Top 13 Movies of 2011

Note: This list is tentative and will be constantly updated to be hopefully finalized by March at the latest due to the unavailability of many movies that are garnering critical acclaim and award traction, be it on DVD or in local theaters.

After checking my first “Top of 2011” list which dealt with music, it is time for the second one about another thing that I’m interested in and which I’ve discussed many times throughout this past year: movies.

So without further ado, let us begin.

13 – X-Men: First Class

This reboot of the franchise of which I am a fan was a very needed approach in order to keep these X-Men relevant. Showing how Dr. Xavier became as such and Magneto became, well, Magneto, the movie was really a breath of fresh air for action movies that became more reliant on screen explosions and aerobics than on a decent story to which those special effects come as a complement. (My review of X-Men: First Class)

12 – Stray Bullet

This Lebanese movie may be too short and not a very accurate reflection on the war it is supposedly set in but the acting performances in this are so gut-wrenchingly real, it can’t but be on my list. (My review of Rsasa Tayshe/Stray Bullet)

11 – The Ides of March

This political drama is my favorite of its genre this year. I may not agree with the accolades it’s getting everywhere over more deserving movies but it’s still a great movie in its own merits. It’s riveting, engaging, highly reflective and real. It can happen anytime in any political campaign. The performances are top notch as well. (My review of The Ides of March).

10 – Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s back to basics is definitely one of the better movies of the year. This Parisian comedy will make you dream. It will take you beyond the confines of whatever room you’re watching the movie in and take you aboard its own fantastical world in a trip back in time. Marion Cotillard is more than brilliant in this. The plot is very original and the movie is very enjoyable. (My review of Midnight in Paris).

9 – One Day

Many didn’t like this movie. I found it enthralling and enchanting. Telling the story of a couple revisiting each other on the day they met every year over the course of 23 years. The premise is intriguing and while I’m sure it flows more smoothly in the book upon which this is based, the movie doesn’t botch it. In fact, the transitions are very smart at times. (My review of One Day).

8 – A Separation

This Iranian movie is simply stunning. It’s a cross examination of Iranian society through the lives of  a couple getting a divorce. The emotions in this run high, they never relent. The hurt in the characters is examined and not feared. Taboos are approached and at the end of the day, it leaves you with a stereotype-breaking view of Iranian society. (My review of A Separation).


7 – War Horse

Steven Spielberg’s WWI epic is, well, an epic movie as well. Based on the children’s book of the same name, War Horse is emotional and phenomenal. It’s stunning to look at and boasts one of the most pleasurable scores I have heard this year in a movie. It is a sentimental movie that transcends age lines and turns into a story for the ages. A must watch. (My review of War Horse)

6 – Moneyball

Brad Pitt shines as Billy Beane, manager of a struggling baseball team, as he tries to get his team to survive a grueling league with a dismal budget. So he enlists Jonah Hill’s Peter Brand to help him change the whole baseball game and turn it head on heels. Moneyball might be the best sports movie made. (My review of Moneyball)

5 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher’s take on this Swedish noir novel preserves the book’s essence and turns it into a stellar movie, fueled by a top notch performance by Rooney Mara who embodies the novel’s heroin Lisbeth Salander in spellbinding manner. I loved the book and the movie. (My review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

4 – The Artist

The Artist is a black and white movie which relies on the symphony playing throughout its run for its only auditory input. And it just works. It asks nothing of you as a viewer but to simply watch, not even listen. It relies on the strength of the performances by its cast to communicate the emotions it tries to convey. (My review of The Artist).

 3 – The Help


Based on the book of the same titleThe Help is easily one of the best movies this year as well. It is the tale of the quest of three Southern women in a 1960s racially segregated America for racial equality. The movie may be a work of fiction but it feels so real when you watch it, you can’t but be amazed. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” – that’s a sentence for the ages. (My review of The Help).

2 – Where Do We Go Now? (W Halla2 La Wein?)


The Lebanese movie that could. Nadine Labaki’s latest movie is without a doubt one of the best movies this year. After being robbed of a Golden Globes nomination (Angelina Jolie, I’m looking at you), we find solace in this movie winning at the Toronto International Film Festival. Telling the tale of women who go beyond their means to get the men of their religiously-divided hometown to ease the tension, the movie tugs at your heartstring, activates your tear ducts and makes you laugh uncontrollably – all at the same time, sometimes. (My review of Where Do We Go Now?)

1 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Because there’s no other movie that deserves to be here. Because there’s no other franchise that has had such a thrillingly brilliant finale. Because no other movie has ever gotten me this close to tears and because every single award show is hell-bent on shunning this from the awards it most definitely deserves. Yes, this may be predictable to many but there’s just something about the final installment in the story of Harry Potter that transcends it being just a movie and turns into a cinematic experience that we, as the Harry Potter generation, are very lucky to have experienced. (My review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2).

– – – – – — – – – – — – – – – –

Notable mentions:

Puss in Boots, previous #13 on the list’s initial version. 

Soul Surfer (check my review) previous #12 on the list’s initial version.

Source Code (check my review) previous #11 on the list’s initial version.

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Source Code – Movie Review

U.S. Army captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train. He doesn’t know how he got there. He doesn’t know who the girl in front of him is and why she’s calling him Sean. He’s disorienteted. He says he’s not Sean. He’s a U.S. Army captain whose last mission was in Afghanistan… and soon enough, the train blows up and Colter Stevens wakes up in what looks like a capsule, being talked to by a woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga).

Colter Stevens is told he’s inside the “Source Code”, a program that takes him back to Sean Fentress’ last eight minutes of life, before he died on the train heading to Chicago that morning. He’s supposed to find the bomber because a second attack is planned, one that would take the lives of millions of people. And so Stevens is taken back to the train many times, each time discovering that the sequence of events isn’t necessarily the same as before and thinking that maybe he could change the events altogether.

 

The intricacies of “Source Code” are not the main mystery about this movie, nor is the bomber. It’s Colter Stevens himself and having figured it out way early in the movie did not forbid me from thoroughly enjoying this.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the movie’s greatest asset. He fuses together the movie’s action side with a sensible side that is, with most action movies, hard to come by. I’ve been very impressed lately with many of his movies, notably Love and Other Drugs, and I thought he doesn’t let down here.

Vera Farmiga is great as usual also, even though her role is sort of limited as the behind-the-screen Goodwin who starts to communicate with Colter Stevens on a deeper level than just a military personnel directing a mission. Her role in this is more toned down than Up In The Air but it’s still great.

And Michelle Monaghan, in portraying Christina, the girl on the train, and despite the limited number of lines she was given (I mean, she does repeat the same sentence over and over again), I thought she was great as well, making you believe that Stevens could actually fall in love with her in the eight minutes they have together.

“Source Code” is not your regular sci-fi action movie. I would categorize it more as a thriller because it’s deeply more engaging than any other action movie I have watched lately. Not only do you get to connect with the characters but you really hope that, somehow, they get to be saved.

Moreover, Source Code is not void of emotions. While most of these emotions are tucked away in the end, you can’t help but be hit with them when they appear on screen. I will not spoil the center theme upon which they revolve but you will definitely feel them when you watch this.

Overall, Source Code is a thought provoking and engaging thriller. Directing in it is great as well by newcomer Duncan Jones, who doesn’t seem affected by the much dreaded sophomore slump. Are the memories that are being relived read-only data or can they be altered? Some people will not appreciate the confusion that this movie poses at certain times, especially since continuity is an issue that is very difficult to follow in movies like this (a la Inception), but overall, while watching it, Source Code will make you submerge in it. After you get out, however, and start thinking about the movie, you realize there are some plot-holes they left unanswered. Was it intentional? Perhaps so. But this is definitely one of the better movies of 2011 so far, one that I think every movie enthusiast should consider watching.