Here's my top 10 list for 2011. Wow, this is the first post I've made since my top ten list of 2010. Heh. Oh well, no one reads livejournal anymore anyway, right?
Good lord, another Aaron Sorkin drama featuring people arguing at each other across desks? Oddly, I thought this felt less talky and more dynamic than what I otherwise expected. Mainly I liked this movie for its pacing, which is lickety-split, and Brad Pitt's performance, which is really soulful and charismatic.
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I'm the last person who expected to put this movie on his top ten list. I'm not familiar with the originals, and I really wasn't expecting much of this after having seen the trailer. But I was won over not so much by James Franko as by the long, mostly dialog-free, central portion of the movie which features Caesar the Ape learning to lead the ape rebellion. Great stuff. Nice work, Andy Serkis.
It's funny! But it's not just a series of gags. I love it in comedies when characters matter, but the plot doesn't run out of steam in the third act. Also, Kristen Wiig.
The languid, wordless romantic scenes with the synthesized background music reminded me of Adrian Lyne's eighties work, and Ryan Gosling is well inside his comfort zone. But I loved the shocking violence, the fun villains and the terrific direction, which elevated this from something relatively forgettable into much more than it could have been.
6. Midnight in Paris
OMG a good Woody Allen movie! I think the reason why this one works so well is you can sense the director's love for the subject material in almost every scene. It's like a dream for anyone who has ever experienced nostalgia for some long-lost golden age. Owen Wilson is the best Woody Allen stand-in, well, yet. And Marion Cotillard is so sexy and adorable, you'll wonder why Christopher Nolan squandered what he had in Inception.
5. Margin Call
"Oh Jesus, you know I can't fucking read these things, just speak to me in English". That's right, I'm saying that the third best thriller of the year is about the financial crisis. Actually, what's great about this movie is you don't need to know what a margin call or a derivative is; all you need to know you will get from the actors as their faces freeze up in fear when they hear dire news being read to them. I loved the way the movie progressed from one awesome actor to the next.
I'm generally not a fan of movies adapted from plays where the entire thing takes place on one bottled set. I like it when the movie "opens up" the play. This was the film that changed my mind. Maybe it's because the characters seem to be trying to escape from the set the entire time, or maybe it's the way the camera moves to frame them so things never seem monotonous. And it's not too long! It doesn't outstay its welcome, the dialog is deliciously snappy and and I'd be hard-pressed to pick the "best" performance from this movie; they are all terrific.
3. Tree of Life
I'm as surprised as anyone that this film wound up so high on my list, but days after seeing it I was still thinking about it and I think that's the sign of a great film. It made me think about my own life, and what I've been through, and I must have been in the right mood when I watched it because I didn't find the "birth of the universe" scenes tedious at all. I also think this is the best performance Brad Pitt has ever given.
It's the first movie I can remember seeing in a long time which had both action, drama, science-fiction, comedy, spectacle, and beauty. Mostly I remember the feeling of watching this movie; kind of giddy excitement of seeing something you haven't seen before. Is it a thriller? I guess. There are fantastic action set pieces, great twists, memorable performances. It's hard to characterize Hanna which is one of the things I love about it. I actually liked it more after a second viewing.
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I'm a sucker for movies like this. The crisp direction and perfect period details reminded me of the Coen brothers, only with maybe a little more romance? I also tend to think of Gary Oldman as a bit of an over-actor so it was a real treat to see him give such an effective bottled-up performance. And I'm just a sucker for mysterious, labyrinthine plots featuring large casts of great actors, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised where this landed. I can't wait to see it again.
The self-made cynic
- Top Ten Movies of 2011
- January 1st, 2012