Without further ado, the final part of Christian's Oscars! My Top 10 Films of 2011, in order, counting down from my 10th favorite movie, to my number one favorite movie of the year. A few movies that narrowly missed this list, in no particular order, were: The Tree of Life, The Help, The Way, The Descendants, and My Week With Marilyn. So let's not waste any more time, here's the list!
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Rupert Wyatt)
As far as blockbuster moviemaking goes, this movie had it all. Awesome visuals, superbly crafted action, moments that made you wanna jump out of your seat and cheer (such as Caesar the ape's first words), and some truly spectacular special effects work. It simply answered the question as to how those apes from Charlton Heston days took over the world, and did it with such genuine style and energy, making Rise of the Planet of the Apes one of the more enjoyable times at a theater in this past year.
9. The Conspirator (Dir. Robert Redford)
This is bold moviemaking, not just re-enacting the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but recounting the tale of the conspirators who conspired to kill him, and the first woman sentenced to the death penalty by the United States. The Conspirator is a movie that uses a brash, young lawyer, who is discredited for trying to obtain his client a fair trial, when the government is simply wanting to have a scapegoat to pin the assassination on, since John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed when cornered by the authorities. A wonderfully executed court room drama that manages to involve and enlighten the viewer through little known historical facts.
8. The Debt (Dir. John Madden)
A movie so good, I saw it twice in theaters. This complex tale of three retired Mossad agents reflecting on their youth hunting down a Nazi war criminal, was as riveting and suspenseful as any other movie this year. The characters were real people, with mystery behind them, and it was in unraveling the secrets and lies that we keep with us for decades upon decades that makes The Debt such an emotionally rewarding experience.
7. The Muppets (Dir. James Bobin)
What can you say, it's the Muppets. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, the whole gang, are putting on one last show to try and save the Muppet theater from an evil oil tycoon, played in a hilariously out-of-character performance by rapping Chris Cooper. The music from Flight of the Conchords' Brett McKenzie was hilarious and heartfelt, the script by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller was equally hilarious and heartfelt, delving into real, conflicted human emotions that all people deal with, by personifying all of that through hand puppets. Not to mention, new Muppet Walter was a welcome addition to the old gang, and who doesn't get the warm fuzzies when they hear Kermit sing, "Rainbow Connection?" That's what I thought.
6. Real Steel (Dir. Shawn Levy)
Few movies are as enjoyable as Real Steel. It's a movie about boxing robots mixed with some well done sentimental heart tugging, making the seven-year-old inside of me get filled with raw excitement while at the same time actually feeling as if I've gone on this great emotional journey. This is the type of movie I'd watch again and again as a child, because it is just so perfect as an entertainment. Aw, I'll watch it over and over again anyways cause I still love these type of innocent movies told straight from the heart.
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (Dir. David Yates)
The final installment in the Harry Potter franchise, and what can I say, it drew the series to an entertaining, and overall emotion-filled conclusion. While there are the standard qualms over what was cut, and what was changed, the filmmakers did such a fine job of executing the spirit of the book, that it made this finale a fitting conclusion to an eight film, seven book run. Not to mention, the action is amped up higher than ever before, with some truly spellbinding visual effects, and marvelous performances from the ensemble cast who each get their moment to shine and take a final curtain call.
4. We Bought A Zoo (Dir. Cameron Crowe)
A widower, who also happens to be a single dad, buys a zoo to try and create a change of pace for his family, and their lives change on account of it. We Bought A Zoo was a fairly standard, Hollywood produced family comedy/drama, but it is how director Cameron Crowe managed to balance the humor with drama, showing that even in dire circumstances there are still laughs to be had, delivering one of the most true movies about loss and dealing with grief in a long while. Featuring marvelous performances from the kids in the cast, as well as lead Matt Damon, and a scene stealing role from Thomas Haden Church as Matt Damon's brother, the laughs come with a deft blend of both pathos and redemption.
3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Dir. Thomas Alfredson)
This is a movie that is more than likely how the real world of espionage is. Tons of talking, sitting in rooms, and staring one another down, as MI6 agent George Smiley tries to uncover a Russian mole at the height of the Cold War. The story has a very real world feel to it, there are no gunfights or car chases, or any sort of high tech gadgetry. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is grounded in reality, featuring, real, flawed human beings, and that is where all of the magic of the movie occurs. Sprinkle on top some of the finest ensemble casting in years, led superbly by Gary Oldman in a career best performance, and you have one finely crafted motion picture that entertains, but is also near impossible to figure out who the mole is till it's revealed, addressing a major problem I've had with most modern day movies. Where is the surprise? A twist can usually be seen from a mile away, but not here. Huge kudos to the cast and crew for doing a surprise twist right and having the best use of Bobby Darin's, "Beyond the Sea," in any movie ever made.
2. X-Men: First Class (Dir. Matthew Vaughn)
After the disappointments that were X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, my expectations were not that high for X-Men: First Class, thankfully I was wrong. While the movie often deviates from the comic book source material in many areas, the movie remembers that it is a movie first, and so it remains faithful to the spirit of the X-Men comics while making the best movie of the franchise save for X-2. The core story of how a young Professor Xavier and a young Magneto came to be best friends to only be turned into mortal enemies is the stuff of greek tragedy, not to mention the movie had the slickness and excitement of a Sean Connery James Bond movie just with superheroes in it. An entertaining, emotion-filled thrill ride from start to finish.
1. War Horse (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
No other movie this year had as much of an affect on me as War Horse did. War Horse is a movie about a boy's horse named Joey, sold into the British cavalry during World War I, and the boy's journey to try and find his horse once more. However, the movie is not about Joey's owner, Albert, it is about Joey, the horse himself, and how he affects the people around him with compassion and love. Spielberg crafted a very human story, told through the point-of-view of a horse. The movie is about how life is not about wars or where we come from, but about being human and connecting with one another. Filled with spectacular battle scenes and some of the most uplifting moments in cinema this past year, it is hard not to love and be entertained by War Horse.