I saw, and many of which I’ve re-watched, my two favorite films of 2011 were 50/50 and Margin Call.

I have a soft spot in my heart for both these films so I’m obviously very bias here.

Prior to the release of 50/50, several close friends and I were discussing the challenges of loosing someone close to us at a young age.  Having had a few friends of mine die unexpectedly while I was in my early 20’s, I know what that feels like.  I also lost nearly a dozen older family members to cancer from the time I was of twelve to about twenty years old.  So I felt this movie wouldn’t really affect me or break any type of new ground.

However, what I found was a great piece of story-telling about an event I’ve never experienced.  Helping a peer go through their fight with cancer at such a young age is a combination of circumstances I can’t imagine.

50/50 tells the story of how best friends deal with the tragedy of finding out one of them may only have six months to live.  With a great cast and a well written script that realized when the crowd would need some comic relief, I thought this movie was amazingly honest about the horrors of facing a terminal illness and simultaneously an uplifting exploration of friendship.

My second favorite film was a movie that flew under the radar despite its all-star cast.  Margin Call stars veteran actors Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons in addition to one of my favorite young actors Zachary Quinto.

Having worked for the failed mortgage giant Washington Mutual (and having lost much of my own money by investing in bank stocks) I was interested to see how this story would be portrayed through the lens of Hollywood.

Margin Call tells the true story of the 2008 mortgage crisis via a fictitious investment firm.  The characters and companies portrayed in this film are obviously a composite of people and events stemming from the financial troubles of real world companies like Bear-Sterns, Leehman Brothers and AIG.  The basis for the story is the moment when the financial world begins to unravel due to the over-leveraging of credit and investment swaps during the housing boom.

The film does a great job of building tension between the characters, but also between the company itself and the markets it attempts to manipulate.  This movie, which only takes place over the course of 24 hours, captures the high-stress story of what it must have been like as investment firms struggled with the dilemmas of financial success, company survival and personal morality.

And just for fun… the absolute WORST movie of the year was Conan.

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