1 - The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick)
The best thing that happened in this horrible 2011 was the fact that Terrence Malick still doesn't give a shit about box office results. Those who need to "understand" everything, who are into action, explosions, and special effects (the type of stuff that works well with a huge box of popcorn on your lap), should (and did) stay away from this marvel. Those who still believe film is art, not just entertainment, will absolutely adore it. This isn't a movie — it is a moving painting with just the right words in the right places. God, creation, life, death... No, Malick doesn't have any answers, but neither do we — which makes this movie even more real. The movie, Malick, and cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki (at the very least) are deserving of Oscar nods.
2 - The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
Do you get it now? Do you understand why a handful of us are still crazy about silent films? Both Chaplin and "the artist" character in The Artist were wrong in dismissing sound as a fad, and they paid for it. But they were right in all the rest: silent movies didn't lack anything. Kudos to director Michel Hazanavicius for paying an honest and accurate homage to all that's great with the pre-sound era, and for stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo for the year's best couple chemistry. Oscar: do not forget Bejo when it's time for the nominations, even if it's in the ridiculously titled "Best Supporting Actress" category. In The Artist, she's on equal terms with Dujardin.
3 - Take Shelter (Dir. Jeff Nichols)
Take Shelter is equal parts suspense, horror, and a chilling psychological thriller about a man who sees Armageddon coming and builds a tornado shelter in the family's backyard. The rest, you have to see for yourself. If Michael Shannon don't get a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars for his role as the kind but disturbed Curtis (a character a lot more complex than you imagine), it will go down in history as one of the greatest snubs ever perpetrated in film.
— Enrique Lopetegui