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Critic determines the top five movies of 2011

2011 was a year of sleeper hits; films that didn't receive the most mainstream buzz, but were still excellent movies. As a whole, 2011 is a hard year to pin down in terms of overall theme.

Last year, many films were character pieces, dramas focused on the specific, intimate experiences of a select character or characters. This year, the themes seem to be broader: There were many films about the existential qualities of mankind, such as "Tree of Life" or even "Drive." Other films, such as "Hugo," "My Week with Marilyn" or "The Artist," focused on cinema itself, and the varied characteristics and nuances of lm as an art.

Despite the varied emphases of the films, 2011 was a new year in film, and one of the better years for cinema in a while.

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

"Tinker Tailor" is one of the best spy dramas in recent memory. On top of that, it’s one of the best thrillers period in recent memories. Featuring an all-star ensemble cast, topped off by Gary Oldman’s subtle, brilliant performance that earned him an Oscar nomination, "Tinker Tailor" tells the story of the British Secret Service’s attempt to rat out a Russian mole during the height of cold war espionage.

The film has the look, feel and attitude of 1970s cold war, and the actors all wear the faces of men who have something to hide. "Tinker Tailor" is a taut, gripping thriller, and a sign that the procedural spy thriller is anything but dead.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin

Films about school shootings are usually disturbing, but none have ever been as terrifying as "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

From the first moment Eva (Tilda Swinton) gave birth to her son Kevin, she knew something was wrong. Kevin seemed to be out to sabotage her every move, and we as the audience begin to feel that Kevin was not just another problem child.

The lm cuts in between Eva's life
after the school shooting, the formative years prior and the event itself. The
lm is absolutely gut-wrenching, and a second viewing might well be considered masochistic. But, what's truly brilliant about the lm is not only how well it portrays its nihilism, but how subtly and carefully it portrays its fleeting moments of hope and love.

3. Moneyball

More than a baseball lm, "Moneyball" is the story of the machine behind the game, and how, in 2002, Billy Beane (played by Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt) decided to try and change how the machine was run.

Billy Beane, with the help of Peter Brand (Oscar-nominated Jonah Hill), uses a mathematical formula to determine which players he should pick up for his Oakland A's, and, needless to say, the new style
of player management goes against the grain. Brad Pitt’s performance is brilliant in that he portrays a man who realizes his entire career is on the line, but still believes enough in his convictions to risk it all.

"Moneyball" is more than a baseball, and even more than a business lm: It’s a film about human beings and the struggle between doing what makes sense and what is actually right.

2. Drive

"Drive" is the cinematic equivalent of a stylized kick in the teeth. Hearkening back to the days of Steve McQueen and old-school Charles Bronson, “Drive” is a hyper-visual, stunningly cool motion picture experience.

Anchored by a strong lead performance by Ryan Gosling and an absolutely lights- out turn by Albert Brooks, “Drive” is the story of a silent driver who drives for criminals, gangsters and anyone else in between who needs a good getaway driver.

However, the lm is not significant for what it’s about, but rather, how it’s about it. No lm in years has been as brooding, calculated, stylized and, quite simply, cool. “Drive” is a lm that absolutely begs for repeated viewings. With every repeat viewing, you’ll find something new that only enhances your appreciation for the stark, sleek brutality of the lm.

1. The Tree of Life

There has never been a lm like “The Tree of Life”, and there probably never will be. The film’s scope is cosmic, but its greatest moments are small and human. What other lm can claim to have the creation of the world, the trials and life of a small-town rural family, and the end of the world all in one movie?

What lm can even claim to have the scope and reach of “The Tree of Life” and still be intimate and touching. Terrence Malick has crafted a masterpiece with “The Tree of Life”. His camera work is unrestrained and intimate, and his portraits of family life are spot-on and universal in their humanism.

No other film this year was as daring, beautiful, heartfelt and awe-inspiring
as “The Tree of Life”, and history will remember it as yet another masterpiece by arguably the greatest director of all time.

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