Continuing our search for the Best Movie of all time, we come to 2011. Marching backwards to near the dawn of the decade, we saw some brave and creative work coming out of Hollywood. The Artist, a silent black and white film, swept five of the top awards at the Oscars including best picture, best director, and best actor. However, I did not see it as a brilliant work so much as a bit of nostalgia to feed to an industry which is extremely narcissistic.
Plenty of others could have made this list including three great Marvel properties (Captain America – The First Avenger, X-Men – First Class, and Thor) which set things running for the current spate of superhero films which we are all enjoying. We also had the end of the canonical Harry Potter franchise with The Deathly Hallows Part 2 even though Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is trying to recapture that magic later this year. And I can’t forget Super 8, Melancholia, Moneyball, Source Code, The Intouchables, and The Help just to name a few. It was a good year, but let’s take a look at my top 3.
3rd – Hugo
Hugo is a remarkable film starring a very talented Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas). He is one of those young actors that I’m watching closely because I feel like he has great talent and the right look to be a stunning leading man very soon. It’s very hard to tell it by watching, but this is actually a Martin Scorsese film. No, Hugo is not a gangster, there are no vicious murders, and no foul language. Scorsese made this film for his grandkids, but I see him telling his love story for film in this gorgeous adaptation of Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”
For other film lovers like me, it was thrilling to see the magical work and tragic story of legendary film pioneer Georges Melies play out on screen. His story could be a film all by itself, but author Selznick and Scorsese artfully weave the all too true story of this prolific creator with the fictional tale of a boy named Hugo Cabret. It is a beautiful film and a touching tribute to this man that so many in the film industry owe their livelihoods.
2nd – Drive
Drive is the breakout film from director Nicolas Winding Refn. The trailer does not do it justice. I think they condensed most of the dialogue and used it in the trailer. Casual film-goers wondered why there was so much of Gosling sitting in a car staring off into space. The trailer makes it look like it’s going to be a Fast and the Furious knockoff when in reality it is an extremely dark and dramatically paced drama centered around Ryan Gosling’s main character. It was so bad that there was even talk of a class action lawsuit.
I was in the other camp. I had never heard of Refn before this film and the trailer did not catch my attention, so I ended up watching this film later in 2012 after I heard so much buzz about it from other film lovers. Needless to say, I liked it a lot. I’m a big fan of character development and I don’t know that I’ve seen a better example of a film centered so perfectly around the evolution of one figure.
Don’t expect a ton of action and be prepared for Gosling to go down a very dark and violent path, but it is a visual feast and introduced me to a world of electronic music that I didn’t even know I liked. Listen in particular for A Real Hero and for glimpses and mentions of scorpions. They will help you unravel what is going on inside the very twisted head of the driver.
1st – Tree of Life
Film aficionados can spot a Terrence Malik film from a mile away and when they see it they usually start running towards it. This is the best that we have seen from the director that gave us The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven, and The New World. Scott Tobias from the A.V. Club said,
The Tree Of Life has a vision that makes most movies look like crude stick drawings. On balance, the question of why someone has to die is made to seem absurdly narrow, because a single life seems so insignificant in the vastness of time and space. Yet The Tree Of Life isn’t despairing about it in the least; it’s a genuine attempt to grasp the transcendent, and the rare religious film that deserves to be called spiritual.
It’s scope is like that of 2001: A Space Odyssey, focused on a small part of an infinite scale. With Emmanuel Lubezki behind the camera and the limitless non-linear storytelling it is an amazing film and worthy of the top spot for 2011.
Did I get it right in your book? Have you seen any of my top 3? What did you think? Sound off in the comments below.