Listomania! The best of 2011 is finally here!

1.  Drive – My high school English teacher told me there’s no such thing as a “perfect piece of art.”  He might even agree that Drive is about as close as you can get.  It’s my favorite film since Zodiac.  ‘Nuff said.

2.  The Tree of Life – This film takes me to a place few others have.  Here’s a LINK to the Blu-ray review I wrote up for RopeofSilicon.

3.  The Ides of March – I saw the big “twist” coming from the moment I watched the first trailer, but the dialogue hit so hard that my attention never wavered.  The impact of every insult and double-cross is felt just as strongly as it should be.

4.  50/50 – Hugely funny and full of heart.  If there was an Oscar category of “all-time greatest use of Pearl Jam in a motion picture,” this would have it in the bag.  I can’t get that beautiful closing moment out of my head.

5.  We Need to Talk About Kevin – Emotionally rattling and deeply disturbing, Kevin looks at the tired school shooting subject from an entirely different angle.  It’s essentially a dysfunctional family art-house drama blended with the classic demon child horror flick (a la The Omen), making for a disorienting one-of-a-kind experience.  This one needs a lot more attention.

6.  The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon recovered nicely this year after a rough 2010 that featured an uncharacteristically bland performance in Hereafter.  Movies likeThe Adjustment Bureau and We Bought a Zoo reminded us why he’s one of our generation’s most likable movie stars.  Sure, The Adjustment Bureau‘s sci-fi plot device and absurd use of fedoras was a bit hokey, but its Hitchcockian blend of suspense and romance, fueled by Damon and Emily Blunt’s terrific chemistry, left me more than satisfied.

7.  Martha Marcy May Marlene – No one saw this film after it came roaring out of Sundance 2011 with comparisons to the previous year’s darling Winter’s Bone, even though M4 (as I’ve grown accustomed to calling it) is by far the superior film.  Armed with two of the year’s best performances, it offers a dark, disturbing look at humanity, told in a very unique way.

8.  Senna – Yeah, it’s that documentary about the race car guy.  Senna captured my imagination with the masterful way it sets up a bitter rivalry between daredevil underdog newcomer Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the seasoned veteran who knows all of the ins and outs of Formula 1 politics.  Its storytelling rivals that of any narrative film of this or any year.

9.  Butter – Hilarious and biting political satire that you probably haven’t even heard of unless you attended a film festival in the fall, Butter dramatizes the 2008 Democratic primary as a high-stakes, small-town butter carving competition.  Think Election, only even smarter and funnier.  I mean, Olivia Wilde plays a stripper and Hugh Jackman plays a scumbag used car salesman.  What’s not to love?  Keep an eye out for it come March.

10.  Hugo – It’s a real shame that The Artist seems to have stolen Hugo‘s thunder.  It’s a true joy for anyone who has ever fallen in love with movies.  You probably won’t be able to catch it in theaters anymore, in 3D, the way Martin Scorsese intended, but please check out the Blu-ray on February 28.

Other categories (winners in Bold):

Best Director:

  • Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
  • Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • George Clooney (The Ides of March)
  • Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
  • Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene)

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
  • Brendan Gleeson (The Guard)
  • Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
  • Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
  • Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
  • Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
  • Brit Marling (Another Earth)

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Albert Brooks (Drive)
  • John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
  • Amy Ryan (Win Win)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Foreign Language Film :

  • Nobody Else But You (France)
  • A Separation (Iran)
  • Point Blank (France)
  • The Skin I Live In (Spain)
  • Le Havre (Finland)

Best Animated Feature:

  • Rango
  • Rio
  • The Adventures of Tintin

Best Documentary:

  • Senna
  • Project Nim
  • The Other F Word
  • If A Tree Falls
  • The Interrupters

Top 5 must-own 2011 Blu-ray releases:

  • Citizen Kane (Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
  • Scarface (Steelbook)
  • 12 Angry Men (Criterion Collection)
  • Carlos (Criterion Collection)
  • Rango

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