If there is a thing to say the movies of 2011, it would have to be that this year in movies was far better than last year. Some of the highlights from the films of 2011 include superheroes ready to assemble for next year, odes to silent movies, director Woody Allen’s return to comedy and the epic conclusion to a decade-old film franchise. This is just the tip of the iceberg as I pick the lucky ten movies that have made my annual list for the best films of 2011.
10) “The Muppets”
“The Muppets” makes their triumphant return to the silver screen after a 12-year absence that not only satisfies die-hard fans, but it also introduced them to a new generation of moviegoers. Written by Jason Segal and Nicolas Stroller, the movie features great musical numbers (composed by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie), an all-star cast of cameos and moments that revisit classic moments from the TV show.
As the second collaboration between artist-turned-director Steve McQueen (“Hunger”) and actor Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class”), “Shame” is unflinching and unapologetic portrait of sex addiction with Fassbender delivering the best performance of the year as Brandon, a man whose obsessed with sex. Carey Mulligan is also superb as Sissy, Brandon’s alcoholic sister whose behavior is just as destructive as his brother except she does not hide it unlike Brandon.
Who would have thought that the end of the world could look so beautiful? Written and directed by Lars von Trier, “Melancholia” focuses on two sisters who deal with the impending apocalypse in their own different ways. This film is truly in the hands of a gifted filmmaker like von Trier as you can see with the opening sequence of “Melancholia” that foreshadows events in the movie and actually shows the end of the world. The performances from the ensemble (especially Kristen Dunst’s turn as a depressed bride) and von Trier’s keen eye for filmmaking make “Melancholia” a stark and haunting film that will stick with you for quite a while.
7) “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is David Fincher’s version of the first part of Stieg Larsson’s story that has a great cast that is anchored by an unbelievable performance from Rooney Mara and a haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Not to mention that the movie also has the best opening title sequence of the year featuring a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” done by Reznor and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
6) “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2”
The best was certainly for last as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2” is the epic and satisfying finale to the franchise that will satisfy Harry Potter fans and moviegoers with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) going against Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. If anything, the film’s technical achievements certainly deserves attention at the upcoming Oscar ceremony.
5) “War Horse”
Director Steven Spielberg returns in fine form with “War Horse” by using his filmmaking talents to tell a beautiful story that is full of emotions and heart. Based on Michael Morpugo’s 1982 children novel, which in turn spawned a award-winning stage adaptation, “War Horse” not only just tells the story of a boy and his horse who forced apart by war, but in how Joey touch the lives of the people he encounters his four years during the war. As a beautiful and thrilling film that is handled masterfully by Spielberg, “War Horse” is another fantastic entry to Spielberg’s body of work.
4) “Take Shelter”
“Take Shelter”, which is the second collaboration between director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon, is a fascinating portrayal of mental illness and paranoia that features award-worthy performances from Shannon as man tortured by ominous visions and Jessica Chastain as his wife who is frightened by his behavior. Nichols does a great job to build the suspense throughout this movie as whether or not Shannon’s character has indeed inherent his mother’s schizophrenia.
There were two movies that came out this year that embodied the spirit of the 1920s and the love of silent movies: “The Artist” and “Hugo”. However, I feel that “Hugo” was a more enjoyable and enthralling movie-watching experience compared to “The Artist”. Based on the award-winning children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabaret”, “Hugo” is not director Martin Scorsese’s first venture into 3D territory, but it is also love letter to cinema that not only recreates scenes from silent movies like George Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” and Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last”, but also invokes the importance of film preservation.
“Moneyball” is more then not just another baseball movie as director Bennett Miller breaks away from just telling formulaic tale of the underdog (in this case, the 2002 Oakland A’s) rising against expectation. Featuring the best performances of their career from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as a GM and his assistant who use sabermetrics to assemble a competitive team, the film also has a great script from the screenwriting team of Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zalian that is destined to win an Oscar this year.
“Drive” is a tremendous modern crime-noir that not only showcases Nicolas Winding Refn’s skill as a brilliant filmmaker, but it also boosts fantastic performance from Ryan Gosling as stuntman/getaway driver-for-hire and Albert Brooks as a crime boss. The film also boosts an impressive soundtrack composed by Cliff Martinez and feature memorable songs that seems to come straight from the 80s like “A Real Hero”.
Honorable mentions: “50/50″, “The Adventures of Tintin”, “The Artist”, “Attack the Block”, “The Descendants”, “I Saw the Devil”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, “The Skin I Live In”, “Super 8”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “The Tree of Life”, “Warrior”, “X-Men: First Class”