Here’s my critical expression:
Truly great films are a rarity. This past year had several wonderful movies to choose from, and despite the fact that movie attendance is way down over last year, where it was down even more from the previous year, 2011 was a banner year: The Artist is a love poem of depth and sparkling laughter written for Old Hollywood. Love Crime and Midnight In Paris covered different French worlds and brought both story lines to equally thrilling heights (the acting, quiet, but pulsing with energy, stuns me). I’m a Terrence Malick fan and his film, The Tree of Life, split critics right down the middle once more; yes, it’s an abstract contemplative family drama that sticks with me, and Malick’s tone-poem flourishes are every bit as necessary as they were in his visual masterpiece, The New World.
Emma Stone had three terrific roles in Easy A (yes, a 2010 film, but I caught the DVD in 2011), Crazy, Stupid, Love, and The Help. In 2011, after The Help, Jessica Chastain also arrived as a star people wanted to see more of on the big screen. She portrayed the wife none of the other women in town wanted to befriend — she was wonderful playing a younger version of Helen Mirren’s character in The Debt as well as the wife of Michael Shannon in the thrilling drama Take Shelter, a smaller film that hasn’t been released widely enough, and she’s starring in the next Terrence Malick film.
All of these other movies made 2011 a terrific movie year: Bridesmaids, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Beginners, Melancholia (another transcendent film with big ideas), The Descendants, the USA version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Jane Eyre, Contagion, Win Win, Hanna, and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes kept me in popcorn bliss! Finally, a Scorsese film that is a gift to every film historian or critic that, despite the fact it calls out for a bit more narrative oomph, will remain one of the most visually stunning and crowd-pleasing films of last year: Hugo. How many of these films will turn into what I call Instant Classics, those films I will return to for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th viewing just because I know I will fall into a specific and wondrously created world and marvel again and again? Time will tell.
There are more than 10 movies from last year that I would watch again so that bodes well for the future. My favorite of the year? If you read my recommendations, you already know what I’m going to say: Midnight In Paris. It’s Woody Allen’s crowning achievement. An inventive fantasy about the creation of art and love. I just watched it for a 4th time and it never grows old.
These next 4 films, however, are the reason I grow ever more frustrated with Hollywood crypt-keepers whose job it is to greenlight good, albeit profitable, films. When these films gracelessly visited my local movie complex and art-house theater I tried to avoid them. I seldom say avoid anything. The word avoid isn’t supposed to be in a perpetually optimistic film critic’s vocabulary, but if I never see these pictures again, it’ll be too soon: Something Borrowed (based on the novel of the same name), Happy Feet 2, Cars 2, and the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The last three were made to keep kids happy, but what about the parents who had to sit through these films with their kids? I couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough. My movie mates and I headed to the Train Wreck and ordered lots of beer to talk about what just hit us.
I hope you enjoyed the films of 2011 as much as I did even if you waited to see them in the comfort of your own home, and I also hope 2012 turns out to be another banner year for big screen entertainment.
Maybe you can join me at the Train Wreck after a movie in 2012.
PS. You can click any of the underlined films on the list to get a complete review!
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Great piece, Justin. Some I’ve seen and some I need to get on my ‘to watch’ list. Also good to get a recc.
Going to the movies still brings a singular pleasure — although I’ve just heard that some theater chains are going to start offering showtimes where the audience is allowed/encouraged to text and use their mobile phones (for those who really can’t be away from their gadget addictions for more than ten minutes at a time)!
I LOVED Midnight In Paris also. Went to the theater 2 times(even though it played 50 miles away from me) and have the DVD now.
Lori – so great! It’s one of those movies I watched and turned right around and watched it again the next day!
I totally agree!
I always love it when two opinionated people agree on movies! I’m buying the popcorn next time though!
I am such a wait-for-dvd-or-on-demand junkie so I don’t have to put up with the mouth-breathers behind me I have a knack of sitting by. I haven’t seen any but Bridesmaids. 😉 I’ll be checking them out. 😀
I wait for some of the films to come to DVD — especially when it’s cold out — but then I miss a trip to the Train Wreck 🙂
The rudeness at theaters is astounding to behold, a real game-stopper for my mate, but I have some great movie friends who like to brave the sea of ill-mannered folk . . . We liked The Thing too around Halloween time. Wasn’t as good as the John Carpenter premise but it had its moments. Can’t wait for Prometheus.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo … this is my Saturday night movie thanks Justin … as for the others movies … Some of these I had already seen … and I wish I had time to see them again!!! Now for my kids I did many stupid things LOL this was one of them > Happy Feet 2 — not even my 11 yrs old son wants to remember that movie … If only you had posted this a little sooner … anyway very Good Recommendation Justin thanks for share……S
The David Fincher version of Girl With… is really a great suspense film (hard to watch at times) — sorry about Happy Feet 2; I also wish it was much better. What did you think of Enya as background music for Girl With…?
oh Justin you know that i can’t be objective with Enya’s music so i simply think one of the best things about this movie was Enya’s music.
Rooney Mara&Daniel Craig were both very good, but Christopher Plummer !!!! was better of them .
And I will try to see the Swedish movie as soon as i can …. i will let you know if i like it or not.
Christopher Plummer was a great friend of one of our longtime friends and was always talked about with ticklish fondness. He’s one of the best, and he just won a Golden Globe for his role in the film Beginners with Ewan McGregor. Best always, Staury.
I’m looking forward to watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but I’m not sure about the planet of the apes reboot. I’ve seen the trailers and haven’t been impressed. Hopefully there will be a few surprises of 2012 that we can all get enthused about.
I grew nostalgic for the very first Planet Of The Apes film with Charlton Heston, and Rise does link to that film in several clever ways. The film is really entertaining popcorn fare that didn’t insult the audiences intelligence either; the movie’s visuals and “ape” acting was a strong treat. Give it a shot on DVD. I liked both versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, both got parts of the tale right, while each was stronger and weaker in places than their rival. Daniel Craig was perfect, and both actresses who played the role did so with the requisite grim relish. Thanks for commenting here, Pete.
Thanks. I probably will watch planet of the apes, just to see what it’s like. I want to read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before I watch the films so I better get to it!
Just get past the first 150 pages and you will also fall under the dragon tattoo’s spell!