The Top-Rated Films of 2011
I admit that my “movies to see’’ list is rather long this year. I guess a lot of my free time has been spent with my nose in a book (or my iPad), but I do love a great movie. I also hate wasting time watching bad films, so to narrow my focus, I decided to compile the best lists of various movie critics.
I cast a wide net to get a greater range of tastes, but my Excel spreadsheet has revealed a consensus of the best films of 2011. Some of these movies are in theaters, or just coming out. Others are no longer on the big screen, and I’ve indicated if the library owns them so you can place holds.
The following movies were compiled from the lists by Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Michael Wilhelmson of the Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Time, MTV, Hollywood Reporter, AV Club, Timeout New York, Moviefone and Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve used the marvelous Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website for the descriptions.
Nine out of eleven sources listed three movies in their best lists:
- “The Artist” is a black-and-white silent movie which has just come into the theaters.
IMDb summary: Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.
- “Hugo’’ is based on the phenomenal children’s book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel of Words and Pictures ’’ by Brian Selznick. The movie, directed by Martin Scorsese and is still available in some theaters in 3D.
IMDb summary: Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
- “Tree of Life”, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, was released in May and is available at the library.
IMDb summary: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence.
Movies that were listed in eight out of eleven lists:
- “The Descendants’’, starring George Clooney, still is in theaters.
IMDb summary: A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’’, the finale of the fabulous Harry Potter movie franchise, is available at the library. OK, I admit I am a Potter junkie, and not only have watched this several times, but own the entire series in Blue Ray.
IMDb summary: Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord.
- “Moneyball’’, another Brad Pitt movie, which will be released Jan. 10 on DVD/Blue Ray, and is available at the library.
IMDb summary: The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
- “The Separation’’, an Iranian film that is being released Dec. 30 in theaters.
IMDb summary: A married couple are faced with a difficult decision, to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers.
- “Drive’’, starring hottie Ryan Gosling, will come out on DVD/Blue Ray on Jan. 31. You can put it on hold at the library.
IMDb summary: A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.
- “Bridesmaids’’, a hilarious, sometimes raunchy comedy, is at the library.
IMDb summary: Competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid, over who is the bride's best friend, threatens to upend the life of an out-of-work pastry chef.
- “Midnight in Paris’’, where Owen Wilson channels Woody Allen’s spirit, is at the library.
IMDb summary: A romantic comedy about a family traveling to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better.
- “Margaret’’, starring True Blood star Anna Paquin, is no longer in theaters, and I couldn't find a DVD release date.
IMDb summary: A young woman witnesses a bus accident, and is caught up in the aftermath, where the question of whether or not it was intentional affects many people's lives.
- “Margin Call’’, a German thriller, is on order at the library.
IMDb summary: A thriller that revolves around the key people at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis.
- “Martha Mercy May Marlene’’, starring Elizabeth Olsen (the younger sister of the Olsen twins), is still in some theaters.
IMDb description: Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
- “Pina’’ is a German film that was released in theaters in December.
IMDb summary: A tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch.
- “Attack the Block’’, starring two of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.
- “50-50’’, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, will be available soon at the library.
IMDb summary: Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.
- “Beginners’’, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plumber, can be found at the library.
IMDb summary: A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover.
- “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’’, the David Fincher American version of Stieg Larsson’s Swedish thriller, is in theaters now. The library does have the Swedish version of the film, and of course, the book.
IMDb summary: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.
- “Melancholia’’, starring Kirstin Dunst, will be released on DVD in March 2012.
IMDb summary: Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with the Earth.
- “Muppets’’, with Amy Adams and Jason Segal, is still in theaters.
IMDb summary: With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon.
- “Shi’’ (or “Poetry’’) is a South Korean film available at the library.
IMDb summary: A sixty-something woman, faced with the discovery of a heinous family crime and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, finds strength and purpose when she enrolls in a poetry class.
- “Rango’’, the animated comedy starring Johnny Depp, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
- “Shame’’ is still in some theaters.
IMDb summary: In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life -- which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction -- is disrupted when his sister Cissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
- “Take Shelter’’ will be released Feb. 14 on DVD and is on order at the library.
IMDb summary: Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
- “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy’’, based on the classic spy thriller by John LeCarre, stars Colin Firth and Gary Oldman. It is in theaters now.
IMDb summary: In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.
- “War Horse’’, a Steven Spielberg film, is in theaters.
IMDb summary: Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.
- “Young Adult’’, with Charlize Theron, is in theaters.
IMDb summary: Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.
- Coriolanus”, with Ralph Fienes and Gerard Butler, is at the library.
IMDb summary: A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.
- “The Help”, based on the blockbuster novel by Kathryn Stockett, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960's decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
- “Incendies”, a Norwegian film, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: Twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history, and fulfill their mother's last wishes.
- “Le Quattro Volte’’, an Italian film, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: An old shepherd lives his last days in a quiet medieval village perched high on the hills of Calabria, at the southernmost tip of Italy. He herds goats under skies that most villagers have deserted long ago. He is sick, and believes to find his medicine in the dust he collects on the church floor, which he drinks in his water every day.
- “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’’, the latest Tom Cruise offering, is still in theaters.
IMDb summary: The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.
- “My Joy’’, is a German film.
IMDb summary: The story about a few days in the life of truck driver Georgi seems to be a never-ending nightmare, a spiral of violence and abuses of power. A man goes to work and on his way he is sucked into the everyday madness of his country, losing his health and memory in the process. A dark parable about the situation in deep Ukraine today.
- “Rise of the Planet of the Apes’’, starring James Franco, is at the library.
IMDb summary: During experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee uses its greater intelligence to lead other apes to freedom.
- “Super 8’’, created by J.J. Abrams "Fringe'', is available at the library.
IMDb summary: During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.
- “Tuesday, After Christmas’’, is a Romanian film available at the library.
IMDb summary: Paul Hanganu loves two women. Adriana his wife and the mother of their daughter, the woman with whom he's shared the thrills of the past ten years, and Raluca the woman who has made him redefine himself. He has to leave one of them before Christmas.
- “X-Men: First Class’’, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start world war III.
- “Win Win’’, with Paul Giamati and Amy Ryan, is available at the library.
IMDb summary: A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
- “We Need to Talk About Kevin” will be released in theaters in January, and some critics consider this a 2012 film and therefore will consider it for next year's lists.
IMDb summary: The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief - and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions.