Best of 2011

Please feel free to click on any title to navigate to the corresponding review.

1. The Artist

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Showbiz Comedy
The Weinstein Company
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Written by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman
Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture
Budget – $15,000,000
Box Office – $131,249,775
Limited Release – 23 November 2011
Wide Release – 20 January 2012
DVD Release – 26 June 2012
100 min.

George Valentin [Jean Dujardin]: “With pleasure.”

If this doesn’t win Best Picture, I won’t ever be able to comprehend why we much favor the Academy Awards over other, seemingly lesser awards that give us a feeling of what is going to win. I wanted to see this film much before it won the Golden Globe for “Best Comedy or Musical”, because of its interesting concept. Come on now–how often do we really have silent films? Once in two blue moons. So I went to see The Artist. It was so much better than I’d expected. This was not just a silent film: it was a grippingly nostalgic, intensely fun, hopelessly romantic comedy-drama–an absolutely unforgettable masterpiece.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves & J.K. Rowling
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Budget – $250,000,000
Box Office – $1,328,111,219
Wide Release – 15 July 2011
DVD Release – 11 November 2011
130 min.

Professor Severus Snape [Alan Rickman]: “You kept him alive so that he can die at the proper moment.”

It’s hard to see this finale from the perspective of someone who isn’t a fan of the series, but I’d bet if you were a little skeptical, with a little background knowledge about Harry’s situation, this would be the film to turn you into enjoying the series. Call me crazy for seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (wow, that’s a long title) as the best film made in 2011, but I hold my ground; the fantasy genre has not elevated to create this much excitement in years.

3. Warrior

Action, Drama, Sport
Family Drama, Psychological Drama, Sports Drama
Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Written by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman
Starring Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material
Budget – $25,000,000
Box Office – $23,057,115
Wide Release – 9 September 2011
DVD Release – 20 December 2011
139 min.

Tommy Conlon [Tom Hardy]: “I think I liked you better when you were a drunk.”

When it comes to a display of martial arts, the sports genre, like all others, has three basic levels: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most recently, Hollywood has been spitting out films that qualify as bad and ugly, such as Never Back Down and–forgive me for the many of you who disagree–Million Dollar Baby. With its stellar performances (most notably from Nick Nolte), pulse-pounding beatdowns, and creative, moving plot, Warrior is just as much a champion as Rocky from 35 years before.

4. The Descendants

Comedy, Drama
Family Drama, Marriage Drama
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash & Kaui Hart Hemmings
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Budget – $20,000,000
Box Office – $171,481,000
Limited Release – 18 November 2011
Wide Release – 9 December 2011
DVD Release – 13 March 2012
110 min.

Matt King [George Clooney]: “Don’t be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.”

The last time I laughed and cried tremendously while watching a single film was during 1980s Oscar-winner Terms of Endearment–and looking back, that one didn’t even come close to how hysterical, poignant, and simultaneously reverent The Descendants was. From the beginning of the film, it is made clear to us that the narrator is the “backup parent” of an extremely dysfunctional family, and he has to take care of them when his wife suddenly falls into a coma. What could be worse? In short, this is the only film I’ve seen to which the phrase “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry,” truly applies.

5. Midnight in Paris

Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Woody Allen
Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking
Budget – $17,000,000
Box Office – $148,289,110
Limited Release – 20 May 2011
Wide Release – 10 June 2011
DVD Release – 20 December 2011
94 min.

Luis Buñuel [Adrien de Van]: “I see a film!”
Gil [Owen Wilson]: “I see insurmountable problem.”
Salvador Dalí [Adrien Brody]: “I see rhinoceros!”

As of my posting this, I have seen four Allen comedies (Sleeper, Annie Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and this), and not only does Midnight in Paris rank for me as #4 film of 2011, it’s my favorite Woody Allen film. Some Woody-philes may surely have different opinions about him as a director, in which case you look at Owen Wilson, who may just be the star of the show here. Satirical portrayals of figures as key as Ernest Hemingway aside, Allen and Wilson make a phenomenal team. A great rom-com with an interesting fantasy twist.

6. Insidious

Horror, Thriller
Haunted House Film, Supernatural Horror
Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language
Budget – $1,500,000
Box Office – $97,009,150
Wide Release – 1 April 2011
DVD Release – 12 July 2011
102 min.

Elise Rainier [Lin Shaye]: “It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son.”

Surely if you’ve seen older horror films (namely Poltergeist), you are bound to appreciate and understand this one a whole lot more, and even find yourself frightened with it. In fact, Insidious is nothing but a montage of older horror movies, and at that, it’s a brilliant, well-acted cinematic nightmare. And it’s not just the plot: this movie uses the tactics from Halloween 33 years before–violence in a defined form only goes as far as showing a bloody handprint on a white sheet. There’s so many scares offered here; stop rioting and clap for “PG-13 horror.”

7. The Help

Period Film
Touchstone Pictures
Directed by Tate Taylor
Written by Tate Taylor & Kathryn Stockett
Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer
Rated PG-13 for thematic material
Budget – $25,000,000
Box Office – $211,608,112
Wide Release – 10 August 2011
DVD Release – 6 December 2011
137 min.

Aibileen Clark [Viola Davis]: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

I would find it both ironic and utterly infuriating if this one ended up like The Color Purple, a thematically similar drama, and lost in every one of its nominated categories at the Oscars this February. To call The Help poignant is a mere start to a grand vocabulary of other terms that should be used. It is reverent, it is accurate, it is tearful. (A reference to possibly the most heartwarming line in the entire film.)

8. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Comedy, Horror
Comedy of Errors
Magnolia Pictures
Directed by Eli Craig
Written by Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgerson
Starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden
Rated R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity
Budget – N/A
Box Office – $4,749,516
Video On Demand Release – 26 August 2011
Limited Release – 30 September 2011
DVD Release – 29 November 2011
86 min.

Tucker [Alan Tudyk]: “He’s heavy for half a guy.”

I never thought I would laugh if I saw a body go through a wood chipper. Furthermore, I never thought I would even see a body process through a wood chipper. But I did–both. The forenamed is just one of the umpteen mistakes Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (give the hokey title a break) has to offer. A comedy of errors and terrors and hillbillies. Put the three together and see what your mind comes up with. I’ll bet it won’t be anywhere near as bloody, repugnant, or ludicrous as Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

9. Super 8

Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Alien Film
Paramount Pictures
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Written by J. J. Abrams
Starring Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, Kyle Chandler
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use
Budget – $50,000,000
Box Office – $259,422,500
Limited Release – 9 June 2011
Wide Release – 10 June 2011
DVD Release – 22 November 2011
111 min.

Dr. Woodward [Glynn Turman]: “If you speak of this, you and your parents will be killed.”

Though this film was directed by J. J. Abrams, it really comes across as the work of Steven Spielberg, who served as producer. It seemed he was returning to his root studies on aliens (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.) that brought him his earliest success. Though this wasn’t an alien film and rather a metafilm, per se, the engagement science fiction aspect was enhanced by stellar performances by younger performers such as Elle Fanning.

10. Moneyball


Bio, Drama, Sport
Columbia Pictures
Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Budget – $50,000,000
Box Office – $110,206,216
Wide Release – 23 September 2011
DVD Release – 10 January 2012
126 min.

Billy Beane [Brad Pitt]: “I pay you to get on at first, not to get thrown out at second.”

What a great film. This is probably the only sports movie I’d watch over and over. Actually, it’s not a sports movie. Its a movie about the financial status of sports and what economic skill it takes to build a team. Great performances from Hill and Pitt; recommended for everyone.

Honorable Mentions:
The Adventures of Tintin
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Kung Fu Panda 2
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
The Muppets
Paranormal Activity 3
Puss in Boots

The Adjustment Bureau
A Better Life
Cowboys & Aliens
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Jane Eyre
Just Go with It
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Source Code
Soul Surfer
Tower Heist
The Tree of Life
War Horse
X-Men: First Class

Apollo 18
Bad Teacher
The Beaver
Green Lantern
I Am
Jumping the Broom
The Rite
Shark Night
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Still on My List:
Attack the Block
Bill Cunningham New York
Captain America: The First Avenger
Higher Ground
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Project Nim
Something Borrowed
Win Win

32 thoughts on “Best of 2011

  1. My list then:

    10. Certified Copy
    9. The Tree of Life
    8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    7. Moneyball
    6. Attack the Block
    5. Trust
    4. In a Better World
    3. Weekend
    2. Hugo
    1. Poetry

    Upon further review and movie seeing:

    10. In a Better World
    9. Moneyball
    8. Trust
    7. Attack the Block
    6. The Tree of Life
    5. The Descendants
    4. Weekend
    3. Drive
    2. Hugo
    1. Poetry

    I’m counting The Artist as 2012, since it opened in my town in January. I know, it’s wrong, but I wanted to give it a chance to be on its own top 10 list, since I’m almost certain it will make it there.

    • On your second list, I see The Descendants and Drive to be new ones. Descendants, I LOVED (I actually met someone who played a supporting character in it), but I’m only 14, so I cannot see Drive. Sorry.

      You’re not the only one counting a 2011 film for your 2012 list. I’m counting The Iron Lady on my 2012 list when the time comes, because it came out in my area in January of this year. The Artist would have been the same sort of thing, but it was playing in art theaters 50 miles away at the end of last year, whereas The Iron Lady wasn’t playing anywhere in the range of 100 miles.

  2. That’s an interesting list you have here. Glad to see the Artist and The descendants so high, I have to agree. Insidious I wasn’t keen on though. My list is still pending as I’ve yet to see Warrior and a few others. Some interesting choices her though.

  3. Good list, I’ll include Ides of March, Drive, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows… I haven’t seen most of them in time hehehe!

    But Warrior stands out IMO in most cases. Cheers man 🙂

    • Are you telling me that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was one of the best of 2011 for you? Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was good (and certainly better than its predecessor), but I wouldn’t even put it in my top 15 of the year.

  4. Good list. Can’t make mine yet, I still haven’t seen all the movies I want to see before making my list. I want to check out some of the movies I haven’t seen that are on your list (like The Descendants).

  5. You know I liked your list because I commented on it when you posted it on my blog. But your list changed a bit since you posted it on my blog. Limitless, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Mission: Impossible are gone and you’ve got The Descendents, Tucker & Dale and Kung Fu Panda 2. I really loved Limitless and Mission: Impossible so I miss those picks. but still nice list!

    • Yeah, I re-thought those, sorry. I don’t know about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but for Limitless and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, they were good, but nothing special. The Descendants, for me, was a real tearjerker, and I don’t think media has ever made my heart ache so much before. 🙂 Tucker & Dale: I had NEVER seen anything even similar to that before; in any other case, I would have vomited from seeing a body go through a wood chopper, but this time, it was so freaking hilarious. As for Kung Fu Panda 2, I had just about given up on animated movies after I saw the last two Shrek movies (not counting Puss in Boots, which I haven’t seen yet), but KFP2 made me reconsider the genre.

      I apologize if my writing isn’t as good as usual; it’s late at night where I am and I’m really tired. Off to bed; more reviews tomorrow (possibly reviews for Au revoir les enfants, Russian Ark, and/or Good Night, and Good Luck). Bon soir! 😀

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