Below are my Top 10 films that I've seen in 2011. I did slightly edit my original reviews to make them appear more concise since you don't have the context of everything I wrote on that particular film in this post (and even then it doesn't edit together as nicely as I'd like).
Director- Bennett Miller
Writer- Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian (based on the book by Michael Lewis)
Starring- Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
"The film walks a fine line between being over-inspirational and being inspirational if at all. There are various scenes toward the end that place everything into perspective; there was one moment that I thought brought a great level of depth if you can really get into the movie. Beane is also balancing his life as a father to a young girl and she records him a track that Beane listens to in his car as he drives away. The moment is up to much interpretation, but I found it to be very moving and indicitative of the depth that Moneyball ends up reaching. This movie isn't about baseball. This movie isn't about math. It's really about as human of a movie I've seen in a while."- Taken from my review on 9/28/11.
9. The Ides of March
Director- George Clooney
Writer- George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon (based on the play by Beau Willimon)
Starring- Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright
"This film features the best cast I've seen so far this year. Gosling continues to amaze and Clooney demonstrates the two traits I've always admired in his most memorable characters- his charm and his cutthroat demeanor. With the caliber of acting giving the materal such strength, I'm still pleased with how Clooney, Heslov, and Willimon have still chosen a great moment to have the story end. It's right when you feel so damn depressed, not out of sadness, but of pity. You see some "tough-shit" cynicism that destroys Stephen's own idealism. Facing reality as Myers does only leaves him where the script leaves its audience, in the realm of ambiguity fueled by many conflicting emotions."- Taken from my review on 10/9/11.
8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Director- Tomas Alfredson
Writer- Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan (based on the novel by John Le Carre)
Starring- Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Dencik, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong
"That is perhaps the great irony of this film. As the story enters its final masterful montage set to a French version of Beyond the Sea, we start to realize that for all of the manipulation and loyalty that these men and women have brought upon each other, what does it ammount to? I think the final moments of the film answers that pretty well by leaving it up to the viewer to decide. This movie could only be described as immersive. You begin to feel like you are a part of this warped world where no one, not even yourself, can be trusted to do what is right."- Taken from my review on 12
7. War Horse
Director- Steven Spielberg
Writer- Richard Curtis and Lee Hall (based on the novel by Michael Morpugo)
Starring- Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, and David Kross.
"It manages to be an uplifting crowd pleaser in the best kind of way as it never talks down to its audience while still not being afriad to make its points and themes readily apparent. Everything in the movie is clearly defined and the screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall serves to set up that narrative canvas that Spielberg can operate with. This really is a perfect film for Spielberg to direct. It combines the senses of wonder found his "lighter" work (Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) with the harsh realities of his "darker" work (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan). Even though the 2010s have only just started, Spielberg has managed to be sure to deliver at least one masterpiece in each decade. Hopefully he has many more left in him."- Taken from my review on 1/15/12.
Director- Lars Von Trier
Writer- Lars Von Trier
Starring- Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kiefer Sutherland
"Aside from the impressive cast (with particular notice to the intense performances of Dunst, Gainsbourg, and Sutherland) Von Trier's grasp on creating intrigue out of the most unique situations cements him as one of the great living cinematics minds that is active in the industry today. From dinner toasts to advertising taglines to the end of the world, Von Trier delivers one of his most impressive narratives to be a part of his devastating and inquisitive filmography. Everything about the film feels like it comes from a purely energetic and creative standpoint of trying to come up with the essential answer to the essential question of "why we are here?"- Taken from my review on 11/18/11.
5. The Tree of Life
Director- Terrence Malick
Writer- Terrence Malick
Starring- Hunter McCracken, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn.
"The Tree of Life is poetic. It takes the story of a family in a small Texas town in the 1950s and sets that against the creation of the universe. This might be Malick's most ambitious film to date because of how the movie manages to tackle the existence of us all in the lives of a few. Malick, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, composer Alexandre Desplat, special effects supervisor Jack Fisk, and an army of editors have created what is probably the most meditative and spiritual film I've ever seen. I walk away from this film feeling like my life is a small blip on the map of grand schemes, but that one's thoughts and feelings are no less important than someone else."- Taken from my review on 11/20/11.
4. The Descendants
Director- Alexander Payne
Writer- Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, and Jim Rash (based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings)
Starring- George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, and Amara Miller
"All of Payne's films have examined people dealing with the acceptance of their true feelings and even then the movie never manages to villify any of these characters because they are all as flawed as anyone else would be in these given circumstances. In another great performance, Clooney is able to show us a fearful and weary man who is trying to rediscover what his family means to him. He keeps his business and emotions separate, but the two then begin to enter each other's circles. Woodley is fantastic in how sharp of a daughter she can play, which is a rarity for teeenage characters in films. There are moments in the story that will place you on the edge of tears while others that will have you smirk in appreciation of the humor and snarkiness."- Taken from my review on 12/2/11.
Director- Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer- Houssein Amini (based on the novel by James Sallis)
Starring- Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks
"Look at the themes and messages, all of which are up to interpretation. I took the movie to be about loneliness and love. There are moments that are so outrageous that you have to step back and try to find some artistry. Either way, Refn and Amini manage to make us really care about these characters before the shooting and car chases start. Drive is full of hidden emotions. When the moments come where those feeligns are laid bare, have fun trying to apply it to yourself and the world around you. Human emotions can be tricky to get a handle on in a story. As an actor, Gosling seems to understand that. He has helped to create a world that is inhabited so richly."- Taken from my review on 9/16/11.
Director- Steve McQueen
Writer- Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan
Starring- Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan
"The visuals, the pace, the script, and the portrayals all come together to reach an emotional depth that mixes the graphic and passionate nature of not only the sex scenes, but of the story that McQueen has chosen for us to inhabit for two hours. On the topic of sex, it was assuring to see this movie treat intercourse as most movies should. Sex is a normal part of our lives. Why shy away from something that most of society partakes in even if it's in private? There is also a courageous (both in execution and content) montage depicted at the end of the film. A descent into madness. The last fifteen to twenty minutes of this movie are some of the most painful that I've seen in a long time. It will probably prevent me from ever sitting through this movie again, but that is a good thing in this case. It means that the intensity of my first experience will just sit with me. In short, I found this to be the most breattaking film of the year, both in a good and bad sense."- Taken from my review on 12/18/11.
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Director- David Fincher
Writer- Steve Zaillian (based on the novel by Stieg Larsson)
Starring- Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara
"This is the sort of story that really benefits Fincher's style. If other directors had worked on the films he made, they would not have the same intensely dark auroas of despair, decay, and cynicism or that stylized aesthetic that unmistakingly belongs to him. Fincher has delivered another film with a story you might not want to enjoy, but is sure to leave an impression with you. I still can't shake off the feeling that certain scenes gave me."- Taken from my review on 12/27/11.