Keith & the Movies: The Top 10 Movies of 2011
2011 wasn’t the best year for movies at the theaters but there were several films that certainly left a lasting impression. As always, here is my Top 10 list of the year’s best films:
#10. “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL” – The latest installment in the Mission Impossible series is also one of the biggest surprises of the movie year. Straightfoward and unashamed, “Ghost Protocol” moves at a lightning fast pace and features it’s most polished cast yet. Tom Cruise is perfectly comfortable with his character and the addition of Jeremy Renner gives the movie more weight. But “Ghost Protocol” doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a fun, pedal-to-the-floor, action picture. It succeeds and it does so without the usual pretenses of most of the action films generated out of Hollywood.
#9. “MONEYBALL” – A baseball movie based more on sabermetrics that world championships doesn’t sound like a winning formula. But thanks to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s masterful screenplay and one of the best performances of Brad Pitt’s career, “Moneyball” turns the story of Billy Bean and the 2002 Oakland Athletics into one of the better films of 2011. The movie stays away from the normal sports movie cliches and deals more with the unique personalities and even more unique approach to team building by Bean. It never lulls or misses a beat. “Moneyball” isn’t just a film for sports fans, it’s a film for movie fans.
#8. “CONTAGION” – Steven Soderbergh’s clinical, viral outbreak thriller is one of the only movies that made me squirm in my comfy theater seat (and I mean in a good way). Fast-paced and exceptionally written, “Contagion” never feels forced or fake. The film features a wonderful cast and it’s not afraid to turn any of them into one of the many viral casualties. It draws you in and will have you doubling your supply of hand sanitizer. Soderbergh’s direction is top-notch and this is one of the best thrillers to hit theaters this year.
#7. “CERTIFIED COPY” – Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy” is small in scope but huge on substance. Led by two pitch perfect performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, “Certified Copy” had me questioning everything about these two fascinating lead characters. It’s ambiguity may turn off some but the razor sharp script, tight direction, and impeccable performances help make this one of the best films of 2011.
#6. “WARRIOR” – I’m no fan of mixed martial arts but “Warrior” nicely uses it as a backdrop to a riveting story of a shattered family. Both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are fantastic but it’s Nick Nolte who delivers the best supporting performance of the year. While it does end up using several common sports movies cliches, “Warrior” is still a stirring family drama about consequences and reconciliation. There’s plenty of testosterone but there’s also plenty of heart and “Warrior” is a film I can watch over and over again.
#5. “HUGO” – Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is also one of the best films of the year. Whether it’s the beautiful story of Georges Melies or the tender story of young Hugo Cabret, “Hugo” delivers two heartfelt stories and brings them together for a wonderful motion picture experience. “Hugo” is one of the few movies to make great use of 3-D and Scorsese’s visual style is present in every scene. “Hugo” reminds us of the artistry and power of cinema and once again puts the talents of a movie making master on display.
#4. “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS” – Few movies have grabbed me and pulled me in like Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. It incorporates the perfect amount of romance, humor, and magic while showing just how wonderful a romantic comedy can be. Allen beautifully captures Paris, makes it the main character, and causes us to fall in love with it. Sure, it’s a tad predictable, but I didn’t want it to end and it’s easily one of the year’s best pictures.
#3. “TAKE SHELTER” – Jeff Nichols’ near flawless examination of mental illness is both devastating and heart-wrenching. Michael Shannon delivers the very best performance of the year and Jessica Chastain is magnetic. But it’s the genuineness and relatability of these fantastic characters that drive the film. While the ending has been a subject of much debate, it does nothing to undermine this griping movie. Micheal Shannon is brilliant and so is “Take Shelter”.
#2. “THE ARTIST” – Part moving love story and part celebration of the joy of cinema, “The Artist” is a glorious piece of motion picture entertainment. This gorgeous French film, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, captures all of the glory of the black and white silent picture era while offering genius storytelling at it’s finest. Jean Dujardin gives one of the year’s best performances and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his charm and overall command of the screen. This is a brilliant film and a monumental accomplishment.
#1. “THE TREE OF LIFE” – This deeply personal picture from director Terrence Malick is both beautiful and crushing and provided one of the most mesmerizing movie experience I had in 2011. The film is filled with tender family moments and emotional gut-punches. From the gorgeous cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki to the best performance of Brad Pitt’s career, everything clicks in this stunning piece of cinematic poetry. While ”The Tree of Life” requires thought and patience, the end result is an emotionally satisfying picture regardless of your interpretation. This was my favorite film of the year.