The Best Movies of 2011By
Each of the past three years has gotten a treatment of my top ten favorite movies here on the Movie Mash. I cannot believe I am already writing another one of these posts, how quickly time flies. For a year many critics considered to be a downgrade in overall quality in terms of content at the cinema, I found this year to be full of gems — of course there will always be movies that fail, but I believe 2011 had more than its share of films that soared. Hit the jump to check out my favorites from 2011.
Always remember, I can only attest for the films I’ve seen. Since I didn’t see them all, these are my favorites amongst the ones I did.
One of the stronger films in terms of overall production this year, The Debt featured stellar shots from director John Madden, dynamic performances from a talented cast, and a story that built to a well deserved climax. This film centers around a Nazi death camp doctor, essentially a man who did cruel experiments on Jews in WWII, who escaped prosecution. The team featured above is charged with bringing him to justice. I love films about WWII, and I love films that are historical fiction. Since this hits both those definitions, its easy to see why I was a fan.
Welcome to the acting game Elizabeth Olsen. It’s funny to think that in her breakthrough role, the youngest Olsen has already surpassed her twin sisters in acting achievements — that is, unless you consider Holiday in the Sun a cinematic success. Olsen was mesmerizing in her role playing the off kilter character who is uncertain of herself and her future. I spent the whole movie trying to figure her out, and in the end I still don’t know if I fully grasped what she was really about. Looks like I’ll have to spend another two hours being enchanted by her when I watch it again.
This film does reek of clichés and a predictable storyline, but for some reason I didn’t care — by some reason, I mean well written and well developed characters. The Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton brother dynamic is compelling the first two-thirds of the film because of how distant their relationship is. However, the most inviting piece to the film is the former alcoholic Nick Nolte trying to get his sons to forgive him for past drunken misdeeds. His plight is truly heartbreaking. Don’t forget the exhilarating action within the walls of the octagon, a sure hit for any MMA fan.
What a year for Ryan Gosling. The only actor to even be in his class in terms of quality roles in quality films is Michael Fassbender. This film may have been marketed similar to a Fast & Furious type movie, but don’t be fooled. This slow burning film spends more time in the shadows with barely a spoken word than racing around town in beefed up cars. It took awhile to really grab me, but once it did, I was sold. The subtlety in Drive makes it unlike many films of the year — the true testament to its greatness comes from contrasting subtlety with in your face violence so seamlessly. Oh, and how could I forget? Drive has an 80′s mixed soundtrack that heightens the viewing experience tenfold.
I’ve been waiting a long time for this film, an X-Men done right. Those who have read my thoughts on X-Men in the past know each mutant film before this has disappointed me. Finally Matthew Vaughn got it right with the help of James McAvoy, the quickly ascending Michael Fassbender, and Kevin Bacon. The only demerit comes from January Jones and her awful getup throughout — ugh, I hate January Jones so much. Can we please find an attractive blonde that can actually act?
This is the film on the list few have probably heard of, but no one should miss. This is an alien invasion flick, but not one like you’ve ever seen before — imagine aliens invading a British ghetto, and a band of likable and oftentimes difficult to understand thugs standing up to said dark creatures. The aliens are ruthless in their pursuit for human destruction, and that adds an element of tension making the audience fear for the lives of the cast. But it is always kept lively listening to these boys comically banter back and forth. Even if you only understand 30% of what they say, that percentage will make you laugh, because these kids are hilarious. Make a date with Attack the Block in 2012.
Perfectly cast and acted from top to bottom. 50/50 benefits from a great mix of comedy and drama blending in this heartwarming true tale of a man who survived cancer. If the story feels personal, it’s because Will Reiser wrote the film, and he is the one who survived, “stage five back cancer”. I laughed and got choked up, which usually equates to my type of film.
The Summer provided a nice surprise for me when I stumbled across Crazy, Stupid, Love. I will admit, I can be a sucker for a good romantic comedy, and this film was one of the best I’ve ever seen in the genre. Equipped with a star studded cast, a story that weaves all the characters together in a unique manner, this film invites the laughs and tears to begin. While some have called it formulaic, I would argue what film in this genre isn’t? While Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn’t stray from the beaten path, it still has enough originality to feel fresh to the genre.
I really have fallen head over heels for this latest Fincher flick. While it couldn’t crack the number one spot held by The Descendants, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo had me mulling over everything that happened within it days after viewing it. So, I went and saw it again. Currently I have a date to see it a third time once my wife finishes the book — yes, this 2.5 hour dark tale is that good. In my opinion, Rooney Mara is without a doubt the best actress of the year playing the year’s most fascinating character, the 2011 version of Lisbeth Salander. Add Fincher, one of the best storytellers in the game, to the thriller/mystery mix, and this film should be amongst the award favorites in the coming months. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, along with the film below, are the only two warranting the grade of perfection in my book for 2011.
I did not get to write a review for this film, but Mike praised it as well. The only difference is that I would have given The Descendants an A+. It was such an emotionally powerful film, especially considering the subject matter which is very close to my heart. A family trying to cope with the loss of a mother, which is now being led by the not always there father played by George Clooney, is struggling to figure out what is next. This dramedy, drama/comedy, finds the perfect moments to incorporate laughs throughout the trying tale. The moment I was sold on the perfection of this film is an emotionally triumphant sequence showing Clooney at his best, with one of my favorite songs on the year, a soft guitar melody called Deep In an Ancient Hawaiian Forrest, ringing loud over the images. That moment is what what I consider cinematic gold.
The thing that surprised me the most while composing this top ten is how many of the films below could have been a part of it. As I said before, many have called it a down year in terms of cinematic quality, but I found it to be better than years past. All the films listed below are films I would recommend you get out and see if you haven’t. It’s not often you will see me strongly advocating 20+ films in one year.
Honorable Mention: Friends With Benefits, Limitless, Thor, Super 8, Cedar Rapids, 30 Minutes or Less, Ides of March, The Lincoln Lawyer, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Tree of Life, and The Help.
What Is Your Top 10 Of The Year?