Impressively executed and immensely entertaining, The Artist charts the fading career of silent film star George Valentin juxtaposed with the rise of new discovery Peppy Miller. In a strong supporting role native St. Louisan John Goodman plays director Al Zimmer. This gorgeous black-and-white homage to silent film takes place in Hollywood from 1927 to 1931, the transition to talkies.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy returns to the Cold War days of early 1970s and the knowledge by the head of Britain's Secret Service, Mi6 that a mole has infiltrated to the highest level of the headquarters called "The Circus." The second sentence spoken by the chief officer, called Control, is, "Trust no one"—good advice for a surreptitious, dangerous investigation.
The Mission Impossible film franchise certainly does not draw viewers for deep philosophical ideas. Instead MI promises a lot of physical action and escapist entertainment, which is exactly what Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol delivers with spectacular inventiveness. Give credit for that to director Brad Bird, the engaging storyteller behind Pixar's The Incredibles and Ratatouille, now making his live-action debut.
As 2011 ends, the best films deserve applause. Here are the films for which I welcome repeat viewings.
Passione is director/writer/actor John Turturro's loving tribute to the music of Naples, or Napoli as he accurately calls it. Eclectic in his taste, Turturro stages 23 songs, similar to music videos but with less frantic editing. He strings them together with brief observations by him or by Neapolitans with no apparent organizational thread, though each song is sufficiently entertaining.
As quirky and creative as its subject, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life chronicles the iconic French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. In the original French title, the further addition of "A Fairytale by Joann Sfar" accurately points to the deferential treatment of the infamous Gainsbourg, especially late in his late, and the fanciful additions by director/writer Sfar who adapted his own graphic comic.