Right off the hop I have to start by saying that this was not the greatest year for films. You might have to look harder, but there were some nuggets. I decided to make a list of my favourite films of 2011. The list is based on my enjoyment of the films and not based on critical assessments. I put down my choices in order of enjoyment, so that means there is a relevance to the order. Here we go:
1) X-Men: First Class: Director: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender. It is rare that a film series produces a prequel and it is the strongest of the lot. However small the odds this was the case with X-Men: First Class. With Matthew Vaughn’s film you got twists, great action, neat special effects, some laughs, and the best comic book film of the year.
2) Moneyball: Director: Bennett Miller. Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill. I’m not a fan of sports movies but I have to say that this is now my favourite baseball movie of all time. It is possible not to be a fan of the sport and still enjoy the film. Embedded in it is the important message to refrain from going the safe and well tread path in favour of what is slightly crazy and trailblazing but actually works.
3) The Help: Director: Tate Taylor. Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone. One of the rare films that actually does the novel justice. A great cast with phenomenal performances by lead Viola Davis and supporting actress Octavia Spencer. It also is a great story that was told well. It is a must see and an Oscar worthy film.
4) The Muppets: Director: James Bobin. Starring: Jason Segal, Amy Adams. It didn’t think it was possible but the film captures the magic of the original film and series. Totally skeptical going in I was totally won over. I did go in with an open mind, though. Left the theatre with a wide smile on my face. See it and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
5) 50/50: Director: Jonathan Levine. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan. Admittedly it was a tough watch in patches what with all the cancer stuff. But I give it props for being honest though not insensitive or gloomy. Smart, funny and touching. A great trio. Allows you to relate to what the characters are going through without going on a fishing expedition for your emotions.
6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: Director: David Yates. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson. Did a great job remaining faithful to JK Rowling’s book. Bringing an epic novel to the screen is never an easy thing to do. High quality right up to the last moments. A great ending.
7) Drive: Director: Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan. Stunning and spellbinding. This was definitely a star vehicle for Ryan Gosling. He IS his character and transforms a potentially one-dimensional tough guy into a multifaceted and ambiguous character.
8) Warrior: Director: Gavin O’Connor. Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton. A film about sport (ultimate fighting) that has a nice balance of drama and action. For me that means that there is more drama than action. The fights in the film are just plot movers or backstories. Filled with emotion. Powerful and satisfying.
9) Hugo: Director: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Christopher Lee, Chloe Grace Moretz. I can sum up the film by saying that it was inspired. Scorsese has demonstrated himself to be one of the few directors so far who has properly used 3D. This fantasy tale seems so real that you cannot help but be won over by it. Master director Scorsese is able to bring alive a young boy’s dreams and imagination realistically. It is also his ode to films and film preservation.
10) A Separation: Director: Asghar Farhady. Starring: Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami. Maybe the best Iranian film I have ever seen. Features great directing, acting and editing. Tells the tale of a country and the working class population of Iran very realistically. A film about the dissolution of a marriage, but it is about so much more.