Monday, December 19, 2011

AFI's Ten Best Films of 2011, and My Own Current Choices and Candidates

Last week, the American Film Institute submitted their annual list of what they considered to be the ten best films of the year. Their choices this year included Bridesmaids, The Descendants , The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Hugo, J. Edgar, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse.

Now, I've only seen about four of these films, and agree that they are some of the year's best. And although I haven't seen every film from this list nor a whole LOT of films this year (in a broad sense), there are a few I'm still looking forward to seeing and am anticipating (others including Hugo, The Artist, Another Earth, My Week With Marilyn, and War Horse, among others). I'm planning to post my own Favorites-of-2011 list, which probably won't be until the end of January or the beginning of February. For the time being, here are samples of my choices and candidates for my favorite films of 2011 (as well as reasons), in alphabetical order.

The Help
An emotionally effective, well-acted, and powerful adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel about three women who take action in making a difference for African American maids in 1960s Jackson, Miss. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer deliver Oscar-worthy performances, backed up by equally terrific performances from a cast that simply couldn't be better.

The Interrupters
The year's most important documentary. Powerful, challenging, and inspiring.

Jane Eyre
A haunting and beautiful adaptation of Charlotte Bonte's classic romance features incredible performances from Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, and an equally haunting and beautiful score.
Kung-Fu Panda 2
A rare sequel that's as good as (and maybe even better than) the original, with emotional resonance, action, and comedy to spare.

Engrossing and inspiring "beyond-sports" drama features Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in out-of-the-park performances in a true story of the Oakland A's unconventional (and statistical) approach to the game of baseball, all for the better, as well as valuing the undervalued.

The Muppets
Jim Henson's popular puppet characters return to the big screen in a story full of nostalgia, fun, and entertainment so terrific, you don't need to drag a kid along. This is one of the year's best films for kids and adults. Genuine and nostalgic pleasure for everybody.

Super 8
It may not be anything new by unconventional standards, but J.J. Abrams homage to Spielberg classics delivers an old-fashioned sense of nostalgia, excitement, entertainment, and heart, which so many blockbusters have been lacking in the last few years. The summer's best popcorn movie, and the way summer movies should be. Not recommended for families due to langauge problems and intense (sometimes jumpy) situations, but exciting for aforementioned nostalgic moviegoers and Spielberg devotees.

The Tree of Life
There are those who love it, and those who hate it. Nevertheless, Terrence Malick's ambitious and complex story of the creation of life on earth, juxtaposed with a 1950s American family, is a bold, astounding, visual and visceral film experience that leaves you with striking images and themes that challenge not only the conventions of moviemaking, but also of storytelling. The year's most ambitious film.

Other mentions include The Beaver, The Debt, and Where Soldiers Come From