(Updated August 25, 2012 – 50/50 was moved up from #4 to #3. Shame moved down from #3 to #4. The Tree of Life was upgraded to 4.5 stars and moved up from #7 to #5. Martha Marcy May Marlene dropped to #6 from #5. Sarah’s Key dropped from #6 to #7.)
(Updated May 24, 2012 – The Tree of Life was upgraded to 4 stars and moved to #7 on the list. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo dropped to #8 and Super 8 dropped to #9.)
Here it is: the hardest blog post I write every year. My Top 10 Movies for the past year in film.
2011 was a surprisingly great year for smaller films. I saw more small films and indies in the theater than I’ve ever seen in the theater before in my life. I’m now VERY familiar with my local “arthouse” theater. I went back to the theater in full force, seeing 39 movies total on the big screen. With Harkins Theaters installing high quality digital projectors in all of their Phoenix theaters last year, the movies never looked or sounded better on the big screen. I for one don’t miss 35mm film projectors at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of film, but I love the clarity and pristine presentation of the new 4k digital projectors. Simply spectacular!
As always, it was tough to finalize this list…hence my February 2012 posting date. I wouldn’t be surprised if I update this list 6-12 months from now, adding a couple films and subtracting a couple, modifying the ratings a bit, etc. But as of today, this is my Top 10. Check out every single one of these films on blu-ray.
10. We Bought A Zoo (3.5 stars)
9. Super 8 (3.5 stars)
8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (4 stars)
7. Sarah’s Key (4 stars)
6. Martha Marcy May Marlene (4 stars)
5. The Tree Of Life (4.5 stars)
4. Shame (4.5 stars)
3. 50/50 (4.5 stars)
2. Moneyball (4.5 stars)
1. Margin Call (5 stars)
It was a tough choice between my top 3 films as to which I would choose to be #1. All 3 are outstanding in so many ways. But Margin Call really grabbed me the most. It’s the Wall Street (1987) of our modern time. In fact, I love it even more than that classic 80’s icon. I saw it twice in the theater, once on DVD, and most recently I bought the blu-ray and watched it a fourth time. Writer/Director J.C. Chandor simply crafted a taught, intelligent, and thrilling movie that grabbed me in every way that a movie can and should. The writing and subject matter was so clear and so well put together. The ensemble cast provided some of the best acting of the year, with all 8 of the actors pictured on the poster above giving some of their best performances ever. The production design, cinematography, music, and every other detail of the film were perfectly executed. Th movie is a thrill ride for the brain, as smart as last year’s The Social Network (2010).
Part of why I’m championing Margin Call as my #1 movie of the year, is to show that indie filmmaking is alive and kicking very strong. Even while many claim that indie film is dead or starving. Margin Call was made for $3.4 million, it did incredibly well on Video On Demand, and made about $5 million at the box office. All small numbers by Hollywood standards. They probably spent more on catering for Transformers 3. Margin Call was shot almost all digitally, mostly on the Red One camera. And it just shows that great movies don’t have to come from the big 6 studios in Hollywood. Look at the rest of my Top 10 Movies of 2011 and you’ll see the same can be said about Shame, 50/50, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sarah’s Key, and even to a degree, The Tree Of Life. And then of course there are all the other good indies and small films that didn’t quite make my Top 10, like Drive, Pariah, Win Win, Like Crazy, My Week With Marilyn, The Conspirator, Take Shelter, and We Need To Talk About Kevin. My point is that the great films of 2011 were movies that most people probably didn’t see at the theater. But that’s their loss. I only hope they find all of them in their home theater at some point and appreciate how great of a year 2011 really was for the movies.