2011 was one hell of a year for films. It was the year of long overdue Oscars (Colin Firth, I’m looking at you), newly established superstars (Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling et al) and it signalled both beginnings (the first of the English language The Girl With… films) and ends (goodbye Harry Potter *sniff*).
2011 was also the year of sequels, laying claim to the highest number ever in a single year. Unfortunately, most lent new meaning to the word ‘forgettable.’ And if they weren’t instantly forgettable, they should have been, because nobody deserves to have some of these films imprinted on their memory, including Transformers 3 (Rosie Huntington Whitely proved to us all that a pretty face does not make a watchable actress), Twilight and Pirates of the Caribbean, to name but a few.
But let’s leave the bad, and focus on the good. These may not have been the most critically acclaimed, highest-grossing or biggest award winners, but for sheer quality of film, these were five of the best in a year of greats:
2011 has come to be known as The Year of Ryan Gosling. Beginning with Blue Valentine, and going from strength to strength, Gosling proved he was far more than just a pretty face. An honourable mention must be made for the wonderful Crazy Stupid Love, but Drive topped my list of both his films and 2011’s offerings. With a 15-minute opening sequence that was pure cinematic bliss, Drive was the 80s throwback to film noir that singlehandedly brought back the great movie soundtrack. It was ultra-cool, ultra-violent, had some brilliant performances, and featured a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu. What’s not to love?
It is sometimes forgotten that Martin Scorsese is as much majestic storyteller as he is a director. More associated with the gritty world of Mafioso crime, Hugo is something of an unlikely outlet for Scorsese’s most personal work yet. Telling the story of a little boy who lives alone in a Parisian railway station, it his first film about his real passion – cinema. Beautiful and uplifting, this is far, far more than just a kid’s film.
As a fan of Seth Rogen, I was intrigued to see how he could pull off a ‘cancer comedy.’ Surely this would be a concept too controversial to do him any favours? A car crash waiting to happen? Actually, no. With the underrated Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the film’s protagonist, a young health-aware man who gets diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the film is genuinely hilarious and incredibly moving in equal parts (you may even say it’s a 50/50 split).
Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed stage play, this Candian-French film tells the story of a woman haunted by her violent past in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, which appears to be an amalgamation of Lebanon and Palestine. Her twin children are pulled into a mystery involving her last will and testament, and find themselves revisiting the shocking events that shaped their mother’s life. Set against the backdrop of Middle Eastern history and conflict, it’s a film with suspense quietly brewing throughout until the shocking final twist catches you off guard.
The King’s Speech
The British success story of the year had to be included somewhere.
Highlighting the story of a reluctant king following one of the biggest scandals ever to grace the Royal Family, this is ultimately a story of personal triumph and of companionship, with some truly excellent performances from Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonhham Carter.
*One to miss: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.
This was either the best comedy of the year, or a solid indicator of the demise of society, intellect, the world and everything. Standardly wooden performances from our doomed protagonists were probably the best thing in a film that, for the most part, made absolutely no sense whatsoever. If it was intended as an ingenious satire, darkly mocking the overblown vampire phenomenon that’s swept the teenage female psyche, with the relevant observers now sitting back, highly amused at the hysterical fans, then my apologies Stephenie Meyer. You’ve hidden it very well.
And now we bid farewell to 2011, and look forward to 2012. Here’s a look at the most anticipated films of the new year:
The last few years have truly been the age of the comic book film. With excellent offering after excellent offering, The Avengers brings the Marvel greats together in one film – Robert Downey Jr’s insanely charismatic Iron Man (who gets the best line in the trailer), and unlikely new favourite Thor are topping my list. This is surely the most anticipated big-budget film of the year.
The Dark Knight Rises
To narrow it down to one comic book film would have been too difficult, especially with this
on the horizon. It will be nigh on impossible to follow in The Dark Knight’s footsteps, especially with the added tragedy of Heath Ledger’s untimely death giving the film a haunting legacy. However, with the introduction of new characters Catwoman and Bane, I expect nothing but greatness from this third instalment in the best Batman film series to date.
Possibly one of the most long overdue films ever, this will finally be gracing our screens come 2012. Fantasy geeks everywhere will be breathing a sigh of relief that after all the speculation, it has finally come to release as Peter Jackson’s film; I don’t think anyone else could do the book as much justice.
I have a love-hate relationship with Sacha Baron Cohen. His moments of brilliance are interjected with points where it all just goes too far. However, following the Arab Spring, this is a timely release for his mockery of fictional dictator General Admiral Alladeen, based heavily on Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
Book to film adaptations
A couple of film adaptations to watch out for: Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby boasts an excellent cast to take on this literary classic (the ever-likeable Carey Mulligan is probably reason enough to watch it). Ang Lee has also taken on fantasy adventure novel The Life of Pi, which deals with spirituality, practicality and survival under tragic circumstances through the eyes of a young Indian boy.
*One to miss: Step Up 4Ever
I’m going to be entirely prejudiced and dismiss this on the basis of its name. Unless this film has been made by a 12 year old Bieber fan called TYffanEe, there is no excuse for it.
NB: Twilight narrowly missed out on this special spot with its final film in the saga, because it is the final film in the saga. And that can only be a good thing.
Images from: http://batshadow.blogspot.com/2008_06_22_archive.html, http://www.flicksandbits.com/2011/05/26/ryan-gosling-interview-for-nicolas-winding-refn‘s-drive/11995/, http://www.themilfordmessenger.com/arts-and-entertainment/2011/11/20/“5050”-evokes-both-laughs-and-tears-in-adult-audiences/, http://www.yhyqart.com/2011/12/20/the-dark-knight-rises-legend-ends-2012-hd-wallpapers-movie-stills-free-vector-logo/,http://www.totalfilm.com/news/first-official-shot-of-sacha-baron-cohen-in-the-dictator
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