Over the past year, Washington Post movie critics have watched hundreds of hours of film. But only 12 movies received our top rating, including the George Clooney drama “The Descendants,” the captivating baseball story “Moneyball” and the Ryan Gosling breakout “Drive.”
There are no new movies opening in DC theaters this week, but many of the year’s four-star films are on DVD and several are also still in theaters. For movie buffs planning to settle in for pre-Oscar catch-up this weekend, here’s what our critics had to say about their favorite flicks of 2011.
Movies still playing in theaters:
“The Artist”(PG-13) “ ‘The Artist’ comes as a particularly refreshing balm: It’s a film that simply offers viewers an elegant escape from the toils and worries of the real world, plunging them into an alternate universe where glamour, romance and indefatigable optimism rule the day. The fact that that world happens outside the aural assault of modern life makes ‘The Artist’ not just a diverting novelty, but a psychic necessity.” — Ann Hornaday
“The Descendants” (R) “George Clooney doesn’t put a foot wrong except on purpose in ‘The Descendants,’ a pitch-perfect movie that threads a microscopically tiny needle between high comedy and devastating drama.” — A.H.
“Drive” (R) “Star of the moment Ryan Gosling delivers a slow, white-hot burn of a performance in ‘Drive,’ a nervy, understated ode to one of Hollywood’s most cherished archetypes, the sad-eyed man of few words.” — A.H.
“Le Havre” (Unrated) “With its ragtag cast of cinematic archetypes . . . ‘Le Havre’ is propelled by equal parts theology and whimsy. It’s a treacherous combination that in [Aki] Kaurismaki’s capable hands results in one of the finest films of the year, a comedy of unusual compassion and generosity that can get away with its most fanciful contrivances because its style is so simple and its tone so gentle and forgiving.” — A.H.
“Moneyball”(PG-13) “Like a cold beer under a bluebird sky; like a flawless line drive on a warm summer’s day; like a long, languorous seventh-inning stretch — ‘Moneyball’ satisfies.” — A.H.
Movies on DVD (or soon to be out on DVD):
“Beginners” (R) “[Filmmaker Mike] Mills, who wrote the script largely from events in his own life, addresses issues of history, culture, Los Angeles’s graffiti subculture and, yes, telepathic canines with deft, perceptive finesse.” — A.H.
“Incendies” (R) “In the end, the effect of the sinuous, snaking drama — which elegantly traces a timeline stretching from contemporary Quebec to war-torn Lebanon of the 1970s and back — is like a tripwire. It knocks you off your feet and leaves you shaken.” — Michael O’Sullivan
“Meek’s Cutoff” (PG) “Director Kelly Reichardt deconstructs, de-mythologizes and thoroughly redefines the American western with ‘Meek’s Cutoff,’ a mesmerizing cinematic journey that is often as arduous and spare as the lives of its hard-bitten protagonists.” — A.H.
“Nostalgia for the Light” (Unrated) “With ‘Nostalgia for the Light,’ [Patricio] Guzman broadens his scope to take in larger existential questions. The result is a film that rates as the filmmaker’s masterpiece, an exquisitely filmed, poetically written meditation on how past and present fuse in humanity’s most unresolved questions.” — A.H.
“Of Gods and Men”(PG-13) “Xavier Beauvios’s haunting, exquisitely crafted film achieves a flawless balance between taut, truth-based contemporary drama and the timeless question of spiritual commitment and obedience.” In French and Arabic with English subtitles. — A.H.
“Take Shelter”(R) (Scheduled for DVD release on Feb. 14.) “Taut, unsettling, haunting and powerful, ‘Take Shelter’ stars Michael Shannon in a shattering performance as a man caught up in forces beyond his control.” — A.H.
“Win Win”(R) “[Paul] Giamatti stars in a wrestling picture that reinvigorates the genre with verve, warmth and heart. ‘Win Win’ exemplifies movies the way they oughtta be.” — A.H.