Top 7 Movies of 2011

19 Dec
Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

As always, the holiday season offers movie lovers an extra gift at this time of year: serious films aiming for Oscar gold. But there are good movies released throughout the year, and while I like reading the critic’s year-end top ten lists, I like coming up with my own. Based on nothing more than the movies that I enjoyed the most, here is my list of the best 7 movies of 2011 (and yes, I made a similar list last year):

One Day. I was lucky enough to start reading this book just a few eeks before it opened, so timing was perfect: I finished it just before the movie trailers really began to give things away. The movie was directed by Lone Sherfig, the Danish director of An Education, and she brings the same breezy, sure pace to this movie. Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway are great in their roles, and the plot of One Day, which may at first seem gimmicky, reveals itself to be a beautiful way to show the passage of time and the persistence of love across the years.

Crazy Stupid Love. There was one big hole in this movie, and it was the character of the babysitter, who is the object of affection of  Cal Weaver’s (Steve Carell) son, and who herself is in love with Mr. Weaver. The whole subplot with her infatuation with her much older employer was a little creepy. But the rest of the movie makes up for this, with a great story of an unlikely friendship  between the nerdy Cal and the smooth, suave Jacob (Ryan Gosling, deliciously pictured above). The love story that develops between Jacob and Emma Stone’s Hannah is unexpected and delightful, and I loved the supporting turns by Kevin Bacon and Josh Groban. Crazy, Stupid, Love was a winning, original romantic comedy.

Source Code. This one I watched on cable, but I still thought it was mesmerizing. I am a sucker for action thrillers that delve into the philosophy of consciousness, but it is still so rare to find this most niche of movies (though The Matrix and Memento come to mind). Source Code revolves around a secret military operation to continuously rewind time and figure out who planted a bomb on a Chicago commuter train. This is done by Jake Gyllenhaal’s character as his consciousness inhabits the body of a man riding the train that fateful morning. The action is exciting and fast-paced, but as the plot thickens and we learn how Gyllenhaal is able to re-enter the past, the movie becomes more and more fascinating. You’ll be talking about this one for days. A good movie for philosophy majors.

Bridesmaids. I will keep this one short, since I have previously written about Bridesmaids not once but twice, during my month of daily blogging. What else to say besides, it’s funny, it introduced America to Melissa McCarthy, it explored the thorny terrain of female friendship (frenemies) and featured a guest appearance by Wilson Philips. Hell yes.

Midnight in Paris. Who knew Owen Wilson was a good Woody Allen stand-in? Or that a filmmaker synonymous with New York could so lovingly capture the essence of Paris? This movie had me at the very first scenes, which were long shots of Paris. I’ve spent a lot of time in the city, and there is a sense walking through it that you are breathing history, taking in the same views as the great artists of the past (this is doubly true for any stroll through Montmartre). Midnight in Paris captures this brilliantly. For anyone who knows their history of early 20th century art and literature, it is a joy to see the giants of the time portrayed convincingly, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and a spot-on Ernest Hemingway. Bonus points for Rachel McAdams playing a thoroughly bitchy character.

Super 8. This one is an action movie, a sci-fi movie, a nostalgic homage to 70’s era summer blockbusters (not for nothing is Steven Spielberg a Producer of the film), as well as a buddy movie and a story of first love. The action is thrilling and the characters, all pre-pubescent boys and aspiring filmmakers, are endearing. Super 8 is proof that there is more to a good action movie than big explosions. This one has heart.

The Descendants. The scene of Shailene Woodley sobbing silently in the deep end of the swimming pool after she is told that her mother will never wake from her coma and will soon die is still with me, and I saw The Descendants a month ago. George Clooney stars as Matt King, the scion of a wealthy old Hawaiian family who faces the prospect of saying goodbye to his dying wife and selling his ancestral land in a matter of days. The film provides a good showcase for Clooney to excel at what he does best- not flashy, in your face, give me my Oscar kind of acting, but rather showing how an ordinary man faces a crisis (see also: Michael Clayton). The movie is a serious drama with plenty of laughs sprinkled in for good measure, and the landscapes- Hawai’i, Oahu and Kaui- are breathtaking. Director Alexander Payne shows us the real Hawaii, far from the tourist resorts. For its stellar acting and expert direction, The Descendants is a great movie.

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5 Responses to “Top 7 Movies of 2011”

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