even more so than my top ten tv shows of 2011 list, i feel very much incapable of coming up with a confident (inclusive) top ten movies of 2011 list. the reason being that i watch most of the critically acclaimed films between now and the oscars (february 26, 2012). therefore, i have not seen many of the films that appear on other top ten lists, such as 'the artist', 'the descendants', 'tinker tailer soldier spy', 'shame', etc.
i am confident that the top few movies on this list will appear on my revised list in february and the rest shall serve as a list of my honorable mentions. so here goes....
10. x-men: first class
great performances by james mcavoy and man-of-the-hour michael fassbender (shame, a dangerous method, both in 2011) and solid direction by matthew vaughn (kiss-ass).
9. super 8
jj abrams may have ripped off some classic films by producer, steven spielberg, but so what? no movie this year gave me the sense of excitement and adventure like i used to feel as a kid as much as super 8.
8. rise of the planet of the apes
james franco got top billing, but andy serkis (lord of the rings) was the real star as ceasar, the ape that would go on to enslave humanity (this should not be considered a spoiler; if so, you need to brush up on your american pop culture).
see my previous review of the film here. martin scorsese makes the movie he was born to make.
5. 13 assassins
though listed as a 2010 film, it wasn't released in the u.s. until 2011 so it qualifies. you can read my review here.
the film is driven by one of the best performances of the year by yoon jeong-hee, a famous korean actress, retired and living in paris since the mid-90s, until her comeback with this film. a reserved performance of a woman trying to view the world through a different lense as she struggles with alzheimer's and the discovery of a horrific crime committed by her grandson.
there are few film-makers that demand the level of respect that steven soderbergh does through his films. capable of making studio money-makers (ocean series), critically acclaimed films (traffic) and indie artsy projects (the girlfriend experience), soderbergh doesn't always satisfy everyone's expectations but you can't say he isn't willing to take risks. contagion succeeded in captivating me and scaring the shit out of me even if the narrative wasn't totally satisfying.
nicolas winding refn says he likes making visually stimulating movies. well, if that was his goal, i'd like to tell him....SUCCESS! ryan gosling (crazy, stupid, love; the ides of march) and albert brooks put on great performances... gosling as the essential strong and silent hero typically found in many westerns and brooks as the gangster villain. the camerawork was superb and the soundtrack really captured the spirit of the film. our collective vision of los angeles as a place of dreams served as a great backdrop for the film.
1. tree of life
terrence malick has directed only 5 films since 'badlands' in 1973. i've seen 4 of them and they've all been gorgeous examples of personal filmmaking though none have been as personal as tree of life. a semi-autobiographical film about a family growing up in texas in the 1950s set against the backdrop of the origins of the universe and life in general, i'm pretty sure i've never seen a film this ambitious. malick does a good job avoiding being pretentious with this film through his subtle and genuine appreciation of his subject matter. a cynical person will find many ways to mock this film, but if you recall, i've made a new year's resolution to be less cynical. in a very weak year in film, this is perhaps the only film on this list i will remember 20 years from now.