My Top 5 Movies of 2011

5. Moneyball- Even though I am a baseball fan, I didn’t believe a story about Billy Beane (manager of the Oakland As) unorthodox management of a team on a tight budget was movie material. What you get is one of the most effective pieces of movie making this year. Brad Pitt’s, charismatic, confident, Beane and Jonah Hill’s bumbling, understated team assistant, play well off one another. But it is ultimately Pitt’s performance that raises this movie to a new level. If you have zero interest in baseball you will still enjoy this, and that says a lot.

4. The Muppets- When this movie starts off with a song and dance number in Smalltown USA, my thought was… “really? You want me to go there?” I quickly surrendered to the  best time I had at the movies this year. I found myself sheepishly grinning throughout. The back to back songs by neglected ladies, Mary (Amy Adams) and Miss Piggy, singing “Me Party” and the strangely touching, duet from Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter, “Man or Muppet,” was pure joy.

3. Win, Win- I wrote something about this last year. Heartfelt, uplifting movie about flawed people in bad situations. Tom McCarthy remains the writer/director I can’t wait to see more from.

2. Hugo- A family movie that does not go to predictable places. Tells the tale of a orphaned boy living deep within a train station in early 20th century Paris, and lost filmmaker Georges Melies. Beautifully shot, this sits along side Avatar, as the best use of 3D film making yet. Perfectly captures how movies can cast a spell over it’s audience.

1. Midnight in Paris- A funny, inspiring movie that embraces art, literature and the beauty of Paris. The main character Gil, is identifiable as someone who seems to have everything— A successful writer, beautiful fiancé, money, yet still feels unfulfilled. Owen Wilson’s awkward yet engaging persona, perfectly embodies Woody Allen’s neurotic, hilarious voice, as he interacts with Art and Literary greats to find himself and happiness. This film shows me that engaging character interactions, always triumph the best action movie. I adored this film from beginning to end.

Just Missed

X-Men: First Class- The modern mythology of comic superheroes continues to dominate the movies. Although most of this year’s entries were effective, X-Men: First Class origin story was my top summer popcorn flick. This is in large part to the oscar-caliber acting of James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the leads. Fassbender’s scene in an Argentinian bar remains my most memorable of the year. This lands just under Nolan’s Batman films, as my favorite superhero movie.

The Decendents- This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy captures a man’s dysfunctional family as his wife suffers a boating accident and is in a coma. It causes him to re-exam his past and realize the damage his indifference to his wife and two daughters has caused. Set in the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii and it’s music, Matt (Clooney) also has to make a big decision on the future of land handed down by Hawaiian royalty as he finally deals with the relationship with his troubled daughters. Really a beautiful film, that just misses my top 5. Ultimately I think this movie didn’t have enough humor to defuse the tough subject matter like Alexander Payne’s past films. Clooney running around like a crazed madman and the stoner boyfriend didn’t provide enough for me.

The Adventures of Tintin- The effects in this world-spanning adventure are jaw dropping. Spielberg really outdid himself directing his first computer animated film. The camera angles he uses would just not be possible in traditional film making and he takes it to new levels here.The most dazzling, fast moving, action sequences this year, literally soaring through each scene on a roller coaster. Also, another stellar motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, as the drunk Captain Haddock. This had me ordering Hergé’s Tintin books I enjoyed as a kid, and leaves me excited for the next installment. Another film that really benefits from 3D.

The Tree of Life- A film that is stunning to look at. Like a great photography book with seemingly unrelated images that surprise and inspire as you flip through it’s pages. Easily the best shot film I saw this year. I have a hard time with Terrance Malick’s films. The story-telling is almost an after thought and requires you to fill in the blanks. Does flying through the cosmos and seeing dinosaurs really help this narrative of a family in 1950s Texas? This is artsy-fartsy at it’s best. Depending on where you sit, you will either embrace or shun it’s results.

Films not seen yet, that may have made my list:  The Guard, Young Adult, 50/50, War Horse, The Help, The Iron Lady, Bridesmaids, The Artist

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