Generation Film’s Top 20 Films of 2011

20. A Dangerous Method– if David Cronenberg’s name wasn’t at the beginning of the credits introducing the film you would have no clue that this reserved character depiction was part of his violent filmography, which showcases good performances and a thought provoking dichotomy between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

19. War Horse-though not at the caliber of his previous works and definitely has some chapters in the tale that are weaker than others, Spielberg does deliver a touching and epic tale of a boy and his horse that has some extremely memorable imagery (barbed wired No-Man’s land or the wheat field mount) and a highly manipulative score that will sway you to joyful tears.

18. Meek’s Cutoff– A surrealist and atmospheric interpretation of a John Ford western that director Kelly Reichardt guides in delicate fashion giving the film an experimental yet human quality glorifying independence that is rarely seen in movies these days.

17. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close– trying to find meaning in the meaningless is at the center of young actor Thomas Horn’s journey throughout the film and it becomes increasingly emotional, heartbreaking, and life affirming all in the same picture.

16. Melancholia– deserves recognition for its prologue alone (features apocalyptic imagery rooted in German Romanticism) but could be the most divisive film this year, which has ignited discussion, frustration, and deep reflection and that is probably what more films need to try and accomplish.

15. Shame– while not as strong as his previous work, director Steve McQueen still delivers a risky and raw drama about a sex addict that is hauntingly personal and forebodingly tragic becoming a film that will stay with you long after it’s done.

14. Margin Call– probably the best film from a first time director this year, this in house drama that takes place before the financial collapse of 2008 takes focus on personal character and moral decision making delivered in an apolitical way that invites many people to have deep personal contemplation and reflection in the aftermath.

13. Certified Copy– an independent film that embraces full on conversations on art, philosophy, and truth which reminds us of great character dialogue driven dramas from the likes of Lynch and Linklater bringing us a very thought-provoking work of art.

12. Take Shelter– a fantastic thriller brought to us by director Jeff Nichols, this film is built upon a subjective outlook that might be unstable due to the character’s history of mental illness and becomes a haunting film experience.

11. Win, Win– Director (and Character actor) Thomas McCarthy brings another funny yet dramatic film to life about a lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach who finds more stress and revelation in his life with the arrival of the grandson of a client he has morally deceived.

10. The Descendants– Alexander Payne brings another intriguing and poignant character drama to the screen, which features strong performances and Payne’s signature ability to make his characters seem paradoxically alien yet relatable.

9. Midnight in Paris– Woody Allen’s hit or miss track record delivers a hit reminiscent in style to his previous work The Purple Rose of Cairo but offers plenty on its own merit, including romanticized longings of times in the past (with a Woody Allen realization there would be no penicillin) and ingenious uses of authors, painters, and filmmakers from the 1920s that walks the balance between pompous and whimsical very well.

8. Point Blank–  this Hitchcock-esque French thriller designed around the idea that a man was in the wrong place at the wrong time becomes an adrenaline filled mystery that seems as though it belongs right in the 70s guerilla filmmaking era.

7. The Guard– the funniest movie you didn’t see this year filled with exceptionally rude dialogue, out of place philosophical ponderings, and a glorious performance from Brandon Gleeson who ignites the screen with unrestrained offensiveness.

6. Tree of Life– extremely ambitious in delivery yet simple in concept Terrance Malick is able to blend attainable philosophy, autobiographical propensities, and visual stunning tapestries for a film that is quite surprisingly religiously reaffirming.

5. Hug0– Scorsese’s love letter homage to the early years of cinema is done so with a delightful Dickensian tale of a boy fixing the clocks in a train station trying to uncover the last mystery and piece he has of his dead father. It is a film that is pseudo-historical and is delivered with fantastic cinematography making it extremely poignant and memorable.

4. A Separation– delicately walks the tightrope of giving each character their own perspective reminiscent of the Kurosawa classic Rashomon; this Iranian film is one of those rare honest films that showcase all of the rights and wrongs of a family including aspects of morality, pride, and honor.

3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy– a pitch perfect thriller, one that is minimalist in delivery yet exceptionally complex in the details. Director Tomas Alfredson gives the proper tone and ambience this Machiavellian thriller deserves and also brings out the subtle best in underrated actor Gary Oldman.

2. The Artist– a full out audience pleaser that director Michel Hazanavicius tactfully presents in the style and mood of the silent era that will have you crying and smiling in equal swings of the pendulum and is complimented with graceful camera work, cinematic references, and a memorable score.

1. Drive– deeply involving, grittily violent and a pitch perfect neo-noir for the ages that challenges conventions, twists your expectations, and is a welcome American debut from visionary Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn

Honorable Mentions (in Alphabetical Order): 13 Assassins, 50/50, Attack the Block, Beginners, Bridesmaids, Cedar Rapids, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II, Le Havre, I Saw the Devil, Like Crazy, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Moneyball, Le Quattro Volte, Rango, The Skin I Live In, Submarine, The Trip, Tyrannosaur, Weekend, Young Adult

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