2011 is one of the best, and oddest film years in recent memory. On one hand, while there were numerous great films year round, none of them particularly sticks out the way something like Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Inception, Toy Story 3, all did in the last few years. In terms of big movies it was actually a very poor year; there was a record number of sequels, threequels, fourthquels, fifthquels and prequels; 27 in total, not including remakes. There was even an octoquel. But besides that said eighth Harry Potter Film that we waited a decade for none were memorable, and at least two were essentially a remake of the previous installment (Hangover 2 and Transformers 3).
And yet at the same time there was a major breakthrough in independent filmmaking. For the past few years online movie watching, particularly Netflix, has brought the realization that the market for such films is huge; it is just not as big as the market for Avatar. Nevertheless Indie films can use a limited release as a form of promotion, and earn their money back, off theaters. Either on iTunes, Redbox, Netflix, DVD sales, whatever. And thus the public’s legal accessibility to such films has greatly increased.
It has been an interesting year; and to top it off it might be the first time that a silent movie takes Best Picture, since the first Academy Awards were held. Anyways, here is our Top Ten and a half for 2011, presented in no particular order besides alphabetical:
The Artist – There is little more that can be said about this film; it has received sufficient praise from audiences, critics, and the Golden Globes. The praise is well deserved, and there is something to be said about a silent film being this successful today. Read the full review here.
Crazy, Stupid, Love – Perhaps the first romantic dramedy out there, Crazy, Stupid, Love takes a well known genre and then spins it off by showing that being in love, and loving someone is not the something. A cynic would point out that the first isn’t a smart place to be in. The film falls somewhere in the middle in that debate, but maintains a very amiable level of freshness from beginning to end. Read our review here.
The Descendants – I hate George Clooney. I love George Clooney in The Descendants. Like in Syriana this is the rare film where George Clooney doesn’t play George Clooney and actually shows off his talents. There is a Best Adapted Screenplay award in here, and perhaps one for Clooney. Read our review here.
Exporting Raymond – The true story of how Every Loves Raymond, was exported as Everybody Loves Kostya. Today it has become the norm for movies and shows to earn a Hollywood remake. But the practice also goes the other way around; several American TV shows earn a second go by being remade for foreign markets. When Phil Rosenthal, the exec-producer of Every Loves Raymond, was sent to Russia to help adapt his show, he foresaw the comedic potential of his experiences. And he exploits them in this documentary with singular passion. Read our review here.
Hanna – I had a hard time deciding between Hanna or Drive being on this list. Both are exceptional films, and both deal with silent protagonists with only one goal in mind. Hanna ultimately won out thanks to Saorisie Ronanan’s acting. It is a much more human story, about a girl who has never known another human besides her psychotic father. That she became a silent killer is only circumstantial and feels somewhat less gimmicky. Read our review here.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 – The half film that is better than many full films I’ve seen this year. It was a worthy conclusion to a franchise that defined a decade. It has had countless of imitators, but it is unlikely it will ever be matched. If it weren’t for The Artist I would place my bets on HP7P2 taking the statuette this year, as unlikely as that sounds not to recognize it as a landmark film would be a mistake. Read our review here.
Hugo – Scorsese’s most personal film, turned out to be a family friendly film instead of a gritty gangster psycho-thriller. What a surprise. Hugo, like The Artist, is nothing more than a love letter to cinema itself. But while The Artist relies on it also being silent movie, Hugo took the other direction and employed the latest technology available in cinema (that still uses real people and not stiff mo-cap) to create the story of how the magic of cinema enchanted people for the first time. Read our review here.
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen has made about 50 movies in his lifetime, and while they tend to vary in quality he always has something to say. He has a vision to deliver and like the protagonist in Midnight in Paris, it is very likely Woody Allen is still a dreamer. You probably have seen it or had the plot spoiled by now; if this is not the case, stop this instant and Netflix the movie now! You’ll be in for a treat. Read our review here.
The Skin I Live In – Like Allen, Almodovar is a tested master of cinema. And he is at the top of his craft. The Skin I Live In is a twisted, dark comedy horror-story, about a mad scientist and his obsession. It is not very different from a mad-scientist B-movie, and it will make you squirm. Yet, it is so different from every other movie you’ve likely seen before. Form its offbeat structure, to its unlikable protagonist, to the numerous red herrings through out the film. Read our review here.
Super 8 – I love to see a movie were kids in it are smart and intuitive. Where they break the rules of the adult world, because sometimes that is the only way to fix what is wrong with the world. Sadly now most of Hollywood thinks of kids as not much more than giddy consumers. Read our review here.
Young Adult – Like several Jason Reitman films Young Adult is nothing more than a relatable human story. He once again teams up with former-stripper Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno, and tells the story of a young adult writer who also happens to be a young adult herself. It is interesting when a movie with such an unlikable character ends up being such a likable movie. Read our review here.
Anyways, I highly recommend these ten and a half films; many which we had also praised in our Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter reviews. However, there were many other great movies out this year. To summarize the year here are the films we gave 5 or 4 stars this year that we haven’t mentioned above (once again in alphabetical order):
50/50, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin, Captain America: The First Avenger, Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark, Drive, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Happy Feet 2, Happythankyoumoreplease, The Help, Kung Fu Panda 2, Life in A Day, Limitless, Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, Moneyball, The Muppets, Rango, Sanctum, Super, Sympathy for Delicious, The Three Musketeers, The Troll Hunter, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, X-Men: First Class, You Don’t Know Jack.
All of them highly enjoyable movies, although very different of the most part.