AMENDED!! now The Best 16 Films of 2011
This is my first attempt at creating an annual “best of” list, and I have to say I really enjoyed the process. It forced me to analyze the films I’ve seen and really dive into the reasons I liked, or didn’t like a particular film. I admittedly did not even come close to seeing all the films in 2011, but I did see the ones that interested me, and some that garnered a lot of awards attention that I felt compelled to visit. This was a fairly weak year for movies, but as usual, there are many gems out there to be discovered. You may notice that The Artist is not on my list. No, I didn’t miss it, I just don’t think it’s deserving. Argue as you must… Otherwise, take a look, comment and enjoy!
- Hugo – I loved every minute of this movie. It touched on all the right notes (maybe just for me), and was shot in a gorgeous 3D. Filled with wonder and whimsy, I can’t wait to share this movie with my kids down the road.
- Drive– What could have easily been a run of the mill, cliché ridden action film achieved something extraordinary. The slow burn, sparse dialogue and sudden, jarring onset of extreme violence all work together in creating a film that is wholly unique, despite the familiar storyline. Beautifully shot and chockfull of incredible performances by Gosling, Cranston, Brooks and Mulligan, this film could easily go in to my top spot.
- Warrior – I’ve gone back and forth between Warrior and Drive for the number two spot, but while I was completely swept up in this story and on the edge of my seat, I appreciated the subtlety of Drive over the “whack you on the head” power of Warrior.
- Margaret – Kenneth Lonergan directed this wonderful, emotional, heavy drama featuring a powerfully believable performance by pre-True Blood Anna Paquin. Yes, this film was shot in 2005 and spent six years in post production purgatory due to legal wrangling, finally being edited by Martin Scorsese and finished last year. The result is not perfect, but it is beautiful, epic, heartbreaking – everything art should be. Despite starring Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Jean Reno and Matthew Broderick, this film received a little ballyhooed distribution in a mere two theaters in 2011. Luckily, Cinefamily in L.A. brought it back for a week run in their independent theater and I just saw it last week, which is exactly when I even heard about the film at all.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I just saw this superb film and had to add it to my list. We don’t have enough cold war spy films anymore, and that is a sad state of affairs. This is an intricate story, told with incredible care and shot, designed and directed with amazing detail. I was instantly immersed in this world, and hope they make the other films from this trilogy by John Le Carre.
- Meek’s Cutoff – Another under the radar release, this period drama is about three families’ attempt to cross the Cascade Mountains in 1845. Michelle Williams stars in this one, and I’ll admit that it’s probably not for everyone. It is slow, quiet and deliberate – which to me is the perfect depiction of their journey
- The Skin I Live In – Pedro Almovodar at his most technically genius, witty-est and, really, creepiest. Part melodrama, part thriller and part horror film, this is one movie that stays with you.
- The Tree of Life – It’s difficult to even explain this movie, but in essence it is visual poetry.
- Pearl Jam 20 – Admittedly I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan, but I truly thought Cameron Crowe made a really fantastic music documentary. Unfortunately, the first 10 years of PJ’s existence was a whole heckuva lot more interesting than the second 10, so the last part of the film at times feels rushed, but I still thought it was terrific.
- Rubber – A tire that goes on a killing spree using telekinesis? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought until enough people recommended this movie that I broke down and watched. So glad I did! It’s surreal, hilarious, and probably the most fun I had watching a movie all year.
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – So, I haven’t read the books and really, really liked the original movie. That being the case, it was going to be tough to sell me on the merits of the Fincher remake. I have to say, I think this version is a superior film. It’s gorgeous, the music is fantastic, and Rooney Mara made me forget about Noomi Rapace. I do feel Daniel Craig is a little too handsome/movie star-ish for the role, but that’s a minor issue.
- Crazy Stupid Love – Loved Ryan Gosling’s performance of a total tool and player that you still actually like.
- Cave of Forgotten Dreams – I only regret not seeing this Werner Herzog documentary in 3D. I typically hate the 3D technology, but I do think there is a time and place for it. This seems like the perfect time and place.
- Moneyball – Great acting, terrific writing and solid filmmaking in general … but … even as a sports fan I couldn’t get engaged fully. I don’t feel the story has high enough stakes, so I found myself really not caring much at all.
- 50/50 – Touching, funny and well written, writer Will Reiser captures a very personal journey in his life that could have easily slipped into terrible melodrama.
- Bridesmaids – Certainly the funniest movie of the year, but that’s not saying a whole lot … there were some really bad comedies! But, this was a pretty damn funny movie, filled with the brilliant, scene stealing turn by Melissa McCarthy.