Best Films for 2011
Art house and heavy punches top the list.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
2011 was an overall solid year at the movies. It pushed boundaries, made us laugh, asked questions and, at its best, moved us to tears. But let’s start this list of the Top Ten movies of 2011 with the most satisfying conclusion to a saga since the “Lord of the Rings” ended in 2003.
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Incredibly entertaining, deeply moving and best of all, worthy of its excessive hype and fanfare. In short, this was the crowning achievement in an epic saga, the rare movie worthy of both critical acclaim and shattering box office records, both of which it accomplished in spades. Available on home video.
Released last spring and forgotten by many, this film had a $1.5 million budget and some of the best pure scares in quite some time. It was also rated PG-13, an d was a nice break from the slasher movies and torture porn often considered horror nowadays. At its core this is a good old-fashioned ghost story that needs to be seen by anyone who likes chills up and down their spine. Available on home video.
8. The Guard
Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle play unlikely partners investigating a drug ring in Ireland. The story is standard, but Gleeson is so incorrigibly delightful, racist, smart and cynical that he’s a real treat to watch in every scene. His was my favorite performance of the year. Available on home video January 3rd.
7. Horrible Bosses
The funniest movie of the year. The premise follows three day laborers played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as they conspire to kill their three bosses, Throw Momma From The Train-style. All three comedians are on top of their game, and Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell are pitch perfect as the odious higher-ups. Available on home video.
No movie this year was more unique or stylish. Ryan Gosling stars as a stunt man and criminal getaway driver who gets caught up protecting his neighbor, played by Carey Mulligan. Gosling’s performance is fearsome and cold, but it’s director Nicholas Winding Refn’s camera work, abrupt violence and quirky, almost ironic tone that you’ll remember most. Available on home video January 31st.
5. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Intense, exciting and perfectly executed, and wow, what a blast. From the opening sequence to the end, the film is a smart adrenaline rush that never lets up and is utterly captivating. It’s the best pure action movie of the year, and if you can, see it at an IMAX theater right now – it is absolutely spectacular.
Never would anyone expect a story about baseball mathematics to be this interesting, but there’s an underdog and human element here that makes the movie a real winner. Kudos also to Brad Pitt’s strong performance and Jonah Hill for delivering a nice turn as Pitt’s right-hand man. Available on home video January 10th.
3. X-Men: First Class
This origin story for the “X-Men” franchise was done so well that I couldn’t wait to see it again immediately after it ended. Some of the great things about it are the questions it asks about humanity, compassion and acceptance, and director Matthew Vaughn brilliantly combines these elements with rousing action and stirring drama. Available on home video.
2. The Artist
A French silent film that reminds us what beautiful filmmaking looks like, and of a bygone era in Hollywood. Think Singin’ in the Rain meets A Star is Born and you’ll have an idea of the story, but more importantly you’ll marvel at how beautifully shot and staged the film is, and how much you really enjoy the silent film characteristics. Many people thought writer/director Michael Hazanavicius was crazy to try to make a silent film, and let’s face it, he was. But sometimes you have to be a little crazy and daring to be this brilliant. In theaters now.
A heartbreaking drama about two estranged brothers played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton who are on a collision course to fight for a $5 million grand prize at a mixed martial arts tournament. Nick Nolte plays their father, a recovering alcoholic who tore the family apart years ago with his drinking and is now trying to make amends. I was enraptured by the pure emotional power of the story and performances to the point where I was rooting not for one of the brothers to win but for everyone to be okay. I did not see a film this year that was more moving or emotionally fulfilling. Available on home video.