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In a beautiful written piece for the New York Times, Trevor Noah paints a picture of his childhood with his mother

Top 10 Movies of 2011

2011-12-13 10:58
Top 10 Movies of 2011
10. Bridesmaids

The year's funniest comedy featured one of the wildest, grossest, most intimidating female ensembles this side of R-rated. Kristen Wiig became yet another comedian to emerge out of Saturday Night Live a movie star (after Jason Sudeikis, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell). Her hapless bridesmaid character was messy, unreliable, awkward and infinitely adorable. And if one breakout star was not enough, Bridesmaids also introduced the world to the charms of Melissa McCarthy and cutie-pie Irish actor Chris O'Dowd - and made 90s girl group Wilson Phillips (fleetingly) relevant again.

9. Super 8

Children on a journey of discovery seems to have been a prevailing trend in movies this year. JJ Abrams' loving tribute to mentor and producer Steven Spielberg's E.T. was a thrilling yet earnest tale about a group of filmmaking kids from a small blue-collar town whose imaginations can't quite match what befalls the town when a mysterious train comes crashing in. The secretive, viral marketing campaign worked a treat and Super 8 prevailed at the box office, despite the largely no-name cast. The most "famous" face in the cast was that of 12-year-old Elle Fanning.

8. Rango

Somehow a curious animated film about a chameleon experiencing an existential crisis emerged as an exciting new venture for Johnny Depp - as voice actor. While the vibrant animation and screwball action may have pleased the kids, the big life questions being posed were aimed very much at the more discerning adults. The animation was detailed and vibrant, the writing was wacky and made frequent nods to its spaghetti Western inspiration and the voice cast sounded like they were having the time of their lives. What fun!

7. Roepman

The much-loved Jan van Tonder novel about a young, imaginative boy named Timus and his loss of innocence growing up in a rigidly Christian family during apartheid felt, for many, like a nostalgic snapshot of their own childhood. Playing Timus' father is SA's own breakout movie star of the year Deon Lotz, who also went on to great acclaim for his performance in SA's Oscar entry Skoonheid.

6. Blue Valentine

The year's most memorable romance was also it's most achingly real. Ryan Gosling and Oscar nominee Michelle Williams portray a marriage falling apart slowly. How they got there is perhaps director Derek Cianfrance's trump card as the scenes of marital strife unfold just as we learn of the early days of their seemingly perfect fairytale romance. But then kids, careers and the resignation that comes with growing older, and perhaps wiser, come into play and those early, sun-kissed days achieve greater poignancy - before the tears come. It's a hard-hitting story, beautifully told.

5. True Grit

You've never met a young lady quite like Mattie Ross before. Her spirited quest to find and capture the man who killed her father becomes a thorn in the side of grumpy US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (played by Jeff Bridges) and the ambitious Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (a hilarious Matt Damon). But what transpires was something none of them expected. This being a Coen brothers joint, the darkness soon begins to pierce through as their journey over harsh Indian territory becomes ever more perilous, though the rich dialogue and easy humour made it an endlessly compelling and fun film. Any year in which the Coens release a new movie is one to celebrate.

4. Drive

The second Ryan Gosling film in our Top 10 (though it could easily have been three if Crazy, Stupid, Love. hadn't got so sappy towards the end) Drive is his new signature role, playing a nameless professional driver who also moonlights as a getaway driver for robbers in LA. The slow-burn intensity of Nicholas Winding Refn's direction may not be to everyone's strict definition of "suspense" but there's no denying that this is a thriller that aims a bit higher than the rest. Ably supported by the incredible Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston and Carey Mulligan (and that spooky, unforgettable soundtrack) Drive is the epitome of cool.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

So what if it's the biggest film franchise that ever was. Harry Potter didn't need to work nearly as hard as about 98% of the other movies released in 2011 to get bums on seats - and yet it was a spectacular experience. The pressure of staging "The End" certainly did not weigh too heavily on all involved and the 12 years of love and sacrifice that had been poured into this record-breaking tale was clear for all to see. Kudos to author JK Rowling, director David Yates, long-time producer David Heyman and, perhaps most significantly, the young cast who grew up before our eyes and never let stardom mess with their heads. And Alan Rickman deserves all the praise in the world for his approach to the series' most popular character Professor Snape.

2. Warrior

The true surprise film of the year - if you managed to find it amongst the other dreck competing for your attention at the movies. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play estranged brothers who find themselves competing for the same UFC prize. But that's only towards the end - everything that comes before sweats love, pain and passion through the screen as their family battles, particularly against former deadbeat alcoholic dad Nick Nolte, power through like a punch to the gut. Emotionally potent, thrillingly staged and not a dry eye in the house. What a cinematic experience.

1. The Tree of Life

What was this strangely alluring film really all about? Well, it's not as if Terrence Malick is ever going to appear on Oprah and clear it all up for us. The movie asks nothing of us but to bring ourselves into it and let the picture postcard images of rainforests, nebuli, tree-lined suburban streets and, perhaps, the afterlife wash over our consciousness. It's a tough ask of your typical South African moviegoer who usually seeks something to chew their popcorn to, but those who experienced The Tree of Life this year were left all the better for it. Brad Pitt's standout performance was on a knife's edge throughout, though the world's biggest movie star gave the least "star" performance of his career. The loose, dream-like family narrative felt honest and pure, and was ambitious enough to encompass the story of the universe in 130 minutes. Only Malick could achieve this and emerge triumphant.


Most pleasant surprise: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Anything would've been better than Tim Burton's woeful re-imagining of the franchise in 2001, but director Rupert Wyatt's attempt to rewrite the genesis of this ageless tale is something to be seen. Andy Serkis' motion-capture performance as genius chimp Caesar will go largely unheralded, which is a shame since his contribution to the mesmerising CGI apes proved so invaluable.

Most over-rated: The Hangover Part II
More of the same from Phil, Stu and Co - only now with more Bangkok. It was funny the first time so a bit more imagination was needed the second time around.

Most under-rated: Let Me In
The US remake of the excellent Swedish film Let the Right One In did not stray too far from the original, and since there's an inherent mistrust of US remakes, the lovely work by child stars Chloë Moretz as a child vampire and Kodi Smit McPhee as the lonely boy who finds purpose in their friendship was an eerily charming thing to see.

Most enertaining press screening of the Year: Ek Lief Jou
Oh, how we all chortled throughout Kurt Darren's attempts at being both sexy and earnest. It was a blast.

* Did we leave anything out? Let us know what YOUR favourite films of 2011 were in the comments below, or e-mail your list to

Raw romance, wizarding wonder, bridesmaids gone wild, and smart kids made 2011 a uniquely exciting year at the movies. We take a look at the 10 best movies we will definitely be rewatching in 2012 - and beyond.

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