There were 46 (new) movies reviewed this year for The City Wire. Not all of them came close to being worth the price of admission. This septet, however, marks the cream of the privy crop. These brave few were worth more than the price of admission and then some.
The Magnificent Seven of Twenty Eleven.
• The Tree of Life
No movie divided more audiences than Terrence Malick's meditation on life and the interpretation of childhood memory. It's breathtakingly beautiful, but paced for those with rapt attention spans.
For cinephiles, baby boomers, and lovers of unparalleled cinematography.
Aesthetic action that is not quite like anything that predates it. But the fierce, unflinching violence comes with almost unbearable amounts of brooding silence. If there was any movie that came remotely close to matching Malick's daring, it was Drive.
For car lovers, cinephiles, and lovers of stylized brutality.
• Everything Must Go
A welcome change of pace for those used to seeing Will Ferrell play the outlandish idiot. This dramatization of a down on his luck alcoholic is far from heartwarming, but Ferrell gives a brave and honest performance.
For fans of dark humor and honest drama.
• The Beaver
If anyone surpassed Ferrel's portrayal of “down and out,” it was the much reviled Mel Gibson. No movie delved more deeply into the fragile psyche of depression than The Beaver. It's riveting cinema, as beautiful as it is disturbing.
For those wanting an honest portrayal of modern family life, dark humor or honest drama.
An uplifting tale of both friendship and burgeoning love in the face of a life-threatening cancer. Joseph Gordon Levitt shines as the earnest protagonist stricken with a rare cancer, but it's the levity of Seth Rogen that gives the film a deeper nuance.
For those wanting to laugh and cry, while having their faith in humanity restored.
It wasn't all doom and gloom in 2011. There were movies of comedic depth as well. And no movie captured the possibility of animated humor quite like Rango. This picaresque tale had the equally amazing feat of actually humanizing a Johnny Depp character.
For fans of comedy, animation, or the quirks of Johnny Depp.
• Midnight in Paris
While it wasn't without flaws, if I had to choose the most enjoyable movie of 2011, it would be Woody Allen's whimsical ode to the city of lights. Having once been a temporary resident of that limitless ville, I was particularly enchanted. However, there is such vivacity, such inherent joie in the little tale, it'd be hard for anyone to disparage it on anything short of spite.
For any fan of comedy, romance, or Paris.
The best of the rest
• Action/Mystery: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Dragon Tattoo, Hanna, The Debt
• Comedy: Hugo, Cedar Rapids, Our Idiot Brother
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