15. “The Tree of Life” (Director: Terrence Malick, 2011)
It’s not easy to make a movie that has both the scale of a single human lifetime and of the age of the universe. But Terrence Malick has shown us how they can be the same thing. “The Tree of Life” is a roving, gorgeous look at how people grapple with infinity without falling into the traps of narcissism. — Jacob Shamsian
Winner: The Artist
What Should Have Won: The Tree of Life
The Artist is a fun and wholly forgettable exercise. It’s kind of amazing, in hindsight, that this movie won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, and yet its central figures never really returned to the awards circuit in any significant way. Jean Dujardin is dashing as the film’s silent movie star protagonist; Berenice Bejo is alluring as a silent era “it girl”; the dog is fun. But nothing about The Artist really stands the test of time. It’s sweet and fun and flighty, and it ends up making almost no impression at all.