News Column

Boston Film Critic Picks Best Films of 2011

Dec. 27, 2011

James Verniere

It was a good year for animals, as well as for Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling and actor-director George Clooney. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire husband (Robert Pattison) had a vamp baby, and the 3-D plague raged on. Movie nostalgia was rampant, and the over-the-hill gang stood its ground. Woody Allen, 76, had the biggest hit of his career with "Midnight in Paris." Clint Eastwood, 81, is still going strong with underrated "J. Edgar." Christopher Plummer, 82, may win his first Oscar for "Beginners," but he'll have to rassle 82-year-old Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close") for it.

The screen animals of 2011 included a horse named Joey ("War Horse"), a lizard named Rango, some albino crocodiles from "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," a chimp named Nim ("Project Nim"), an ape named Caesar ("Rise of the Planet of the Apes"), the terriers of "The Artist" and "The Adventures of Tintin," those warbling chipmunks of "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" and, best of all, the trolls of Norway's "Trollhunter" (OK, the trolls are a stretch).

"The Artist," "The Muppets," "My Week with Marilyn," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris" and even "J. Edgar" all luxuriated in a golden movie past. Harry Potter came to a deplorably tacky, 3-D-converted end, while "Twilight" (thank heavens) has only one more installment to go. Translucent newcomer Chastain ("The Tree of Life," "The Help," "The Debt") was in every other movie. Stone rode the pop zeitgeist in "The Help" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love." "It" boy Gosling was also in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" as well as supercool "Drive" and "The Ides of March." Meryl Streep is in line for another Academy Award nomination for "Iron Lady." Farewell 2011. Please take the 3-D movies with you. Here are my picks for the 10 best films of 2011 -- in no particular order.

"A Dangerous Method" -- Forget "Shame," this is the sexiest film starring Michael Fassbender. Thank you co-star Keira Knightley and director David Cronenberg for this wicked tale about Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and a beautiful, troubled patient.

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" -- The great director Werner Herzog goes batty on us, photographing and ruminating upon prehistoric paintings in a vast French cave.

"The Artist" -- A delightful French tribute to old Hollywood, a virtual silent movie and the likely best picture Oscar winner.

"Hugo" -- "Mean Street"-born-and-bred Scorsese does a kiddie film? You bet, and it's amazing, even in 3-D.

"Drive" -- Ryan Gosling channels Steve McQueen in this high-speed heist story, and Albert Brooks almost steals the show.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" -- David ("Zodiac") Fincher riffs on a great Swedish film. Noomi? Rooney? I love both Lisbeth Salanders.

"J. Edgar" -- The best adult performance of Leonardo DiCaprio's career.

"Midnight in Paris" -- Take this trip, again and again. Merci, Woody.

"The Trip" -- Take this trip, too. Funniest film of the year, bar none, thanks to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

"The Skin I Live In" -- Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar gives us the kinkiest film of the year.

Honorable Mentions

"Incendies," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Corman's World," "13 Assassins," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "The Descendants," "Margin Call," "The Muppets," "Carnage," "Rango," "Pianomania," "The Way," "Arthur Christmas," "Poetry," "The Mill and the Cross."

Source: (c)2011 the Boston Herald

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