So here it is, my ten favorite movies of 2011. Overall, the films of 2011 were very good, but not great. There were plenty of films that stood out as being better than average, but the year lacked that one or two films that you would really remember as being “the movie of 2011.” If I had to pick one, it might go to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, just because it marked the end of the franchise. If not, then possible 2011 will be remembered for releasing the polarizing, abstract film The Tree of Life by Terrance Malick. But neither of those films cracked my Top Ten List.
1. A Separation
My favorite film of 2011 wasn’t a product of the incredible movie industry in America. A Separation is an Iranian drama set in modern day and focuses on a family with many tough decisions to make. First and foremost, does the family leave the difficult living standards of Iran to provide their young daughter a better future? The parents both want to, but the father is caring for his elderly father with Alzheimer’s. To admit that this is the least of their future problems displays how powerful this film becomes. A Separation is one of the best family-drama films I have ever watched and is the best film of 2011.
2. The Descendants
This film had something that no other film I watched had: complexity. Most of the best films of the year were fairly simple and straight-forward, but not The Descendants. There were layers upon layers of conflict and consequences, and incredible depth within each character. George Clooney gave arguably his best performance to date, and newcomer Shailene Woodley complimented his performance very well. This is just a story about a normal family going through a lot of shit, and as a viewer you hope they can remain intact at the end. A brilliant film by Alexander Payne.
This might be the most memorable film of the year, in my opinion. Everything about this movie screams “style” all over the place, from Gosling’s metallic, silver jacket to the stoic, unknown character with the credits of “Driver.” There is so much explained with so little dialogue. Also, this film contains one of my favorite scenes of the year: the elevator scene.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
There’s no surprise that a David Fincher film would appear on my list. I was excited when this film was released and the film definitely met my expectations. Mara Rooney’s Lisbeth Salander took the world by storm and she has Fincher to thank for that. The 158 minute run-time breezed by, thanks to Steve Zaillian. Overall, this was a disturbing thriller that wrapped my mind around one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever seen on the screen. I can’t wait for the sequels.
5. Midnight in Paris
This actually might be my favorite film of the year, but ended up being fourth simply because there were better movies, imo. But what a joy it was to watch Woody Allen’s love poem to Paris. While I’m not a big Owen Wilson fan, he fit the part perfectly with his boy-ish charm and the way he wandered around the city like a lost puppy. Oh, and there’s what a fantasy aspect about the film that was the biggest surprise for me of the year. This was well done all-around.
6. The Help
The Help does a lot of things right and was one of the two surprises of the year with a female ensemble cast (the other was Bridesmaids). The reason why this film is on my list instead of Bridesmaids is because there is a lot more meaning and power behind The Help than the raunchy-comedy. The Help features some of the best female performances of 2011 featuring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Emma Stone. In a male-driven industry, it’s quite a feat what The Help accomplished as a movie.
What first peaked my interest about this movie was the premise: a 75-year-old man admits he’s gay six months after his wife of 38 years passes away. What I didn’t expect was a delicate love story starring Ewan McGregor who was trying to put the past behind him to start over. There were so many small, quirky things I loved about this movie that made this such a gem to watch. Oh, and that Christopher Plummer guy was pretty damn good.
8. The Artist
This is a joyful film from beginning to end, and the fact that it’s a black & white, silent film just makes it more impressive. The two lovely leads share great chemistry with each other in all of their scenes. I loved The Artist because not only is it a reminder and a tribute to how films were in the past, but it’s also a very heart-felt romantic-comedy.
9. Like Crazy
Easily the most romantic film of the year, Like Crazy dealt with the ups and downs of young love trying to blossom into “happily ever after” through life’s many obstacles. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are incredible throughout this highly-improved film. It’s this year’s Blue Valentine, but even more powerful.
Martin Scorsese’s first 3-D film shows his passion of the history of cinema and the importance of movie preservation. Aside from that, it’s a wonderfully imaginative film about a boy’s search to understand where he belongs. My favorite aspect about Hugo was when they explored the pioneers who realized you could capture dreams on screen. This was a very touching movie, but don’t mistake this for a children’s film.
Moneyball is as much about baseball as The Social Network is about Facebook. With arguably the best dialogue in any film from 2011 (Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian), Moneyball showcases the business and aesthetic of the Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane. The film explores themes of social classes and thinking outside of the box to achieve a similar goal. Anchored by a great performance by Brad Pitt, this film is great entertainment.
12. Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
One of the more pleasant surprises of the year was the fourth installment of the spy/action franchise, Mission Impossible. Going in I was interested in Brad Bird’s live-action directorial debut. Leaving the theater, I was left with such an experience that no action film has impacted me aside from The Dark Knight. The pacing was tremendous and there was a perfect blend of action and comedy. This should be the standard that all action movies will be compared to. Yes, this film is that good. In addition, this film had one of my favorite scenes of the year: Tom Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa.