10. The Ides of March: There are some films that I am so looking forward to seeing that there is no possible way it can live up to my unreasonable expectations. The Ides of March is unfortunately one of these movies. Being a political thriller junkie, from the moment I saw the trailer I couldn’t wait to see what George Clooney’s screenplay and directorial efforts could do with the genre. The Ides of March does not disappoint. It isn’t as much as a thriller as I was expecting, and admittedly, short of being the next Citizen Kane, it couldn’t possibly have live up to my unrealistic expectations, but it was still an extremely entertaining and well-made film. It boils down to a being character drama, with each person using one another as pawns (or queens) on a chess board in order to gain the competitive advantage over each other. With performances from a superstar roster such as Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Even Rachel Wood, it makes for some really great moments, performed by amazing actors. Large Popcorn.
9. Bernie: Jack Black gives an unprecedented performance and one of the best of the year as the title character Bernie in a story of the best man that ever lived in the west Texas and what it took for him to snap. Bernie was new to the town when he started at the local funeral home as assistant funeral director but it took very little time for everyone in the small west Texas town to warm up to him. His charm, charisma, singing voice, and all around care for others made him beloved to everyone from the start. What is a story of a great man takes a twisted turn once he befriends the evil widow of the town and her constant condescension and criticism causes him to explode. For 90% of movie fans that missed the limited and quick release of Bernie in 2011, this movie is a must find! Large Popcorn.
8. Hugo: Hugo was surely a marketing company’s worst nightmare. A film starting two children, shot in 3D at first glance seems like hit children’s movie right? Not when you toss in Martin Scorsese and set the film in Paris circa 1930. The brilliant and gorgeous movie focuses on Hugo who is an orphan living in the walls of the central train station and the mystery of an invention by his late father. Along with an uplifting theme and great performances, Scorsese weaves into the storylines his elegant appreciation of the early days of cinema. Large Popcorn.
7. The Descendants: Alexander Payne does what he does best in The Descendents telling another authentic tale and capturing the good and the bad that we all carry with us, and experience in life. George Clooney’s character Matt King is experiencing personal, professional, and family problems throughout the film and we are along for the touching and enjoyable ride while he realizes the best solution for them all. It is a virtually flawless film, just the right length, just the right pacing, just the right amount of comedy, just the right amount of drama…everything is just right. Go out and enjoy this movie! Large Popcorn.
6. Moneyball: Unlike many sports movies where the “Protagonist Team” finishes the season as champions or with a heart wrenching loss in the championship game, the 2001 Oakland A’s that we follow in Moneyball loses unceremoniously in the Division round of the playoffs. This is still a tremendous victory for the Billy Bean’s underdog, underpaid, mathematically put together baseball team. With an Oscar nominated adapted script from Aaron Sorkin, you know this sports movie is packed with enough drama that you don’t even need to like baseball to enjoy this film. Couple that with academy award nominated performances by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Moneyball is deserving of its best picture of the year nomination and to be #6 on this list. Large Popcorn.
5. Drive: I left the theater a bit speechless after seeing Drive. Perhaps the character known only as “Driver” played by Ryan Gosling, wore off on me a little over the course of the film. The Hollywood stunt driver by day, gangster getaway driver by night is a man of little words in this slowly paced but intense gangster movie. An ambiguous first half of the movie accelerates towards a brilliant finishing act that keeps you on the edge of your seat with very calculated suspense and action. It’s a classic movie that shows, not tells you what is happening and it takes you along on a great ride. Large Popcorn with Butter.
4. The Devil’s Double: The son of Saddam, Uday Hussein was an absolute psycho. He was so hated by the people in his country and of the world that is was necessary for him to have a “double” or a lookalike, to go out to many of his more hostile appearances. This is the story about the man who was forced to play his “double”. The movie is less a biopic but more a gangster movie revolving around one of the most powerful but corrupt “princes” ever. Dominic Cooper shines as both the insane Uday and also the more reserved Latif, who is forced to extinguish himself to become the lookalike of a hated maniac. Large Popcorn with Butter.
3. 50/50: Never before in the theater have I experienced the emotions that I felt while I was watching 50/50. It would lead me to the brink of tears, but then only a moment later in my emotionally vulnerable state, it would force me to smile and laughter. 50/50 is honest, tear jerking, very funny and extremely touching. The most well rounded movie I have seen in a long time and an absolute must see for anyone who enjoys film. Based on a true story of a young man who is blown away by the news that he has acquired a rare form of spinal cancer, and how it affects all of the relationships in his life. A film with such a heavy theme finds the perfect middle ground to tell the story so we can relax and enjoy the movie while still being touched. Large Popcorn with Butter.
2. Midnight in Paris: Come and get whisked away to a “Midnight in Paris” with Woody Allen’s film and academy award winning original screenplay. Continuing his film tour of cities in Europe he brings us to the city of love for a truly magical story. Starting Owen Wilson successfully doing his best “Woody” impression the story is about a modern day hack screenwriter on a trip with his stuffy fiancé and her family. During his nightly long walk along in the rain he is invited into a vintage and mystical cab. Before the night is over he is dancing and sipping cocktails with some of his most beloved authors, artists and composers. Large Popcorn with Butter.
1. The Skin I Live In: One of the most powerful movies that I have ever seen, a movie causes your mind to race throughout with masterful portrayals of characters never seen before in film, a story so devastating, unique, satisfying, disturbing…this is Almodóvar’s The Skin I live In. The trailer below gives away nothing and I went in knowing nothing and was blown away so all I will provide is what the official description gives and encourage everyone who missed it to go out and see it; A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
Honorable Mentions: As always a Top Ten list is a challenge to put together so I just couldn’t finish this up with out mentioning the movies that were on my initial list but didn’t quite cut the top 10. The following movies are 2010’s honorable mentions: The Guard, The Artist, Beginners, Margin Call, Marth Marcy May Marlene, Win Win, Buck, Being Elmo.
For the Record: The movies that were nominated for the Acadamy Awards Best Picture in 2011 were: The Artist (Winner), The Tree of Life, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, War Horse.