Category Archives: BEST/WORST LISTS

Ten Best of 2017


One of the privileges of being a film critic is getting to do a ten best list at the end of the year. For me, it’s an opportunity to tout the movies I most enjoyed and was most likely to recommend. There were other films I liked – and a few films that my colleagues swooned over that I detested – so this is a personal list, and gives you a chance to judge my take on the movies.

DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan’s impressionistic take on one of the most dramatic moments of World War II, where the British were desperately trying to evacuate their troops from France, was a stunning achievement. It showed how the horrors of war could elicit the best of both soldiers and civilians in the direst of circumstances.

GET OUT – Comedian Jordan Peele’s debut as a director was a stunning achievement, a horror film that made a powerful statement about racism and modern culture. The dramatic payoff, where he pulled the rug out from under us and our expectations, demonstrated a filmmaker ready to take on the world. This was the directorial debut of the year.

THE SHAPE OF WATER – Guillermo del Toro gives us “Creature of the Black Lagoon” as a romance, and one of the most stylish films of the year. Set in the 1950s, it provides a snapshot of where we were while pointing to how much better the future might be. A top-notch cast and outstanding art direction and special effects made this the science fiction film of the year.

DETROIT – A dramatization of outrageous police brutality during 1967 protests, it is a movie that demands to be seen by viewers who think they can ignore it. This is not a “black film.” African-American viewers already know what it says. This is a film for white viewers (like this critic) who need to understand why “black lives matter” is not only an important movement, but is an understatement of the problem this country must address.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – There was a time Hollywood knew how to do movie musicals. You wouldn’t know it from last year’s “La La Land” or this year’s “The Greatest Showman.” Once again, Disney surprised us by successfully giving us a live-action version of one of their animated classics. This was a sheer delight and the proof was in “Be Our Guest.” When they pulled that off with a mixture of live action and CGI – and they did – it was a moment of triumph.

COLOSSAL – Anne Hathaway plays a misfit who discovers that when she goes to her childhood playground, a giant monster mimics her actions in Seoul, South Korea. And then the film gets weird. This was a movie that not only pulled off its bizarre premise but managed to do so while keeping us guessing where it was going. This was an inventive and provocative movie that never tipped its hand right through its final shot.

COCO – Pixar is no longer batting 1.000, but when they get it right, they are head of the class. In their best film since “Inside Out,” they use Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” celebration to tell a story about being true to yourself across generations. If you’re not shedding a tear by the end, you need to check your emotions.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE – I make no apologies for this. Having been one of the few critics to pan “The Lego Movie,” I was bowled over by this follow-up. It is easily the best superhero movie of the year, hilariously taking apart the givens of the Batman mythos. Whether it’s Batman in particular or superheroes in general, this was the must-see superhero movie of 2017.

FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER – Angelina Jolie grabs our attention in her third outing as director, relating the horrors of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. We’ve seen this in “The Killing Fields” (1984) but this is different, showing us what occurred through the eyes of a child. We experience it as it happens and learn how this remarkable young girl managed to survive.

LAST FLAG FLYING – Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne are three Vietnam vets accompanying Carrell’s son’s remains from Iraq. This is not merely about war, but about men confronting the issues of reaching late-middle-age and reflecting on their lives. Younger critics may not have appreciated it, but director/co-writer Richard Linklater knew what he was doing.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, including Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


2016: The Year’s Ten Best


I’ve long since given up claiming my choices–or that of any of my colleagues–constitutes the final word on what were the “best” movies of a given year are, since that is for posterity to decide. There are movies that were highly praised that, in hindsight, are embarrassing, and others–now considered classics–that were overlooked. For me this exercise is simply to note the films I most enjoyed this year, and were most likely to recommend if you asked me, “What’s worth seeing?”

    Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career as Jacqueline Kennedy, capturing the breathy socialite and the sharp and strong-willed woman the public barely knew. The frame for the story is the interview she gave shortly after the funeral for President Kennedy, looking back on that horrible weekend and the experience of being First Lady. Portman moves into the front ranks of current actresses with this portrayal.
    Rachel Weisz has a great role in Deborah Lipstadt, the real-life Holocaust scholar who was sued in British courts by a Holocaust denier (Timothy Spall) and has to trust that her lawyer (Tom Wilkinson) is employing the right strategy. In presenting the actual case the film raises the question of how best to confront and battle extremism, an issue that–sadly–is increasingly relevant.
    In a year with several strong science fiction movies, this was a standout: cerebral, reflective, and character driven. Amy Adams excelled as the linguist called upon to try to make sense of the seemingly incomprehensible language of space aliens, where the fate of humanity might hang in the balance. This joins “Interstellar,” “Gravity,” “Inception,” “Moon,” and “Gattaca” as making it clear that modern SF films can be more than special effects and action figures.
    The Boston Online Film Critics Association, one of two critics groups of which I am a member, named this the best film of the year. While not my top pick, this is a worthy choice in telling the story of an African-American character at three stages of his life–child, adolescent, adult–and the tough choices he has to make. The choices are specific to the character but speaks volumes about contemporary life, with stellar performances by a largely unknown cast.
    While the Boston Society of Film Critics (my other group) named the supremely overrated critics’ darling “La La Land” as best picture, the Ryan Gosling film not to be missed was this one, in which he and Russell Crowe get involved in solving a noirish mystery. It’s dark, violent, and at times very funny, including a moment when Gosling–deliberately–quotes Lou Costello.
    Without a solid cast and good direction, a movie isn’t likely to succeed, but first it needs a great script. “Hell or High Water” had all three, but its knockout script is what made this memorable. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are bank-robbing brothers in the contemporary West with Jeff Bridges as the lawman laconically on their trail. It’s a thriller that takes you by surprise.
    Although this doesn’t open locally until January, this 2016 release about the African-American women who worked as “calculators” for NASA in the early 1960s is a history lesson that we should all cheer. These real-life women have largely remained unknown. This movie should change all that, with stellar performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae.
    This was a great year for animation, with movies like “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Sing,” but “Zootopia” managed a story involving ambition, being true to yourself, and not engaging in steretotyping, all the while being very funny and colorfully imaginative. The nice thing about the year’s best animation is that it wasn’t just for kids (and we’re not just talking about “Sausage Party”).
    The Coen Brothers were back with this zany look at classic Hollywood that featured musical numbers, Communist writers, scandals, gossip columnists, and Josh Brolin as a studio executive trying to hold everything together. For those who know their Hollywood history, this was dead-on and priceless.
    It’s no secret that Woody Allen is long past his prime, and that’s said sadly by a critic who counts “Annie Hall” as his favorite film. So when a new film of his works it’s a cause for celebration. This tale of star-crossed lovers who have to deal with the cards life has handed them turned out to be funny and moving, with some great period touches.

Now on to 2017.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new novel, Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel, will be released in early 2017. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Ten Best Films Of 2014 (by Daniel M. Kimmel)

Another year at the movies, and this year I felt more out-of-step with my colleagues than ever. I was one of three critics who thought “The Lego Movie” was a yawn. The two Boston critics groups I’m part of went with “Snowpiercer” and “Boyhood” as their best picture, neither of which appears here, although both are worth seeing. Rather than go with the pack or make a point of overpraising movies simply because they are “different,” my ten best list reflects the movies that I found truly entertaining or thought-provoking, the ones that immediately came to mind when asked, “What’s worth seeing?”

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – Yes, it’s Oscar bait and tidies up the life of Stephen Hawking, but it remains a powerful drama of a man who is both the greatest genius since Albert Einstein and someone diagnosed with a crippling disease that was supposed to have killed him fifty years ago. His is truly a story of the triumph of the mind and spirit, with remarkable performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

– This was an edge of your seat thriller with surprise twists that you were unlikely to foresee unless you had read the book. David Fincher’s taut direction kept you from trying to anticipate what would happen next. The real reason to see this, though, was Rosamund Pike’s stunning performance. Scrupulous reviewers couldn’t say why her turn was so breathtaking so let’s just say, “See it.”

– Once again the critical herd missed the boat on the year’s best science fiction film. Last year it was preferring “Her” to the far superior “Gravity.” This year the raves were for Tom Cruise’s adequate, if unoriginal, “Edge of Tomorrow,” which flopped so badly at the box office it was renamed for its DVD release. Meanwhile Christopher Nolan’s ambitious film literally reached for the stars, tackling everything from relativity to climate change to the bonds of parental love. This is a film whose reputation will undoubtedly grow with time.

BELLE – In a year where the racial divide tragically made the news, this is a film that should be widely seen. Based on a true 18th story of a mixed race woman born into British high society at a time when British ships were still transporting slaves, it raises all the right questions about hypocrisy and privilege. Relative newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives an intense and sensitive performance in the title role.

CHEF – After doing the “Iron Man” movies director Jon Favreau returned to work on both sides of the camera with this gentle comedy about a chef (Favreau) tired of making the same old dishes and who freaks out after getting a bad review. He ends up buying a food truck and going on the road with his young son. It’s a story about food, social networking, and father/son relationships. Favreau surrounds himself with a great cast including Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, and Robert Downey, Jr.

INHERENT VICE – Thomas Pynchon’s dense novels are deemed unfilmable but Paul Thomas Anderson (who write and directs) tackles his ’60s film noir and wins. Don’t worry if you have trouble following the story. This is a movie about its complex and often duplicitous characters as a hippie detective (Joaquin Phoenix) attempts to unravel a complicated murder plot. There’s a number of great performances here, but special mention must be made of Josh Brolin, whose cynical plainclothes cop seems to be from another planet.

INTO THE WOODS – Stephen Sondheim’s best work on film may be “Stavisky,” a 1974 French film for which he did the score. However this adaptation of one of his most popular Broadway shows does an excellent job of capturing what makes the show work while transforming it into a movie. Unlike too many recent movie musicals, this one transports you into its world even if you’re noticing what was lost in the transition. Fortunately we can enjoy both.

AMERICAN SNIPER – Clint Eastwood at 84 continues to amaze. After doing “Jersey Boys” earlier in the year he was back with the true-life drama about the American sharpshooter who held the record for the number of enemy killed. Bradley Cooper – in a performance many will be surprised he had in him – gives us a soldier who feels called to duty, not someone looking to be an action hero, and who has to grapple with the way his combat experience affects him.

TOP FIVE – Tired of being both a literal and figurative cartoon figure in his movie roles, Chris Rock takes firm control of his film career with this story about a stand-up comedian/actor who wants to be taken seriously. It’s genuinely funny but, for a change, is a movie about real people dealing with their dreams as well as the reality of their lives. Rosario Dawson is marvelous as the reporter trying to get him to reveal himself and finding it involves revealing herself as well.

22 JUMP STREET – Okay, it’s not necessarily a film for the ages but it was the single funniest comedy of the year, full of knowing jokes about it being a sequel (starting with its title) and the contrivances of its plot. This might have been simply a very entertaining summer movie but for its closing sequence which provided teasers for sequels for years to come. Those few minutes said more about Hollywood and the movies in 2014 than a slew of critics awards and year end reviews.•••

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

These Are The Ten Best Movies of 2013 (by Daniel M. Kimmel)

One of the nice things about ten best lists is that––unlike the Oscars, critics groups’ awards, and other collective judgments––I don’t have to compromise or accept choices I don’t like, and I can trumpet movies I did like even if others disagree. As in past years, these were movies I was most likely to recommend if asked, “What’s worth seeing?”

12 YEARS A SLAVE ::: In spite of a British director and several prominent Brits in the cast, this is a great American film that forces viewers to confront a part of American history we prefer to ignore. Oh, sure, we acknowledge there once was slavery in this country, but on screen we’re more likely to think of “Gone With The Wind” as how it was. Based on the incredible and horrifying true story of Solomon Northrup, this is not only powerful storytelling, but after a career of more than a decade on screen, this ought to put Chiwetel Ejiofor on the map. (And make us all learn how to pronounce his name.)

GRAVITY ::: The best science fiction movie of the year and a performance from Sandra Bullock that was so good it makes you forgive her for abominations like “All About Steve” and this year’s “The Heat.” She plays a scientist literally lost in space when her craft is destroyed and who has to call on reserves she didn’t know she had in order to survive. Some critics gave the film the back of the hand as being merely “technically” brilliant. It was. It was also a powerful story of the human spirit.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT ::: Every nine years since 1995 director Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have been chronicling a great love story. In “Before Sunrise” an American college graduate and a young Parisian woman meet and fall in love but he’s leaving in the morning. Nine years later, in “Before Sunset,” they meet again and find a connection in spite of the changes in their lives. Now we pick up the story again and find that even the road of true love can have bumps and detours. Love is about the journey, not the moment. See you again in 2022!

AMERICAN HUSTLE ::: Con artists––legal and illegal––abound in this hilarious fiction built upon the ‘70s Abscam scandal. Everyone has an angle and everyone is hustling everyone else. David O. Russell gets some great and truly flamboyant performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper. (And if Lawrence can sing someone should be casting her as Adelaide in a remake of “Guys & Dolls.”)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING ::: Ignored by the critics groups and sure to be overlooked by the Oscars, this labor of love from director Joss Whedon (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “The Avengers”) is a sheer delight. Shot in 12 days at Whedon’s house with a bunch of his favorite actors, this black and white rendition of Shakespeare’s enduring romantic comedy is a gem.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET ::: Martin Scorsese still has it as he gives us “Goodfellas” on Wall Street. Leonard DiCaprio finally comes into his own as a Scorsese star as Jordan Belfort, who climbs the ladder of success to enjoy incredible debauchery at the expense of the rest of us. The movie is three hours long but you don’t feel it, though you may wish to take a shower afterwards.

BLUE JASMINE ::: Woody Allen’s greatest films are behind him and his dramas are usually clunkers as the comic genius has almost no ear for dramatic dialogue. What made the dramatic half of “Crimes And Misdemeanors” work was the brilliant star performance by Martin Landau, and what makes this work is an incredible turn by Cate Blanchett as a woman who has lived at the top and is now having trouble adjusting to her new status in the real world.

THE WORLD’S END ::: Imagine a cross between “The Big Chill” and “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and you have a sense of this ingenious British comedy from the team behind “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Five friends relive an epic pub crawl they went on in their youth and discover that the old home town has… changed.

THE UNKNOWN KNOWN ::: There were many good documentaries this year but the most chilling one was Errol Morris’s companion piece to his feature length interview with 1960s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, “The Fog Of War.” This one is with Donald Rumsfeld, the man who gave us the war in Iraq, Guantanamo, torture, and a host of lies. He is not only unrepentant, but he doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong. Worth seeing just for his explanation why the Bush administration’s memos approving of the torture of prisoners––which he claims never to have read––weren’t really from the administration.

FROZEN ::: For many years now to speak of the great new Disney animated films was to speak of Pixar: “Monsters, Inc.,” “Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Wall-E.” Disney Animation itself was turning out forgettable movies like “Chicken Little,” “Tangled” and “Meet the Robinsons.” With “Frozen” they have created a film that hearkens back to the last great Disney revival of “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty And The Beast.” The songs aren’t that memorable, but the animation, story, and characterization is top notch and captivating. This put Pixar’s perfunctory “Monsters University” in the shade.•••

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Ten Best Of 2012 (Daniel M. Kimmel)

Although I’ve been reviewing for nearly thirty years, the year-end “Ten Best List” always seems a bit odd. We don’t yet have the perspective to declare with any certainty what the best films of the year are, and a look at the Oscars, for example, has many choices that now seem embarrassing. (“The Greatest Show On Earth” as Best Picture? Really? In a year that gave us “High Noon” and “Singin’ In The Rain”?) So here are my ten favorites of the past year, movies that I loved and was happy to recommend to others:

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER – I was unaware of the young adult novel on which this was based, but I thought this was one of the most honest and touching looks at adolescence and high school ever put on film. Instead of the usual nonsense, it explored just how raw emotions are at this stage of our lives. It was beautifully told by writer/director Stephen Chbosky who wrote the original novel. Incredibly, this was only his second film as director. [REVIEW]

LINCOLN – Focusing on Lincoln’s battle to get the 13th Amendment passed so that slavery would no longer be an issue after the Civil War, this was a brilliant depiction of how politics and government works. It’s messy, it’s sometimes ugly, and yet it’s how things get done. Tony Kushner’s script is rightly being hailed as is Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in the title role. Director Steven Spielberg does not have a fan in this corner, but this was one of the outstanding films of the year. [REVIEW]

ARGO – At the time of “Gigli,” when Ben Affleck was little more than a punchline to a bad joke, it would have been impossible to predict that he would emerge as one of the most interesting directors of the past decade. Yet with “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” and now this, he is absolutely a major player. In spite of the hyped-up fictionalized ending, this was a fascinating story, well-told. [REVIEW]

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD – Remember the name Lorene Scafaria. She wrote “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.” She wrote and made her directing debut with this film, which died during the summer and is now being discovered on DVD and cable. It’s a sometimes hilarious and ultimately poignant story with a terrific Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two people who find each other just before Earth is destroyed. [REVIEW]

CLOUD ATLAS – Take six stories by three directors told in different styles in an intertwining fashion spanning several centuries. Add a cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Jim Broadbent playing multiple roles. It’s clear this was never going to win over the majority of film critics or filmgoers. However, it was an ambitious project that paid off handsomely for those willing to stick with it, and should gain in reputation in years to come. [REVIEW]

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Quentin Tarantino is back, this time tackling American slavery rather than the Holocaust, and coming up – once again – with an incredibly violent and surprisingly entertaining film. Key to his success is his uncanny casting, with Christoph Waltz, as the German bounty hunter who sets the story in motion, being an incredible asset. Not for every taste, but an interesting counterpoint to the solemnity of “Lincoln.” [REVIEW]

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Politicians should just shut up about movies, especially if they haven’t seen them. Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the search for Osama bin Laden may take liberties with the facts, but it is not a defense of torture nor does it claim that we never would have gotten him without waterboarding. This is a powerful dramatization about the decade-long search for the terrorist leader, and just how painstaking the process was with no guarantee of success.

HEADHUNTERS – As a member of both the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association, I find myself catching up with a lot of films at the end of the year that I didn’t happen to review. This Norwegian film noir was a revelation, as it depicted someone working in executive placement with a sideline as an art thief. Things get increasingly complicated with plenty of twists and turns to the plot. If some Hollywood producer doesn’t snap up the remake rights, they’re missing a good bet.

BERNIE – A little Jack Black goes a long way, and he has many cinematic crimes for which to answer. Yet when he works with Richard Linklater – as in “School Of Rock” – magic seems to happen. This black comedy about an assistant undertaker who befriends the meanest widow (Shirley MacLaine) in town proved to be hilarious. And in a year in which Matthew McConaughey emerged as a great character actor, his performance here was the one that got overlooked.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Yeah, yeah, “The Avengers” was the comic book movie of the year and it was a lot of fun, but even with Joss Whedon’s wit, it was all pretty much on the surface. The climax of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was much more profound, giving us not only the required action and mystery, but exploring the psyche of someone who would willingly become a masked hero. It also featured one of the great unsung supporting performances of the past decade, Gary Oldman as the man who finally became Commissioner Gordon. [REVIEW]

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Top Ten Films Of 2011 (Kimmel)

I don’t know how other critics decide what their ten best are, but my list is based on the movies I saw that I was mostly likely to recommend unprompted. If you ask me about, say, “The Descendants” I’ll tell you it’s a fine film and well worth seeing, but if you simply ask what to see this season, I’ll lead off with “Hugo” and “The Artist.”  So, in order of release:

::: In movies like “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” writer/director Thomas McCarthy has showcased decent people who find themselves in unusual circumstances presenting them with heart and humor. In “Win Win,” Paul Giamatti is an attorney who tries to do the right thing for his clients and his family but cuts corners once and finds that he can’t contain the results. Bobby Canavale is hilarious as his friend and ought to be much better known.

::: It was a so-so year at the movies, but a pretty decent one in the science fiction genre. “Source Code” was the second feature from director Duncan Jones (following “Moon”), and it showed him as someone to watch for intelligent and moving stories. Here, Jake Gyllenhaal is a soldier who wakes up in someone else’s body on a commuter train and has to stop a bombing. The thriller elements play out but Jones makes us wonder about the ramifications of the technology that makes it possible. That’s the difference between an intelligent filmmaker and a hack like Michael Bay. [READ REVIEW]

::: Woody Allen, it’s nice to have you back. After years of films that made his fans embarrassed for their past support – “Curse Of The Jade Scorpion,” “Hollywood Ending,” “Scoop” anyone? – the man whose films were once hallmarks of American comedy comes around with a hilarious look at nostalgia and how we lionize the past. Not even the presence of Owen Wilson in the lead could ruin a funny and inventive script that, like Allen’s best films, also left you thinking. [READ REVIEW]

::: The great documentaries change the way you see the world either by taking you somewhere you’ve never been or making you see things you thought you knew in a new way. This biography of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem turned him from the man who wrote the stories that inspired “Fiddler On The Roof” into the great and complex figure that he was. This movie helps one understand why Aleichem was hailed as “the Jewish Mark Twain.”

::: A thriller that relies on characters and dialogue instead of big action scenes and special effects? Steven Soderbergh pulled it off with this chilling and realistic look of what would happen if an unknown illness started rapidly spreading and claiming lives in today’s world. A stellar cast – including Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow – made this so real that someone sneezing near you will make you nervous. [READ REVIEW]

::: Ryan Gosling is having an outstanding year (see, also, “Crazy Stupid Love” and “The Ides Of March”), but his turn as the driver of getaway cars made this the existential crime film of the year. Not as flashy as other action films, it was a character driven story about a man who lives by his own code and won’t allow it to be violated. Albert Brooks is an Oscar contender for supporting actor for his chillingly soft-spoken gangster. [READ REVIEW]

::: A comedy about cancer?  Indeed, writer Will Reiser based it on his own story of struggling with (and surviving) the discovery of a brain tumor in his twenties. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was sensational as the young man facing mortality while Seth Rogen – playing a variation of himself in his friendship with Reiser – is wonderful as the sometimes crude but fiercely loyal pal.

 ::: Quite possibly the best film of the year, this adaptation of the non-fiction best seller of how the manager of the Oakland A’s turned to unconventional means to compete against the big money teams had two great performers in Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, and crackling dialogue from co-writer Aaron Sorkin. Pitt juggling phone calls in forcing a trade of players is one of the great star turns in the movies. [READ REVIEW]

::: Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the modern children’s classic The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a sheer delight. It’s the first movie since “Avatar” worth seeing in 3D. A boy lives in the Paris train station in the early 1930s, and uncovers a great secret. Scorsese has assembled a strong cast for a story that reminds us all about what we love about the movies. [READ REVIEW]

::: Believe it or not, the feel good movie of the year is both silent and black and white. The story of two movie performers at the dawn of the age of sound, it’s full of life and good humor that will leave you with a big smile by film’s end. Some recognizable faces – including John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, and James Cromwell – appear, but the film belongs to its two leads, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. You may not know them now, but you will.***

What is your favorite movie and why? Post your thoughts below! 

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.

Top 10 Films Of 2011 (Symkus)

It’s the time of year when everyone starts arguing with me about my Top 10 list. Hey, folks, they’re only movies. And the ones here aren’t necessarily what I consider the best of the year. Simply put, they’re the ones that entertained me (or challenged me) enough to make me want to see them a second time, and the sooner the better. They’re in alphabetical order because, well, they’re the top 10.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN ::: Steven Spielberg certainly knows his way around animation, having produced “Monster House” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” His first stab at directing an animated feature – an adaptation of the popular Belgian comic book about a boy reporter, his dog, a pirate ship, and lots of peril – is a wonderfully crafted 3D blend of comedy, adventure, and an abundance of violence. A sequel is bound to follow.

THE ARTIST ::: From the director and star of the woefully underappreciated OSS 117 films comes this love letter to the movies, and a sad/funny look at the end of the silent era and the beginning of talkies. The film is shot in stunning black & white, and is (should I give this away? Yes.) silent. No words, but plenty of storytelling, courtesy of spot-on subtitles, and remarkable performances by Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Oh, and Uggie the dog.

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH ::: Another B&W film, this one telling the horrific story of events leading up to and beyond the Japanese destruction of the Chinese city Nanking. This is raw and brutal stuff, focusing on fierce gun battles as well as on what the Japanese soldiers do to the Chinese citizens who were unlucky enough to survive the attack. Most of the film is heartbreaking and haunting, though there’s also a hint of kindness. It’s a real rarity: an art film about war.

THE DESCENDANTS ::: George Clooney hits his stride as a leading man, exuding humor, pathos, and everything between as a husband and father who’s been too busy to be a good husband and father, in the first film from director Alexander Payne since “Sideways.” Tragedy brings Clooney’s Matt closer to his daughters – one is innocent, one has been around. But the story keeps a comic edge as it moves into areas of development of pristine Hawaiian land and marital infidelity. Great performances from Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, and newcomer Nick Krause as Sid.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ::: Yes, it was a good decision to “Americanize” the popular Swedish thriller about a wrongly disgraced journalist, a tough-as-nails bisexual investigator gal, a mystery concerning a woman who vanished 40 years ago, and, oh yeah, Nazis. David Fincher directed this taut piece with a kind of stark, detached coldness. There’s some real squirm-inducing stuff involving rape and bondage, as well as some good old-fashioned retribution.

HUGO ::: If you haven’t seen this sweet offering from Martin Scorsese yet, first head over to YouTube and check out Georges Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon.” It’ll make watching “Hugo” all the more delicious. Based on the illustrated novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” it’s about an orphan lad who lives in a train station, and is trying to make cosmic contact with his loving dad. It’s also about the birth of cinema, and people getting a second chance. You will laugh and cry.

INCENDIES ::: When their mother dies, adult twins Jeanne and Simon are given two envelopes, one to be delivered to their father, the other to their older brother. But, wait. Their father is dead, and they have no older brother. Still, a search leads them from Canada to Lebanon. Complicated storytelling ensues, leaving most audience members as befuddled as the two main characters. As secrets are revealed, the film becomes more unsettling, leading to a rather surprising and satisfying ending.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS ::: It always seems to take the making of a couple of OK films for Woody Allen to rise to the occasion and make a great one. This is my favorite since “Sweet and Lowdown” in 1999. This delightful flight of fancy has Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams as an engaged couple in Paris who find themselves no so perfectly matched when he starts traveling back in time to hang out with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Don’t ask how, just do your best to get all wrapped up in it.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL ::: The fourth installment in the “M:I” series is the best, partly because it’s so snappily directed by Brad Bird, partly because Tom Cruise is back at the top of his game, partly because it’s so much slam-bang fun. The Kremlin has been destroyed, Russia is blaming the Americans, the IMF has been “disavowed,” and some crazy bad guy is ready to fire a missile at San Francisco. So, hmmm, do you think top agent Ethan Hunt and his pals will save the day? I do.

THE TRIP ::: Brit actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a road trip through the north of England to check in on and write about some fancy restaurants. The two actors play two actors named Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and seem, through an endless series of improvisations, gags, and damn good imitations of other actors, to be playing versions of themselves. Directed very loosely, by letting them do whatever they want, by Michael Winterbottom. Charming and hilarious.