So - if the movie year had ended June 30 and we had to choose the best films of 2011 from the releases that hit American screens since Jan. 1, which ones would make the cut?
My list is below: the 10 best films of the first half of 2011.
But an even more intriguing question: Which of the films that make this list will still be under consideration at year's end? I've got my favorites but, of course, it depends on what the post-Labor Day crop is like. Here goes:
1. Incendies: How did this movie NOT win the Oscar as best foreign film instead of In a Better World? Shakespearean in its sweep, Greek in its primal tragedy, this film blended a gut-wrenching family story with the horrors of war and fate. It won't be Oscar-eligible - but it will wind up on year-end 10-best lists.
2. Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's wonderfully clever ode to Paris in the 1920s was, at the same time, a witty indictment of nostalgia as a blinkered approach to life. Woody's most commercially successful film ever, it showed that Owen Wilson was born to speak his dialogue.
3. A Better Life: Demian Bichir, so dominating in Weeds, is heartbreakingly humble and, at the same time, self-possessed in this quiet but compelling story about an undocumented Mexican immigrant in L.A., reaching for the American dream to help his son.
4. Super 8: Here's the movie where J.J. Abrams graduated from being an exciting TV guy who also directs movies to a full-blown filmmaker. His story of a group of movie-obsessed middle-schoolers in 1979 Ohio was exciting, funny and full of heart.
5. The Last Mountain: Filmmaker Bill Haney, working with Robert Kennedy Jr., tells the story of Coal River Mountain, an Appalachian peak in danger of being flattened by Big Coal. This movie had as strong a message as An Inconvenient Truth, and even more implacable villains.
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