9. I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS
Delayed, undervalued and sadly overlooked, Phillip Morris was the best kind of quirky. Short, but smartly paced with great performances from Carrey and McGregor; it is a shame more rom coms are not as funny or as easy to digest as this. With a script that leaves cringe and cliché behind and employs a successful narration device, Morris is just too colourful and positive to hate – unless you’re homophobic of course.
8. GET LOW
This was like a great short story (or fable if you will) and was utterly charming. Small and not overly ambitious, it was witty without even trying and the effective drama kept things involving – if Robert Duvall’s singular sublime performance didn’t already. The old-timey-ness of it all is sweetly overwhelming and it almost feels like Coen country, perhaps happening just across the way from Ulysses Everett McGill’s chain gang…
7. THE IDES OF MARCH
6. TRUE GRIT
The Coen Brothers never seem to put a foot wrong whatever they take on. Grit is fairly traditional type fare for them compared to other, more ‘Coen-verse’ work such as Fargo or Lewbowski. It doesn’t rate as well as their totally original creations then, but something that looks this good can get away with lacking something else – whatever it is. Luckily, Bridges, Damon and the amazing Hailee Steinfeld make it easy to enjoy on repeat viewings.
5. BARNEY’S VERSION
Following the last 30 odd years in the life of a Jewish schmuck – from his POV no less –should surely grow tedious, but this had a likable pace and decent juggling of events big and small, and proved to be an authentic tear-jerker by the end credits. I cannot comment on it as an adaptation, but the victory for me was mainly Giamatti; here he unsurprisingly brings his best game form and if it wasn’t for John Adams, this would make his top 3 best performances yet.
Drive had many admirers and an admirable share of loathers. Undeniably destined for cult status, the point wasn’t that it’s all been done before, but that director Refn took on the blueprint and offered it up with his own unique vision. It sits amongst decidedly similar efforts of course – some better, some worse – in the grand scheme of genre, but when the presentation feels as fresh as it did for me, I wasn’t going to let such a tedious gripe spoil the party.
So another sports film that’s supposedly not about sports? Pitt morphs into Redford mode effortlessly, guiding the film into an old school American quality rarely seen these days in Hollywood, something that an ageing Roy Hobbs would no doubt approve (though any comparisons to The Natural end there). Patient directing and a brilliant script co-written by Aaron Sorkin go a long way, but most surprising was the unlikely chemistry Pitt shared with up-to-the-challenge Jonah Hill. You even saw a bit of baseball, but don’t let that put you off.
1. BLACK SWAN
I had very little doubt about my number one, despite it being released within the first weeks of 2011. Possibly the most interesting director working today, Darren Aronofsky delivers the goods with help from a career defining (and surprisingly mature) tour-de-force lead performance from Natalie Portman. Psychological horror for the ages.
THE HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
127 Hours, Captain America, Everything Must Go, Pearl Jam 20, Red Dog, Red State, The Reef & Thor.
THE POTENTIALS THAT GOT AWAY:
13 Assassins, Contagion, The Guard, Hesher, Howl, The Hunter, Midnight in Paris, Source Code, Take Shelter, Tree of Life, We Need to Talk About Kevin