December 05, 2016

HollywoodNews.com’s Top 10 Movies of 2011 – AWARDS ALLEY


By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: You hear this complaint almost every year: “This was a terrible year for film.” It’s often made by moviegoers who didn’t go out of their way to find unconventional, challenging (and frequently rewarding) cinema.

A simple scan of the films we’ve included in our annual Top 10 list – as well as the 10 follow up titles – will tell you that there were plenty of films worth celebrating in 2011 … and there will be even more coming next year.

But before we jump ahead, with the New Year arriving in a few days, let’s run through the best films we managed to see in 2011. We expect our coverage for most of these movies to extend into January and February as the Oscar race continues. But for now, these are the movies that moved us most. If we missed any, let us know in our comments section:

Hollywoodnews.com Top 10 Movies (in alphabetical order):

“The Artist”
Michel Hazanavicius’ silent comedy made a loud splash at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, and its Oscar train hasn’t really slowed since. Jean Dujardin is spectacular as a fading silent-film star challenged by the arrival of the talkies, while Berenice Bejo (quietly) announces her arrival as a talent to watch. This throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age was a modern treat, and it just might be the movie to beat in the Best Picture race.

“The Descendants”
George Clooney shows off his versatility playing a real estate baron wrestling with a complicated land deal as he also contends with a family tragedy. Alexander Payne directs “The Descendants” with his usual precision, though the bulk of his heavy lifting was completed in the casting. The ensemble is one of the best you’ll see on screen this year.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
A late entry into the awards race, Stephen Daldry’s post-9/11 heartwrencher (so far) has divided critics with its borderline manipulative treatment of tragic subject matter that’s still to raw for certain audiences. But there’s no denying the emotional impact of Thomas Horn’s performance as Oskar, a special needs child coping with his father’s death, and Daldry lends him tremendous support in Sandra Bullock and the legendary Max von Sydow.

“The Help”
The little-blockbuster-that-could. Tate Taylor’s adaptation of close friend Kathryn Stockett’s novel wowed summer crowds who wanted to learn the inspirational story of a fledgling journalist who wanted to tell the untold story of her Southern caretakers. It was a breakout hit, powered by book-club support and strong word of mouth for across-the-board outstanding performances that likely will be recognized on Oscar night.

“Hugo”
Like “The Artist,” Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” serves as a love letter to Hollywood’s history, with Sir Ben Kingsley playing a movie icon whose love for the storytelling method is rekindled by a curious orphan (Asa Butterfield). We’ll be curious to see how Scorsese’s accomplishment plays on home video, for part of the joy of “Hugo” comes in the visual innovation of the director’s first foray into 3D technology … which was stunning.

“Midnight in Paris”
Woody Allen’s most lucrative film to date … and that’s saying something! The master turns his unique eye to the City of Lights to follow a struggling writer (Owen Wilson) who finds himself mysteriously transported to Paris at the turn of the century while walking the city’s streets after midnight. The results were rapturously charming, and Allen could find himself contending for an Oscar for the first time since 2005’s thrilling “Match Point.”

“Moneyball”
A baseball movie that wasn’t really about baseball at all. Brad Pitt gives a career-bets performance as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who gambles on an innovative executive (Jonah Hill) and his against-the-grain method of recruiting past-their-prime players on the cheap. Bennett Miller’s direction was crisp and probing, as “Moneyball” turned its focus on every element other than our national pastime, with exhilarating results.

“My Week with Marilyn”
On one level, it’s a film we’ll remember for Michelle Williams’ eerily accurate portrayal of silver screen icon Marilyn Monroe. But look deeper, and you’ll see that Simon Curtis infused “Marilyn” with a pure love of cinema and the movie-making process. A winning turn by the great Kenneth Branagh as a frustrated (yet captivated) Sir Laurence Olivier only helped solidify this film’s standing as one of the year’s best.

“The Tree of Life”
Easily one of the most-discussed films of 2011 … and it may be several years before we’ve fully digested Terrence Malick’s masterpiece. Starting with the birth of our universe, Malick explains where he thinks we fit in the grand scheme of things by focusing on a suburban Texas family – and all of their miniscule problems – in the 1950s. Visually, one of the most stunning films you’ll ever see.

“War Horse”
Steven Spielberg’s motion-capture feature “The Adventures of Tintin” was a thrilling lark (and an impressive feat of animated storytelling), but years from now, we’ll still be talking about the director’s sweeping adaptation of a Tony-winning stage play about a noble farmhand (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse. “War Horse” sends Spielberg back to the battlefields he mined for Oscar gold in “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” And the tender story of man and animal reunited after years of separation plucked our heartstrings in ways only Spielberg can.

… and the Runner Ups (also in alphabetical order)
“50/50”
“Bridesmaids”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
“The Ides of March”
“Like Crazy”
“Rango”
“Shame”
“We Need to Talk About Kevin”
“Young Adult”

Awards Alley brings you the best Oscar coverage. Click below to read our exclusive interviews with:
Harvey Weinstein
– The cast of “The Artist.”
Kenneth Branagh for “My Week With Marilyn.”
Sir Ben Kingsley and Chloe Grace Moretz for “Hugo.”
Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
David Fincher, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for “The Help.”
Tate Taylor for “The Help.”
Gavin O’Connor for “Warrior.”
Gary Oldman and Colin Firth for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody for “Young Adult.”
Steve McQueen for “Shame.”
Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs.”
Seth Rogen and Will Reiser for “50/50.”

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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