SPECIAL: The Best Movies of 2011

20. THE TREE OF LIFE

Did I like The Tree of Life? No, I did not. As I often stress, though, a healthy movie-watcher should be able to distinguish between liking/disliking a film and judging a film to be good/bad. I didn’t care for The Tree of Life, but there’s no denying its sheer brilliance. I haven’t seen a movie with such a bold visual style and such a deliberate pace since the heyday of Stanley Kubrick. It starts at the beginning of time, and covers the entire history of the universe to present day, zooming as far back out in scope as is absolutely possible to give a mind-boggling perspective. This is the only movie that includes the Big Bang, dinosaurs, a ‘50s nuclear family, and Brad Pitt.


19. BRIDESMAIDS

Many called this “the female Hangover,” but that’s a huge disservice to it. Funny is funny, regardless of whether a movie stars men, women, or both – and Bridesmaids is funny as hell. It’s not often that I have to watch a comedy a second time, because I was laughing so often and so loudly that I missed many of the jokes the first time, but that’s what happened with this ensemble comedy. (Extra props go to the much-applauded Melissa McCarthy, who gave the arguably the funniest performance since Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat.) As a pure comedy, there was nothing last year that came close.


18. HARRY POTTER AND THE
DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2

The final film in the decade-long Harry Potter saga was everything it needed to be and everything audiences wanted it to be. Taken as one story told over 20 hours of film, the final Harry Potter movie is all climax. It hits the ground running from the very first scene and provides the most epic finale of a series since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. After the first seven movies, the producers had earned everyone’s trust that they wouldn’t drop the ball with the last movie, but even so, it was a relief to see everything concluded practically perfectly. Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a monumental achievement and ensures this series will go down as one of the greatest in the history of film.


17. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.

Intelligent romantic comedies are rare. Much like good horror movies, good romantic comedies only come around once a year or so. The dreck that gets spun out the rest of the year under the label “romantic comedy” only makes it all the more refreshing when a great one come along. Partially, it’s because it’s become hip for romantic comedies to have multiple and intersecting storylines and to have a huge cast of recognizable faces – but for every Love, Actually that works there’s a Valentine’s Day, a He’s Just Not That Into You, and a New Year’s Eve that doesn’t. What made Love, Actually succeed are the same things the make Crazy, Stupid, Love. click: palpable chemistry, believable plot developments, likeable characters, appealing actors, and a lack of post-modern cynicism. In short, the best romantic comedies rise above the trappings that have stigmatized the term “romantic comedies”; Crazy, Stupid, Love. is one of those.


16. A DANGEROUS METHOD

A movie about psychoanalysts a hundred years ago doesn’t sound like it would be very riveting, but A Dangerous Method is fuelled by such hypnotizing dialogue and powerful performances, I actually found myself wishing I was in the movie, just to be a part of the characters’ conversations. A Dangerous Method covers the initial acquaintance and mutual respect between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as the devolution of their civil friendship into bitter rivalry. Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, and Keira Knightley all deserved Oscar nominations for this, as did the screenplay. While the movie does end too abruptly for its own good – no matter how I look at it, the film felt anticlimactic – the spell the actors and screenwriter cast held me the entire time.


ON THE NEXT PAGE: Spielberg, Sorkin, and Source Code…

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