Ah... 2011. To bid adieu to the year which included the cosmic awesomeness of November 11 (11-11-11), forthwith is a list that serves two purposes. First, it's a rundown of my favorite movies of the year. Second, it's a tribute to the unassailable genius of Nigel Tufnel; it's my Top 10 Favorites... with 11 titles.
Any year in which Tintin, Capt. Jack Sparrow, and Sherlock Holmes all vie for my heart's hunger for adventure can be deemed a very good year at the movies. After throwing in a documentary about my favorite rock band, a couple film festival surprises, and a wide range of subject matter, the end result is a hot list to heat up some of the cold winter nights that lie ahead.
With a selection this personal (and I do qualify this as a list of favorites, not a Top Chief, 10... or 11... in the classic "Best of the Year" sense), it's hard to split hairs, so my list, a fairly populist lot peppered with a couple obscure picks, is presented in alphabetical order.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn – around the world, Tintin fans kept their hopes in check and, happily, Spielberg delivered a loving, faithful big screen adaptation.
The Artist – black-and-white, 1.33:1, silent. Whoa. It's also funny and full of heart, a modern-day revisiting of old-school film and the art of storytelling (ironically released in the same year in which digital projectors and digital media officially supplanted traditional film as the dominant format at the cinema).
A Dangerous Method – Keira Knightley can't seem to escape period-piece costumes, but she serves up perhaps her best performance yet in David Cronenberg's fact-based story of the early days of psychoanalysis. Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen supply riveting portrayals of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.
From the Sky Down – in this documentary, U2 tell the tale of how they dismantled their atomic band and came back bigger and better than ever after chopping down the Joshua Tree and launching a TV station.
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen's time abroad has paid off handsomely with this charming movie about a writer who finds some terrific sources of inspiration, circa the 1920s, while visiting Paris.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – a Turkish delight, this is a slow simmer drama with characters that keep the ride interesting.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – underappreciated - at least in the U.S. - for what it is: a fourth Jack Sparrow adventure that fits in nicely with the preceding Elizabeth Swann trilogy. Mermaids and a quest for the Fountain of Youth? Count me in.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows –this sequel offered such rarified satisfaction, I, a non-smoker, was craving a cigarette after all was said and done.
Twixt – Francis Ford Coppola plays with horror movie conventions and throws in a couple 3D scenes for kicks and giggles.
Violet & Daisy – only a lucky few have seen this movie. It's a quirky, funny, touching movie and... ummm... it's about two teenage assassins. Saoirse Ronan, who played another teenage assassin in Hanna earlier in the year, is terrific and Alexis Bledel steals the show.
War Horse – based on a children's book – told from the first-person view of a horse – transformed on the stage in London and New York, Spielberg's movie version effectively becomes Saving Private Ryan set in World War I.