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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

'The Artist', 'The Tree of Life' tops for 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

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Jean Dujardin stars as silent film actor George Valentin in "The Artist" by writer/director Michel Hazanavicius
By CAINE GARDNER

Film Critic

Just when I thought 2011 would be a banner year for flicks, I was once again fooled. The year was filled with disappointing films (anyone see "Bridesmaids") but still there were enough winners to make it another worthwhile year at the theater.

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Brad Pitt gives one of his two impressive performances this year in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."
Some movies blew me away, while others left we scratching my head and wondering if Hollywood will ever get it right. I have faith at some point they will and if the films selected as my Top 10 for 2011 are any indication, the industry is still capable of delivering some wonderful films.

So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films just in time for Christmas. So once the presents are opened and your relatives are passed out on the couch in a food coma, sneak away and find one of these films to keep you company.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

You're reading it right, I put a Harry Potter flick in my top 10. I've been a fan of the franchise, with the exception of "Chamber of Secrets" and this was a fitting way for the films to wrap up. It was wonderful to see the actors who have literally grown up before our eyes, see the story through to its ending and provide the best performances of their young careers in doing so. Plus the Battle for Hogwarts was pretty awesome.

9. Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

Filled with British heavyweight actors such as Gary Oldman and Colin Firth, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is a great thriller. It's not a film that has an ending you don't see coming a mile away, but the story and performances are so wonderful it really doesn't matter.

8. Margin Call

This might be my favorite flick about the movers and shakers of Wall Street. "Margin Call" showcases tight performances from Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons in a story that could easily be ripped from today's headlines.

7. Ides of March

Ryan Gosling is one of the finest young actors we have today in the business. His skills are on full display in "Ides of March," a political drama co-staring George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. "Ides of March" is the story of the "perfect" candidate seeking to become the next president, but when his young junior campaign manager find his idol isn't as squeaky clean as he thought, this drama really gets going. Clooney also does a great job serving as director on the film.

6. The Descendants

Look kids, it's George Clooney again. Films starring Mr. Clooney make back-to-back appearances on my list and deservingly so.

"The Descendants" was an unexpected like this season. I wasn't sure what we'd get from the picture, but Alexander Payne doesn't disappoint. The story of a man who finds out of his wife's affair when she slips into a coma after an accident is moved along by strong performances from Clooney and Shailene Woodley and a strong script from Payne.

5. Win Win

Who thought a film that showcased high school wrestling could be a hit? "Win Win" skips going for the traditional sporting backdrops of football or basketball and uses wrestling to tell the tale of struggling attorney Mike Flaherty, played by Paul Giamatti.

Flaherty's complicated life gets a boost when a teenage grandson of a client shows up on the scene. The teen, Kyle (Alex Shaffer) just happens to be a former star wrestled in Ohio and is the catalyst for Flaherty to get his life in order.

4. Coriolanus

Actor/director Ralph Fiennes adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" is not your standard retelling of the story. Fiennes film sets the famous bards tale in a modern day Rome that has replaces shields and swords with battle armor and machine guns. Fiennes give one of my favorite performances of the year as the title character.

3. Moneyball

What's not to love about a good baseball movie? Sure you can poke holes through some of the "facts," but "Moneyball" still is one of the best films of the year. Brad Pitt plays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and documents how Bean took a baseball team, who had lost two major stars, from nothing to one of the most talked about sports stories of 2002.

Pitt is finally getting some much deserved recognition for his portrayal of Beane. Don't be surprised to hear him in awards discussion throughout awards season.

2. The Tree of Life

One of the most talked about, controversial movies of the year also happens to be one of its best. Director/writer Terrence Malick gives us a movies that throws just about everything you learned about writer or filming a movie out the window. It jumps from moment to moment in quick hits and drowns us in imagery, yet still manages to weave an interesting story.

It's by no means a traditional telling of a movie and Malick should be commended for his courage. Some story elements might turn some people off, but overall the movie is an achievement for what it captures and how it captures it. Pitt gives another great performances as a dad taking out the frustrations of life on his children. In addition to Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Hunter McCracken give outstanding performances.

1. The Artist

Who would even think of making a silent black and white film in a day and age when loud explosions and massive amounts of over-the-top special effects fill most mainstream movies?

Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius that's who.

Hazanavicius' story of a silent movie star who loses favor as the "talkies" begin to gain popularity and his struggle to move on to another phase of his career is pure magic. For anyone who has watched silent films, it takes a remarkable actor to grab your attention and make it believable and Jean Dujardin is the perfect man for the job. You could easily see Dujardin as a true silent movie era star.

He's mesmerizing on screen and conveys more with a look and a slick smile that most actors did with a film's worth of dialogue this year.