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Best of 2011

by Zach Eastman
This list was revised from an earlier draft after Catching Up on some hold over films. 15. Super 8: A wonderful throwback to films of Spielberg Past with its own unique charm and wit. 14. Red State: A film that never strays from its dark demeanor for even a second. Its villains are truly the scariest Ive ever seen put to film. Michael Parks gives the performance of a lifetime 13. Carnage: Polanski makes sitting the same apartment complex for 80 minutes an intriguing and hilarious watch. Christoph Waltzs finest performance since Basterds 12. The Ides of March: Leave it to George Clooney to make political intrigue fun again. His best outing… Read more

This list was revised from an earlier draft after Catching Up on some hold over films.

15. Super 8: A wonderful throwback to films of Spielberg Past with its own unique charm and wit.

14. Red State: A film that never strays from its dark demeanor for even a second. Its villains are truly the scariest Ive ever seen put to film. Michael Parks gives the performance of a lifetime

13. Carnage: Polanski makes sitting the same apartment complex for 80 minutes an intriguing and hilarious watch. Christoph Waltzs finest performance since Basterds

12. The Ides of March: Leave it to George Clooney to make political intrigue fun again. His best outing behind the camera since Good Night and Good Luck

11. 13 Assassins: While technically a 2010 release, the states didn’t receive this bad boy until ’11, but it was worth the wait. A bloody good samurai picture from Takashi Miike who continues to surprise and delight with movie he makes

10. Super: Oddly enough this is the most touching picture ive seen this year, but it should come as no surprise, James Gunn is a talented writer who knows how to do the job right. The character of Frank (played brilliantly by Rainn Wilson) is the most relateable superhero to come around in a long long time. Further kudos to Ellen Page, who gives in my opinion the best performance of her career since Juno

9. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: A friend put it very succinctly “The original Dragon Tattoo was an homage to David Fincher movies.” So it seems only fair and just that Fincher helm the American version of the international hit trilogy, and as usual he doesnt disappoint. He beautifully blends the dark and twisted world of Se7en with the methodical procedural brilliance of Zodiac for a 2 and 1/2 hour film that still feels to short. Rooney Mara is the shining star in the film, setting the highest standard for female badassery in the film world

8. Bridesmaids: Ive been an unconditional Kristen Wiig fan since I first saw her in Knocked Up, and since then shes shown the world her uncanny comic ability that puts her in the ranks of the greats, and bridesmaids in the masterpiece to top it all off. The script has real raw emotion that doesnt feel contrived or conventional and it manages to give each supporting character a place in the sun. And of course there’s Melissa McCarthy who’s performance is the essence of pure hilarity (especially when she steals a group of dogs from a bridal shower)

7. Moneyball: Brad Pitt is one of those actors in hollywood that truly hasnt been given his dues, and yet he continues to knock stuff out of the fucking park, and this continues the trend. The script creates a Babe Ruth type of mythos over Billy Beane, and Pitt enhances that with his own natural talent. And despite the mixed reaction to his supporting actor nomination, I can honestly say Jonah Hill deservedly earned that nomination, not because he stepped out of comedy, rather because he was able to actually bring out those anxieties his character has in a subtle manner.

6. The Artist: I had never really heard the name Michel Hazanavicius until this film, and now I want to see everything hes done. The Artist was a true risk that payed off in strides and makes one long to go and explore the silent films of the past. Jean Dujardins performance is the best of the year, its a character we’ve seen before, but as an audience, you have the privilege of seeing him use the true art of film acting (emotion, expression and movement) rather than relying on dialogue.

5. The Descendants: Alexander Payne is 5 for 5 with the hilariously touching tale of Matt King trying to keep his family’s life together he seeks out the man his comatose wife was fooling around with. Its a switch for Payne, going outside his normal route of stories of people with major repulsive traits (the masterpiece of these would be Sideways) and instead tells a story about bad things happening to good people. Its George Clooneys performance that brings it home, who uses all of his talent here from comedic to dramatic.

4. Hugo: Martin Scorsese proved with Hugo that there no genre that he cant conquer. Hugo goes beyond the family film stigma, it makes it enjoyable on all levels. The main character (brilliantly portrayed by Asa Butterfield) is not a one dimensional kid charatcer, hes a character with actual conflict behind him, which makes for much more intriguing watch. It goes witout saying that this film is also a beautiful homage to cinema and the importance of film preservation (I had a tear run down my eye when they showed film strips being melted down for shoe heels) and of what the future can hold with new technologies such as 3D. What James Cameron did ok in Avatar, Scorsese made perfect in Hugo, the best 3D film ever made bar none

3. Young Adult: This movie (along with my number 1 pick) were robbed at this years oscars, and unjustly. Here you have a script by Diablo Cody that shows she can go beyond the teen film genre by writing the most hilariously uncomfortable film of the year, and I use uncomfortable as a compliment. Mavis ( brilliantly brought to life by Charlize Theron) is a woman who truly never grew up and its both hilarious and shocking to see her make the decisions she does. Her only conscience through the film is Matt (Patton Oswalt who gives a career defining performance that even tops BIG FAN) who trys to steer her away from her doomed to fail mission. With the Matt character you dont just get a supporting character, you get a man who while dishing out good advice, cant seem to move beyond the small town he lives in because of insecurity and contentment.

2. Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen is back, though to be quite honest, he never left. Yet despite the fact that he has delivered some great works in the past 10 years, this one has a magical quality to it, forgetting the characters and story for a moment, when you watch the film , the surrounding city enchants and inspires you the viewer as much as it does the characters we are watching. There’s also a poignant theme of nostalgia here and Gil Penders hilarious journey through the 20’s helps remind everyone that everyone longs for the past no matter what decade you live in. Very special props to Corey Stoll who plays Ernest Hemingway with a sincerity that delivers some of the films biggest laughs.

1. Drive: Drive is the traditional western ethics and archetypes mixed with a unique 80s pop vibe. Under normal hands this might be a failure but if anyone could do it , it would be Refn, who tones down the quantity and focuses on the quality. There is very little violence in drive but when it hits, it hits hard. Add to that the magnificent cinematography, which sends the viewer into a Los Angeles that almost seems dream like, and the superb ensemble cast, you get a film that truly stands out from everything else this year. its safe to say there’s no film out there like Drive, and it will be a while before there will be one like it again.

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