By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I love to rank the movies that I’ve seen every year.  I also love to have caveats like this list doesn’t include Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Martha Marcy may Marlene, or Hugo as I haven’t seen them yet and I want to do so.

I rank the movies as I see them and try to figure out where they fit in the whole spectrum of the movies that I’ve seen over the year.  I toyed with showing the top five, then the top ten, then the top sixteen, and then I said, screw it, I’ll just give you the whole list so that you can see it in its full context.  You can see what I see and how they rank against each other in my mind.  One slight mathematical type note – don’t think of this list as a normal distribution.  It could be skewed left or right depending on your vantage point, and in this case has more movies toward the quality side and that have definite cool moments.

So, without further ado, here is my list of movies in the order that I enjoyed them and that I saw released in 2011.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • Thor
  • Attack the Block
  • Captain America
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Insidious
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Rango
  • Bridesmaids
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • 13 Assassins
  • Paranormal Activity 3
  • Win Win
  • Drive
  • The Descendants
  • The Trip
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Everything Must Go
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • Source Code
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Paul
  • Unknown
  • Moneyball
  • Contagion
  • Super 8
  • Sucker Punch
  • Hall Pass
  • Cowboys and Aliens
  • I Saw the Devil
  • Horrible Bosses

If I were making a list of the top ten movies of the year to nominate for the Best Picture Oscars (announced Tuesday, January 24th at 5:30 am PT) I’d take the first ten movies. 

However, knowing that superhero movies, action movies, comedies, animated films and horror movies rarely, if ever, get nominated, here is the list of what I would say are the ten best films of 2011 that I think deserve a best picture Academy Award nomination and would have a realistic chance at earning one.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • Win Win

(Yes, I know that Hanna is pretty much an action movie and Submarine is a darn funny comedy, but they seem like nominated films more than Attack the Block and Bridesmaids.  Also, I’m not paying attention to release date and box office gross, which means it may be even less realistic than just eliminating certain genres of films.)

So, that’s it?  That’s all that I have to say?  It wouldn’t be much of an essay then as it is mainly just two lists.  I think you can find out just about anything you want to find out about the movies by just looking for them online.  You can also find better prognostications as far as the movies most likely to be nominated.  (Hint: The Descendants and Moneyball.)  So, what I’ll give you instead to wrap up the year 2011 in movies is a list of the great moments of these films.  I’ll avoid spoilers and just give you hints of the awesome in no particular order.

Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson meeting for the first time in The Guard.  At the beginning of this movie, Don Cheadle’s character holds a meeting for the police force of a small Irish town to give them more information of a drug-smuggling ring.  The interaction between these two great actors had to have been one of the funniest things I saw all year.

Dancing in The Artist.  I went to see this movie with my good friend Kelvin and we agreed that though we didn’t laugh much, when we left the theater we knew that we had been smiling to ourselves in the dark for the past two hours.  The scenes where Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo danced were the ones that made me smile the most.

The meeting in the garage between Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks in Drive.  I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad.  I’m also a big fan of Albert Brooks, going all the way back to Real Life and Modern Romance.  When these two are in a scene together, you know both have the chops for comic acting and now you can add Brooks to Cranston as far as dramatic acting as well.

Charlize Theron sitting down to write at her computer in Young Adult.  Every time Charlize sat down to write in this film, it struck home.  The struggle to sometimes find inspiration and to reward yourself with a distraction for limited reasons I think parallel anyone that has ever sat and tried to do something creative.

The invention of a meteor distance device by the son in Melancholia.  Picking a moment from this movie is tough, there are cool visuals, there are moments that break your heart and there are parts that are darkly funny.  However, seeing Keifer Sutherland exude so much pride over his son’s invention and the knowledge that we have as an audience makes that moment just about perfect.

The Wire references in Cedar Rapids.  Isiah Whitlock Jr. played Senator Clay Davis in The Wire, you know, that show that all your friends tell you to watch once they’ve seen it.  Well, that show exists in Cedar Rapids and the references they make to it using Isiah made me smile as a fan of both this movie and that awesome TV show.

The meetings between the young kids and the nurse in Attack the Block.  It’s been a bit since I saw the movie, but one thing I liked was the relationship that developed between the kids on the block and the nurse that they accost at the beginning of the movie.  The moviemakers gave it time to develop and because of that, the relationship worked instead of being a cliché.

The battle in 13 Assassins.  It’s a battle for a town with samurais. It may be sacrilege for me to say it, but I think it may top the same scene from Seven Samurai.

The scene about Jeremy Brown in Moneyball.  They use real minor league footage for this scene and it is the one that truly moved me from this whole movie. It was at this point that the characters played by Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt (as Peter Brand and Billy Beane) finally connected with me.

Any scene with the rotating camera in Paranormal Activity 3.  I don’t care what people think of the Paranormal Activity movies.  They spook me out.  The addition of the camera that rotates so that you lose sight of parts of the house heightened my scared anticipation every time they cut to it.

Those are my ten.  Let me know if you have any that you’d add to my list.

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