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My Favorite Films of 2011

In alphabetical order:

Laugh out loud funny. One of the best and funniest movies I've seen in years -- I hope it gets multiple Oscar noms because it's so well deserved.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within [link to trailer
This might have been the best film I saw all year and maybe one of the best I've ever seen. The third film in Jose Padilha's trilogy on Brazil's world of drugs / corruption / slums -- the first being the documentary "Bus 174", the second being "Elite Squad", and now "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within". It's Brazil's official entry for the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
I'm sure some people will think it is absolutely ridiculous for this to be on any list -- but it's a good doc. More importantly, it gives an inside look into how a pop star is made / created / the value of work. Chronicling Bieber's rise from an unknown YouTube sensation to his discovery by Scooter Braun, to Usher's involvement with his career -- it's as informative as it is entertaining.

Midnight in Paris
Maybe my favorite Woody Allen movie of all time. It's so creative, imaginative -- and to be blunt, it was so unexpected that Owen Wilson would be near perfect as Allen's latest muse. To hear Allen's words come through his mouth was just a delight. A fun, thoughtful, and intriguing film. Not to be missed.

My Week with Marilyn
This is a fun, great, and well done movie. Quick, fast-paced -- the time just melts away watching this movie. Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branaugh are brilliant as Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. Just a wonderful film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
It's too bad this film doesn't get more acclaim. I hope it gets nominated for the writing -- it's smart and imaginative. It's an origin story that feels fresh. Wonderfully entertaining with very good performances all around (particularly from Andy Serkis -- whose motion capture work is being pushed for an Oscar nom, which would be a first.)

This is a pretty great movie. Its notoriety (Fassbender plays a sex addict) perhaps overshadows a bit the brilliant work that both Fassbender and the director, Steve McQueen, does in the film. Wonderfully shot, lit, casted -- a story with almost no exposition -- it's just great.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I thought this film was just a tour de force. It's verging on 3 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had no familiarity with the books or the Swedish versions of the film and was totally enraptured throughout the movie. Rooney Mara as Lisabeth Salander is mesmerizing. It's a very graphic film but constructed so well -- it's like watching a pro's pro work.

The Help
Another film based on a best selling book, "The Help" is wonderful. It's hard not to be overly enthusiastic when you see great films -- which "The Help" certainly is. Captivating performances from the entire cast -- but especially from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer who play the two primary maids in the film. Mood and tone are remarkably evocative. So enjoyable. 

Going into this film, I didn't expect much and was blown away. This film could've been terrible and it wasn't -- it was great. I've liked the director's (Gavan O'Connor) work for a number of years and I think he's easily done his best work here.

X-Men: First Class
Perhaps the most uneven of the films on this list (primarily because of so-so performances from a handful of the actors -- I won't get into it here, but it's been written about extensively) -- but otherwise I loved this film. I'm a sucker for origin stories and there's an intriguing darkness and undertone that the filmmakers explore. Fassbender (again) is great in this film.