The Best Films Of 2011...So Far

by Kevin Jagernauth
June 21, 2011 4:05 AM
54 Comments
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"Submarine" -- It is apparently stated in someone’s contract somewhere that a conversation about Richard Ayoade’s winning coming-of-age dramedy “Submarine” cannot take place without some sort of major mention of Wes Anderson films. And yes, while the film does have similarities to Anderson’s “Rushmore” because the story also features a prototypical misfit teenager cut from the Holden Caulfield dreamer mold (though far less assured and the angst is more melancholy), to draw further derivative conclusions is reductive and missing the point. While Ayoade’s film also pops with style and music, it is cut from a distinctly different cloth, taking its cues from the electrical cinema of Lindsay Anderson and Jean-Luc Godard and to a lesser extent Hal Ashby. More important than all the comparisons are the fact that “Submarine” pops and careens forth with an electrical energy we haven’t seen on screen in sometime. You know how some first time filmmakers’ debut work just bursts with a romantic drunkeness of ideas and exuberance? “Submarine” is that film and while it tilts into a rainy-day serio-sadness a little too far in its second half, it’s still an exciting and bold debut that knocked us off our feet.

Super 8” -- Shrouded in secrecy, with the monster and even much of the plot kept tightly under wraps, all that we knew of J.J. Abrams' film before it hit theaters was that it was going to be a summer blockbuster that played as an homage to Steven Spielberg’s Amblin films of yore. Well, this wasn’t just a slavish imitation. Falling somewhere between “The Sandlot,” “Goonies,” “E.T.” but more importantly, something uniquely from the mind of Abrams, “Super 8” was a big dose of nostalgia with the goods to back it up. While, yes, the plot is driven by a monster that escapes from a hideous train wreck and kids who team to stop it, many frustrated by Abrams (seeming) lack of investment in his own creature were missing the point. Easily the writer/director’s most mature film to date, Abrams was much more concerned with capturing the torrent of feelings that kids ride through on the cusp of adolescence. Those intangible emotions of young love, parental loss and the terror of facing the world at times without your friends or family to catch you, are winningly captured by Abrams in his highly entertaining film about a town under siege. And don’t listen to the naysayers. When it’s time for the monster to appear to cause havoc, Abrams doesn’t shy from the fireworks. The train crash nearly blew out our eardrums in IMAX and the climatic sequence delivers some best blockbuster bang for your buck so far this summer. Both tender and explosive, low-key drama and wide-screen epic -- and highlighted by a truly astonishing turn by Elle Fanning and an Oscar worthy, superb score by Michael Giacchino -- “Super 8” is a fresh, large-hearted, big summer spectacle just like they used to make.

Midnight In Paris” -- Continuing his Euro flavored adventures, Paris seems to have brought Woody Allen to life in one of this best efforts in years. Opening with sweeping shots of Paris from morning to night set to jazz that immediately brings to mind “Manhattan” the latest from Allen almost seems spun from his own dreams and inspirations. Owen Wilson plays the surrogate Allen, Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter who laments never putting his efforts toward writing a truly great novel (sound like anyone you know?). However, in Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) he feels suddenly inspired and thanks to a midnight walk through the streets and quick bit of magical realism, he’s soon transported back to the ‘20s where he’s hanging out with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and watching Josephine Baker and Cole Porter perform. Yes, it's a trifle that still doesn’t rank among Allen’s great works, but there are few directors we’d rather see work out their own hesitations and reservations about their life’s works than Woody Allen. And if means traveling to 1920s Paris for a whimsical adventure through literature, art and music, we’re happy to take that journey.

The Trip” -- If you’re not familiar with the pleasantly curmudgeonly dynamic between Brit comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brdyon, “The Trip” is as good a place as any to start. Directed by Michael Winterbottom -- who previously brought the pair together in “Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story” -- the film finds the duo playing fictional, bickering versions of themselves. A self-absorbed Coogan invites Brydon on an assignment to review high end restaurants in northern England mostly because he can’t find anybody else to go with him. As the two tour, eat and talk, we are treated to endless, hilarious celebrity impressions (Brydon emphasizes that his take on folks like Michael Caine, Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins have been described as “stunningly accurate”) and blisteringly funny, casual asides. But underneath the constant quipping is an aching melancholy heart, as Coogan escapes time and again to call his girlfriend now auditioning in Los Angeles, with the distance and disconnection palpably felt over the dodgy transatlantic cell phone signal. Though edited down from a much longer six part series that aired on British television, “The Trip” doesn’t miss one beat. Hilarious, heartfelt and hugely enjoyable, if you can’t get away on vacation this summer, a detour with Coogan and Brydon instead, is a winning substitute.

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54 Comments

  • jamesyd | August 25, 2012 5:14 PMReply

    the warrior all the way for my film of the year! here's my top 10 for anyone interested http://www.infobarrel.com/Best_Films_of_2011

  • bum fluff | February 10, 2012 6:42 PMReply

    they are all FUCKING shit!!!

  • faresline | November 29, 2011 3:41 PMReply

    I like this faresline dot com

  • Movie Lover | December 12, 2011 9:53 PM

    please stop posting your crappy websites on here!

  • Jabcat | November 25, 2011 1:39 PMReply

    Top 10 Art House Films Of 2011: Vote For Your Favorites! http://jabcatmovies.com/20914

  • caleb | November 4, 2011 3:00 AMReply

    Moneyball is the best film of the year so far. However, I have a feeling that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be the best at years end.

  • kels | October 26, 2011 3:51 AMReply

    I know this list was compiled in June but no love in the comments section for "The Devil's Double"?
    Dominic Cooper is fantastic in a real scene-chewing way. I really hope he gets recognized come awards season.
    Loved "Beginners" and "The Trip".
    "Jane Eyre" was beautifully acted, even if the story is one of my least favorite "classics".

    Am looking forward to "Melancholia" and "Shame", which have both received heaps of praise in the press but have been divided amongst friends who caught them at fests.
    The last few months of 2011 are shaping up nicely.

  • Film_Shark | October 19, 2011 7:04 AMReply

    I agree with many of the selections. Some of my favorites are 'The Tree of Life,' 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Hanna,' 'Meek's Cutoff, 'Beginners,' 'Drive,' 'Submarine.' I haven't seen 'Melancholia' yet but I heard Kirsten Dunst gives a career-changing performance. She won Best Actress at Cannes this year. However, I doubt this film will get one award on Oscar night due to the bad press Liers Von Trier has attracted from his 'Nazi' scandal.

  • jingmei | October 18, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    Personally I appreciate 50/50, Drive, Melancholia, Hesher and Super, etc.

  • Pls send list of best film of the year 2011 | October 16, 2011 6:42 AMReply

    Pls send the best film

  • khalid | September 5, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    NICE

  • georgy | August 23, 2011 7:31 AMReply

    Expect "A Separation" to appear in this list in the next months.

  • Lisa | August 22, 2011 8:01 AMReply

    Best doc of the year for me: "Marathon Boy"

  • anonymous | August 18, 2011 6:44 AMReply

    Jane Eyre was really good. The ending was a little weak but it was romantic in a way that few films today are.

    I also liked Super 8. It was very entertaining and the child actors were all talented and likeable.

  • Bucky | August 12, 2011 9:19 AMReply

    Sorry, just do, "The Getaway" the way it was written....ya know? Jim Thompson's view of a journey through HELL?

  • Bucky | August 12, 2011 9:17 AMReply

    Howzabout a remake of, "The Getaway", but more along the lines of the way it was ACTUALLY written, by Jim Thompson, instead of the drivel of a remake by Baldwin doing a remake of McQueen's wet fart of a movie? Now THAT would be a game changer.

  • reg | August 12, 2011 2:15 AMReply

    "hanna" is the only movie on this list that i've seen and it was a total waste of a free movie pass. i honestly can't remember when i've been more bored by a movie. the premise and the first 15 minutes are fine, but the rest of it (aside from a mostly wasted eric bana) is pointless running, a weird fixation on the girl's face, an absurd cate blanchett accent, and a nowhere subplot with that camping family. what a snoozefest! if joe wright has ANY hope of making action movies in the future, he needs to do a LOT better in the future.

  • pradeep | August 2, 2011 8:47 AMReply

    deiva thirumagal super

  • afan | July 29, 2011 6:25 AMReply

    Hanna by far the best movie released this year.
    simply outstanding.

    Hanna and Limitless are the two biggest surprises.

    Take me home tonight is best comedy.

    1. Hanna
    2. Thor
    3. The Adjustment Bureau
    4. Take Me Home Tonight
    5. Limitless
    6. X-men First Class
    7. Super
    8. The Lincoln Lawyer
    9. Unknown
    10.Paul

  • Duder NME | July 13, 2011 9:55 AMReply

    No love for Page One?

    An upcomer getting a bit of buzz as of lately seems to be The Myth of the American Sleepover. The title sounds typical, but the trailer looks intriguing. But I'm sure once Oscar season hits in full stride, this and a majority of the above listed will be forgotten.

  • Max Roh | July 9, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    Very nice review.

    "I saw the devil" the actor's real name is
    Lee byung hun from G.I.Joe and 'The good, The bad, and the weird."

  • John | July 3, 2011 5:24 AMReply

    Glad "Hanna" made the list. It's a polarizing film no doubt, but it's still the most unique and refreshing film that was released that had a wide released. It's one of those films that make you think AFTER you watch it. An interesting take on character study.

  • Actor Tom Truong | July 1, 2011 12:51 PMReply

    these movies made in 2011 are not as exciting as earlier movies made back in the 90s when I was around 16 years old :(

  • chris | July 1, 2011 7:24 AMReply

    In response to Tom Truong: I think no films ever compare to the films of one's youth. My favorites are still from the mid-70's when I was around 16 as well. I think a lot of it has to do with the discovery of cinema and the newness/novelty of it all. No films seemed bigger to me than those of my youth.

  • Greg | June 27, 2011 6:58 AMReply

    Certified Copy is a great addition, yes, indeed...so where is Boonmee? US theatrical release is 2011. And Poetry? BOONMEE! I also dig on Film Socialisme but maybe that's just me.

  • Leah Zak | June 27, 2011 6:49 AMReply

    @michael, what would you add?

  • michael | June 27, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    Reportedly, some years ago, an experiment was conducted in which a group of subjects were to enter a room painted a memorable green. One of them was not informed that the remainder had been instructed to adamantly declare, afterward, that the room was blue. Though he initially protested,he eventually capitulated to the persuasion of the others that the green he'd witnessed was, in fact, blue. I've sat in cinemas whose wall was coloured with palpable, authentic and profound artistry. The paltry, empty, and contrived work anointed in the above article is green. Still.

  • Bethanie | June 26, 2011 7:34 AMReply

    I think 'Suing the Devil' starring Malcolm McDowell is the film to watch in 2011.

    I heard about the film at the Berlin Film Festival then went to an early-screening of it and was really blown away - Malcom really does play a good devil and it's a pretty tour-de-force performance. Also the story is very well-done - I kind of like underdog stories where the hero is this nobody and has to contend with the powerful - anyway that's my two-cents.

    Haven't seen 'Tree of Life' so I can't comment.

  • Kamil | June 25, 2011 7:41 AMReply

    Wait. Where is Lars Von Trier's 'Melancholia'. Despite Von Trier's faux pas at Cannes, the movie has gotten spectacular reviews so far especially for Kirsten Dunst's performance!

  • Miles Maker | June 25, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    "PARIAH" (2011)

  • Daniel Shuber | June 25, 2011 3:08 AMReply

    Don't forget The Adjustment Bureau - a solid minor film that was a nice surprise this past spring...

  • Johan | June 22, 2011 4:04 AMReply

    X-Men: First Class!

  • reginaroadie | June 22, 2011 4:01 AMReply

    Good selection. Agree with the majority of your pics. Still haven't seen Tree of Life and Meek's Cutoff yet, but really want to.

    I know this is a bit of an odd choice, but I would also include KUNG FU PANDA 2 in the mix as well. Does what a real sequel should do. It builds upon the world and characters of the first film while doing it's own thing. Plus it's the one summer blockbuster I've seen this year twice within the span of a week.

  • azguki | June 22, 2011 3:59 AMReply

    The name of the actor from Oldboy is Choi Min Sik, not Kyung Chul. Kyung Chul is the name of the character he plays in I Saw The Devil. Just for clarification.

  • Jonathan | June 22, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    Great list! Very close to my own, except that my top 10 so far also includes The Sunset Limited (HBO), Rango, and Of Gods and Men.
    Also, count me among those who didn't care for Meek's Cutoff. It was at times impressive to look at, but as I struggled to keep my eyes open, I felt almost nothing for the characters.
    Overall, 2011 is turning out to be a great year! I'm looking forward most to The Guard, but there are so many great films that got great buzz at the festivals that I simply can't wait to see!

  • Franqui Says Relax | June 21, 2011 9:54 AMReply

    I LOVED "Tree of Life." I saw it twice and I am writing a dissertation on it .

    What about the Liam Neeson vehicle "Unknown"? It deserves to be on this list based on the star's performance alone.

  • Mister B | June 21, 2011 8:41 AMReply

    Miss BALA!

  • JP | June 21, 2011 8:35 AMReply

    "where the fuck is martha marcy may marlene?"

    Mike: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" isn't in U.S. theaters until October.

  • YND | June 21, 2011 7:04 AMReply

    For my money, 2011 has been the best year for film in a long time. Even without the towering achievement that is TREE OF LIFE... 13 ASSASSINS, MEEK'S CUTOFF, CERTIFIED COPY, UNCLE BOONMEE and COLD WEATHER all trump just about everything on my Best of 2010 list. And we still have Cronenberg and von Trier and DRIVE and Dardennes and Ceylan and a bunch of other promising stuff coming up. Lots to be thankful for this year.

  • Nik | June 21, 2011 6:28 AMReply

    Bonus: "I Saw The Devil" is available on Netflix Instant.

  • Mr Dog | June 21, 2011 6:21 AMReply

    Apologies, i retract my comment. I'm just mad cuz i haven't seen Tree of Life yet.

  • Mr Dog | June 21, 2011 6:13 AMReply

    Three words: "Blizsh Blarzsh Blursht."

  • howson | June 21, 2011 6:02 AMReply

    Drive Angry 3D was the most enjoyable movie of the year by far.

  • tyrone jibbs | June 21, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    i'm surprised "Ceremony" isn't on here. It seemed like you guys really dug the hell out of that film.

  • Edward Davis | June 21, 2011 4:59 AMReply

    @mike It hasn't come out in proper theatrical release yet. Just film festival circuit which we bypassed per the intro.

    @mark yes, it should, it's our list. on your list it won't be there, right?

  • Cory Everett | June 21, 2011 4:58 AMReply

    Mike,

    It's in Around The Corner, for all the films that have yet to be released.

  • TimParker | June 21, 2011 4:58 AMReply

    Source Code as an honorable mention?

  • Mark | June 21, 2011 4:55 AMReply

    Super 8 shouldn't be on the list.

  • Overstreet | June 21, 2011 4:54 AMReply

    By the way, three cheers for your inclusion of "Beginners," a film that *should* have been a disaster. How do you successfully weave a coming-out story, two deaths from cancer, a tormented love story about melancholy artists, and a talking dog into one film? Somehow, Mike Mills has done just that. "Beginners" has been the year's most pleasant surprise so far, for this moviegoer anyway.

    Personally, I found "Hanna" intolerable. So much sound and fury signifying nothing. I didn't care, and the gaudy exploitation of cultural styles for the sake of decoration was really annoying. Worst Cate Blanchett performance ever.

  • mike | June 21, 2011 4:53 AMReply

    where the fuck is martha marcy may marlene?

  • Marya | June 21, 2011 4:45 AMReply

    no love for Rango?

  • Elton Telles | June 21, 2011 4:44 AMReply

    One word: "Poetry".

  • Overstreet | June 21, 2011 4:41 AMReply

    Two words: "Certified Copy."

  • Jill | December 13, 2011 2:18 AM

    One word: "Hanna."

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