The 10 Best Films of 2011
By Kevin Finnerty
As we recover from the holidays, begin a brand new year and say goodbye to 2011, it’s time to look back at what many critics would call a lackluster year. Still, there were a few films that didn’t just make the grade – “worthy of price of admission” – but actually entertained and had the audience mesmerized in their seats. The following is a list of the Top 10 films that delivered the cinema magic that moviegoers are seeking when the lights go down and the film lights up the screen.
This film with its simple story of a silent movie star who refuses to adapt and try to become involved with sound pictures takes the audience back to a time when melodrama, overacting, and the audience having to read a few lines of dialogue to follow the plot was necessary to enjoy the movie going experience.
Beautifully filmed with wonderful cinematography, perfect costumes and a great musical score, The Artist captures a lost era and brings back to the big screen the magic of silent films.
9) Beginners – Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent
“Sex, life, feeling, nature, magic, love.” So says Ewan McGregor in perhaps what could be his best performance as a man completely thrown for a loop when his father, now well into his 70s, finally comes out of the closet and tells him that he’s gay. The romance between McGregor as a man still struggling with what true love really is and Laurent as a woman who’s ready for a real and true relationship is at the heart and core of the film, and not one scene between the two of them ever feels false. Christopher Plummer deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance as a man discovering and enjoying a whole new life while still dealing with the guilt he feels for the lies, deceit and hurt he’s caused both McGregor’s character and his deceased mother.
8 ) Winnie the Pooh – Starring: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, and John Cleese
“I can tell you’re going to be awfully feisty today,” says Winnie the Pooh in the animated film which brought back to the big screen all the classic, beloved characters of the Hundred Acre Wood in a few adventures that the entire family could and would enjoy. These wonderful characters remind the audience of the importance of friendship, selflessness, loyalty and play, and the innocence of childhood.
7) The Guard – Starring: Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle
Two unlikely partners are forced to work together in order to bring down drug dealers and solve a murder in this hilarious dark comedy tha’s highlighted by two stand-out performances from Gleeson and Cheadle. The wonderful crisp dialogue and few surprises in the script make this film hands-down the best comedy of the year.
6) The Debt – Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Chastain
A suspenseful, shocking film with a fantastic cast, gripping drama and tense action. The Debt is one of the best spy thrillers to come to the big screen in years.
5) Midnight in Paris – Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen
Woody Allen’s latest film is a love letter to Paris and an age gone by, with a stand-out performance by Owen Wilson. The strong performances by Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Corey Stoll make Wilson’s midnight walks in Paris even more magical. This movie is a truly charming and romantic delight.
4) Happy Feet Two – Starring: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink and Hank Azaria
One of the few animated films this past year to use 3D to truly enhance the adventure on screen, Happy Feet Two is a cute, fun, toe-tapping good time for kids of all ages. And it does something extremely rare for a sequel…it matches the original film.
3) Super 8 – Starring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney
J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg join forces to bring this tale of young love, mystery, coming-of-age, and adventure to the big screen. The cast of young actors are fantastic, highlighted by Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney as the leads of this suspenseful, heartfelt film. It’s ET meets The Goonies meets Stand by Me. The movie captures brilliantly the era of the 1970s and how kids behaved and interacted in those days.
2) We Bought a Zoo – Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Hayden Church
“What’s so complicated about this place? ROAR! It’s a Zoo.” Sweet, charming and endearing, We Bought a Zoo is an inspirational film that’s a cut above the rest for two reasons: Matt Damon’s stand-out performance as a newly widowed dad who’s determined to give his kids a new start and see them have a chance of being truly happy again, and Cameron Crowe’s strong direction. Add in Thomas Hayden Church’s scene-stealing scenes as the loyal but concerned brother and you have a family film that will have the audience laughing and smiling long after the credits roll.
1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint
“Harry Potter. The boy who lived. Come to die.” After 10 years of potions, spells, wand fights, and mysteries, it all comes to a breathtaking end in this the final installment of the boy wizard tale, now a young man facing off against the Dark Lord himself – Lord Voldemort. Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson deliver the most touching and heartfelt scenes as both Harry and Hermione realize in order to have a chance to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named, Harry may have to make the ultimate sacrifice. The scene near the end of the film on the staircase when Emma as Hermione says through her tears, ”I’ll go with you,” is sure to bring a lump into the throats of the audience.
Compelling, magical, moving, and suspenseful, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is quite simply the perfect farewell to these characters and their magical world. It accomplishes something extremely rare for a film series…it delivers everything any fan of the saga could want or hope for, and lives up to both the critics and fans expectations.