There were many surprises this year. Whether it was Martin Scorsese doing a kids film, Woody Allen making a triumphant comeback or Brad Pitt starring in two outstanding features, 2011 will go down as a unique year for filmmaking. As of the time this is published, I have yet to see “The Artist” or “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” That’s a disadvantage of living in a small town.
All the titles with hyperlinks redirect to my original review. Here are the films that I thought were the best of the year:
I loved the beautiful animation and voice work in Gore Verbinski’s first animated feature. The references to Hunter S. Thompson and Sergio Leone were fantastic.
9: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
I had to play catch up on the series before watching the final chapter. Even though I haven’t read the J.K. Rowling books, this was a fantastic franchise and director David Yates did an incredible job of wrapping up the series. The three leads (Radcliffe, Watson and Grint) have all grown into marvelous actors and Alan Rickman deserves an Oscar nod for his turn as the sinister Professor Snape.
8: “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
It’s an awful title, but “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a powerful and chilling film, featuring many magnificent performances. Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) is truly remarkable and deserves a nod. John Hawkes, who channels the same character he played in “Winter’s Bone,” also deserves a nod.
I’m not an Oakland A’s fan, but no one needs to be in order to enjoy this movie. Brad Pitt delivers an amazing performance as Billy Beane, the man who changed the way baseball statistics are looked at. Jonah Hill is amazing as his assistant as well. Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar last year for “The Social Network,” delivers another amazing script. This is one of the best baseball films in recent years.
It’s tough to talk about cancer, but writer Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine make this one humorous, emotional and very memorable film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen are both amazing in this film.
5: “Midnight in Paris”
Woody Allen’s best film in years. The legendary director takes us to Paris and shows what a magical place it can be and how we can get lost in its beauty. Owen Wilson is at his best here and the rest of the cast shines just as bright as he does.
4: “The Descendants”
After a seven-year hiatus, Alexander Payne returns with a knockout of a film. “The Descendants” features great performances from young actresses Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller. George Clooney is also incredible in the lead role as the girls’ father. This is a beautifully filmed, funny and moving picture.
Martin Scorsese’s first children’s film and first 3D film. It’s the best use of 3D since “Avatar,” and the overall film is a marvelous tribute to cinema. Film lovers will gush over the gorgeous work Scorsese has done and the homage he has put together for one of cinema’s early filmmakers.
2: “The Tree of Life”
Terrence Malick’s new film is a challenging, breathtaking and haunting piece. This is a film that has divided many audiences, but I found it to be sensational. The music, the cinematography, the acting by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain and everything else about this film is sensational.
What a truly remarkable film this is. It’s a shame that it probably won’t get big Oscar nods due to its grittiness. Ryan Gosling gives an outstanding performance as the man only known as The Driver. This has B-movie aspects, but thanks to the wonderful direction by Nicolas Winding Refn, he turns what could have been a corny throwback to ‘80s films into a beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted masterpiece. “Drive” is a treasure for film lovers.
Honorable mention: The Sunset Limited, Win Win, My Week With Marilyn, Super 8, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Melancholia, Another Earth
That does it for this year. Let’s see what 2012 has in store.
David also writes as the Chico Events Examiner, National Boardwalk Empire Examiner and for We Got This Covered.
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