Top Six Paul Thomas Anderson Movies

With just the creation of six films, Paul Thomas Anderson has solidified himself as one of the greatest directors in existence. If his career in filmmaking were to end right now it would still be one the most enigmatic, beautiful, poignant and spectacular careers that will have ever been crafted. I could watch any one of his six films at any time and be completely happy. He’s made six spectacular films, five of which I would consider masterpieces and that’s all there is to it. This is a list celebrating him and his illustrious career.

6. Hard Eight

It just amazes me that I’m putting Hard Eight last on my list. This is how you debut a career in filmmaking. Anderson regular, Philip Baker Hall, gives his career best performance as protagonist Sydney with John C. Reilly doing just as great as usual. It’s completely consistent of Anderson to have rich and incredibly-well written characters. You’ll find exactly those kind of characters in Hard Eight. I would expect nothing but a truly spectacular movie from Anderson and that’s exactly what my least favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie is.

5. Magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson was quoted as to saying that for better or worse Magnolia will probably be the best film he’ll ever make. Where as I hate to disagree with such a genius, I do. Magnolia is just as much of a masterpiece as my top three on this list, but I did have to decide on an order and this is where Magnolia falls for me. This examination of life and the oddities there in is nothing short of breathtaking. The film offers one of the greatest ensemble casts ever and it goes without saying, but the direction is outlandishly good. Magnolia simply proves that Anderson is a director without boundaries.

4. Boogie Nights

With Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson offers a movie that is as character-driven and riveting as Raging Bull, almost as epic as Apocalypse Now and as fun as your average Quentin Tarantino movie. That’s quite a feat on its own, but when you add the fact that it’s a film tracking the rise and fall of the porn industry between the 70s and 80s, the idea of it is rather ridiculous. Boogie Nights tells a timeless tale and does so with unrelenting gusto. It’s hard not to be seduced by the world that Anderson has laid out in front of you and once I was consumed by it, I was left speechless right up until the credits rolled. Boogie Nights is an extravaganza of the things that make for a truly classic film and the best way to describe the experience is unforgettable.

3. Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love offers up one of the greatest cinematic love stories ever told and one as only Paul Thomas Anderson could tell. It definitely does not need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways; this is by far Adam Sandler’s best performance and none of his movies even come close to being as fantastic. Punch-Drunk Love tells such a beautiful story of contempt and the defying ability of love, that the idea of  artful direction could fall as a moot point. Instead Paul Thomas Anderson takes the beautiful story he’s crafted for himself and creates the masterpiece that it truthfully deserved to be. Punch-Drunk Love usually falls by the wayside and is eclipsed by his other films, but I love the film and I always will.

2. The Master

The Master tells the tale of a confused and troubled man, a drifter, who’s looking for his way after World War II. The drama ensues with a chance meeting with Lancaster Dodd. That is his name, but it becomes apparent that the title more often used to refer to Dodd is “Master”. He is an enigmatic man, he’s likable, he’s articulate, and there’s a sense of power to him. He is the master of his own religious movement. However, this eloquent tale deals with a lot broader themes than just religion.

The Master is a masterpiece. It’s Anderson’s sixth and latest film and at this point it’s as if I can expect nothing less than a masterpiece from this brilliant artist. The always spectacular Joaquin Phoenix gives his career best performance as Freddie Quell, while Lancaster Dodd is also portrayed flawlessly by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film centers around the relationship of these two characters. One is a leader and one is a follower and the two characters are utilized to tell a chilling and beautiful tale of obedience and control.

1. There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson is a master of his craft and one of my favorite directors working today, but it’s with There Will Be Blood where he proves himself to be one the greatest directors of all time. Some may call Punch-Drunk Love his best and I could see a lot (or most) of people calling either Boogie Nights or Magnolia his best. No matter how much I love Anderson’s other masterpieces, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would call There Will Be Blood his best film.

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus you’ll find the greatest character study ever put on film. The word ruthless was never as evident than when the character Daniel Plainview was on screen (which was practically the entirety of the film). He’s conniving, cruel, vindictive, monstrous, and he’s the protagonist. Daniel Plainview is a character so gloriously layered and so distinctively dissected that only a truly masterful performance would have sufficed. Daniel Day-Lewis offers that and more in one of the greatest performances in the history of film.

There Will Be Blood is extraordinary in every sense of the word. It is the most flawless film in Anderson’s career of spectacular movies. Every detail is meticulously slaved over and what results is a film that is gorgeous in its scope and a masterpiece that showcases film as the art form it is. There Will Be Blood is above all else, a perfect movie that serves as a testament to the true prowess of its creator.

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Top Ten Gangster Movies

There will also be a special place in my heart for the Gangster genre because it was films like Goodfellas and The Godfather (among other movies on this list, but I don’t want to give the whole thing away) that in all honesty got me into the art of film in general. When done right a good gangster movie is filled with rich and vibrant characters, stories and pieces of dialogue. This is my list of the best Gangster movies I’ve ever had the honor to watch.

Before getting into this, I’d like to clarify what I mean by Gangster movie. I considered any movie that involves gangsters driving the central drama of the film. That means I could use movies that didn’t necessarily star gangsters as the protagonists. For the list, I could use movies like The Untouchables and The Usual Suspects because even though the main characters weren’t mobsters, there would be no drama with out them. I could however not use a movie like The Dark Knight because even though gangsters play a part, they most certainly do not propel the plot of the film. Well, here we go…

10. The Untouchables

There were a lot of movies battling for this tenth spot; Miller’s Crossing almost made it, as did Gangs of New York and if I had an eleventh slot on this list it would be the complex drug drama, Layer Cake. It ended up being The Untouchables if only for how gratifyingly fun the movie can be from beginning to end. Robert De Niro is fantastic as the antagonist, but what makes this one of my favorite gangster movies is Sean Connery as Malone.

9. True Romance

True Romance is a beautiful love story as only Quentin Tarantino could write it. It’s filled with violence, course language, drugs, tense scenes (particularly one of my favorites in film including Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken), but at it’s heart it is a full fledged love story. It was unfortunately not directed by the man himself, but his brilliant writing is all there making True Romance undoubtedly one of the most incredible stories of crime ever told.

8. RockNRolla

Other than the sequel to Sherlock Holmes, I’ve loved every movie Guy Ritchie has ever made. It goes without saying that Snatch is just an awesome movie, while Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is even better, but for  me my favorite will always be RockNRolla. It has all the fast-paced direction and zest of any other Guy Ritchie movie, but with the added bonus of the greatest and most compelling characters Guy Ritchie has ever created.

7. A Prophet

A Prophet is simply a magnificent film that never fails to captivate. What sets A Prophet above most other crime dramas is a sense of brutality and realism. A Prophet is unbelievably epic and from beginning to end, it never fails to leave you speechless from scene to scene. And it’s not just the tense violence the director never fears or fails to utilize, but also the tense and dramatic scenes that propels the beautiful plot of a man raising through the ranks in a crime-driven French prison.

6. The Usual Suspects

I don’t think much needs to be said about The Usual Suspects and that right there is a testament to how truly spectacular of film it is. The writing is unbelievably intelligent and never spoon feeds you. While The Usual Suspects is an enjoyable and fascinating tale of thieves and criminal masterminds, it is also an enthralling mystery. It’s the kind of film you have to pay attention to. You have to take the time to examine every detail and by the end, what you find is simply an incredible film.

5. Goodfellas

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors who ever lived and Goodfellas is just one of the many films that showcase his prowess. Goodfellas is a masterpiece through and through and while never failing to be completely entertaining, it tells a tremendous tale that envelops everything you’d ever want to know about a life of crime. Ray Liotta is fantastic, Robert De Niro is just as amazing as ever and Joe Pesci gives an Oscar-worthy performance. It’s Scorsese that deserves the most praise for directing such an amazing movie.

4. The Godfather (Part I+II)

I’ve always had a constant argument with myself as to what I loved more the first two Godfather films or Goodfellas. It wasn’t until just recently when I realized that I have to give it to The Godfather (Part I+II) if only  for its beautifully epic tale of not only crime, but also family, loyalty and change. Francis Ford Coppola, with the first two Godfathers, creates one of the greatest movies of all time. It would be an absolute sin not to put The Godfather (Part I+II) on a list of my favorite gangster movies in existence. I mean, it’s The Godfather!

3. Drive

There was a dilemma for me on whether or not I should put Drive on this list. Yes, Drive is so much more than a gangster movie, but without the involvement of organized crime the film would have nothing to drive the plot or our protagonist to do the things he does. Drive is, to put it as plainly as possible, extraordinary.It’s the retro feel, it’s the tremendous music, it’s the stylized violence, it’s the minimized dialogue, it’s the spellbinding direction that takes its time  to tell its story, and it’s the way that regardless of how much tension, action and blood is in the movie, it never fails to have a pleasant moment of realistic affection. Drive is a profound film in its flawless creation and its relentless entertainment.

2. The Departed

It’s practically unbelievable that Martin Scorsese has made as many masterpieces as he has. He made the raw and rugged Raging Bull, he made the grotesque and hellish Taxi Driver and he even made another entry on this list, Goodfellas, but The Departed is Scorsese’s magnum opus. There are a lot of different opinions as to what Scorsese’s best movies are and that’s understandable, but for me it’s The Departed and I seriously doubt that will ever change. Scorsese holds nothing back, he pulls all the punches and the result is something miraculous. The Departed tells a fantastic intertwining tale of cops, criminals and grit. It is and forever will be a masterpiece.

1. Pulp Fiction

Take what may be the greatest writing in cinematic history, a handful of characters that individually could have their own movies centered around them, the direction of a mastermind, some of the stories that inspired said mastermind to make movies in general and then throw in that magical twist that Tarantino adds to all of his films and what you get is the greatest gangster film in existence. Pulp Fiction is and will always be one of my favorite movies that will ever be created.

What Pulp Fiction offers isn’t just beautiful, but refreshingly original. And this originality isn’t in the case of the stories that are being intertwined, the film is original in the way that the stories are told and the characters that are being followed. In Pulp Fiction, what you get are days in the lives of the kind of low-lives you wouldn’t expect to see as protagonists whether they be a pair of talky hit men, the wife of a crime boss, a low-rent boxer or even a couple whose hobby is robbing restaurants and liquor stores.

With Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino taps into a the vein that is the gangster genre to make something truly extraordinary. Pulp Fiction offers an experience that is nothing short of breathtaking from start to finish. Every single aspect of Tarantino’s crime masterpiece is not only a gorgeous piece of art, but it’s also a consistently entertaining piece of pulp. It is one of the greatest movies ever made and nothing short of the greatest gangster movie of all time.

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Top Ten Movie Antiheroes

This will honestly end up being one of the most fun lists I’ll ever get to make. Antiheroes make for some of the best movie characters ever, plain and simple. It was some what of a blast to look back over all the movies I love and realize just how interesting some of the characters are. It was intriguing to look through movies and actually decide for myself whether a character is an antihero. This is a list my favorite protagonists in film that don’t fit the definition of you’re average hero.

I want to be clear though and say that not all of the characters on this list can be considered “bad”. An antihero doesn’t have to be evil, the character just can’t fit the bill of hero. While this was one of the most gratifying lists I’ve ever made, it was also one of the more difficult ones. There were, in fact, a few that just didn’t make the cut and I’d like to mention them. I almost had Antonio Saleri on the list, but he didn’t end up making it. Also, I juggled the idea of putting the scheming Jack Sparrow and the careless Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, but I unfortunately had no room for them. If I were to have an eleventh I would have to say Mark Zuckerberg because I just loved what Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher did with that character. I had to mention those honorably, but now let’s get into the actual list.

10. Charles Bronson (Bronson)

I am actually some what depressed that I was only able to give Michael “Charlie Bronson” Peterson the tenth slot in my list, but I unfortunately didn’t have the heart to make anyone lower. Tom Hardy gives a performance that other actors can only dream of giving as main character, Bronson. The character is dark, brutal, deranged and morbid, but not with out a sense of comedy from time to time.

9. Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange)

Many might be surprised to find Alex DeLarge this low on a list of antiheroes. Where as, yes, Alex DeLarge can easily be considered the most evil of the characters on this list, I would not consider him my favorite antihero. This list, however, would not feel complete with out him. This is a character that could’ve easily been the antagonist of a movie. Instead, A Clockwork Orange examines a character filled with apathy and malevolence.

8. Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)

This is another selection I’m sure most would be disappointed in, not because its on the list, but because it wouldn’t be surprising to see Travis Bickle in the #1 slot. I love Taxi Driver and Travis Bickle is an amazing character, but I had to decide on an order. Robert De Niro puts his all into his work and when he’s given a character as enthralling as Bickle, it’s hard to imagine that anything would go wrong and nothing did. Travis Bickle is an awesome antihero.

7. Mark Renton (Trainspotting)

Trainspotting is a grim, yet beautiful mosaic of life itself pieced together through the adventures of misfits. There are highs, there are lows and at the heart of the masterpiece is the development and study of protagonist, Mark Renton. Like most of his mates, Mark Renton is a junky. He is defined, at first, by his opening monologue, “I chose not to choose life. I chose something else and the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroine?” He may be getting off the stuff, he may be relapsing and he may be shooting a dog so it’ll attack its owner, but he’s always an awesome antihero.

6. Michael Corleone (The Godfather Part I+II)

Whether I’m discussing his dark character arc in The Godfather or Al Pacino’s masterful performance in The Godfather Part II, I’m still discussing one of the of the greatest characters in cinema and one hell of an antihero. Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone was a performance that could make one speechless, but for me it’s a performance that doesn’t even compare to what Pacino did with by far the best character in the story. It takes two movies, but Michael Corleone’s transformation from the most decent Corleone into the most despicable is nothing short of extraordinary.

5. Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Yes, I was just introduced to this character for the first time last year, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with every aspect that makes up Lisbeth Salander and there was never any hesitation as to whether I’d put her on this list. The titular girl with the dragon tattoo is relentlessly mesmerizing. She’s dark, she’s layered, she’s damaged, she’s desensitized, she can be brutal, she can be lovable, she can be kind, she can be insane and she is, as described in her first scene, “different”. Some may argue that Lisbeth isn’t an antihero, but I don’t think its in the repertoire of your average hero to set your father on fire or shove a metal rod into a man’s ass. She’s an antihero and one of the best.

4. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)

He is one of a handful of main characters in one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever created. He also happens to be the most compelling character of the film and the greatest antihero in a film full of great antiheroes. The well-spoken hit man, Jules Winnfield, is my favorite aspect of one of my favorite films and to keep him off this list would be a sin. The character of Jules is as enthralling as he is enjoyable. It’s a blast watching the way he works to interrogate his victims before blasting away and then later, it’s inspirational to watch his character arc come to fruition in one of my favorite scenes in film. Winnfield is unarguably one of the greatest antiheroes in film.

3. William Munny (Unforgiven)

“I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawls at sometime or another.” Through honesty, this is a quote that serves as a reminder of who we’ve been watching throughout the film, Unforgiven. This is the same character who never previously failed to attempt to convince himself and the people around him that he “ain’t like that no more”. William is the most honest, monogamous, and decent character in the film, yet by the end it’s realized he can also be considered the most cruel and despicable.

Unforgiven is the greatest western in existence and it has a lot to offer story-wise and thematically. It manages this through the study of a man thrust into a world of lust, violence and lawlessness. William Munny describes his character and the themes of the film with a single, simplistic line, “We all have it comin’, kid.” Unforgiven will always and forever be one of my favorite movies and it would be nothing with out its profound protagonist.

2. Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)

It was unbearably difficult to make this list and one the most difficult aspects of its creation came from having to place Daniel Plainview in this slot when he could’ve easily been considered my favorite antihero in existence, but after much consideration I placed him here. There Will Be Blood offers up the greatest character study in film. It’s not only the greatest because it’s a flawlessly made film and the study of Plainview never fails to keep your interest, but also because, through beautiful writing and one of the greatest performances in all of film, in Daniel Plainview you find one of the most fascinating characters ever.

No other film, not Refn’s Bronson, not Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, not even Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, examines a character so mind-numbngly deranged and despicable and does so with so much flair. Paul Thomas Anderson is a master director, but it took a mix of him and the greatest actor of all time to create the monster that is Daniel Plainview. What can be said? The greed and hatred of Daniel Plainview is something you have to experience for yourself because like most masterpieces it’ll mean something different than what it meant for me.

1. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Fight Club is simply one of my favorite films. That’s all there is to it and that’ll never change. Every ounce of me is madly in love with every minute detail that makes up the masterpiece that is Fight Club. What comes with a love for the film, Fight Club, is an unconditional love for the character, Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is one of my favorite cinematic characters in existence and he’s my favorite antihero in film.

Fight Club offers up a portrait of a generation that has “no great war or great depression”. This is a generation with nothing to be remembered for and once this realization comes to fruition the angst, anger and anarchy is driven by one man. He’s the epitome of cool, he knows what to say and when to say it and you listen because you know he’s right (“in Tyler we trusted”), he lets that which does not matter truly slide and he’s everything you wish you could be.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” It’s constant words of wisdom like this that make Tyler Durden the leader that is understandably followed and one of the most spectacular characters in film. There’s a lot to the idea of Tyler Durden and he’s something of a wonder that would take a while to establish, but what puts him at the top of my list is the epiphany by the end that there’s a Tyler Durden in all of us and that’s a fact that can’t be ignored. This very idea encapsulates why antiheroes are so fascinating. They aren’t usually black and white, antiheroes are the greys in between and Tyler Durden is the greatest in film.

Top Ten Movie Gun Fights

Bullets, hand guns, shotguns, machine guns, snipers, shootouts, showdowns and more bullets: add these things in film and what you get are sometimes the best action scenes ever created. Whether the battle involves many people or just two, this is my list of my favorite gun fights in film. I found when making this list that, while a lot gun fights are extremely entertaining, there are many films that used violence and gun fights to emphasize or establish the morals of the story at hand. I like to think I found a good balance between the entertaining gun fights and the powerful ones when I made this list.

10. The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Of the gun fights on this list, this one is the least meaningful for me. I just couldn’t help putting it on this list because it’s so insanely fun. Even more fantastic than the showdown at the end that pays homage to Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the ridiculous bullet fest through the desert that leads to the climax. The music and the added bonus of it being a chase scene makes it unforgettable.

9. Hot Fuzz

In a brilliant attempt to satirize buddy cop films and action movies in general, Hot Fuzz ends up having one of the greatest action scenes ever filmed in it’s finale. Throughout the film, laughs are had, blood is splattered and the idea that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies is established. Then that idea is turned on its head and Hot Fuzz becomes a balls-to-the-wall shootout.

8. The Matrix

I don’t think anything really needs to be said here. I can’t think of the idea of gun fights in cinema with out thinking of the lobby shootout in The Matrix. It was probably the first truly great movie gun fight I ever saw and I love it still. I’ve always had an attachment to The Matrix as movie. I will watch it any time I get the chance and enjoy it every time. The lobby shootout is just one of the many reasons the film is awesome.

7. Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is a Martin Scorsese masterpiece that is brilliantly punctuated by a bullet-filled and blood-soaked gun fight. Taxi Driver is one of the greatest character studies ever created. Travis Bickle is an incredibly dark and layered character and the examination of this complex character and the hell that surrounds him eventually leads to his baring arms and one of the most disturbing and yet glorious gun fights ever filmed.

6. L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential is simply an incredible movie all around filled with rich characters and memorable moments. The most memorable of which is the end of the film and the shootout that takes place. The greatest moment in L.A. Confidential though is the end of the shootout where Dudley says “Hold up your badge, so they know you’re a policeman.” Then protagonist Edmund Exley does the most honorable thing he’s done in the entire film.

5. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is brutal, it’s honest, it’s epic, it’s inspiring and it’s one of the greatest war movies ever created. The D-Day scene in the beginning is nothing short of perfect, however my favorite sequence in the film and the one that makes my list is the finale. While exemplifying the idea that war is hell, Saving Private Ryan manages to tell an excellent story of honor and duty. This story reaches it’s peak when it’s realized what our protagonists will do to actually save Private Ryan.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the most phenomenally epic westerns ever created and one I would easily call the greatest western ever made had it not been for the creation of a couple other masterpieces. Some might say the best scene in the film is the tense opening scene, which is amazing, but for me the greatest scene of the film is the showdown between protagonist “Harmonica”  and antagonist Frank. Truthfully, the scene speaks for itself.

3. Inglourious Basterds

It is simply common knowledge at this point that Quentin Tarantino loves cinema and always shows his love for his favorite movies in the movies that he makes. Inglourious Basterds drew many allusions from the films of Sergio Leone and like a great Sergio Leone movie Inglourious Basterds has one hell of a showdown. In the La Louisiane  scene, Quentin Tarantino crafts an extraordinary gun fight by building tension not with the music, editing and cinematography that Sergio Leone would use, but with dialogue. Then he ends his showdown in an instant, not with a single bullet, but with a quick and bloody shootout.

2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This is it. This is the showdown that epitomizes the idea of showdown and there was never a doubt in my mind that it would be right here as my second favorite gun fight in film. No film on this list is as beautifully epic as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s a dramatic, fun and enthralling adventure through the west and it all culminates into one of the greatest gun fights in film.

It’s almost indescribable how incredible this scene actually is. The film was already amazing, but it’s this showdown that makes it a masterpiece. We get to know these characters throughout this adventure and when the inevitable occurs, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. The dialogue is had, the music swells, the characters move and stare strategically, the shots change spastically and BAM!

1. Unforgiven

Unforgiven is the western masterpiece. It’s Clint Eastwood’s best film, it’s the greatest western in existence and it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. Unforgiven tells a simple tale of a ruthless murderer who has long since retired but ends up taking one last job. Unforgiven shows the violent west for what it is and establishes profound ideas of violence and what makes us who we are. What you find in the finale of Unforgiven isn’t just the greatest gun fight, but also one of the greatest scenes in film.

Little Bill Dagget makes for a deliciously ruthless antagonist where as William Munny is simply one of the greatest characters in film. When Little Bill Dagget and the well-known and feared William Munny finally meet what results is with out a doubt one of the most flawless pieces of filmmaking ever. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with as much dignity as he has left and what Munny replies with a cock of his gun and a simple, powerful, and shameful “yeah”. Unforgiven offers a lot of things one which is the greatest gun fight cinematic history.

 

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Top Ten Movies of 2011

I love movies. I love the art of film more than any other art form and I love discussing this art form. That’s why I spend time reviewing and discussing movies on this site. What I love more than reviewing though is making top ten lists. Don’t get me wrong, I love reviewing movies, but it is so fun to- from time to time- not just establish why I liked or disliked a film, but to also discuss a film within the context of other films. I haven’t posted a top ten list in a while (Top Ten Horror Movies) because I’ve been preparing for this list.

I look forward to posting a top ten list every year that allows me to discuss my favorite films of that year. I will say that this was a pretty lackluster year. It felt like a year in film where my favorite directors weren’t working. And that’s completely true; the Coen Brothers didn’t make a film this year for the first time in four years, Tarantino’s western, Django Unchained, is coming in 2012 as is my most anticipated movie of 2012, Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. However, like any year no matter how underwhelming it was, 2011 still offered a handful of films that I could not live with out. This is a list celebrating those films…

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was not the masterpiece that I had hoped for. I can’t ignore the fact that I did get a lot of enjoyment out of this film though. This is a tale of espionage that needed to be told and what you get in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, instead of relentless action is a bleak and enthralling examination of loyalty, betrayal and what a man will do to carry out his duty.

9. Hesher

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is simply brilliant as the title character. This is dark comedy filled with anarchy, vulgarity and rage. Hesher is able to stand above a lot of black comedies and its of my favorite films of the year for one reason, it has a lot of heart. Initially, it can be ones first reaction to be as apathetic as the title character, but by the end you can’t help but care about these characters.

8. Moneyball

It’s rare for me to find a sports movie that really loved, but Moneyball is one of those exceptions. This film certainly didn’t affect as much as almost every other film on this list. Nevertheless, Moneyball is such a fantastic film all around that it was hard for me not to put it even higher on my list. Also, there was a lot of drama in this story for me because I- unlike most- had no idea how the events would play out.

7. 50/50

50/50 is quite the memorable film. It’s easy to remember if only for the way it mixes hilarious comedy with tear jerking drama. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives his best performance in a career of great performances. 50/50 offers up a completely unforgettable experience that’s more than comedy or drama that can make you laugh at times and cry at others. It’s a film I can’t wait to watch again because it is simply and unquestionably amazing.

6. Attack the Block

If you would’ve asked me five months ago what my favorite movie of the year was I would’ve said with out a doubt in my mind, Attack the Block. It just misses my top 5 because this year offered most of its glory in its final months. Attack the Block, unlike most films with similar subject matter, takes itself completely seriously. Instead of just throwing aliens in the mix, Attack the Block has a coherent and interesting plot. Joe Cornish’s first film is spectacular.

5. Shame

With Shame, director Steve McQueen looks at ideas of addiction, family and self-hatred through the unbelievably mature character study of a sex-addict. Michael Fassbender gives the greatest male performance of the year as main character, Brandon Sullivan. Shame takes the glamourous world of sex and shows exactly what it can be. Without hesitation, this is the most emotionally draining film I’ve seen in a very long time and I loved every single powerful minute of it.

4. Bellflower

Bellflower is a film that left me absolutely speechless. It was a film that stuck with me long after I watched it and the more I think about it, the more I find it extraordinary. The story is unique, fascinating and one meant to be savored, the interactions in this film are deliciously and incredibly palpable, the imagery can be beautiful and at other times be haunting, but  most of the time the film manages to blend the two together. That’s what happens when you mix ideas of apocalypse and love. There is a lot to take in when it comes to the film Bellflower and it’s truthfully something to experience for yourself.

3. Beginners

Beginners is a completely charming film about the moments and people that make life worth living. At its heart Beginners is a love story, but the drama isn’t in whether or not this man and woman will fall in love, it’s in whether or not these two can actually take a leap of faith and believe in love. Past the love story, Beginners has so much more to offer. This is an unbelievably breathtaking film about who we are and what makes us that way. While Beginners is incredibly meaningful, the filmmaking is gorgeous and the acting is flawless. All this to say, Beginners is and always will be a one of kind masterpiece.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is an amazing director and my favorite to have made a film this year. Practically everything he makes is a masterpiece and yes, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is just that. Fincher is able to shine bright with dark tales of killers (SE7EN, Zodiac), but he is able to even surpass those two brilliant films with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo merely because there is more emotion and subsequently an attachment to the characters at hand.

Rooney Mara gives the greatest performance of the year, hands down, as title character Lisbeth Salander. Salander is damaged, she’s strong, she’s dark, she’s layered, yet she has a soul and Mara plays the character to perfection. There are so many pieces to this story, aside from just Salander, and Fincher manages to blend these pieces together to make for a relentlessly beautiful cinematic experience that never fails to keep you invested and entertained.

1. Drive

Drive is profound film the offers up the definition to the word, masterpiece. When it comes to film, a masterpiece should be a piece of art because cinema is a beautiful art form and one that needs films like Drive to serve as a reminder of that fact. It’s not enough to just be technically beautiful though, a true masterpiece needs to be entertaining. A true masterpiece needs offer a form of escape because at the end of the day, that is the point of film. Drive is truly a masterpiece and the best film of 2011.

Drive proves that the way one tells a story is just as important as the story itself. From a filmmaking stand point, director Nicolas Winding Refn has made a perfect film. Both the mood and tone of the film are defined and never tarnished, each moment is made memorable through elegant editing and cinematography, the music is phenomenal, the violence is grotesque and somehow fitting, but what’s truly breathtaking is in the way the film seamlessly flows from one mesmerizing moment to the next.

I won’t even mention a single performance because it would be an insult to mention one performance without mentioning every single fantastic performance in this film. Drive has the ability to be so much. It can be thrilling, it can be heart felt, it can be tense, it can be inspiring, it can be dramatic, it can be frightening, it can be glorious, it can be gorgeous, but what it never stops being most of all is riveting. Drive is a masterpiece that flawlessly blends substance and style and resonates with the ideas of exactly why we go to the movies.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, for me, was one of those classic examples of a film not reaching the ridiculous expectations you had set for it. From the brilliant casting to the interesting story set in the back drop of what looked to be a very well established period, I was just looking forward to this movie being a masterpiece. What I got instead was a great film. Unfortunately, what I realized but the end was that I wanted to like this film more than I actually did.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follows the story of retired British Intelligence spy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman). Smiley has just been recruited to find a mole that is “right at the top of the circus”. The russians had placed the mole years ago and George Smiley is in a very special position as he can look for the traitor outside the boundaries of being a known British Intelligence spy. After the slightly overlong exposition of the film, Tinker Tailor becomes a tense game of chess between Smiley and the unknown mole that results in an intriquing story that examines ideas of loyalty, duty and betrayal.

The overall tale of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was completely fascinating as I truthfully wanted to know where this tale of spies would go. Unfortunately, the film was, particularly in the beginning, incredibly slow at times and that wasn’t a huge problem because a majority of these moments were extremely fitting, yet there were times were I simply wasn’t gripped and my attention wasn’t kept. Then, there were other times that could be looked at as slow, but kept me on the edge of my seat and if the film had been more constant about grabbing my attention it unquestionably would’ve been the masterpiece I wanted it to be.

This was certainly a film that didn’t spoon feed you information so that you can follow the story and I loved that about this film. Though, I won’t sit here, lie, and say that I caught every single minute detail of this film because I didn’t. With all the names and the British Intelligence lingo, it was easy to get slightly lost. I will say that the film never failed to bring you back on track, but it’s because of all the information being tossed around that I couldn’t always decipher and enjoy every moment.

That being said, by the end of it all, I actually loved this movie. Sure, I had to spend some time catching up on what was happening and at times I found myself not being fully attentive. By the end though, practically everything made sense. In this slower tale of cat-and-mouse whereas yes I was not always captivated, most of the time I was and that was mainly because of amazing performances and top-notch direction.

The cast in general was just phenomenal There were three performances that stuck out for me though. Mark Strong has done a great job in everything I’ve seen him in and the same goes for his performance here. Tom Hardy played a supporting character here, but when he was on screen his performance was subdued and yet I was completely invested in everything he was doing. The real praise belongs to Gary Oldman as the protagonist whose brilliant subtleties make for nothing short of one of the best performances he’s ever given.

Tomas Alfredson has done something really special here. The film is simply beautiful in the tone and period it sets up. This is a taut and at times tension-filled tale of realistic espionage. This isn’t James Bond shooting a missile from the license plate of his expensive car or Ethan Hunt climbing a skyscraper, these are spies spying and for the most part Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is every bit as enjoyable.

Grade: A-