A reasonable number of pretty good movies came out in 2011, but not too many really good ones. Here are links to my reviews in Taki's Magazine of Oscar nominated films in chronological order.
Rango — Best Animated Feature. Gore Verbinski's reptilian Western is ugly but amazing.
Bridesmaids: Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy, who is very funny. It's good to see a non-Woody Allen comedy recognized in the overly serious Oscar nomination.
Midnight in Paris: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. For the first time in a long time, Woody Allen deserves his nominations for this slight but delightful comedy.
The Tree of Life: Best Picture, Best Director (Terrence Malick), Best Cinematographer (Emmanuel Lubezki from Mexico who would be a deserving winner) — I managed to miss the first 15 minutes due to traffic, so I enjoyed it a lot more than everybody else did. There's a beautiful 90 minute movie about growing up in Waco surrounded by a dull 45 IMAX film about the Big Bang. In my view, the Tree of Life glass is 90/135ths full, but others have been known to differ.
Jane Eyre — Costume Design. Michael Fassbender, who was good in this as Mr. Rotchester and three other movies (X-Men, A Dangerous Method as Carl Jung, and Shame), didn't get any nominations this year.
Transformers — Three technical nominations for a better than expected fighting robot movie. I had a good time at this film.
Harry Potter — Three technical nominations for what was a disappointing end to an admirable franchise.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes — Just a Visual Effects nomination, with Andy "Gollum" Serkis once again denied a Best Supporting Actor nod. What's the over-under year for when Serkis will get his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy: 2035?
Drive — Just a sound editing nomination for a kind of cool movie. I think if they'd made the heroine into a femme fatale, it would have kicked it up the last notch, but hardly anybody makes femme fatale movies anymore. The dominant male audience disapproves of them.
Moneyball — Best Picture (but not Best Director, so it won't win BP), Brad Pitt (I would have picked his performance in Tree of Life), Jonah Hill (who was excellent as the stat nerd), and, of course, a Best Adapted screenplay nomination for Sorkin and Zallian. Ranked on a degree of difficulty scale — it's a baseball statistics movie — this might be the most remarkable accomplishment of the year. On the other hand, it's a baseball statistics movie ...
The Ides of March — An Adapted Screenplay nomination for the Democratic primary campaign movie, but kind of forgettable.
Margin Call — J.C. Chandor's Wall Street movie got a Best Original Screenplay nomination: "Speak to me as if I were a young child or a Golden Retriever. It weren’t brains that got me here, you know that.”
The Descendants — A potential Best Picture winner, although it's not really that good. But it would be a decent placeholder Best Picture winner like last year's The King's Speech. In 2020, everybody will go around saying that the Academy was nuts to give the Oscar to The King's Speech because we all realize now that the most important movie of 2010 turned out to be ... But the problem is that we don't know what movie from 2010 will look like the real landmark in 2020. (And something else will seem better in 2030, and so forth.) In the mean time, though, while we're waiting, The King's Speech was a perfectly okay Best Picture winner. Similarly, Alexander Payne's The Descendants is a very nice movie, and would be a respectable Best Picture winner until everybody figures out what really should have won.
Hugo — Led the pack with 11 nominations.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — A lot of technical nominations, but no Best Picture or Best Director nod for David Fincher, which seems about right. Maybe it will send Fincher the message not to waste his skills on junk like this.
The Iron Lady — Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
The iSteveier movies of 2011 — Bad Teacher, X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Guard — didn't garner much Oscar love. It's clearly some kind of conspiracy.
In other news, the great Gary Oldman finally got himself an Oscar nomination.