Top 10 Movies of 2011
Well, here it is. The only rule I really applied to this list is that the films must have been released in some fashion in the US this year; thats it. There wasn’t a lengthy round-table or a huge discussion with other professionals in the industry and actually, for me, most of this list is pretty cut and dry. I will be candid and say that there are some films on this list that might have gotten a wider a release than others. There are some films I wish could’ve made the list and anything outside the top six is really interchangeable. Sure some of these films might get nominated for Academy Awards, but every choice was made based on my personal feelings. There’s even a film on the list that I watched today in order for it to make the list. I don’t think my top five will really surprise anyone given their quality, but maybe I might surprise some readers and I stand firm in my choices.
Not to mention this is my first time doing a top movies of the year list for Impassionedcinema; so without further adieu, here are my favorite movies of 2011 [insert drum roll here].
10. The Tree of Life
I had a real hesitation to put this on the list as it is the poorest reviewed film on the list. I firmly believe there were a ton of other features that surpassed Tree of Life in story. However, the real beauty of Tree of Life is the cinematography. Stunningly beautiful, Tree of Life is like sweet candy for the eyes. I don’t usually care for Brad Pitt, but he was good in this one. Every frame of the movie tells a story and bears some significance to the overarching plot. Terrance Malick’s vision is easily the most polarizing film of the year and ends up on this list due to it’s strength in pure movie making.
9. A Separation
A Separation wasn’t supposed to make this list either. It wasn’t even on my radar until awards started being announced; a little foreign film from Iran was making big splashes with critics around the globe and I have to say the recognition is completely justified. A Separation features a story not for Iran, but for the world including countless sensitive topics such as gender, pride, and faith. That it features some of the most convincing performances of the year as well is just icing on the cake. I have no doubt A Separation will run away with the Best Foreign Film Academy Award.
8. Certified Copy
Certified Copy didn’t win me over initially. In fact, I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Now I just can’t stop thinking about it. There’s layer upon layer in the film, similar to the two leads’ relationship. At the beginning, they could easily be strangers, but it slowly unwraps into something unexpected. It just a great job with its character development, really letting us into the characters. There’s also the whole theory about copies of original art being just as valuable as the original. Certified Copy is a slow film, but that’s only because it methodically gets to the layer that justifies it’s pace.
7. Take Shelter
Take Shelter is another movie that came out of nowhere for me. Featuring two talents that are sure to be featured a lot more in 2012, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter features an intriguing story weaving together the economic crisis and nightmares of impending doom. Some criticized the ending for going against all the events that lead up to it. I thought the ending tied everything together wonderfully and felt like some of the classic Twilight Zone endings that I love.
What more can be said about the man Ayrton Senna? Not much considering the documentary of Senna’s life does an amazing job of not just chronicling the feats of man, but the spirit of a nation. I haven’t seen a finer documentary this year and I’d put it up against last year’s selections as well.
Hugo is another one of those films that is more about what it accomplishes than the story surrounding it. Martin Scorsese has accomplished something special here. He has made 3D a viable medium to tell a serious story. The only time I’ve ever seen 3D work well was for towering special effects sequences such as in the Dark Knight. In Hugo, we are taken into an environment that feels more like a fairy tale than a train station. The elements of silent film history only add to my personal enjoyment of the film and I’d argue that it’s Martin Scorsese’s best film in a long time, easily eclipsing the work he did on The Departed.
4. Midnight in Paris
I don’t typically like Owen Wilson films and Woody Allen has more misses than hits on my radar. So it comes as a total surprise that I fell in love with Midnight in Paris. A whimsical little story about a screenwriter who wants to live in the wonder of Paris and all that it has to offer. Featuring a romantic subplot with a journey through countless numbers of Paris’s most treasured artists, Midnight in Paris captivated me from start to finish.
3. The Descendants
Featuring the best performance ever from George Clooney, The Descendants surprisingly lived up to my expectations. Being a huge fan of Alexander Payne’s previous work, Sideways, I was more than interested to see what he would come up with next. The Descendants, at it’s heart, is a story about waking up and recognizing all that you have. Whether it be your children, your wife, or your land, life needs to be lived rather than just passed. Shailene Woodley, who plays Clooney’s oldest daughter in the film also puts on a strong case for best supporting actress enveloping the camera with her talent.
2. The Artist
There isn’t a film on this list that had more to live up to than The Artist. Fellow colleagues of mine warned that The Artist was getting to much attention and would never live up to the incredible amount of hype that was set upon it. Frankly, I think it met all of my expectations. The Artist shows the fall of one of the most celebrated “silent” actors of his time and the rise of his protégé. The performances are spot on. Jean Dujardin displays all the classic facial nods and winks, that generate a smile every time. He carries a charisma through the film that is from a bygone era. Not only is it a thoroughly enjoyable silent film, but it peppers in some surprises that wouldn’t have been achievable in the silent era making it a shining example of a truly original film. The Artist succeeds not only because it is a silent movie, but a damned fine movie all around.
Drive is the full package. An unforgettable soundtrack: check. A signature role from one of Hollywood’s most exciting talents: check. A supporting cast that is completely convincing: almost check (sorry Carey Mulligan). The bottom line is, no other film in 2011 left in me in a state of awe like Drive did. I’m not sure what I was expecting going in, I had heard it was incredible, but I was blown away. Albert Brooks may have put on a career best performance. It contains early dream like sequences followed by a violence that could only come from a dream/nightmare. It was never a contest for my number one film of the year. Drive simply blew away the competition and is my favorite film of 2011.
Honorable Mentions: Beginners, Bellflower, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Moneyball, and Super 8
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