Best Films of 2011

While it does get harder and harder to see as many films in the theater as I once did, I do try and manage more than a handful (and having your buddy working for IFC films doesn’t hurt either).  That said, the top 4 films could have finished in any order but as of this moment this is how I would rank them.  And while I didn’t see too many of the blockbusters or Oscar friendly films, I promise you, rent these and you will be pleasantly surprised.  Here they are…

1)   Weekend- Andrew Haigh

What starts out as a one night stand between Russell and Glen turns into a weekend of something more.  Something special.  Romantic without the romance, this encounter will resonate with each of the men their whole lives.  And watching it you’ll see yourself in one of them.  An outstanding film.

2)   The Tree of life- Terence Malick

Probably the most discussed and talked about film of the year and with good reason.  Love it or hate it this film will provoke discussion.  For me, it’s a spiritual film that didn’t belittle me or object me to the filmmaker’s beliefs.  I saw a gorgeous piece of filmmaking that is strikingly beautiful.  A film that will resonate with me for a long time.

3)   Win Win- Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy makes some of the best humanist films around.  His previous films (The Station Agent and The Visitor) were just that.  Stories about the human condition and those trying to survive in the world despite its unfairness.  He gets strong performance from his leads (Peter Dinklage in The Station Agent, Richard Jenkins in The Visitor) and now the always underrated Paul Giamatti in Win Win.  Giamatti plays a hapless father, husband, lawyer and coach of a winless high school wrestling team.  Read a more in-depth review if you like.  Just see this little seen film from an outstanding director.

4)   Midnight In Paris- Woody Allen

What is now Woody Allen’s most successful film in years is a good thing.  Owen Wilson plays the title character (and fills the role of Woody Allen perfectly) of a well to do white man (what else?) who is just a bit unhappy with his life and with his wife.  So what happens?  He falls in love with, Paris.  Perfectly told, perfectly acted and exquisitely shot.  Those of you as big a fan of Woody Allen as me can describe the film as this…Woody Allen’s best film since: Deconstructing Harry (says me); best film since: Match Point (though more in tone to Everyone Says I Love You (says Nick).  You can fill it out as you wish.

5)   Certified Copy- Abbas Kiarastomi

What I think would be a good companion to Weekend, Abbas Kiarastami’s ‘Certifed Copy’ is a beautifully told romance movie of 2 people trying and failing to get to know each other.  Second chances are always there.  From one of the world’s great filmmaker’s.

6)   Beginners- Mike Mills

A young graphic artist is hit by 2 announcements: one his father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and two is that his father is gay.  Through flashbacks you see his relationship with his father strengthen as his father is dying (played by the superb Christopher Plummer) and in real-time you see him meet, fall in love with, nearly destroy then fix a relationship with a young woman.  Brilliantly and inventively told the film is based on the real life of director Mike Mills (and his father).

7)   Moneyball- Bennett Miller

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name.  Bennett Miller has turned what I thought to be an unfilmable book into one of the most heartwarming and motivating story of the year.  Even viewers who don’t love baseball will love it.  A second great role for Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life).

8)   Kaboom- Gregg Araki

Now this is the Gregg Araki I love.  Little bit Nowhere, little bit Doom Generation.  Every bit classic Araki.  All is forgiven after that piece of crap, Smiley Face.

9)   Cave Of Forgotten Dreams- Werner Herzog

Amazing, breathtaking, beautiful.  Tons of descriptions I could give you for this doc by Werner Herzog.

10)  The Muppets- James Bobin

We (the family and I) saw this just recently and I wanted to include.  Growing up as a kid in the 80’s I was a big Muppets fan.  I remember all the movies and the CBS (?) TV show.  This film was for the fans in all of us and hopefully for millions of those that weren’t.  Heartfelt and respectful, the filmmaker’s did an outstanding job bringing back one of the all time great franchises in movies.  Here’s hoping there’s sequel after sequel.