Stephanie Huettner (AKA Rumblefish on CineRobot) is from Tulsa, Okla. but has lived in Austin, tx
since 2002. She is an aspiring actress and has produced a number of independent short films, including
I Am Nick Robinson, The Peacemaker, Harvest Home, Mighty Mutant Mollusks, and the upcoming The
Garden and the Wilderness. Stephanie is also a freelance writer. Her work includes a series for www.newpictureshow.com, entitled “She Wants Revenge,” and the Austin Kung Fu Academy blog
Honorable Mentions: Red Riding 1983, Toy Story 3, The Tillman Story, The Fighter, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Micmacs, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, True Grit, Winnebago Man, The A-Team and The Stieg Larsson trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Who Played With Fire/Kicked the Hornet's Nest).
Restrepo -- Since the beginning of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been a great number of documentaries about the war and the soldiers who fight it. This one is the best I've seen. The log line is: “A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.” That pretty much sums it up. The interviews with those who survived are deft, intelligent and moving. The editing is tight and flawless and the film respectfully avoids trying to spoon-feed the audience a message. Bravo.
#11 The King's Speech -- I knew that this would be really good, even though the synopsis makes it sound hilariously silly. Vern Snackwell and I joked that it sounds like the fake art house movie made up for when an actor within a film is nominated for an Oscar and they need movies to fill out the other nominees (think the end of Tropic Thunder). Colin Firth as a stuttering king and the speech therapist who saved him. No? Just me and Vern who think like that? Oh well. It is really good, as all word of mouth led me to believe. It's also unexpectedly gorgeous (Danny Cohen has been given a deserved Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography), expectedly moving, charming, educational, perfectly paced and has the usual stellar British ensemble. When Timothy Spall showed up in his first scene as Winston Churchill, my friend next to me gave a chuckle of approval. When he came on for his last scene, the same friend leaned over and whispered: “Good Churchill. GOOD Churchill!” Good everything in this one.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World -- And the award for most underrated, screwed-over film of the year goes to... So, this movie's stunning visuals don't earn it an Oscar nomination, but the TV movie-quality tsunami from Hereafter gets a nod? Whatever. This movie may have bombed at the box office, but it will surely pick itself up in a video release and become a cult favorite. I was pretty stoked to see this on opening night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, a city where it was marketed heavily. I went with nine friends who are all huge fans of the books (I have not read them) and dressed up as characters. Edgar Wright also gave everyone in my theater a high five for being his first paying audience. Yup, he ran up and down the rows of 300 people and high fived every single one. With that kind of hype, you'd think I was destined to be disappointed, no matter how good the movie was. Instead, it exceeded expectations by a mile or two. There's no point in describing the plot, as it would basically take as much time as just watching the movie. Kieran Culkin makes a welcome return to film with his fantastic portrayal of Scott's roommate, Wallace, and Allison Pill continues to show her boundless range as an actress. Wright is gifted at taking material that would most certainly become sloppy and incoherent in lesser hands and elevating it to a level that few would imagine possible. He is able to give the impression that his movie is an inside joke between him and every member of the audience.
Piranha 3D -- I saw this twice in theaters and had a ball both times. The first time I saw it was on a very sad day for me and my entire family and this managed to lift me right out of the doldrums and in to B-movie bliss. Adam Scott, Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell and Ving Rhames are thankfully all on the same page with this film's status as a B-movie and they all do an outstanding job of giving good, earnest performances whilst not taking themselves or the movie seriously. One of my favorite moments from any movie in 2011 is Adam Scott (a wildly underrated actor) riding a jet ski and cocking a shotgun repeatedly with one hand, blowing away mutant fish as he goes. Christopher Lloyd essentially plays Doc Brown and Richard Dreyfuss gives an appropriate cameo. I can actually leave you with two good quotes about this film from different people:
“If you haven't seen this movie, then you're not living your life the right way.” - Rob Huebel
“If you don't like this movie, then you just don't like movies, period.” - Vern Snackwell
I couldn't be more excited about the planned sequel: Piranha 3DD.
Animal Kingdom -- Add Ben Mendelsohn to the long list of actors who deserve a Supporting Actor statue this year. As the sinister senior son in a family of four criminal brothers, he gives a calculated, searing performance that is truly terrifying in its realism. The film, in short, concerns 17-year-old Josh (James Frecheville) whose mother has died from a drug overdose. He calls the grandmother he hasn't seen for many years (Jacki Weaver, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this amazing performance) and goes to live with her and the aforementioned brood of brothers, his uncles. Josh, also the film's narrator, is incredibly passive, but still can't avoid getting sucked in to the world of crime in which his extended family have embedded themselves. Even though he avoids trouble, it always finds him. The film is furiously fast-paced and economically written, but manages to develop more than a half-dozen characters. It cuts the fat of exposition and gets in all necessary plot points with a sentence or a glance. I don't know how to describe it, other than to say that it is gloriously brutal and straightforward in a way that only Aussie films seem to be.
#7 Exporting Raymond -- The 2010 Austin Film Festival's Opening Night Film is a real life fish-out-of-water story that sees Phil Rosenthal, the creator and head writer of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” travel to Moscow to oversee the recreation of the show as Russian sitcom. While I love Ray Romano's stand-up, I was never a fan of the show. This film, however, knocks it out of the park. It is hysterically funny, honest and insightful. I hope it gets the wide release that it richly deserves.