The Best Films of 2011 #15-11

As the number of films I watch has grown so has the number of films I rank among my best of the year. Essentially what matters to me is not so much the number of films included amogst the best of the year but rather the proportion. When I started these picks as a teenager I’d pretty much only be guaranteed a Saturday matinee at the local UA so that amounted to about 52 films a year. Meaning the five Best Picture nominees were equivalent to the top 10%. It’s not a bad rule of thumb. Granted only picking 10 Best Picture nominees of about 222 films deemed eligible equals about 4.5% of the total films I viewed. Therefore it’s not much of a stretch to take my Best List which goes beyond just the nominees from 15 to 25. In fact, I just had to pick the first few that came to mind. Some that wouldn’t show up on another list I did because 30 would be easily achievable.

Without much further ado here is the continuation of my Best Films countdown, you can find the beginning here:

15. Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)

This film in my mind doesn’t mark a renaissance for Woody Allen. I never declared him creatively dead so he had nothing to rebirth from necessarily. Each trip into an Allen film is an uneasy balance for viewers. We want “old, funny” Woody in a new way but those films of which we think are nearly, if not more than, 40 years old at this point. Things have changed and so has Woody. He always does, that’s the thing. So while this hearkens back to some of his more inventive works and comments openly on a man caught in the past; he’s also playing with new techniques in a new city. Allen has always been unafraid but he’s in a full on experimental mode. He’s not just playing with new techniques, he’s playing with house money, and after all he’s done, why shouldn’t he? You may not like some of his films but any director who always gives you cause to discuss his work, perhaps even heatedly, is worth noting.

14. Crazy, Stupid, Love

Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros.)

In the previous list section there I discuss Bereavement which is likely my favorite horror film since the release of Frailty. This is a film I have not yet seen a second time so whether I like it more than such-and-such is difficult to say but what I can say is what class I believe it’s in and that’s the likes of Love Actually, French Kiss and maybe, maybe When Harry Met Sally… It’s equal parts funny and insightful, it’s all heartfelt and it weaves love plots deftly when most would be clunky. Too many missed this film, see it now.

13. Win Win

Alex Shaffer and Paul Giamatti in Win Win (Fox Searchlight)

This is the kind of film that you hope and pray will stick in people’s minds as the year goes on as it deserves to land on lists of this type regardless of release date. I’m glad to see it along with some of the performances have been recognized. Win Win in a lot of ways flies in the face of conventions of escalating incidents, constantly raising stakes and climax. Not to say it doesn’t have these things but it plays them differently. It deals in reality and subtext. It has palpable drama and humor but doesn’t always feel the need to remind you of it but you feel it, always.

12. Take Shelter

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter (Sony Pictures Classics)

To see how I feel this film qualifies as a horror film please see my Horror Film list (to be posted).

Take Shelter is a great film. In a few regards it’s the best kind. It features a powerhouse performance by Michael Shannon one that needs to be as great as it is in order to drive the story. If you believe him as an actor there’s a chance you believe maybe what he sees is in fact real and not delusion despite evidence to the contrary. If you believe him, or at least that he believes it, you fear for him and for his family and not just by proxy either. Another way in which this film is great is that it can be interpreted in a few ways and regardless of which path you choose as your own its great either way, the view is just a little bit different on that road is all.

11. X-Men: First Class

Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox)

Were I one for quotas I may have pre-designated this year as one which would need to have a superhero film representative. However, I didn’t hold my breath for any of them and came away blown away by this one. The one most near and dear to my heart that I needed to succeed to continue to have faith, or optimism, in those with powers on the big screen. I discussed much of what love about this film in my review so suffice it to say that X-Men clearly did not get here because I needed a superhero film and conversely it’s not a slight that it ends up at number 11. Precisely the reason I started to make lists to accompany my awards is because it would allow me to echo or restate my affections for certain film regardless of how they fall down the ladder when separated by an iota or two from one another.

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