Friday, 23 December 2011

In My Opinion: The Best Films of 2011 (Numbers 15 to 10)

The end of every year holds a number of movie highlights. Awards season heats up, many of the big contenders make their way into theatres, marketing for the next year's heavyweights gets underway and, of course, every person who has something to say about movies publishes a top 10 (or 5, 15 or 20, whatever) list. These lists are not restricted to movies of course: they include absolutely everything from trailers to posters to scenes (including separate lists for sex scenes and death scenes) to shots to memorable moments to stories to memes to comedic characters. Now that I have a blog of my own, I get to do these lists too. So far this week I've posted the best of my two main movie loves for this year: trailers and posters. Now, hit the jump to see my idea of the best 15 films of 2011...

Release Date Dilemmas

Before I write anything, I should point out a little release date dilemma which seriously complicates the creation of a list of best movies for the year. Because many films are released later in South Africa, I only get to see them in the year following their release. This unfortunate situation applies even more to the best films, which are often released toward the end of each year (therefore inevitably only hitting SA theatres in January or February of the following year).  That means that my best of 2011 list would be topped by a movie actually released in 2010. Nobody wants to read an outdated list, so what I've done is a top 15 list based on films released this year, but then also a list including last year's releases. However, multiple lists still don't solve the problem, as many of my most anticipated films of 2011 are yet to be seen, including Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Hugo, The Descendants, Like Crazy, The Artist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Keep the above qualification in mind when checking out my list below. Although it is not likely to change my top few entries, being able to see those movies will definitely change the general list quite substantially. It also explains why my current list indicates that 2011 was not a great year in cinema when compared to 2010. Either way, I saw some awesome movies this year. Here are number 15-10 of my top 15...

My Favourite 15 Films of 2011 (Films Released This Year Only)

Like Drive, Hanna is the prime example of an art house action movie. Having previously directed art house favourites such as Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, Joe Wright took the genre shift in his stride and did an awesome job with this strange tale of revenge and genetic manipulation. Beautiful shot composition, another powerhouse performance from Saoirse Ronan and the pumping soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers make this a well deserved number 15. Hopefully it's early release date won't mean this gem of a film is forgotten this year.

You will see ROTPOTA on many best of lists this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if every single blurb mentions that this film is the biggest surprise of 2011. Even before its release, many wrote it off as a crappy prequel to the even crappier Tim Burton directed Planet of the Apes. However, director Rupert Wyatt, the technical wizards at WETA Digital (the company responsible for the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Avatar) and master of performance capture Andy Serkis made this one of the best reviewed blockbusters of 2011. And then there is the Why Cookie Rocket meme.

X-Men: First Class cemented Michael Fassbender as my favourite actor right now: his performance as the young Magneto was nothing short of astounding. As expected, director Matthew Vaughan followed up his terrific Kick-Ass with probably the best X-Men movie of the lot. Kudos should also go to the rest of the cast, as well as to the crew for making this the fastest produced tent pole movie ever, and a damn good one at that.

Ah, Melanie Laurent. The girl who can make any film watchable. Put her in a good movie, and it becomes just so much better. Beginners is one of a number of great indie films released in 2011. Always quirky but never overdoing it, this film made me feel good inside. Sometimes that is all you need.

Bennett Miller's Moneyball hit a home run with critics and audiences alike this year, and for that reason it all but guaranteed Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Not only that, but Jonah Hill may be in with a shot at a Best Supporting Actor nomination (he cracked a Golden Globe nod), Steve Zaillan and Aaron Sorkin might be looking at another Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar each, and Brad Pitt could just be the Best Actor front runner at this stage. I couldn't agree more with the praise that's been heaped on The Social Network of Baseball, and Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill doing their best work to Sorkin and Zaillan dialogue makes for entertaining cinema, whether you like baseball or not.

Although the two films are quite different, The Ides of March fills the same mould as Moneyball: a slick but realistic dialogue driven film with powerful performances aimed at sophisticated audiences. I find it very difficult to separate these two films, but The Ides of March pips Moneyball to the post because, well, it made me sweat a little more.

That's it for now. I need to walk the dog. The top 10 is coming in the next day or so.

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