I said I would make this list for quite a while, and now I have. I wrote my original five favorite films of 2011 a while ago. Here is my updated list.
Now first, here are a few rules:
- I can’t see every great film, and it pains me to regret not seeing films such as A Separation, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Melancholia, and Bridesmaids. Any one of these films could have made this list.
- I judge by quality, not by popularity. If you say I should have added a film like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’ll tell you I liked it, but then redirect you to my post about the difference between a good and great film.
- Okay, the top 4 films on the list have stayed the same, but I really wanted to name some other favorites.
Now for my favorites:
Like 2010’s True Grit, Rango proves the western is not dead (at least before Cowboys and Aliens). An incredible visual treat full of spark and humor was the funniest comedy of the year (and it’s not just for kiddies either).
9. Super 8
J. J. Abrams’ homage to Steven Spielberg was full of 70s and 80s movie nostalgia and full of homages to Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E. T. The Extra Terrestrial. Abrams’ work succeeds in summoning the boyhood and wonder of the Spielbergian film (Spielberg produced the film himself), and its delightful charm made it one of the best films of the year.
8. The Adventures of Tintin
I’ve read the Tintin comics all my life, so I’m probably more familiar with Tintin than most other Americans. Maybe that’s why it grossed higher outside the US than in. But Steven Spielberg put a lot of grace in the film, proving that motion capture can actually be used well (*cough*cough*Robert Zemeckis) and 3-D. Oh yeah, I have no idea how this wasn’t nominated at the Oscars, but Kung Fu Panda 2 was.
This one went a little down, but that doesn’t mean I dislike it more. Brad Pitt does a great job in this film as Billy Bean, as does Jonah Hill (yes, I’m being serious). And though I’m a Yankees fan, I couldn’t help myself rooting for the Oakland A’s in the movie.
6. Midnight in Paris/Drive
Two very different films with very different traits. You’ve probably heard this enough, but Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s best film in years (and it’s not even in New York). The quick, clever humor in the film is well executed (with even a nod to politics and the current state of comedy). And though I was at first ticked off that Allen was nominated for Best Director over Steven Spielberg, I eventually came to accept it.
As for Drive, some might call it the most underrated film of the year while some might call it the most overrated. But this gem had some terrific performances from Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks, who was snubbed at the Oscars for Best Actor. Though it’s pretty gritty, the movie is an art-house gem.
5. The Tree of Life
Some people loved it; others had no idea what it was about. But Mallick proves with The Tree of Life that he is the most underrated director in Hollywood. And though there are many parts of the movie that get too strange (like the dinosaurs), it’s a visual masterpiece.
A Martin Scorsese children’s movie with Sacha Baron Cohen in it sounds completely different from the director’s usual taste. But the movie is an ode to cinema and one of the most legendary directors of all time, George Méliès, made a delightful treat for critics and lovers of the big screen.
3. War Horse
A spectacular array of visual and beautiful cinematography, War Horse is a stunning film. Steven Spielberg (yes, this his third film on this list) proves his directing chops and stuns the audience with amazing shots of war, inspired by his past work (Saving Private Ryan) and others’ (All Quiet on the Western Front, Grapes of Wrath). Truly a piece of cinema to admire, War Horse could be considered Spielberg’s best film since Saving Private Ryan.
2. The Artist
The first silent film to win Best Picture since the first Oscars, The Artist proves how you can make a great movie with just music and expressions. In film schools I’ve often made silent films to learn how to address a story without dialogue, so The Artist was a real treat for me. Jean Dujardin’s performance as George Valentin is so mesmerizing that he makes you believe the film came from the 1920s. Plus, who doesn’t like Uggy?
1. The Descendants
Director Alexander Payne’s first film in seven years since Sideways is my favorite film of the year. The Descendants is the best family drama since, well, I don’t even remember how long, and gives great insight on human conflict. George Clooney gives his best performance as Matt King, one of the descendants of the white settlers of Hawaii, who must sell of the remaining land while simultaneously try to find his wife’s secret lover. A movie that I think people will remember for many years, The Descendants manages to mix grief along with a little humor. Some disliked this trait of the movie, but I feel its what made it soar. Payne, please make your next movie sooner. I just cannot wait.
Now I would like to name some other things. Just hang with me.
Tie (George Clooney, The Descendants; Jean Dujardin, The Artist)
Honorable Mentions: Albert Brooks, Drive; Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life and Moneyball
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Honarble Mentions: Bernice Bejo, The Artist; Viola Davis, The Help, Jessica Chastian, The Tree of Life and The Help (yes, everyone here is from The Help except Bejo).
Most Overrated Movie of the Year: The Iron Lady
This could have easily gone to a film like J. Edgar or The Ides of March, but this goes to The Iron Lady because, really, it’s a bad movie. The film lacks any narrative (it could have well been bits of a PBS documentary with Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher), and has such bad editing and directing. And don’t say Streep deserved the Oscar. Though she gave a good performance, the movie pulls her down, and drags rapidly.
Most Underrated Film of the Year: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Okay, this may sound very strange. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was far from deserving a Best Picture nomination, so why am I naming it the most underrated film of the year? Well, I think critics were a little too harsh on the film. It isn’t great, but it isn’t awful. Still, the film is a little too sentimental, and a disappointment for both Scott Rudin and Tom Hanks.