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 ┬ámost 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.

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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-