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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back at 2011

Well, there it is, another movie year over and done with. Looking back on the 2011 movie year, my feelings are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, there weren’t many movies that I felt were truly “great,” that really inspired passion in me. On the other hand, there were fewer movies that I flat out didn’t like – even the film that I would call the “worst” that I saw all year was one that I actually enjoyed quite a bit because it was so terrible that it was fun to watch. Essentially, it feels like it was kind of a middle of the road year – not great, but far from bad.

My movie going year started as it usually does – catching up on films from the previous year that didn’t go into wide release until January. This year those films were The King’s Speech, True Grit, Incendies and Blue Valentine. The former two I was able to see in time to include in my 2010 Top 10, the latter two would definitely have made the top 10 if I’d seen them in time. Incendies is yet another great film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, whose previous films Maelstrom and Polytechnique I also admire a great deal. Blue Valentine is a marital drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, both of whom had a really great year in 2011 even if you don’t count Blue Valentine.

The first proper 2011 movie I saw this year was The Roommate, a film that is at once terrible and awesome. Yes, it is a cheap, teen version of Single White Female and has plot holes you could fly a plane through, but it’s a fun movie to watch with the right attitude and in the right company. I enjoyed watching it, but it is unquestionably a bad film. The last film that I saw this year is a great film that I enjoyed watching, Michael Hazanavicius’ silent beauty The Artist. In between those two films, I saw a handful of great movies, from Cary Fukunaga’s beautiful adaptation of Jane Eyre, Abbass Kiarostami’s intriguing Certified Copy, Terrence Malick’s long delayed (and worth the wait) Tree of Life, Werner Herzog’s outstanding documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Nicholas Wending Refn’s cold as ice thriller Drive, and Lars von Trier’s end-of-the-world tale Melancholia.

I saw a decent number of films that I would characterize as just a touch short of greatness, including the moving father-son drama Beginners, the stripped down western Meek’s Cutoff and the more bombastic and referential western Rango, the delightful Midnight in Paris, the classic Spielberg throwback Super 8, the surprisingly strong sports drama Moneyball, the unsettling dark comedy Young Adult, and George Clooney’s one-two punch, political thriller The Ides of March, and the family saga The Descendants.

A lot of films landed solidly in the middle of the spectrum for me, movies that I enjoyed a lot and that I think are “good” but not more than that – films like Bridesmaids, Hanna, Paul, The Debt, The Help, My Week with Marilyn and Crazy, Stupid, Love - and movies that I think are well-made, decent films but that I ultimately felt a little lukewarm about - The Adjustment Bureau, The Bang Bang Club, The Skin I Live In, The Conspirator, Source Code and Martha Marcy May Marlene. I liked Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, though I know that that puts me in the minority, and Bad Teacher, though I thought it was a bit too uneven. The only films that I found truly disappointing were Our Idiot Brother, The Rum Diary, Horrible Bosses and J. Edgar, and all things considered, that’s a pretty good track record for a year of movie viewing. There are still a couple of 2011 movies I want to see – War Horse, The Iron Lady, A Separation, Shame, and We Need to Talk About Kevin (the latter three I expect I probably won’t get to see until they’re on DVD) – but at this point I’m pretty satisfied with the 2011 movie viewing experience.

Looking ahead to the 2012 slate, there really isn’t anything I’m looking forward to seeing until the end of March when The Hunger Games comes out. Beyond that I'm planning to see The Five-Year Engagement, Dark Shadows, Prometheus, Snow White & the Huntsman, Brave, The Dark Knight Rises, Dog Fight, Argo, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, World War Z and, though I may deny it later, Rock of Ages. I'm also equally anticipating The Great Gatsby, because that's my favourite book, and dredding it because it's going to be 3D. Bring it on 2012!

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