A very dark film about a very tough subject, Shame features some of the best acting of the year. Director Steve McQueen does an excellent job of letting Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender explore the studio space with his excellently shot long takes.
Nostalgia was one of the major themes in 2011, Hugo, The Artist, Super 8, and The Muppets all carried the banner for the "Hey, things used to be awesome!" crowd. But in The Muppets case they remained awesome. This probably isn't a film for folks who didn't grow up with The Muppets, but I'm okay with that. I grew up with The Muppets.
Forgotten, derided, extinguished. That's what happened to Anonymous, and all because it presented a crackpot conspiracy theory. And yet, on the merits of storytelling, this was a very fun watch.
Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen's love letter to Paris, and it's a beaut.
Hilarious and biting satire, a lost art in our Christopher Guest-less times.
Toes the line between buddy comedy and relationship drama with verve.
The Top Ten Films of 2011
10. We Need to Talk About Kevin
The best use of color this year, Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly present the portrait of a nightmare. Where does evil come from? Where does parenting go wrong? We Need to Talk About Kevin is intensely brave in attempting to provide an answer to these questions.
9. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Technically, plenty of people saw this at 2010 film festivals, but it finally received a limited theatrical release in 2011. Reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead, this is a film that turns both the comedy and horror genres on their head. Some of the biggest laughs of this year can be found here.
8. Attack the Block
Every year a few films tackle alien invasions, but very few do it as stylishly as Attack the Block. Riddled with comedy, action, and new acting talent, this is a movie that demands a home video watch.
This director built his own camera to achieve his eye-popping visuals. That's ambition, and Bellflower is the most ambitious film of the year.
6. The Artist
There's much to love here, big broad acting, dance numbers, and the loving embrace of a bygone era. Oh, and a cute dog thrown in for good measure!
5. Ides of March
As relevant a commentary on our current political climate as you're going to find. If you ever wonder exactly how people lose their faith in leadership look no further.
4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A jarring watch, this one has the potential to gut you. But the layers of emotion are earned, the acting is excellent, and the story had to have been massively difficult to pull off. As such, I tip my cap.
3. The Descendants
Grief can be difficult to approach without melodrama, but writer/director Alexander Payne delivers a lovely film here. George Clooney and newcomer Shailene Woodley feature as complex a father-daughter relationship as you'll find in cinema, it's all at once funny, sad, innovative, and thought provoking.
2. Like Crazy
Romantic and intimately shot heartache, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones show the joy and brutality of young love. The most authentic look at a long distance relationship you'll ever see.
A different kind of homage, one that somehow changes the modern cinemascape as well. This isn't an action film, but it is an extremely tense experience. Ryan Gosling does everything almost effortlessly, and Drive is a quiet film punctuated by vicious moments of brutality. There's a scene in an elevator that's the best of the year, which makes perfect sense, given where I've ranked the film. A must watch for anyone who loves great acting and solid pacing.