I saw my fair share of films during 2011. I didn’t see everything I wanted to see, but most of the films I was interested in seeing. I’ve put together a list of what I thought were the 5 best films of 2011. I also included some of my other favorites, which didn’t make my top 5 cut, but which I thought were very good films and well worth seeing.
1) The Artist – Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
I must admit that before I saw The Artist (TA) was a bit skeptical of the all the rave reviews it received. I just didn’t think a black and white, silent film could be all that entertaining for 100 minutes. After watching the film I understood why it was so highly praised.
TA really succeeds at recreating the magic of silent films. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, play the lead actor and actress of the film, and are both incredibably charismatic. The French stars are supported very ably by a cast that includes James Cromwell, John Goodman and Penelope Ann Miller, as well as Uggie, the funniest dog to hit the big screen in years. I would recommend seeing this on the big screen if at all possible.
2) The Descendants – Directed by Alexander Payne
In another year the Descendants, could have won Best Picture, but it had the misfortune of going up against The Artist, which was a singularly outstanding and unique film. I thought that The Descendants , a tragicomedy set in modern day Hawaii, was a highly engaging film that made the audience care about
3) The Tree of Life – Directed by Terence Malick
Terence Malick is a Harvard and Oxford educated philosophy professor, who taught philosophy at MIT before moving on to becoming a filmmaker. I think that explains why he is so intrigued by the question of the meaning of life. That question is explored in The Tree of Life and the film is quite thought provoking, but it is not an easy film to comprehend. It is a profound and complex film which explores of the meaning of life and the origin of the universe. How does the film do this? By segueing between scenes of the lives of a young family living in Waco, Texas in the 1950’s and scenes depicting the development of earth after the Big Bang. That makes sense, right? Well, you have see it. I think Malick makes it work, although I would concede that the film seems disjointed and difficult to follow sometimes, but it was still fascinating.
Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt star in this film and turn in outstanding performances.
4) Midnight in Paris – Directed by Woody Allen
One of Woody Allen’s best films in years, which combined very witty humor, great acting and literary references not seen in films very often these days. Like the Descendants, it may have had a shot at Best Picture in another year.
The great cast includes Owen Wilson, Rachael McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and Carla Bruni.
5) Drive – Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
The entire cast of the film was great, but lead actor Ryan Gosling really distinguished himself in this action film/crime drama. Gosling, playing Hollywood stunt driver/getaway driver in contemporary Los Angeles gave a performance that was reminiscent of a young Robert DeNiro, Mel Gibson or James Dean. That is high praise, but I think it is deserved. Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Carey Mulligan were also very good in supporting roles.
Other 2011 films I enjoyed and would recommend: Moneyball, Margin Call, A Dangerous Method, Warrior, The Hangover II, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Limitless & X-Men: First Class
Documentaries: Senna, The Revenge Of The Electric Car
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