MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2011
Click on the titles for the original reviews.
1. The Artist
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius – Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
It takes chutzpah just to make a silent movie in 2011. The fact that the film appropriates the vocabulary of the silent era so beautifully, is just icing on the cake. As a period piece, it brilliantly captures the early age of sound, but the plot also presents a searing emotional drama about ego and the transitory nature of fame. In a word, it’s stunning.
2. The Muppets
Directed by James Bobin – Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones
The Muppets is sarcastic, hilarious, self knowing, adult and nostalgic but also warm, tender, sweet, childlike and modern. The dialogue zings with a love of life rarely seen in modern cinema. It’s almost as if the film was created in a simpler, more innocent time.
Directed by Joe Cornish – Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh
This amalgamation combines imaginative science fiction, fast paced action, genuinely humorous bits, and a brilliant character study. There is an unexpected sense of warmth that emanates from the genuine camaraderie amongst these characters. That’s a rarity in horror movies. You LIKE these people and don‘t want to see them die. When was the last time you gave a care for one of the victims in a Saw film?
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks
There’s something decidedly 80s about Drive. From the “Purple Rain” font of the titles to the Giorgio Moroder-ish score, this feels like some recently discovered movie from that decade. The retro vibe gives this action thriller an artistic sheen that makes the drama exciting. Drive is a stunning triumph of minimalism over gaudy extravaganza.
Directed by Bennett Miller – Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright
Moneyball isn’t a sports movie, fundamentally. Baseball informs the narrative and there are many rousing scenes of the sport in action but it’s telling that the most exciting scenes of Moneyball aren’t the competitive games, but the back and forth trading of players. It’s the film’s biggest shock that the business of Baseball could actually be made more exciting than the game itself. It’s masterfully written.
Directed by Paul Feig – Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy
It isn’t easy to play an individual that is graceless, pathetic and awkward, but also sweet, likable and sympathetic. Don’t ask me how she does it, but Kristen Wiig imbues her character with all of these qualities. We side with her even when she’s acting unreasonable. When her character Annie toasts her best friend at the engagement party her back and forth one-upmanship with rival Helen is one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in a long time.
Directed by Woody Allen – Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy
So much of the script is based on the unadulterated joy of nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a previous time period. It intelligently explores the concept from the outlook of someone who shares the point of view while also admitting the inherent pitfalls of the feeling. Woody Allen’s most sweetly innocent film in decades.
Directed by Gore Verbinski – Voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Stephen Root, Abigail Breslin
This cartoon is atypically irreverent. The script alternates between jokes only a knowledgeable film buff would get and those no child could possibly understand. The picture is a cinephile’s dream come true, but I think what pushes Rango to the next level is the subversiveness of it all.
9. Young Adult
Directed by Jason Reitman – Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser
Young Adult is a mesmerizing no-holds barred expose of a woman dissatisfied with life and her bizarre determination to make things right. Mavis Gary is a woman you won’t soon forget. Despite her visible beauty, her personality is disgusting and Charlize Theron deserves kudos for her brazen work here.
Directed by James Wan- Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey
Like the greatest scare fests, director James Wan wisely highlights creepiness and mood over outright gore. The narrative is intensely scary. It earns its chills honestly, mining real fear out of seemingly simple things: a pair of shoes sticking out of some curtains, a shadowy figure outside the window, unidentifiable voices whispering through the baby monitor. It’s the kind of feeling that will cause you to jump many times throughout the picture.
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Worst of the Year, starting with the most egregious: