Best in Film: 2011

If the world really is going to end in 2012, cinema’s final year will have been a bit of an anticlimax. Unfortunately, this year in film was marked by a tiring parade of remakes, drivel, and cheap thrills. However, as always, certain films jumped off the screen and made a deep impression on their viewers. Here is a rundown of the best films of 2011, and here’s to a better 2012!

1. The Tree of Life

No other film this year was as captivating, innovative, or flat-out beautiful as Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life. As Malick’s first film since 2005, The Tree of Life succeeded in  nearly every regard, from the expansive cinematography to Brad Pitt’s subtlety great performance. Although it’s a long shot for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, The Tree of Life will be the best remembered motion-picture of 2011.

Brad Pitt shined in "The Tree of Life"

2. Take Shelter

In my initial review of Take Shelter I wrote at length about Michael Shannon’s performance as Curtis LaForche. As I predicted, no one has been able to top Shannon’s brilliant intensity this year, as his performance remains a high-water mark for 2011. Take Shelter isn’t for everyone, and certainly not for casual cinema-goers. However, I stand by my assertion that those who invest the time in the film will be pleasantly surprised.

3. The Descendants 

After a fairly lengthly break, director Alexander Payne returned in 2011 and added another great film to his already impressive cannon. In a lesser directors hands, The Descendants could have delved into pithy melodrama. However, Payne crafted a film full of three-dimensional characters and devastatingly realistic plot turns. In addition, the ever-suave George Clooney delivered one of the best performances of his career.

4. Drive

Drive took the film world by storm this past year, appealing to art-house freaks and action junkies alike. Director Nicolas Winding Refn created a film which truly exists in its own universe, one in which 80’s kitsch mixes with shocking ultra-violence in a deliciously electrifying manner. Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks were both phenomenal, inhabiting their respective roles with the perfect mix of camp and cool to make this one of the year’s best pictures.

5. Martha Marcy May Marlene

The cumbersomely named Martha Marcy May Marlene was this year’s best debut. First time writer/director Sean Durkin earned praise both for his intricately crafted plot and patient directorial style. However, Durkin was not the only rookie who shined in this film. Future star Elizabeth Olsen (yes, she is the younger sister of the Olsen twins) exhibited a startling maturity and intensity not commonly found among actresses of her age. Although its slightly confusing ending had many scratching their heads, Martha Marcy May Marlene should be commended for its willingness to take risks and ultimately its ability to succeed in most of them.

–Ben Klein, Editor in Chief 

Posted by on December 12, 2011. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry