Greatest Films of the 2010s
Greatest Films of the 2010s

Greatest Films of the 2010s
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Academy Awards for 2011 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

The Artist (2011, Fr.), 100 minutes, D: Michel Hazanavicius
This B/W film was a Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director Oscar winner, and the first mainly silent film to win the top Academy Award since Wings (1927). It was set in the year 1927 in Hollywood, where the title character: swashbuckling, handsome, mustachioed silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) was enjoying huge box-office success as a matinee idol with Kinograph Studios in silent pictures, working for cigar-chomping studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman). Married to wife Doris (Penelope Ann Miller) and possessing a devoted pet dog named Jack (Uggie), he happened to meet flirtatious ingenue/chorus girl Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and promoted the aspiring actress to work in the film industry. As Peppy's career began to blossom within a few years, at the dawn of the talkies, George's career started to fade. His own financing, directing and starring role in his own production Tears of Love opened to compete with Peppy's much more popular, new sound film Beauty Spot (named after her affected beauty mark) - both coinciding with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and he was financially ruined, destitute and bankrupted. His world-weary wife left him and he was forced to move into his own apartment. In drunken despair, he set fire to his collection of old nitrate-stock silent films and nearly expired. Peppy visited George in the hospital and brought him to her grand villa to recover. At the villa, he discovered that his dismissed loyal valet/chauffeur Clifton (James Cromwell) now worked for Peppy, and that she had purchased all of his auctioned-off personal effects. He suicidally threatened to kill himself, but was saved by Peppy who successfully urged her studio to feature George as her non-speaking, tap-dance partner in her next film - a sound musical.

Bridesmaids (2011), 125 minutes, D: Paul Feig
This hilarious, irreverent and quick-witted R-rated comedy about female buddy-friendship boasted the tagline: "Chick Flicks Don't Have to Suck." It told about a jealousy-based competition that quickly developed between two affection-seeking females for the love, friendship and attention of an engaged bride-to-be. In the female-centric plot, mid-30s, lovelorn single female Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) was introduced living in Milwaukee in an apartment (with two socially-clueless, British immigrant siblings as roommates). She was having dysfunctional sex with her uncaring, shallow, self-absorbed and misogynistic sex partner Ted (Jon Hamm), who insisted on having no-strings-attached, casual sex. Over lunch the next day with her best friend Lillian Donovan (Maya Rudolph), Annie was advised to find someone better. After the failure of her dream bakery store Cake Baby that she had opened during a recession, the underachieving retail store pastry chef Annie had resorted to unfulfilling work as a low-paid jewelry store clerk at Cholodecki's where her recovering alcoholic boss Don Cholodecki (Michael Hitchcock) chastised her for poor salesmanship. The film's turning point came when she was asked by her very best and oldest friend, recently-engaged Lillian Donovan, to be her maid of honor (and wedding planner) at her impending wedding to a wealthy Chicago banker named Doug/"Dougie" Price (Tim Heidecker). At a fancy outdoor engagement party at Lillian's house, Annie met the ceremony's four bridesmaids: Lillian's blonde, older, marriage-cynical and sexy older cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), naive, idealistic and sickly-in-love, newly-wed friend and work colleague Becca (Ellie Kemper), the brash, loud-mouthed, uncouth, vulgar, slobbish sister of the groom Megan Price (Melissa McCarthy); and the seemingly-perfect, pretty, snobbishly-wealthy, controlling, and vain sophisticate with a Type A personality Helen Harris III (Rose Byrne) - the wife of Perry Harris (Andy Buckley), the boss of Lillian's fiancee. Almost immediately, the insecure Annie took a jealous and personal dislike to Helen, over who was Lillian's best friend. Lunch was arranged by Annie for all the bridesmaids in a cheap, local and seedy Brazilian steak restaurant. Afterwards, the group was led to an upscale, posh and chic wedding gown studio-shop (Belle en Blanc) where Annie was told she needed a reservation and was denied entry. The influential Helen who knew the store's manager Whitney (Jessica St. Clair) upstaged her and they were quickly allowed access. One of the funniest scenes occurred during their visit when everyone except Helen (who ordered a salad) came down with extreme diarrhea due to food poisoning from the restaurant lunch stop. After the fiasco at the bridal shop, Annie suggested a bachelorette party at Lillian's parent's Lake House, but Helen co-opted the situation and proposed instead an expensive trip to Las Vegas. Maid of honor Annie refused a first-class ticket offered to her by Helen and sat in the economy seats instead. Plans were aborted for a Las Vegas bachelorette party when Annie became inebriated, refused to obey flight attendants and return to her seat, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Casper, WY, where the group was escorted from the plane. The bachelorette party was cancelled, and the group was forced to take a Chicago-bound bus back to Milwaukee. Annie's apologies to Lillian were overruled - Helen was appointed to take over all future wedding plans for both the bridal shower and the marital ceremony itself. Meanwhile, Annie became increasingly acquainted with Irish-American State Patrol Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd), who kept pressuring her to reopen her bakery business. Annie also faced two further disruptions in her life - she lost her job at the jewelry store, and she was asked to leave by her apartment mates. At a fancy bridal shower brunch held at the Harris estate in Chicago, the extreme micro-managing Helen (who had borrowed Annie's idea about its Parisian theme) again outperformed Annie's handmade shower gift (of her favorite things and mementos) by presenting Lillian with a pre-wedding vacation trip to Paris to attend a gown fitting with a top designer. Everything culminated in Annie throwing a temper tantrum and being barred from the shower and the wedding. In the film's turn-around conclusion, on the big day of Lillian's wedding, Helen appeared at Annie's door requesting her help in finding Lillian who had disappeared. Helen apologized for splitting the friendship between Lillian and Annie, and admitted that she was lonely and had few friends: ("I'm basically just by myself"), and that Lillian had only requested her help because of her skill at organizing parties, and not because of friendship. The overwhelmed Lillian was found hiding out in her apartment. She admitted that she was fearful of Helen's extravagant, micromanaged wedding plans and her future new life outside of Milwaukee, and also was apologetic to Annie for being left out of the proceedings. Lillian and Annie were reconciled, and Annie was restored as the maid of honor. At the fancy wedding, Helen had arranged for neon signs, fireworks and an appearance by Wilson Phillips. After the wedding, Annie was reconciled with an apologetic Helen, who had orchestrated a reunion for her with Nathan. After kissing her, Nathan invited her to be "arrested" and ride in the backseat of his squad car with flashing lights and a siren - there was hope for a real romance with Officer Rhodes.

The Descendants (2011), 115 minutes, D: Alexander Payne
Director Alexander Payne's family marriage dramedy, set in Hawaii, was based upon Kaui Hart Hemmings's 2007 novel of the same name. Indifferent husband and beleaguered father in a floundering marriage - mildly-disheveled Honolulu lawyer Matthew "Matt" King (George Clooney), was forced to deal with the tragedy of his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) who suffered head trauma during a waterskiing accident off of Waikiki, and was in a terminal coma (surviving only with life-support equipment). As an oblivious, hands-off "backup parent," he had two daughters to contend with: sassy, drug-using, resentful and reckless 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who had been attending a private boarding school on the Big Island, and forlorn 10-year-old Scotty (Amara Miller) who was foul-mouthed and in open rebellion against his parental authority. Alexandra, who was involved with her slacker boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause), revealed to her clueless, workaholic father that her love-neglected mother was involved in domestic betrayal and planned to divorce him. Matt engaged in long search to stalk and ultimately confront the cheating real estate agent Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), who was married to his unaware wife Julie Speer (Judy Greer) and vacationing in a cottage on Kauai. In the film's conclusion, Matt decided not to sell an immense land trust (a holding acquired from descendants that would result in a huge payoff) to Kaua'i native Don Hollitzer, the brother-in-law of Speer. Matt was managing the property for his extended haole family - 25,000 acres of unspoiled land on the island of Kauai. It was the last untouched paradisical inheritance of Hawaiian royalty to be developed. His decision was made, in part, to spite his avaricious, affable and dissolute cousin Hugh (Beau Bridges), and possibly to deprive developer Speer of a rich commission. In the ending scene (under the credits) after Elizabeth's ashes were scattered in the ocean, the reconciled family sat together in silence on the sofa, under their mother's quilt, eating ice cream and watching March of the Penguins (2005) (narrated by Morgan Freeman).

Drive (2011), 100 minutes, D: Nicolas Winding Refn
This violent action-crime drama told about the day and nighttime jobs of the nameless "driver" (Ryan Gosling). By day in Los Angeles, he was a Hollywood daredevil action-movie stunt car driver and garage mechanic, and at night, he was hired by criminals to drive getaway cars after heists. His associate was garage body-shop boss and mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who arranged all the heist details for each job. The mysterious life of the soft-spoken lone-wolf living in an apartment in Echo Park, CA was solitary, mostly quiet, and simple. His life began to change after meeting his lonely, vulnerable, pretty neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her 6 year-old son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Meanwhile, Shannon negotiated with two sinister low-level mobsters: transplanted menacing NY crime boss/loan shark Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and his hot-headed thuggish partner Nino (Ron Perlman), to borrow $300,000, so that the "driver" could invest in a race-car. After her desperate husband - convicted petty felon Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac), was released from prison, Standard was pressured by a higher-up Mafia criminal, an Albanian named Cook (James Biberi) who was his previous employer, to commit a daytime robbery of a pawn shop for $40,000, to pay off his debt incurred in prison for being protected. The "driver" reluctantly agreed to help cooperate with the heist, to assist the ex-con in reestablishing his life. But the robbery, involving the "driver," Standard, and Cook's femme fatale associate Blanche (Christina Hendricks) was seriously botched. Standard was killed by Blanche when it appeared to be a set-up between Cook and Blanche to abscond with a million dollars. The "driver" barely escaped with his life after killing a few of Cook's henchmen after one of them shotgunned Blanche to death. After more retaliation and a number of other bloody murders, including the deaths of Cook, Shannon, Nino, and Bernie, the "driver" found himself stabbed in the stomach but alive, after earlier parting on good terms with Irene and Benicio.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), 158 minutes, D: David Fincher
Both director David Fincher's English-language remake and the earlier, original Swedish 2009 film were based upon Swedish author/ journalist Stieg Larsson's 2005 psychological thriller novel of the same name. The crime-thriller drama told the story of Stockholm journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who was disgraced and discredited for publishing stories of government corruption in his co-owned magazine Millennium. After losing a libel lawsuit against him, he met with retired tycoon-businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) on his remote family estate on Hedestad Island to allegedly help him with writing his memoirs, but was more importantly hired to investigate the disappearance (and presumed murder) of a young girl from Vanger's wealthy family about 40 years earlier. The missing victim was Vanger's 16 year-old niece Harriet. He teamed up for assistance from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an anti-social, troubled, eccentric computer hacker who was being sexually and physically abused by her new sadistic state-appointed parole officer and legal guardian Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen). In an unlikely pairing, Salander joined Blomkvist to research the mysterious case even though she had been hired by Vanger to illegally supply information on Blomkvist's past during the libel case. As it turned out, as they both sleuthed the case (and dug deep into the Vanger's dysfunctional past family history), Blomkvist and Salander came upon many darker and more ominous secrets and murders, involving anti-Semitism, Nazis and the Holocaust. There were clues to a number of serial murders of young women from 1947 to 1967, committed by Harriet's late father Gottfried Vanger (Henrik's brother) and by his son Martin (Stellan Skarsgård), the current CEO of Vanger Industries. Harriet (Joely Richardson) was found still alive, living in London in hiding, and posing as her now-dead cousin Anita. She described how her brother Martin had continued to sexually abuse her after she killed Gottfried in an act of self-defense (drowning). Following death threats against Blomkvist, the journalist was captured by Martin and threatened with hanging. Salander arrived, rescued him and pursued Martin on her motorcycle before witnessing his death in a fiery crash. Harriet was able to reunite with Henrik back in Sweden. Salander also uncovered incriminating information against Blomkvist's opponent in his earlier libel suit and helped to vindicate and clear his name.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011), 130 minutes, D: David Yates
This adventure-fantasy film for children/families was the 8th and final installment of the popular and highly-successful Harry Potter series-franchise. It was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2011. It was the direct and continuing sequel to the 7th film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010). Both films were based on J.K. Rowling's 7th and final novel of the same name published in 2007. In the series' concluding story, the quest continued to find and destroy Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) remaining four Horcruxes to render him mortal. Voldemort had become more powerful after stealing the Elder Wand from Albus Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) opened tomb. Part 2 opened with the threesome of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) at Shell Cottage mourning the loss of Dobby who had rescued them at Malfoy Manor. Meanwhile, Harry enlisted injured goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) to join him, along with Ron and Hermione, to help break into Bellatrix Lestrange's (Helena Bonham Carter) vault at Gringotts' Bank, to retrieve one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, in exchange for Godric Gryffindor's Sword. In the vault, they recovered the Horcrux: Helga Hufflepuff's golden cup, but then Griphook betrayed them, and they narrow escaped. Harry realized that the next Horcrux was at Hogwarts School castle that was somehow connected to Rowena Ravenclaw. The school was now overrun by Death Eaters and Dementors and was led by Headmaster Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). With aid from Abeforth Dumbledore (Ciarán Hinds), Albus' younger brother, the trio entered into Hogswarts, led by student friend Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) along with other student resistance fighters and members of Dumbledore's resistance army (DA) (members of the Order of the Phoenix). At the same time, Voldemort had summoned his army to Hogwarts to surround it and begin combat. In the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione destroyed the Horcrux cup with a Basilisk fang. The second horcrux, Rowena Ravenclaw's lost Diadem, or tiara-like crown, was also destroyed in the Room of Requirement by Harry with the fang. In a vision, Harry realized that another Horcrux was Voldemort's snake Nagini. To eliminate Snape, Voldemort ordered Nagini to kill him and Snape was mortally wounded. Harry envisioned that he had to die "at the proper moment" - and "Voldemort himself must do it." He was compelled to destroy the part of Voldemort's soul within himself (another horcrux) that would be a further step toward killing Voldemort. In the Forbidden Forest, Harry was blasted by Voldemort's Elder Wand with a Killing Avada Kedavra curse. Harry was given the choice to either go back and confront Voldemort, or continue to the afterlife. Harry chose to return to the forest, but faked his death for awhile in order to find the right time to come alive and lead the film's climactic Battle of Hogwarts against Voldemort. Voldemort and Harry engaged in a one-on-one duel with their wands (the Elder Wand vs. Harry's wand that he had taken from Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton)), while in the Great Hall, Ron's mother Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) hurled deadly curses at Bellatrix Lestrange. At the same time, Ron and Hermione pursued Nagini, the last Horcrux. Neville retrieved the Sword of Gryffindor and used it to decapitate Nagini. With the last Horcrux now destroyed, the now-vulnerable Voldemort weakened, dropped to his knees in front of Harry, was hit by his own rebounding Killing Curse, and disintegrated into nothingness. Harry snapped the Elder Wand in two to destroy it. In the epilogue set 19 years later, Harry and wife Ginny (Bonnie Wright), and the married couple of Ron and Hermione proudly watched their children leave for Hogwarts at King's Cross station.

Le Havre (2011, Finland/Fr./Germ.), 93 minutes, D: Aki Kaurismäki
This Finnish foreign film dramedy was the first in a trilogy of films about port cities - this one set in the French Normandy city of Le Havre. The heartwarming, optimistic film's timely subject matter was the flood of immigrant refugees into Europe - the film's title meant "The Haven." Lowly, elderly shoeshiner Marcel Marx (André Wilms) had recently relocated to Le Havre where he lived with his wife Arletty (Kati Outinen). The ex-bohemian Marcel had formerly been an aspiring literary author, and had downgraded his impoverished life to simple working-class pleasures - including his wife, his dog Laïka and a local bar. At the same time that Arletty became seriously ill and was hospitalized (with a terminal illness diagnosis), he learned of the arrival of an under-aged illegal immigrant Senegalese boy named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) from a cargo ship misrouted from Gabon, who had escaped from authorities. He decided to hide the boy from police in his home, with help from other friendly neighbors and compassionate townsfolk, and made attempts to aid the boy in getting to his destination (London) to be with his separated stowaway family. Efforts to raise funds occurred with the promotion of a "trendy charity concert." The town's grim, trench-coat wearing police inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Marcel's snitching neighbor "Le Dénonciateur" (Jean-Pierre Léaud) suspected that Marcel was harboring the boy.

The Help (2011), 146 minutes, D: Tate Taylor
This hit film and period drama about civil rights featuring an ensemble cast was based on Kathryn Stockett's 2009 historical fiction novel of the same name. It told about African-Americans working as servants ("the help") in white households in Jackson, MS during the early 1960s. In the community, recent University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) graduate and aspiring white journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) had returned to her upper-class cotton plantation home. She learned to her dismay that her mother Charlotte Phelan (Allison Janney) had fired Constantine Bates (Cicely Tyson), her beloved black childhood maid who had raised her. Unfulfilled as a local newspaper columnist promoting household tips, Skeeter made ambitious plans to write an expose book with her Harper & Row editor-in-chief in NY, Elaine Stein (Mary Steenburgen). The misfit debutante began to conduct a series of interviews for her secret book project, told from the point-of-view of black maids employed in Jackson, although many were reluctant at first to share their stories. She first spoke to Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and recently-fired, outspoken Minerva "Minny" Jackson (Octavia Spencer). Aibileen devotedly worked as a nanny for socialite Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly), to care for her neglected daughter Mae Mobley (Emma/Eleanor Henry), while Minny had worked for Mrs. Walters (Sissy Spacek). Mrs. Walters' mean, manipulative and heartless daughter Hillary "Hilly" Walters Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) had fired Minny for using the home's guest bathroom. Hilly led the white women's socialite group in town that would often gather to plan charity-balls, play bridge, and gossip. She was also president of the city's Junior League chapter, and was promoting a segregationist bill forcing white homes to have a separate bathroom for their "help." Minny was rehired by ostracized housewife Celia Rae Foote (Jessica Chastain) who was not part of the socialite crowd. The revelation of Skeeter's book caused an uproar when it began to expose the racist attitudes of some of the prominent white members of the community. A retributive incident known as the "terrible awful" was detailed in the book, referencing Minny's revenge by baking a chocolate pie (with excrement ingredients) for Hilly that caused her extreme embarrassment. In the film's conclusion, Skeeter learned about her mother's reluctant reason for firing Constantine, and Hilly (seeking revenge against Skeeter's book) was able to bully Elizabeth into firing Aibileen after framing her for theft. In the tearjerking conclusion, Aibileen bid farewell to young Mae.

Hugo (2011), 128 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
Director Martin Scorsese's period-specific, family-friendly fantasy-adventure drama, enhanced by 3-D, was based upon the 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It served as a loving tribute to the beginnings of film. Set in the 1930s, the central character in the magical film was 12 year-old Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lived with his widowed master clockmaker father (Jude Law), who was a museum employee and avid admirer of the films of French cinematic pioneer Georges Méliès, the legendary "father of special effects." After his father's death in a museum fire, the orphaned Hugo was sent to live with his drunken Uncle Claude Cabret (Ray Winstone), who maintained the clocks at Paris' Gare Montparnasse railway station. Hugo learned to wind the massive clocks but then his uncle mysteriously disappeared. Hugo began to live alone at the train station to maintain the clocks, and to repair and rebuild his father's most ambitious project from the museum's archives: a broken automaton (mechanical man) who might have a secret message. While keeping notes about the repair, Hugo began to collect and steal tools, gears, and other parts from various places including a storefront candy and toy-stand owned by elderly Georges (Ben Kingsley). After he was caught for theft and his notebook was confiscated, the boy was threatened with discipline and being sent to an orphanage by the station's lone and handicapped gendarme - Train Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). In exchange for not being reprimanded, Georges agreed to have Hugo become an apprentice in his shop to reacquire his notebook and earn money to pay for the stolen items. Hugo then met Georges' orphaned, teenaged god-daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). During his acquaintance with her, Hugo realized she possessed the last item needed to make the automaton functional again - a heart-shaped key. The key activated the automaton to draw an image from Georges Melies' silent sci-fi film Voyage dans la Lune (1902) (aka A Trip to the Moon) that was signed by Isabelle's godfather. The picture was of the 'man in the moon' crying because a rocket had been lodged in its eye. On his adventure with Isabelle, Hugo met film-scholar Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) and became inspired by the true-life story of film-maker Georges Méliès. They learned the true connection between the automaton and her godfather - Papa Georges was actually the accomplished pre-war director of many films for his own Star Film Company before his career was bankrupted. The automaton he had built had been donated to the museum where Hugo's father worked. In the happy ending, Georges agreed to adopt Hugo.

The Iron Lady (2011), 105 minutes, D: Phyllida Lloyd
From Britain came this biographical political drama based upon John Campbell's 2011 biography "The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, from Grocer's Daughter to Prime Minister". The quasi-biopic was about the influential life and infamous career of former conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (convincingly portrayed by Meryl Streep). She was the first woman and longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century. The film was told through flashbacks of her conversations as a very elderly Thatcher, approaching senility and dementia, while speaking to the ghost of her late businessman husband Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent). Her lower middle-class childhood years were surveyed when she (young Margaret Roberts was played by Alexandra Roach) worked in her father Alfred Roberts' (Iain Glen) grocery store, and then was admitted to Oxford University. After her humble beginnings, her political rise was marked by both successes and failures. She was first elected in 1959 and struggled to make it as a female outsider in a male-dominated British government, to become a member of the Conservative Party and to find a seat in the House of Commons. The film also surveyed her ascendancy as the only woman to ever become Prime Minister of the UK, from 1979-1990. The major events of her leadership of the UK were touched upon, including economic woes, various riots, strikes and bombings, the Falklands War in 1982, and an insurgency from within her own party that finally unseated her. She experienced a disheartening fall from grace after more than three decades of service. Her unwavering, rigid, single-mindedness and sense of purpose, even though sometimes unpopular and polarizing, earned her the imperious nickname "The Iron Lady."

Melancholia (2011, Denm./Swe./Fr./Germ.), 136 minutes, D: Lars von Trier
Controversial director Lars von Trier's R-rated, sci-fi, end of the world arthouse drama was the middle film in a "Depression" trilogy of films, also with Antichrist (2009) and Nymphomaniac (2013) (in two volumes). The film's basic nihilistic plot was about two sisters in a strained relationship: severely depressed, troubled and melancholic Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and over-controlling Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) - the former was preparing to marry her fiancee Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) just before a mysterious rogue green planet (named Melancholia) was about to collide with Earth. Claire and her wealthy husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) were begrudgingly hosting and paying for the extravagant wedding reception for the late-arriving newlyweds at their remote, rural estate. Justine and Claire both belonged to a dysfunctional and unstable family, composed of estranged parents: hedonistic, self-involved father Dexter (John Hurt) and jaded, joyless mother Gaby (Charlotte Rampling). Justine's greedy and ruthless boss Jack (Stellan Skarsgård) was Michael's best man. The story of the sisters was divided into two parts: Part 1: Justine, Part 2: Claire. During the awkward reception in Part 1, Justine increasingly alienated everyone and would disappear for lengths of time. She and kindred spirit Tim (Brady Corbet), boss Jack's ambitious nephew, had sex outdoors in a sand-trap. The wedding reception ended with Michael's departure after the newlyweds quietly called off the marriage, angering Claire and John and leaving Justine even more depressed. In Part 2, anxiety and apocalyptic fears grew as the planet Melancholia approached, especially for Claire. Nonetheless, Claire proposed to take in her worsening sister Justine after her marriage dissolution. Justine arrived and became more and more panic-stricken as the planet appeared to swing back and take a direct course toward Earth. Ominously, Claire's husband John died of a drug-overdose suicide - purposeful since as an astronomy buff, he fatalistically knew the end was near. As Justine also faced the prospect of death, she was drawn to Claire's innocent and fearful young son Leo (Cameron Spurr), and comforted her nephew by proposing to build a teepee-shaped "magic cave" together with him on the golf course for refuge. The threesome of Claire, Leo, and Justine calmly, stoically and meditatively awaited the arrival of the destructive planet that obliterated the Earth.

Midnight in Paris (2011), 94 minutes, D. Woody Allen
Writer/director Woody Allen's fantasy-based, charming romantic comedy won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar award, and was the director's most profitable film to date in his career. It told the story of a young engaged couple traveling in Paris who ultimately came to realize they had divergent objectives and mismatched goals in life. In the year 2010, successful Hollywood hack screenwriter Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) was accompanying his materialistic and pampered fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) while she was vacationing in Paris with her wealthy and conservative Republican parents, John and Helen (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) on a business trip. Jaded and disillusioned by Hollywood, Gil had ambitious, inspiring, fanciful dreams of moving to 1920s Paris to live the true life of an artist while struggling to write his debut novel about nostalgia, to the consternation of Inez who wanted to live in Malibu, CA and have a wealthy lifestyle. Although Inez enjoyed spending time with her ex-boyfriend - pedantic, pseudo-intellectual ex-professor Paul Bates (Michael Scheen) and his girlfriend Carol (Nina Arianda), Gil decided to leave them one night and walk back to his hotel on his own. His nighttime stroll became an escapist trip back in time (at midnight) to the golden Jazz age of the Parisian 1920s, to meet up with legendary literati, musicians and artists of the "Lost Generation," such as Cole Porter (Yves Heck), F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and others. On his second transported journey back in time at midnight, he became attracted to artist Pablo Picasso's (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) alluring lover/muse Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a costume designer, and they soon became enamoured of each other. However, Gil began to have confused and conflicted feelings about his present situation, leading Inez' suspicious father to hire a private detective (Gad Elmaleh) to track Gil's late-night whereabouts. At a book stall on the Seine River, Gil found Adriana's 1920's-era diary, and read how she had fallen in love with him. On another visit to the past, he confessed his own love for Adriana and they returned to the late 1800's Belle Epoque in France, her favorite earlier Golden Age with other prominent artists. However, Gil realized that despite his love, he must leave her there and return to the present. Back in 2010, he confronted Inez about sleeping with Paul, which she admitted, and promptly broke off their relationship, and decided to remain in Paris on his own. The film concluded with Gil's promising meet-up at midnight by the Seine with 20's-era-loving antiques dealer Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux).

Moneyball (2011), 133 minutes, D: Bennett Miller
Based on Michael Lewis' 2003 best-selling non-fiction book, this biographical sports film detailed the efforts of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team at the end of the team's 2001 season (a defeat by the NY Yankees in the AL Division playoffs), to prepare for the upcoming year. He had suffered the loss of three major players who became free-agents, and needed to rebuild, but was hampered by a limited budget to recruit new team members. With the help of his new Yale-educated assistant general manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an intelligent Economics major and statistics expert with novel and radical theories about how to determine the value and worth of a player's skill, Beane sought to build a team that could be competitive by relying on a different set of statistics regarding a player's on-base percentage. Although the team's head scout and other long-time scouts scoffed at the idea of using new computer-generated metrics, as did the A's manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the idea of recruiting undervalued, cheaper, and untapped players with great talent was implemented. At first, Howe wouldn't use the players that Beane brought on, and the strategy of bringing in no-name players appeared to be a major failure. However, manager Beane convinced the team's owner Stephen Schott (Bobby Kotick) to trust the new non-traditional and subversive method. Soon enough, the team started to win and had an impressive, record-breaking 20th consecutive win. They also clinched the 2002 ALW (American League West) title, but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the AL Division series. Beane was vindicated two years later when his pioneering method (sabermetrics) became the winning model for the pennant-winning Red Sox in the 2004 World Series.

My Week With Marilyn (2011, UK), 101 minutes, D: Simon Curtis
British writer/director Colin Clark had served as 23 year-old Third Assistant Director for director Sir Laurence Olivier's light-hearted romantic comedy The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), also starring aging acting legend Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. He turned the experience into two accounts (diaries and memoir) about Marilyn ("The Prince, the Showgirl and Me" (1995) and "My Week with Marilyn" (2000)) that became the basis for this show-biz drama's screenplay. During the making of the 1957 film in 1956, Clark (Eddie Redmayne) was intrigued and fascinated as he watched blonde Hollywood sex-icon actress Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), who was given the impossible task of taking the part originally played on-stage by Olivier's wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond). She often showed her insecure, self-doubting and vulnerable side, and relied heavily on her Method Acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker), or commiserations with her co-star Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench). She was often late to the set, regarded as uncooperative by the fearsome Olivier, and also forgetful of her lines. When Marilyn's newly-married, honeymooning playwright-husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) returned to the US when problems in their marriage surfaced and she felt abandoned, Clark spent more time with Marilyn. He befriended her and soon became her short-term trusted confidante and suitor. He escorted her around the London area, and at one time went skinny-dipping with her in the River Thames. They also flirtatiously kissed each other, and she invited him into her bedroom to lie next to her. Colin's budding romance with the production's wardrobe assistant Lucy (Emma Watson) soon ended due to his infatuation with Marilyn. However, Arthur returned and Marilyn attempted to reconcile with him, telling the broken-hearted but wiser Colin to forget their brief chaste affair.

Rango (2011), 107 minutes, D: Gore Verbinski
Director Gore Verbinski's non-Disney/Pixar computer-animated Western comedy won the year's Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. The title character was Rango (voice of Johnny Depp), an imaginative pet chameleon who ended up in the film's opening in the Mohave Desert. His terrarium (with his cozy inanimate companions including a headless Barbie, a dead insect, and a wind-up plastic fish) had accidentally fallen out of his owner's car on the highway. Rango was helped by Beans (voice of Isla Fisher), a female desert iguana who led him to her dusty hometown - the western outpost town of Dirt populated with anthromorphic animals. In the local saloon, Rango claimed he was a gunslinger. One of the town's inhabitants was Bad Bill (voice of Ray Winstone), a Gila monster outlaw, who was about to challenge Rango to a duel on the Main Street, but was scared off by a terrorizing red-tailed killer hawk. For his accidental defeat of the menacing hawk by flattening it with a water tower, the heroic Rango was offered the position of town Sheriff by the elderly desert tortoise mayor (voice of Ned Beatty). With the death of the hawk, it was then feared that gunslinger diamondback Rattlesnake Jake (voice of Bill Nighy) would return. The drought-suffering town was in desperate need of water (a scarce commodity kept in the town bank inside a large water jug) and a Sheriff. Unintentionally, Rango let the town's sole water supply be robbed by a trio of bank bandits, led by Balthazar (voice of Harry Dean Stanton), a mole. Rango formed a posse to retrieve the water bottle, and found it empty. After Rango was revealed to be lying with his exaggerated boasting, he quit his job in disgrace and returned to the highway. There, he was convinced by the Spirit of the West or "The Man With No Name" (voice of Timothy Olyphant) to return to the town and right various wrongs. Ultimately, Rango discovered that the suspicious, manipulative and tyrannical Mayor was working in cahoots with Rattlesnake Jake, to make a profit by buying up the cheap dry land around Dirt, and manipulating the land prices by controlling the water supply valve on a pipeline from Las Vegas. Rango courageously returned to Dirt and successfully challenged the Mayor (who also double-crossed Jake), and was able to restore the town to the citizens.

A Separation (2011, Iran) (aka Jodaeiye Nader az Simin), 123 minutes, D: Asghar Farhadi
Writer/director Asghar Farhadi's intensely absorbing Iranian family drama ensemble film about marital difficulties and a miscarriage was the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. In the opening scene set in an Iranian court of family law, a dysfunctional middle-class couple: husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and his educator wife Simin (Leila Hatami) argued their 'divorce' case before a judge. The couple had been planning to leave Iran to find a better life and educational opportunities for Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), their bright 11 year-old daughter. But their plans fell through when Nader decided to remain and care for his aging, senile, Alzheimer's-suffering father (Ali-Asghar Shabazi). Unable to resolve their dispute and compromise, Simin promptly sued her stubborn husband for a divorce. She lost the case, but still decided to separate and live with her parents, while Termeh remained with her father. Due to his work schedule, Nader was forced to hire a lower-class caregiver/housekeeper for his deteriorating father. He found a suitable but impoverished couple to nurse his father: unstable, hot-headed shoe-repairer Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Razieh (Sareh Bayat), who showed up to work without her absent husband's permission. Nader was unaware that Razieh was five months pregnant and devoutedly religious (and would be fearful of violating her vows by seeing the nakedness of the incontinent father). One day when Nader returned home, he discovered his ailing father on the floor near death, and tied to a bedpost with Razieh nowhere in sight. Later when he confronted her, he became enraged and pushed her out of the apartment - causing her shortly later to have a miscarriage. Contentious arguments resulted when Hodjat accused Nader of causing the unborn child's death, while Nader countered with the accusation of neglect and mistreatment of his father. Strains in Nader's and Hodjat's families became even more pronounced as each protagonist pridefully held to his/her own egotistical views or deceptive lies, and everything disintegrated further. The film concluded with the family court declaring the marriage of Nader and Simin permanently separated.

Shame (2011, UK), 101 minutes, D: Steve McQueen
This dark, chilling and highly provocative NC-17 rated sex addiction film from British director Steve McQueen was a powerful, non-judgmental drama about NYC businessman-yuppie Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), who suffered from a serious problem or obsession - with compulsive sex, and the resultant shame and self-loathing. His rampant sex life included compulsive masturbation, short-term impersonal relationships, flirtation with homosexuality, the hiring of prostitutes, and addiction to Internet pornography (even at his place of work), including private web-cam chat sessions, and perusal of hardcore images (in magazines and videos). In the psychological drama, he struggled with his own issues and tried to keep his sexual needs a secret, although in one early scene in a bar, he circumvented his married, unfaithful boss David Fisher's (James Badge Dale) plan to pick up a woman at a club, and had sex with her on a quiet street. Shortly later, his disgusted boss discovered "dirty" pornography on Brandon's work computer hard drive. At the same time, his wayward, estranged younger sister, Sissy Sullivan (Carey Mulligan), unexpectedly arrived from Los Angeles without warning to live with him. A professional musician and lounge singer from the same troubled and pathological family, she confronted him about his problems: ("I'm trying to help you...We're family, we're meant to look after each other"), and upset his need for privacy, while being emotionally damaged herself (with evidence of scars of self-inflicted suicidal scar wounds). She admitted: "We're not bad people. We just come from a bad place." For example, in one single evening, Sissy had sex with David in Brandon's bedroom. After hearing them through the door, he left to go running (with headphones loudly playing Glenn Gould's interpretation of Bach's 'Aria from the Goldberg Variations'). Later that night, Sissy also attempted to get in bed with Brandon, but he ordered her back to the couch. Sissy's arrival completely upturned and interrupted Brandon's private sexual routines and practices when she found evidence of his sexual proclivities. He angrily reacted: ("You come in here and you're a weight on me. Do you understand me? You're a burden. You're just dragging me down") and removed all of the pornography in his apartment, including his laptop. The film culminated with another attempt by Sissy to kill herself by bloodily slitting her wrists in his bathroom. This event shocked Brandon to his core, but would he be able, in the ambiguous ending, to rein in his out-of-control, insatiable urges and change his self-destructive behavior?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, UK), 127 minutes, D: Tomas Alfredson
This suspenseful espionage film was adapted from the 1974 spy novel by John Le Carré about a semi-retired ex-British agent in London in 1973, during the bleak Cold War Era, who returned to hunt for and expose a Soviet KGB double agent (mole) in the British Secret Service (MI6). Le Carre's classic novel was also made into a TV-mini-series (with 7 episodes) in 1979, starring Alec Guinness. As the film opened, "Control" (Sir John Hurt) - the head of British Secret Intelligence Service (aka SIS or "The Circus"), was in charge of a failed operation in Budapest, Hungary to search for a mole in the British Service. It turned out to be a trap and Agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) was shot and captured (but was later released and in hiding). "Control" subsequently resigned along with his top-ranking assistant George Smiley (Gary Oldman) (aka "Beggarman"). A year later, veteran spy Smiley was called back into service to follow a complex trail to identify the mole after being informed by rogue MI6 field agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) about continuing suspicions of a double-agent mole within SIS. Smiley was assisted by Tarr's boss, young agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and retired Special Branch officer George Mendel (Roger Lloyd Pack), to root out the mole sharing secrets with the Soviets. Their most important lead came after agent Prideaux was located in hiding as a teacher in a school. He told Smiley about his failed Hungarian mission, and how "Control" had developed a list of five possible mole suspects passing intelligence to the Soviets. They all had code-names: Percy Alleline or " Tinker" (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon or "Tailor" (Colin Firth), Roy Bland or "Soldier" (Ciarán Hinds), and Toby Esterhase or "Poor Man" (David Dencik). To Smiley's surprise, the fifth suspect was himself - "Beggarman." The suspects regularly met at a safehouse in London with Alexei Polyakov (Konstantin Khabenskiy) (nicknamed "Witchcraft"), a Soviet cultural attaché, to exchange intelligence secrets. Ultimately in the revelatory ending, the mole was identified as Bill Haydon, who had earlier conducted an affair with Smiley's wife Ann (Katrina Vasilieva) as a distraction and to divert suspicions away from himself. In the film's conclusion, Prideaux shot and killed Haydon who was in custody, as revenge for earlier betraying him in Hungary, and Smiley became the new head of "The Circus."

The Tree of Life (2011), 139 minutes, D: Terrence Malick
Terence Malick's evocative, experimental family drama, told partially in non-linear flashback, was about an existential journey and crisis experienced both cosmically and personally. The impressionistic film's prologue opened with a Biblical quote from the Book of Job: Chapter 38: verses 4,7 - a reference to the creator God's mysterious and wide universe: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" The story centered around the subjective questing of an eldest son who grew up in a family of three sons in Waco, TX in 1956. Jack O'Brien (Hunter McCracken as boy, Sean Penn as adult) experienced a turbulent relationship with his dysfunctional, oppressive, bullying and strict disciplinarian father Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt), although his mother (Jessica Chastain) was more caring, outwardly loving and mothering. As a young man, Jack worked as an architect and often became disillusioned by life and felt lost in his middle-aged years. He often meditated, dreamed and contemplated the many mysteries of life, including viewing dreamscapes of the creation of the universe from a void, and the progressive evolution of life. A key event in his life as he reflected back was the tragic death of his younger brother R.L. (Laramie Eppler) who died at age 19 serving in the military. In the poetic film's hopeful epilogue with metaphorical imagery and visions, Jack began to see the miraculous nature of life, and was able to reconcile with his hard-working but unfulfilled, jaded and troubled father. He resolved his resentments and put aside the many turbulent disagreements to embrace his father with newfound love.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011), 117 minutes, D: Bill Condon
Five vampire-themed, fantasy romantic dramas comprised this major film franchise, beginning with Twilight (2008), followed by the sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011), and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012). The entire series was based on author Stephenie Meyer's four young-adult novels released from 2005-2008. The films followed the POV of teen Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart) who had moved to Forks, WA from AZ and had fallen in love with brooding, 104-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She also developed a rival romantic relationship with werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). As this fourth installment (Part 1) opened, Bella had just accepted Edward's proposal of marriage. Their marriage resulted in Bella and Edward finally consummating their love during an exotic honeymoon on the private island of Isle Esme near Rio de Janiero in Brazil. The central event in the film was Bella's difficult, life-threatening, high-risk pregnancy and emergency C-section, followed by the bloody birth of a half-human, half-vampire immortal daughter named Renesmee. Ultimately, Bella was able to recover from a semi-dead state and was successfuly transformed into a vampire in order to survive, via Edward's venom injected into her heart. Jacob imprinted on Renesmee and was able to see her bright future - and afterwards dedicated himself to be her protector and guardian. Part 2 climaxed with a battle between the Cullens (and their allied Denali Clan of vegetarian vampires from Alaska, plus the pack of Jacob's wolves from the Quileute Tribe) against The Volturi, an ancient Italian vampire coven, who felt threatened by both Bella and her newborn child.

Unknown (2011, UK/Germ./Fr.), 113 minutes, D: Jaume Collet-Serra
Jaume Collet-Serra's fast-paced, action-oriented psychological mystery-thriller was entirely set (and shot) in both parts of the reunified capital city of Berlin. Its intriguing premise - a crisis of stolen identity - occurred during Dr. Martin Harris' (Liam Neeson) business trip to the city to attend a biotechnology conference. When he took a taxi (driven by illegal Bosnian immigrant Gina (Diane Kruger), a diner worker) from the world-famous Hotel Adlon back to the airport to retrieve his forgotten briefcase, a car crash landed him in the Spree river and the local hospital, where he awoke four days later from a coma with his identity completely erased. The story's theme allegorically reflected the dichotomous suffering that the historic city of Berlin experienced during its many years of division. On a quest all around the city's neighborhoods and landmarks, the isolated man retraced his steps to discover who he was - trying to connect with the world he thought he belonged to. He was even accused of being an 'imposter' when confronted by another 'Dr. Martin Harris' (Aidan Quinn) and his own wife Elizabeth "Liz" (January Jones) who claimed to not recognize him. He escaped from a hospital assassination attempt by a terrorist named Smith (Olivier Schneider) and went on the run, but soon found himself trapped in an absurd labyrinth within the foreign country. The victimized Dr. Harris contacted the taxi-cab driver and PI Ernst Jürgen (Bruno Ganz), an ex-Nazi STASI secret agent for assistance. He found himself in the midst of a terrorist conspiracy (from a group known as Section 15) to apparently assassinate liberal-minded Saudi Arabian Prince Shada (Mido Hamada) who was attending the biotechnology summit as a private funder of a secret research project being conducted by German bioscientist, Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch). Identity-related twists and turns began to unsort when Dr. Harris discovered that his name was only a 'cover persona', created by himself. An 'imposter' replacement had been activated and joined his wife after she reported his accident and coma. [Liz had been compelled to go along with the identity-switch and betray him.] He also recalled a visit to Berlin three months earlier with Liz, when they both acted as government assassins and planted a bomb in Prince Shada's hotel suite. Dr. Harris now made every effort to thwart the impending assassination plot and convinced the authorities to evacuate the hotel. In the conclusion, the target of the terrorist group was determined to be Harris' academic friend Professor Bressler to obtain his secret research results (about a stronger strain of genetically-modified corn to combat world hunger). The killing could then be blamed on Muslim extremists opposed to the Prince. Liz's efforts to disarm the bomb failed and resulted in her death, while Dr. Harris killed his Section 15 terrorist 'imposter' to save Bressler's life. The next day, the Prince and Bressler announced the research results would be free to the world, and Harris with his newfound ally Gina departed from Berlin, with fake passports, new identities (Henry and Claudia Taylor), and thousands of euros in cash (the contents of the briefcase).

War Horse (2011), 146 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
Director Spielberg's lengthy, sentimental coming-of-age, family war drama was an adaptation of the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo and its hit 2007 Broadway stage adaptation. It told an intense tale, set in the early 1900s during WWI, about the close bond that developed between strong-willed British teen Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) and a beautiful bay thoroughbred horse named Joey that he raised from birth in Devon, England, after purchasing the newborn colt at an auction. The purchase incensed the Narracott's cruel landlord/neighbor Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis) who was outbid. Albert trained the horse to plow the rocky field of their family's crops. But then following a massive flood that wiped out the farmland, and with no money for overdue rent, Albert's Boer War veteran father Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) was forced - in 1914, the opening year of the Great War - to sell off Joey to earnest British Army cavalry Captain James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston). The film followed the war years as Joey was transferred from one owner to the next in war-torn Europe, and even switched sides. Eventually by 1918, Albert was old enough to enlist in the British Army and began a search while serving on the front lines, but suffered temporary blindness after a gas explosion. While recuperating, Albert learned of the location of his beloved but severely-injured Joey who had become entangled in barbed wire in 'no mans-land'. Albert was able to save his horse from being euthanized, but was not able to take possession. At the end of the war, Joey was ordered to be auctioned off and was won by a higher bid made by one of Joey's earlier owners. However, the sympathetic and kindly grandfather (Niels Arestrup) gave up the horse to Albert in the emotional conclusion.

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