Top 10 Movies of 2011

Working my way back through the releases from this year, it wasn’t a vintage year, and there were very few that would excite me greatly. Still, we did see Tomas Alfredson prove that ‘Let the right one in’ wasn’t a one off. He’s certainly a new name to look out for. Strangely, there’s very few non English language movies in my list, which is possibly down to me not bothering to track them down, and the IFI showing a lot less of them!

First off, a chance to bitch about the supposed best movies of the year. ‘Tree of Life’ is an empty vessel, which looks great but really has very little to say. It wouldn’t make a top 100! ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ is another one the critics got wrong. It’s a great performance by Tilda Swinton, but very far removed from a great movie. Anyway, without further ado…

10. Drive – A nice odd crime drama, where a man gets involved in a robbery for the right reasons, and ends up with a million dollars in a bag in the boot of his car. Seen this one before? The difference about this one is the space, cinematography and the music (mostly 80’s style synth) which carry it through.

9. Lincoln Lawyer – Not being Matthew McConaughey’s biggest fan, this is something of a surprise, but this lawyer/ crime drama moves quickly away from reality and becomes something approaching a 70’s cop show. It’s brash and stupid in equal measures, but always enjoyable, and there’s enough twists in the story to keep you entertained.

8. Blue Valentine – The story of a relationship falling apart, which stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling (who was basically in everything this year). The couple were ill judged from the start, and we are shown how they ended up together interspersed with how they fell apart. A real actors movie, as it’s all about the characters.

7. Midnight in Paris – I know most have long since given up on Woody turning out a good movie, but this is a gem. The story is of a writer who travels to Paris, and then finds himself transported to the golden age of the 20’s, meeting characters such as Picasso, Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. I left the cinema with a wide grin, which is all you can really ask, the best comedy of the year in my book.

6. Animal Kingdom – A delightful crime drama from Australia, which has at times the feel of ‘Neighbours’ turned nasty! The low production values seem to add to it, and the characters seem oddly believable, and the mother of the crime family is a great creation.

5. Poetry – This is a south Korean movie, and another complex tale as a grand mother discovers the crime her grandson has committed. The story is told with the back drop of the poetry class she takes, and the students therein. Joeng-hie Yun steals the show as the wonderful grandmother. It’s slow moving but captivating, and the space and calm in the movie adds so it. The opening scene is that of an object slowing drifting down a river, which we then realise is the body of a young girl, the story develops from there.

4. Planet of the Apes – This is possibly the surprise of the year, and a bit of a shock to have a blockbuster this high up on the list. A step away from the standard high concept movie, as they actually had a writer with a few ideas! The special effects and primates in all forms steal the show, and you’re left rooting for the monkeys throughout. The humans get what they deserve at the end!

3. Win Win – Thomas McCarthy followed up the wonderful ‘The Visitor’ with another character driven story of life in small town America. A failing Lawyer ends up fostering the grand son of one of his clients, and the story moves along quickly from there. The morals of the characters are always complex, and are well drawn out by Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan.

2. True Grit – The adaptation of the book and not the John Wayne movie, was the Coens at their best. The lead actress was born in 1996, which is always a risk, but Hailee Steinfield delivered in spades. Most westerns rely on stereotypes, creating a story that the viewer is familiar with before they sit down, but this had an extra dimension to most and had a variety of odd ball characters, like all the Coens movies.

1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson brought together a cast of well known actors, without any major stars (with the possible exception of Clive Owen), and created one of the best Spy movies in recent times. The book itself was considered to be impossible to make into a single part movie, due to the depth of the story, but this achieves it easily, although you do have to pay attention throughout! Another genre movie and a gem of one.

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