Martha Marcy May Marlene

Ellie Kemper, Oscar hopeful Melissa McCarthy, and Wendi McLendon-Covey in BRIDESMAIDS

The Academy Awards are commonly referred to as the gay Super Bowl, and for good reason: they each represent the culmination of months of grueling, bone-crunching competition, tend to feature misguided musical numbers, and are ultimately about impossibly wealthy people fighting over trophies while the rest of us cheer from the breadlines. In short: it’s the best thing that happens all year. My post-Oscar depression is far more devastating than even the worst case of post-Christmas blues. Such emptiness. The nominations for this year’s 84th Academy Awards will be announced in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, January 24. After the jump, check out my picks for what should be nominated and what we’re likely to read about on Tuesday.

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Welcome to our list of the best films of 2011! I’m Jason LeRoy, the film editor of this fine website, and I’ll be your guide to the most excellent cinema this year had to offer. I have to say, this is a pretty exciting moment for me. While I’ve been writing about film in one form or another since 1995, 2011 is the first year I’ve managed to see just about everything. It is with no small amount of consideration (or afternoons and evenings spent slumped over in theaters around town) that I’ve compiled this list. So look after the jump for my top 10 films of the year, some honorable mentions, and a handful of staff-pick rebuttals for Best Film of 2011. And especially since this year was uncommonly lacking in unifying critical favorites, please leave your own picks in the comments below.

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John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, Louisa Krause and Christopher Abbott in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

Every year at the Sundance Film Festival, there are inevitably a crop of star-is-born moments where little-known or unknown actors and filmmakers are suddenly catapulted to fame and acclaim thanks to a particularly well-received film. But surely one of the most surprising Sundance discoveries in recent memory is Elizabeth Olsen, 22, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. After growing up on the sets of her sisters’ projects, Olsen studied acting at NYU (she recently graduated), and is now making her feature-film debut in Martha Marcy May Marlene, a tense character study that also marks the incredibly promising feature-length debut of writer/director Sean Durkin.

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Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, which is having its Bay Area premiere during the Mill Valley Film Festival.

The Mill Valley Film Festival, one of the Bay Area’s most esteemed and prestigious film events, is returning for its 34th installment October 6-16. The MVFF has come to represent the first opportunity for Bay Area film buffs to check out festival favorites from the likes of Toronto, Venice, and Telluride before their theatrical releases, not to mention a chance to mingle with the talent; expected guests this year include Glenn Close, Martin Donovan, Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, and Ezra Miller. Last year’s festival featured the likes of 127 Hours, Blue Valentine, and eventual Best Picture winner The King’s Speech. Look after the jump for the top 12 films to check out this year.

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