Top Ten of 2011: A year of Los Angeles films and superb style

Aren’t you glad that’s over?  Yes, 2011 was clearly one of the more mediocre and likely unmemorable years in cinema in quite awhile.  Sure, there were some amazing films released over the last 12 months, but it was much easier picking the top five pictures on my year end list than the second five.  It was just one of those years.

What 2011 did supply, however, was a number of exciting directors at the peak of their talents (Steve McQueen, Tomas Alfredson, Lars Von Trier, Nicholas Winding Refn, Alexander Payne, David Yates, Joe Wright) as well as some new up and comers who will demand a lot of attention in the years to come (Drake Doremus, Sean Durkin, J.C. Chandor and, no joke, Ralph Fiennes and Angelina Jolie).  And, if nothing else, a slew of great performances in films that sometimes couldn’t live up to them.  Glenn Close and Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs,” Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Michelle Williams in “My Week With Marilyn,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “J. Edgar,” Viola Davis in “The Help” and Michael Shannon in “Take Shelter.” Fantastic turns that often overshadowed or shined the spotlight on the weaker aspect of a number of hyped films.

And while it didn’t make my top ten, you can’t ignore “The Artist.” A film that will so define the year it’s already been a critic’s favorite at Cannes, suffered something of a backlash and come back again with the respect it deserves.  Director Michel Hazanavicius has made a wonderfully charming black and white silent with production design so strong and performances so stylized you might believe it was shot in the 1920’s.  It falters in the third act, but that doesn’t stop audiences from smiling at the end.  It just means it didn’t make this pundit’s top 10.

The best of 2011 are as follows, but please watch the fantastic video produced by HitFix’s own Alex Dorn embedded at the top of this post.

10. “Weekend”
It doesn’t matter who you sleep with. Meeting the right person at the wrong time is universal.

9. “Melancholia”
The movie that reminded everyone just how amazing Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg are.

8. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2”
Watch it again.  Really.

7. “The Tree of Life”
Malick doesn’t hit the heights of “The Thin Red Line,” but he comes pretty close.

6. “Beginners”
A heartbreaking movie about thirtysomething romance that shines a light on an LA you rarely see on the big screen.

5. “The Descendants”
Nobody does dramedy better than Alexander Payne.  

4. “Like Crazy”
If you’ve ever really been in love, it’s hard not to be moved by Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin’s fantastic work.

3. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
An addictive tale of Cold War espionage that is superb in every aspect of its production.

2. “Drive”

No movie thrilled more or featured more iconic images you just can’t get out of your head.  Rewind it and start it again, will you Mr. Projectionist?

1. “Shame”
Simply, a work of art.

Other noteworthy films of the year included “The Artist,” “Coriolanus,” “Hanna,” “A Separation,” “Submarine,” “The Trip,” “The Guard,” “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Win Win,” “The Ides of March,” “Margin Call,” “War Horse” and the already underrated “The Iron Lady.”  

Pure pop fun included “Bridesmaids,” the second half of “Bad Teacher” (if only they cast someone else besides Justin Timberlake as the love interest), “X-Men: First Class,” “Thor,” “Puss in Boots,” “Attack the Block,” “Arthur Christmas” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”.

Tomorrow, a look at some of the best performances and some non-cinematic favorites of the year.

What did you think of the list? Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below.

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