Written PostThe Top 15 Movies of 2011 — Part Three!

The Top 15 Movies of 2011 — Part Three!

Click here for part one of my Top 15 Movies of 2011 list, numbers fifteen through eleven, and here for part two, featuring numbers ten through six. Buckle up, now, as it’s time for the home stretch, the best of the best (at least in my humble opinion) of 2011!

5.  Young Adult Juno writer and director Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman re-team for a deliciously dark comedy about a twisted, pretty-much irredeemably terrible young woman named Mavis Gary (a magnificent Charlize Theron) who returns to the small hometown she left years before, in an attempt to win back her old jock boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). He’s married with a young baby, but so what?  During her week back in town, Mavis bumps into another high school classmate, the nerdy, disabled Matt (Patton Oswalt). The two strike up a weird sort-of friendship, and the way the arc of that pairing avoids any of the typical movie cliche ways that those sorts of relationships usually unfold on-screen is only one way in which this movie is unremittingly awesome.  The running gag about the way Mavis wakes up each morning, the terrific chemistry between Ms. Theron and Mr. Oswalt, and that pitch-perfect ending are just a few others.  A phenomenal film.  (Click here for my full review.)

4.   The Adventures of TintinShould anyone be surprised that the team-up of cinematic titans Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson produced gold?  This deliriously joyful, madcap adventure is non-stop pulpy fun from start-to-finish.  The film just zips on by, one incredible sequence after another, with Mr. Spielberg showing us once again how he is an absolute master at staging an action scene and assembling a crowd-pleasing adventure film.  The animation is gorgeous, the voice-work is impeccable (highlighted by another brilliant performance by the great Andy Serkis — I also praised his work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when I wrote about that film earlier on this list), and when the closing credits ran I couldn’t believe the film was over already.  This one is going to get a lot of play in my household in the coming years, of that I have no doubt.  I can’t wait for the sequel, in which Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Jackson will apparently switch roles (so that Mr. Spielberg will produce the film and Mr. Jackson will direct).  (Click here for my full review.)

3.  BridesmaidsKirsten Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo, working with brilliant comedy director Paul Feig (creator of Freaks of Geeks), producer Judd Apatow, and a tremendous cast of women, hit every note exactly perfectly in this comedic home-run.  The film is riotously funny and outrageous, but like all of the projects that Mr. Apatow has a hand in, the comedy is rooted in real, human characters and emotions.  Ms. Wiig is superb as Annie, the center of the story.  She gives Annie a strong personality and a fully-realized character arc, and Ms. Wiig is generous in often playing the straight-woman, allowing her co-stars to get the big laughs.  That’s not to say that Ms. Wiig doesn’t get the big laughs herself, too, especially in her memorable mid-air freakout when the women try to head to Vegas for a bachelorette party.  I, along with so much of the rest of the world, discovered Melissa McCarthy in this film, in her outrageous and wonderful performance as Megan, but the whole group shines: Maya Rudolph, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Rose Byrne are each absolute perfection.  It’s so exciting to see such a fresh comedic perspective and such a note-perfect combination of performers.  (Click here for my full review.)

2.  Attack the BlockThis low-budget British film, written and directed by Joe Cornish (making, unbelievably, his directorial debut), postulates the scenario that fierce alien creatures have invaded, not Washington DC or New York, but rather a low-income apartment complex (the titular Block) in London.  From that unlikely premise an extraordinary film unfolds, in which a small group of street thugs find themselves thrust into the position of having to be the heroes of an action movie.  The film’s success rests on the extraordinary group of kids cast, and the fiercely intelligent, sharp script that gives these kids an arc like nothing else I can recall seeing in recent memory.  At the start of the film, you loathe these punks.  Two hours later, you’ll love every single one of them.  It’s quite astounding.  Attack the Block is an intense action/suspense film, and Mr. Cornish and his team demonstrate tremendous versatility and creativity in putting together a sci-fi adventure for very little money.  (To give you an idea, Attack the Block’s budget is estimated to be $13 million, whereas my number one film had a budget estimated at $150 million.)  The design of the alien creatures is a brilliant low-cost solution that results in scary, iconic monsters.  The film is also very funny.  The kids are given plenty of room to bounce off of one another, as real kids do, and it’s a hoot to watch their interactions.  Nick Frost (who starred in two films on my Top 15 list — the other being Paul) is a riot as a mellow drug-dealer in whose orbit the kids seem to continually circle, and he provides a strong anchor to the ensemble.  But make no mistake, this movie belongs to the kids — that brash, profane group whose presence give Attack the Block its unique identity.  I’d wager many of you reading this haven’t seen this film — do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix queue right now!  (Click here for my full review.)

1.  HugoFor a while there I thought Attack the Block would be my number one film of 2011, but the beautiful, deeply-felt masterpiece Hugo narrowly edged it aside in my heart.  The idea of Martin Scorsese making a 3-D family film seems almost ludicrous, but the result is one of the strongest and most unique films of Mr. Scorsese’s career.  A young orphan boy, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) makes a Paris railroad station his home, and while trying to stay one step ahead of the tough station inspector (a marvelous Sacha Baron Cohen), he befriends a young girl (Kick Ass’ Chloe Grace Moretz) and, through her, her guardian Papa Georges.  Hugo’s growing connection with Georges, and the slow revelation of the secret history that Papa Georges hides, forms the heart of the film’s story.  What begins as a somewhat whimsical (though birthed from tragedy) tale becomes something much deeper, as the film shifts from Hugo’s story to that of Papa Georges.  Hugo is a beautiful meditation on art and creativity, and more specifically about the history of film, the need for film preservation, and the very magic of celluloid.  It’s an absolute delight, and in the end it was an easy choice for my top film of 2011.  (Click here for my full review.)

I hope you enjoyed my selections!  Stick around and in the coming days I will post the rest of my Best of 2011 lists: My Top 15 Comic Books from 2011, my Top 10 Episodes of TV from 2011, and my Top 10 DVDs from 2011.  See you then!