Monday, July 11, 2011

The 2011 movie halftime report: We'll always have Paris

Earlier this year, the motion picture Academy announced yet another Best Picture rule change. Now, the nominees are no longer fixed at 5 or even 10. The nominees will now number at least five, and as many as 10, but will most often end up somewhere in between. 

For awhile there, I thought my 10 Best List for 2011, would be something like that. If I made the cutoff grade at least an A-, I figured I would end up with at least 5 or not more than 10. After looking through my roster, I came up with exactly 10, released in the Dayton area before the end of June.  For better or worse, I'm generous that way. 

Midnight in Paris: You may notice I haven't written about this movie yet. There's a reason for that. Woody Allen's latest is one of those movies where the less  you know about it going in, the more you will enjoy it. So I won't expound on that, except to say that the movie is utterly wonderful and left me with a big smile on my face both times I've seen it ... so far. Anybody wanna take me to Paris?

Super 8: The best popcorn entertainment of the year, this throwback to early Spielberg, written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Spielberg, it's like a reminder of a time when movies weren't bent on selling anything other than themselves. Pure joy.

Blue Valentine: This movie, on the other hand, is pure trauma, as Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams all too vividly portray a once-loving couple who have gone way past the breaking point. Shattering, but impossible to shake. 

Jane Eyre: One of today's best young actresses, Mia Wisikowska, shines once again in the title role of this new Bronte adaptation, which might even be a little better than the 1944 picture with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. And here is picture one that shows this to be the year of Michael Fassbender.

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Just when 3D had about worn out its welcome, along comes Werner Herzog, of all people, to put it to practical use, exploring the earliest known cave with paintings. It's never less than fascinating and wondrous all at once,  and the 3D does what 3D ought to do - make you feel like you're there. 

X-Men First Class: And here's part two of the year of Michael Fassbender, who excellently plays Magneto in this prequel that cures the ailing franchise. The whole cast is dynamite, and so are the action scenes. 

Rango: After getting lost in the tumult of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp reminded me of why I so admire them both - for their persistent willingness to be bizarre and endearing at the same time. Some people were put off by the quirky style, but that's what made the film a cut above all the other animation out there.

Cars 2: Dear fellow critics: Eat my dust!

Bridesmaids: Always a groomsman, never a groom. You don't have to be a chick to find this hysterical.

Paul: Hm. Maybe this should also be the year of tributes to Steven Spielberg. I laughed a lot at this grossly underrated comedy. 

The A for Effort award goes to: Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. No film released this year - hell no film released in at LEAST the past five years - has been as ambitious as this one. And yet ambition doesn't always equal success. Parts of this movie are magisterial, other parts are remote and confounding. I know that ranking this below Cars 2 will be enough to have people revoke my film buff card, but I only saw this once, and every film buff knows it takes more than one viewing to process this. Or maybe I just really hate trees after one fell through my house. Either, way, check back at the end of the year. Maybe The Tree of Life will grow on me. (rim shot) 

1 comment:

Zack said...

1. The Future
2. The Tree of Life
3. 13 Assassins
4. Insidious
5. Tabloid

I consider all five titles above "listworthy" -- worthy of appearing on my year-end top ten list, should they make it.

Unlistworthy titles that would be in consideration for my top ten, were I forced to make it today: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, Midnight in Paris, Meek's Cutoff, Fast Five, Kaboom, Bad Teacher, The Green Hornet, Beginners

Major titles as yet unseen by me: Certified Copy; Tuesday, After Christmas; Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives; The Trip; Putty Hill; Cold Weather