1. Moneyball A2. Win Win A-3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes B+4. The Descendants B+5. Martha Marcy May Marlene B+
6. Beginners B+
7. War Horse B+
8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo B+
9. Drive B+
10. The Artist B+*A big asterisk: I have not yet seen War Horse.
Dec 13, 2011
BEST FILM of 2011: Moneyball (dir. Miller)
I certainly didn't think it was going to be Moneyball. So let's work out why it wasn't the others. The Descendants has faded slightly, as many George Clooney films seem to: there's something about the Clooney penchant for endless nuance that blurs the bolder strokes that ensure memorability ("show me the money!"). Every time one of his pictures comes out, everyone runs around raving "I know you think you know George Clooney but you've never seen him like this before" and I go along, and see him wince with the left side of his face, as opposed to the right, and think: is that it? They get me every time, like Lucy suckering Charlie Brown with the football. Which is not to say that Payne's film isn't subtle, well-written, and packs a wallop at the end, but it also knows precisely how good it is, and the writing sometimes gets in the way (that first voiceover! that final speech! Oy). I think I preferred Sideways, which came animated by Paul Giametti's more cartoonish turn, and suggests Payne is better away from big stars (indeed, in interviews, he seems a little in denial about the fact that The Descendants has a star in it at all.) The Artist seemed slight to me. And Hugo was anything but — a vast, mechanical marvel, but lifeless until the final reel. Which leaves me with Win Win's rock-steady humanism, and the slow, righteous build of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Both those films feel like solid achievements to me. But Moneyball just sneaks it, that glorious hymn to the unsung, with its mixture of smarts and heart, it's lightly exultant climax and lovely, care-worn central performance Brad Pitt — one of the few truly surprising star turns I can remember, and my favorite of the year. (Unless Rooney Mara gets me at the final post. Or that horse godammit).