Tommy D’s Top 10 Films of 2011

Hold on, folks. Awards season isn’t over just yet.

Just to whet your appetite for the imminent revelation of the inaugural Tommy D Awards, I present to you my Top 10 Films of 2011. Some difficult choices had to be made, but I am ultimately satisfied with this list. To throw a bone to the hard luck losers, I’m listing them under “honorable mention.”

Without further ado: 

Honorable Mention: Warrior, Hugo, Shame, Midnight in Paris

The Top 10:

10. The Artist

2011’s Oscar winner for Best Picture just manages to make the cut on my list. I was skeptical that a black and white, predominantly silent film could actually be entertaining in the 21st century amidst films of greater technological prowess, but The Artist managed to hook me with its homage to cinematic history, its crisp musical score, and the performances of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.

9. The Debt

A remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, The Debt was a thoughtful and intense espionage thriller. What made it stand out among other films in this genre — besides the stellar acting of rising star Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Martin Csokas — were the themes about choices and lies that were prevalent throughout. This film proved to be a pleasant surprise thanks to these aspects.

8. Martha Marcy May Marlene

This quietly unsettling psychological thriller/drama featured a breakout performance from Elizabeth Olsen (the Olsen twins’ younger sister). Writer/director Sean Durkin’s unique way of blending Martha’s reality, dreams, and hallucinations was not only chilling to the audience, but it also made us understand the paranoia her character was going through after fleeing an abusive cult.

7. Carnage

I doubt many people will remember this film down the road, but Carnage was an uproarious comedy directed by the sure-handed Roman Polanski and featuring stellar performances across the board from a great cast that included Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster, and John C. Reilly. The entire film takes place in one apartment, but remains thoroughly entertaining throughout its crisp 79-minute duration.

6. Win Win

Tom McCarthy gives us a smart, sharp, funny, and dramatic film with Win Win. Bolstered by a strong performance from the always-excellent Paul Giamatti, Win Win is an affecting story about family, friendship, caring, and trust. Almost all of its characters are rich and deep, for which credit must be given to McCarthy.

5. The Descendants

A 2011 favorite among critics, The Descendants is an extraordinarily well-written adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ eponymous novel. Themes such as family dysfunction, responsibility, and forgiveness are explored in a dramedy format from the brilliant Alexander Payne (Sideways). The performances of George Clooney and up-and-comer Shailene Woodley stand out in particular.

4. 50/50

Speaking of dramedies, first-time screenwriter Will Reiser does a brilliant job in seamlessly blending raunchy humor with touching drama in the autobiographical 50/50. I remember walking out of the movie theater feeling thoroughly satisfied; I laughed and I cried (not really, but almost). Joseph Gordon-Levitt continued to show why he’s one of the finest young actors of today, and Seth Rogen — Reiser’s real-life friend — was inevitably excellent in playing himself.

3. Drive

I saw Drivtwice. I liked it the first time but felt like I missed a lot, as it wasn’t quite what I expected. After seeing it again, I loved it. Ryan Gosling hits a home run as Driver, who almost transcends being human. Writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn perfectly blends violent action with art-house drama and style, making Drive one of the more memorable cinematic experiences of the year.

2. Take Shelter

What a brilliant film this was. I just saw it and had endless amounts of analysis and praise to heap upon it. Michael Shannon gives an awesome performance as a family man who tries to protect himself and his family from the potential ramifications — real or perceived — of apocalyptic visions he begins to experience. Writer/director Jeff Nichols infuses just the right amount of intentional ambiguity to keep his audience enthralled to the very end.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What can I say? I’m a huge sucker for dark, violent thrillers, and a huge David Fincher fan. Combine those two elements (of course, Fincher specializes in this genre of film) with the fact that I was completely engrossed with Stieg Larsson’s novel, and this film immediately becomes a contender for my favorite of the year. It reached the top thanks to a head-turning performance from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, one of the greatest literary characters in recent memory. Right from the opening title sequence that featured a scintillating cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” from Trent Reznor and Karen O, I was completely glued in.

About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on February 28, 2012, in General Movie Discussion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great picks! I still need to see The Debt and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Happy to see Drive, Dragon Tattoo and Take Shelter. Also agree with you on Win Win, I was hoping that it, along with 50/50, would have gotten an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination.

  2. Great choices here. I’ve seen all of them except for Win Win, which I somehow missed in its early release. I enjoyed Carnage the whole time, but was a little disappointed that it just ended without much warning.

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