10 Best of 2011
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Review by: Larry Thomas
It’s the time of year when film writers everywhere offer up their “Ten Best” lists. Granted, you’ll not see movies of this quality in one sitting, or even over a couple of months. And, it’s entirely possible you may have missed some of these jewels simply because of time constraints, or maybe you never heard of them before.
Here is a subjective list of the ten best films of 2011 according to me. Although this list really goes to eleven. I’m starting with number ten and counting up.
Melancholia – Rough sledding on the emotions, but Lars Von Trier spins a fascinating tale of a dysfunctional family who are coming to grips with the end of the world. The film features Oscar-quality work by Kirsten Dunst in the lead.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes – Was a nice surprise to find this film so enjoyable. Good story, special effects and performances, particularly Andy Serkis as the brightest of the apes.
Hanna – On the surface this is a survivalist, body count action flick. The difference is the style, which is dazzling, and the cast, including Saorise Ronan in the title role, Eric Bana as her father, and a sinisterly evil Cate Blanchett as the government operative who wants them both dead. Directed by Joe Wright, who did The Soloist and Pride And Prejudice, and featuring a knockout score by The Chemical Brothers.
Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein – This is not a movie per se, but a photographed stage version of Mary Shelley’s tale of the doctor and his creature. Terrific performances, and the set is a wonder to behold. There is a second version in which the leads playing the doctor and creature swap roles to give it a fresh edge.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – For once, star and producer Tom Cruise let the director put his own stamp on this fourth entry in the series. Brad Bird, helmer of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, infuses his first live action film with thrills, exciting set pieces, and best of all…humor. Jeremy Renner is terrific as one of the team, and Simon Pegg, who can make almost any film enjoyable, is wonderful as the computer geek member of this foursome who are out to foil foul deeds in high places.
The Ides Of March – Granted, it’s a rather depressing view of our current political system, but well done in all departments. Director George Clooney does a fine job in the role of a Democratic Governor who’s after the Presidential nomination. Ryan Gosling is his campaign manager who is getting a real lesson in real life… politically speaking. Gosling may have an Oscar nomination in his future.
Rango – Funny, colorful animated feature with a western setting that steals from all the best: Sergio Leone, Sam Raimi, John Ford, and even Star Wars. It’s an animated outing that is aimed squarely at the parents, but has enough eye candy and silly bits to keep the kids amused as well. It may be the front-runner for Best Animated Film.
Moneyball – Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the real-life manager of the Oakland A’s, and who has his own, different approach to baseball. Jonah Hill, escaping for a moment from his usual dismal comedies, is the novice accountant who buys into Billy’s theories and becomes his assistant. All the right emotions are here, and it also manages to deliver a different look at baseball.
The Names Of Love – A delightful, loopy French film about the unlikely love affair between an uptight ornithologist who works with dead birds, and a flighty free spirit who seems to have a knack in annoying many people. Engaging performances, laughs, tears, and more in this terrific surprise of the year.
Now we come to number one, but with two titles. That’s right: it’s a tie. I couldn’t bear to rank one over the other, as they are both masterpieces that capture your heart and imagination. The best film of 2011 is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. And the best film of 2011 is Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. If you have seen neither of these, what are you waiting for? I watched both of them for a second time to make sure I wasn’t nuts in picking a tie vote. I wasn’t.
Some of these are still alive and well in theatres, so you have no excuse for not seeing them on the big screen. Since you’re likely to see the rest of these on DVD, they are all good enough to buy, keep on your shelf, and show to friends as examples of sensationally good filmmaking.
And, as you think “movies” in the coming weeks, don’t forget that it’s the smaller, under-the-radar titles that are likely to produce your most cherished movie memories. Don’t just run out to see the over-hyped flick of the week. Do some homework; find something unusual to watch that you may have never considered. It will make for a rewarding cinematic experience.