Friday, December 30, 2011

My Top 10 Movies of 2011

It's that time again: My Top 10 Movies of the year. I've been keeping tabs this year, watching how the list evolved—yes, at one point Never Say Never: Justin Bieber 3D was on there—and I must say that 2011 was quite an interesting year.

I began my list after the Oscar season was over, starting with I Am Number Four—which, by the way, ended up at #33 with a C+—and tracking every movie I've seen that was released this year. Of course, there's still two months until the Oscars are handed out, so there is quite the laundry list of movies I have yet to see that would most likely make a good case for inclusion on the 2011 list. My apologies to War Horse, Drive, 50/50, Young Adult and many more. I'll get to you soon. I promise.

Looking back at my 2010 list, I think I was more passionate about that Top 5 than this year's and I remember having a very difficult time figure out their order. This year, however, the fight for the Top 10 was way more intense. 2010 had maybe 11-12 duking it out; 2011 has at least 20. So, in the interest of honoring as many films as possible, I'm going to do a bit of a cheat and give Honorable Mention to the five films that were still in the "A" range but didn't quite make it to the finals. It's my list, I can cheat if I want to.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite movies of 2011...

Honorable Mention: Attack the Block; The Adventures of Tin Tin; Weekend; Win Win; Crazy, Stupid, Love

#10 - Bridesmaids
The "female Hangover" that ended up being smarter, funnier and way more endearing than its supposed predecessor hit theaters in April and is still one of the best of the year. Co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo absolutely knocked it out of the park with their story of friendship, relationships, weddings and, yes, shitting in the sink of a wedding dress boutique. The cast proved once again that an all-female lineup can be just as funny, crude and ballsy as any group of guys. I love that Melissa McCarthy is a part of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar conversation, and can only hope that the she and the screenplay get some well-deserved love in the months to come.

#9 - The Ides of March
The twists and turns in George Clooney's political thriller just didn't let up. Just when I though I knew which way the plot was headed, a curveball was thrown and everything ran in the opposite direction. Ryan Gosling's Stephen Meyers learns all too well that things aren't always what they seem and everyone has an angle and a motive. Ides of March kept me guessing and featured one of the best ensembles of the year: Gosling, Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman were all phenomenal.

#8 - Hanna
What a surprise this turned out to be! The trailer for Hanna had me instantly intrigued, but I had no idea it would be as good as it was. Saoirse Ronan was totally kickass as the titular teen super solider and Cate Blanchett (of course) did not disappoint as Marissa Wiegler, the CIA in charge of hunting her down. The mysteries of Hanna's seclusion, her mother's death and her father's vendetta against Wiegler were heightened by the stunning art direction and The Chemical Brothers' mesmerizing soundtrack.

#7 - Being Elmo
I don't know if I've ever smiled through a movie as much as I did in Being Elmo. Watching Kevin Clash's journey from being a quiet boy in Baltimore to the man behind one of the world's most beloved characters was an absolute joy, and filmmaker Constance Marks' documentary felt like a wonderful walk down the memory lane of my childhood.

#6 - Contagion
I've seen my fair share of "end of the world" movies, but none felt as real or unsettling as Contagion. Witnessing people's reactions to the quickly spreading virus and the ever-depleting supply of resources was truly haunting because, deep down, I knew that the same scenario would play out eerily similar in real life. If you haven't seen it yet, be prepared to become addicted to hand sanitizer.

#5 - The Artist
Like most contestants on Project Runway, I am a total sucker for old Hollywood glamour and The Artist provided it non-stop for almost two hours. From the first frame, I was transported back to a pre-Depression world of tap dancing, flapper fashion and good-old-fashioned movie fun. Without any dialogue, The Artist soared above almost every "talkie" I saw this year. Jean Dujardin gave one of the most captivating performances of the year without uttering a single word, Bérénice Bejo lit up the screen with a charming grandeur and Uggie the dog stole the show in almost every scene. Do yourself a favor and go see this in theaters. Popcorn required.

#4 - Moneyball
I'm programmed to stray away from sports films, but Moneyball proved too good to pass up. With every obstacle against them, Billy Beane and Peter Brand set forth to change the game of baseball one dollar at a time in order to save the Oakland As from becoming a feeder team for the heavy hitters. And while the triumphs that followed were ever so sweet, the film possessed a spirit that transcended the game, featuring knockout performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and fueled by a fantastic screenplay from seasoned veterans Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian.

#3 - A Better Life
A Better Life was a gorgeous, gritty and enlightening journey. I've done a fair amount of gushing over Chris Weitz's brilliant film around these parts, so there's not too much left to say except how excited I am for Demián Bichir's recent SAG nomination and to see him continue to be a part of the Oscar conversation. Well-deserved accolades for a remarkable film.

#2 - The Help
I smiled, laughed, cried, cringed and beamed with pure joy throughout The Help, and it only got better the second time around. The Jim Crow era in our country's history was truly disgusting, and the strength against all odds portrayed by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer highlights just how extraordinary these women were. "You is smart. You is kind. You is important."

#1 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The stunning conclusion to the epic adventure that spanned more than a decade of film and books grabs the top spot on my list for giving me everything I could've hoped for in a Harry Potter finale. Bonus points for Molly Weasley laying the smack down on Bellatrix: "Not my daughter, you bitch!" Even though I knew what was going to happen from reading the book four years ago, I was on the edge of my seat every second. From the epic battle at Hogwarts to the quiet and emotional moments between Harry, Ron and Hermione, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was pitch perfect.

[Image Source: Warner Bros]
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