Best of 2011

1/ A Separation

Asgar Farhadi’s masterpiece is a multilayered piece centered on a modern day Iranian couple on the verge of divorce. The wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran for her daughter’s sake, and her husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) refuses to leave as he must take care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father. A Separation is a film about a specific time and place with a universal message, and through only two hours deals with many issues most filmmakers could not hope to tackle. It is a true work of mastery, and a film that should be hailed and remembered for decades.

2/ Moneyball

Baseball is not a sport I particularly enjoy. That being said, Moneyball is an exercise in brilliant filmmaking. Telling the true story of MLB general manager Billy Beane and his effort to win the World Series with a team in a small-market, Bennett Miller has crafted a wonderful film. Starring Brad Pitt in the best male performance of the year, and written by the dream team of Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, every moment of the film is impeccably put together, and it all feels effortless.

3/ Shame

Steve McQueen returns with Michael Fassbender (previously working together on the fantastic Hunger in 2008) with Shame, a story of Brandon (Fassbender) whose life is being torn apart by sex addiction. While he appears fully functional on the surface, the arrival of his sister (Carrey Mulligan) causes Brandon to truly unravel. While incredibly difficult to watch, Shame is a careful, deeply affecting character study of a man in crisis, and McQueen and Fassbender have proven to be one of the best partnerships filmmaking has to offer.

4/ The Descendants

Alexander Payne’s latest film finds Matt King (George Clooney in his best performance), a man who must reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is put into a coma. The film is unique and possesses great understanding of human nature. At times hilarious and at others heartbreaking, The Descendants is a poignant study of love, life and loss.

5/ Hugo

Disguised as a 3D family film, Scorsese’s love letter to the cinema is an extraordinary achievement, bursting from the seams with a magnificent sense of wonder. With a great story and impressive use of the third dimension, Hugo transcends the typical family film in a way that only Scorsese could, and as a result it is one of the best film going experiences of the year.

6/ Drive

Ryan Gosling stars as a stunt-driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, a wonderfully unconventional masterwork. At times completely silent and at others shockingly violent, the film is a wholly original thriller – slow, brooding, and dripping with power.

7/ Melancholia

Lars Von Triers film is one that words cannot properly describe. During a wedding, a planet is seen in the sky. It is Melancholia, and it is on a direct course to crash into the earth. The film is a haunting visual experience, with a career defining performance from Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. The entirety of its 136 minutes is utterly captivating, and its final shot is worth the price of admission alone.

8/ The Tree Of Life

Malick’s fifth film is a deeply personal odyssey. Spanning from the beginning of time to the present day, The Tree of Life is the year’s most ambitious feature. The core of the story finds Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as the parents of three boys in the 1950s. Challenging, pretentious, moving and deeply polarizing, The Tree of Life is the most unique cinematic experience in years.

9/ Poetry

Lee Chang-Dong’s story of an elderly woman is a peaceful, deeply moving experience. When Mija (Jeong-hie Yun) is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she enrolls in a poetry class to try and find a purpose in her life. The film is careful to not use the disease from an emotionally manipulative standpoint, instead giving the film an extraordinary sense of realism.

10/ Weekend

Andrew Haigh’s debut feature finds Russell, who heads out to the local gay club where he finds Glen. The two men have a one-night stand that evolves into something else entirely. Weekend is the year’s finest romance, and an extraordinarily moving independent picture that deserves to be seen.

11/ Midnight in Paris

An arts student’s dream come true, Woody Allen’s finds Gil(Owen Wilson), a hack writer who longs to write a great novel. While travelling with his fiancée in Paris, Gil is transported back to the twenties each night, where he meets with various icons including Hemingway, Dali, Gertrude Stein and Picasso. A transporting experience, Allen’s latest film is bursting with wit and a magnificent sense of intelligence.

12/ The Artist

One of the year’s most unique films, this black-and-white silent picture tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent actor whose career is severely impacted by the transition from silent to sound pictures. While the story is largely a blend of Singin’ in the Rain and A Star Is Born, the film stands out on its own with its brilliant cast and undeniable sense of charm. Above all, The Artist proves that silent films can be every bit as entertaining as sound films, an idea lost on the majority of today’s filmgoers.

Honourable mentions : War Horse, Super 8, Young Adult, Take Shelter, Beginners.


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