<p>Top choice of the twelve MSN.com listmakers was Lars von Trier's <em>Melancholia</em>. That's Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten Dunst, from the same movie, on the teaser page.</p>

Top choice of the twelve MSN.com listmakers was Lars von Trier's Melancholia. That's Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten Dunst, from the same movie, on the teaser page.

Kathleen Murphy and I have participated in the year-end observances at MSN.com's Movies department in recent years. The Ten Best part for 2011 just went up today, Dec. 15, featuring the lists by a dozen MSN.com contributors and brief writeups on the ten films that finished on top. (Kathleen's and my traditional "Moments out of Time" feature will appear early in the New Year.)

Making Ten Best lists is a solemn ritual for some, a game to others. Occasionally I've been known to treat it as both. Some years I've felt strongly enough about the artistic and/or historical importance of a dozen-or-so movies that I'd sweat blood trying to determine which title deserved the number-nine slot, which the number-ten. Other times I've nailed the top half of the list absolutely, then doled out the rest of the citations with a view toward spotlighting movies that gave me special pleasure or satisfaction, regardless of whether I could guarantee they'd stand the test of time. Funny thing: More often than not, a film I slipped into the nine or ten slot as a personal indulgence has ended up being a film that improves, grows, deepens with time—and retroactively moves up the list when I get around to reassessing.

Speaking of time, it's irksome to have to sign off on a Ten Best list nearly a month before the year has actually ended (our MSN deadline was Dec. 9). After all, we go on seeing 2011 movies through the holidays—and will see yet more of them in 2012. My best film of 2011 arrives in Seattle next week, Dec. 23, at Pacific Place and Lincoln Square cinemas; it should expand its run in January. And what would that film be? Well, you can find the whole package at http://movies.msn.com/movies/year-in-review/top-10-movies-of-2011/. —RTJ