Putting together a best of the year list can be a daunting task, especially when you have so many films and performances you feel passionate about.  There are obvious performances and films I thought I felt one way about, that either grew on me or was forgotten altogether by year’s end.  You’ll never find a consensus on these types of citations but you go with your gut and see what you see.  Without further ado, here are my choices for the Best in Film for 2011.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  • “The Artist”
  • “Drive”
  • “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
  • “The Help”
  • “The Ides of March”
  • “Moneyball”
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
  • “Shame”
    • Finalists: Guilt and darkness tied in with the color red (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”).  Wrestling with family problems can be heartwarming (“Win Win”).  Trying to make it here when you feel like you don’t belong (“A Better Life”).  When love hasn’t found you yet but your friends can’t hold down Brazilian food (“Bridesmaids”).  Brothers can’t find the act of forgiveness (“Warrior”).  Marriage can be a gift or a curse but dating is much harder (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”).

Best Achievement in Directing

  • Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
  • Terrence Malick – “The Tree of Life”
  • Steve McQueen – “Shame”
  • Lynne Ramsay – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
  • Nicolas Winding Refn – “Drive”
  • Finalists: A powerful year and can bring the best out of himself (George Clooney in “The Ides of March”). The unsung hero of the great ensemble and he remained behind the camera (Tate Taylor for “The Help”).  The respectful and diligent eye of a controversial subject (Stephen Daldry for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”).  The finest 3D experience of my life yet (Martin Scorsese for “Hugo”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Demian Bichir – “A Better Life”
  • Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”
  • Michael Fassbender – “Shame”
  • Ryan Gosling – “Drive”
  • Owen Wilson – “Midnight in Paris”
    • Finalists: The finest child performance this millennium (Thomas Horn for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”).  An emotional and raw character showcased by a great leading man (George Clooney for “The Descendants”).  Equally compelling and showcasing an intellectual and cautious portrayal (Ryan Gosling in “The Ides of March”).  Inhabiting a charismatic nature unseen from him (Brad Pitt for “Moneyball”).  Raw, natural, and equally heartbreaking adolescent performance (Hunter McCracken for “The Tree of Life”).  The best part of an uneven look into the different perspectives of two homosexuals (Tom Cullen in “Weekend”).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

  • Juliette Binoche – “Certified Copy”
  • Viola Davis – “The Help”
  • Adepero Oduye – “Pariah”
  • Elizabeth Olsen – “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
  • Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
    • Finalists: The person you love to hate with no room for a redeeming factor (Charlize Theron in “Young Adult”).  Gorgeous, compelling, and utterly enchanting (Felicity Jones in “Like Crazy”).  A broken woman trying to put herself back together with all the comedic charm (Kristen Wiig for “Bridesmaids”).  Equally flinching mother whose son does the unthinkable (Maria Bello in “Beautiful Boy”).  Crazy, dominating, and scene stealing overbearing mother (Jodie Foster in “Carnage”).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

  • George Clooney – “The Ides of March”
  • Jonah Hill – “Moneyball”
  • Ezra Miller – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
  • Patton Oswalt – “Young Adult”
  • Brad Pitt – “The Tree of Life”
    • Finalists: Nails the nuance and class of Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”).  Silent, tasteful, and demanding (Max Von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”).  Brings bad to a whole new level (Albert Brooks in “Drive”).  Dark, demented, and absolutely terrifying leader (John Hawkes in “Martha Marcy May Marlene”).  Tender hearted, newly founded homosexual Dad (Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Berenice Bejo – “The Artist”
  • Jessica Chastain – “The Help”
  • Anjelica Huston – “50/50”
  • Melissa McCarthy – “Bridesmaids”
  • Carey Mulligan – “Shame”
    • Finalists: Finally shows the meaning of a loving and supportive mother dealing with loss (Sandra Bullock in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”).  Spiteful, heartless, and unyielding southern woman (Bryce Dallas Howard in “The Help”).  Supportive wife and a man going insane (Jessica Chastain in “Take Shelter”).  The best part of a Shakespearean mess (Jessica Chastain in “Coriolanus”)  The standout in a talented child ensemble (Elle Fanning in “Super 8”)

Best Original Screenplay

  • Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
  • Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig – “Bridesmaids”
  • Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
  • Steve McQueen & Abi Morgan – “Shame”
  • Thomas McCarthy & Joe Tiboni – “Win Win”
    • Finalists: Unique and not at all familiar (Eric Eason & Roger L. Simon for “A Better Life”).  Bringing the sense of real time that doesn’t drag or fall flat in Europe (Abbas Karostami for “Certified Copy”).  How could you put those thoughts on paper and have an execution of unparallel proportions (Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life”)?  Putting the pizzazz back in Christmas story after a hiatus (Peter Baynham & Sarah Smith for “Arthur Christmas”).  Landing the inner turmoil and journey of young girl dealing with sexuality (Dee Rees for “Pariah”)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Hossein Amini – Drive
  • Eric Roth – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • George Clooney & Grant Heslov – The Ides of March
  • Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin – Moneyball
  • Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    • Finalists: Bringing a beloved book to life with authentic and genuine characters (Tate Taylor for “The Help”).  Reminds us of the innocence and tenderness of childhood (Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller for “The Muppets”)  Letting four people go at it for 80 minutes never felt so wonderful (Roman Polanski & Yasmina Reeza for “Carnage”)  You have to give some credit for an interesting concept that succeeded on some levels (Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon for “The Descendants”).  Freud’s words alone give homage to the script (Christopher Hampton for “A Dangerous Method”)

Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble

  • “The Artist”
  • “Bridesmaids”
  • “Drive”
  • “The Help”
  • “The Ides of March”
    • Finalists: Nearly all the actors are on board and in charge (Cast of “The Tree of Life”).  European flavor mixed with American uncertainty (Cast of “Midnight in Paris”).  A small independent film showcasing award worthy turns from all old and new (Cast of “Win Win”).  Say what you want about the script, the actors are elevating all the material with ease (Cast of “Hugo”).  A cast of British gentleman trying to figure things out (Cast of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).  While Marilyn takes center stage, the supporting cast follows with ability (Cast of “My Week with Marilyn”).

Best Original Score

  • Ludovic Bource – “The Artist”
  • Cliff Martinez – “Drive”
  • Alexandre Desplat – “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
  • Harry Escott – “Shame”
  • Alexandre Desplat – “The Tree of Life”
    • Adventurous and daring (John Williams for “The Adventures of Tintin”).  Compelling and resonating (Howard Shore for “Hugo”).  Back to back success and living like rock stars (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).  Though the film is loud, the score is calm and settling (Michael Giacchino for “Super 8”).  Goes hand-in-hand with great performances and direction to bring much needed tears (Thomas Newman for “The Help”).

Best Achievement in Film Editing

  • Anne-Sophie Bion – “The Artist”
  • Matthew Newman – “Drive”
  • Claire Simpson – “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
  • Conrad Buff IV & Mark Goldblatt – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
  • Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber, Mark Yoshikawa – “The Tree of Life”
    • Finalists: You can’t ever count out the great Thelma (Thelma Schoonmaker for “Hugo”).  The fine pace and a clean cut baseball game (Christopher Tellefsen for “Moneyball”).  Weaving together multiple stories and making each one authentic is his speciality (Hughes Winborne for “The Help”).  A nice slow beginning building up to a rapturous climax (Stephen Mirrione for “The Ides of March”).  Anyone who takes on a sports film needs a bunch of good editors behind them (Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall for “Warrior”).

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • Guillame Schiffman – “The Artist”
  • Newton Thomas Sigel – “Drive”
  • Robert Richardson – “Hugo”
  • Emmanuel Lubezski – “The Tree of Life”
  • Janusz Kaminski – “War Horse”
    • The smooth canvas feels of a gorgeous painting (Jeff Cronenweth for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).  Making a sports film feel almost like an action thriller is no easy task (Wally Pfister for “Moneyball).  Slow, orchestrated, and calculated movements create an atmosphere not of this world (Manuel Alberto Claro for “Melancholia).  Shot for shot originality as apes stare out into freedom (Andrew Lesnie for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”).  Taking walks and runs around the city that never sleeps but hasn’t quite healed (Chris Menges for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”).

Best Achievement in Costume Design

  • Pierre-Yves Gayraud – “Albert Nobbs”
  • Mark Bridges – “The Artist”
  • Sharen Davis – “The Help”
  • Sandy Powell – “Hugo”
  • Sonia Granade – “Midnight in Paris”
    • Finalists: Talk about a hot dress on a hot character (Jill Taylor for “My Week with Marilyn”).  Capturing a very confusing time while capturing their personalities (Denise Cronenberg for “A Dangerous Method”).  At least the costumes were good (Arianne Phillips for “W.E.”).  The rough life of a housewife in the 60’s (Jacqueline West for “The Tree of Life”).  Soldiers fighting, women tending to the housework (Joanna Johnston for “War Horse”).

Best Achievement in Art Direction

  • Laurence Bennett – “The Artist”
  • Mark Ricker & Rena DeAngelo – “The Help”
  • Dante Ferretti; Dorothée Baussan, Francesca Lo Schiavo – “Hugo”
  • James J. Murakami & Gary Fettis – “J. Edgar”
  • Rick Carter & Lee Sandales – “War Horse”
    • Finalists: A house of shame, and mother nature at its most beautiful (“The Tree of Life”).  You got to give credit to the finale in the franchise (“Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2”).  Spy thriller with a background of charm (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”).  Period pieces can be eye candy for anyone (“Jane Eyre”).  An interrogation room where Keira Knightley’s jaw becomes loose (“A Dangerous Method”).

Best Achievement in Sound

  • “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”
  • “The Artist”
  • “Hugo”
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
  • “Super 8”
    • Finalists: Loud robots (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”).  Tom Cruise jumping from building to building (“Mission – Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  Guns blazing and horses running (“War Horse”).  A slithering snake (“Rango”).  Cars racing down a highway (“Fast Five”).

Best Song From/Used in a Motion Picture

  • ‘Lay Your Head Down’ from “Albert Nobbs”
  • ‘A Real Hero’ from “Drive”
  • ‘Coeur Volant’ from “Hugo”
  • ‘Man or Muppet’ from “The Muppets”
  • ‘New York, New York’ from “Shame”
    • ‘Pictures in my Head’ from (“The Muppets”), ‘Life’s a Happy Song’ from (“The Muppets”), ‘The Living Proof’ from (“The Help”), ‘The Backson Song’ from (“Winnie the Pooh”), and ‘Star-Spangled Man’ from (“Captain America: The First Avenger”).

Best Animated Feature

  • “The Adventures of Tintin”
  • “Arthur Christmas”
  • “Rango”
  • “Winnie the Pooh”
    • Finalists: None (Bad year for animated features)

Also check out my Editor’s Specialty Awards & Honorable Mentions

Comment and discuss!