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2011 - A Very Brief and Slightly Ignorant Look at a Bad Year for Film

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By Gabe - 08/14/12 at 04:09 PM CT

I’m just going to say it… 2011 was a crappy year for film. Yes, there were some entertaining films (X-Men: First Class, The Descendants), some beautiful films (The Tree of Life and Hugo) and whatever you call Drive. But to put this year into perspective, when I think about any past year in film, one of the first things that I think of is what won Best Picture? Well, it’s only been five months since the Academy Awards, but The Artist already feels like a sub-par Best Picture Oscar winner, but I ask you, what should’ve won?

You don’t have to answer that yet. Let’s begin by briefly discussing the 18 films that I’ve seen from 2011.

The 7 Films I Had to See

X-Men: First Class: I love this film, but I did have some problems. Overall, though, I thought it was the best film of the year. Great acting, good writing and, above all, entertaining.

The Ides of March: When I saw a trailer for this film that features George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in a political thriller, I had to see this. Honestly, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. But it was good and again entertaining.

Moneyball: I have a whole new appreciation for this film after reading the book. Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin should have won the best adapted screenplay Academy Award instead of Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. There was basically no story in the book. It read more like a textbook. I thought it was a fascinating look at the politics of baseball.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: The final film of a great series of films and books, I was not going to miss this. Most critics would say this franchise really found its footing with the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), but anything would’ve been good after the horrible second film and book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). However, the fourth film (Goblet of Fire (2005) was just OK. The fifth film (Order of the Phoenix (2007) was when this highly successful film franchise really took off. I was disappointed that this film didn’t at least get a nomination for Best Picture from the Academy. I thought the film on its own merit deserved the honor, but not many eight-film series can do what this one did. In fact, other than Star Trek, I can’t think of another eight+ film series.

The Tree of Life: This film was released in the summer, at least in Lincoln, NE and it was garnering early Oscar buzz. I wasn’t able to catch it on the big screen and had to wait for the Blu-Ray, and visually it was awesome! But, what the hell was it about? I still don’t know. It needed more dinosaurs.

Super 8: The first film that I saw in 2011 and one of my biggest disappointments. I felt that it was E.T. for a new generation when Spielberg needed to realize that E.T. was timeless.

The Hangover Part II: A re-make of the original, not that I was expecting anything else, but, a complete rip-off of the original. And now I hear their going to be making a third one. I loved the first film, but it didn’t need a sequel.


5 Films That the Academy Loved (Award Bait)

Hugo and The Help: Both of these are listed here because of my reasons for checking these out in the first place and my low expectations going in. The only reason we even saw these two films is because they were Oscar nominated. First Hugo, it’s my fourth-rated film of the year, but it’s my most surprising. I can’t tell you how many times during this film that I thought, why did I not know more about this? Why did I wait so long to see this? See my review here. And The Help, my wife and I both thought this was going to be just awful, but we enjoyed in immensely.

The Descendants: George Clooney in an Alexander Payne film, I’m in.

Midnight in Paris: A good late career Woody Allen film. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be.

The Artist: I said everything I wanted to say here.


6 Others

Drive: The one film that I totally had to take what the critics were saying about it and go with it. Because the previews made it look like a Fast and the Furious re-make. Boy was I wrong, I was speechless afterwards. The most overlooked and under hyped film of the year.

The Muppets: A great big, heaping spoonful of nostalgia. I loved it!

Bridesmaids: The female “Hangover.” I know it’s clichéd to compare the two, but they really are the same movie. I thought the original Hangover was better. But, Melissa McCarthy became a star here, and she deserved all of the accolades.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Just read this.

Warrior: It gets the “it is, what it is” award for being just what you thought it was going to be, but with slightly better acting.

The Adjustment Bureau: Or, the "hat movie". Dumb, yet entertaining. I was slightly intrigued at the concept at first glance, but it wore out quickly. It reminded me a bit of one of my favorite TV shows, “Fringe.”

As you can see, every single one of these was pretty, blah. Can we count the last season of Mad Men, the best show on TV, as the year’s best picture?

If one was to look at a list of Best Picture winners, there are some years that you look at and you say, yea, that was the _____ year, for example, Gone with the Wind (1939, the highest-grossing film of all time), Casablanca (1943), The Godfather (1972), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Schindler’s List (1993), Titanic (1997), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (but, this award was basically to honor the entire trilogy), and No Country for Old Men (2007).

Some years such as 1994 when Forrest Gump won, you could argue that at the time it was the right choice, but years later it probably finishes third to Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. Gump-mania was everywhere. You couldn’t get away from it. I agree, it was the right choice in ’94, but 18 years later, it’s wrong. Sometimes you get the head scratcher like 1998 when Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan or 1976 when Rocky beat out Network, Taxi Driver, and All the President’s Men or 1941 How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon.

And Then you have years like this year or 2005 when Crash won. 2005 might be the best comparison because I saw all five of the Best Picture nominees and then some. First off, I would rank them Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Munich, Brokeback Mountain, and then Crash. That’s not even including my two favorite films of the year Batman Begins and A History of Violence. But, we knew going into Oscar season that a superhero film was not going to be nominated and A History of Violence was the “Drive” of 2005, the small, super violent film that the critics loved, but the Academy gave no love to. Okay, it was nominated for two awards, best adapted screenplay by Josh Olson and best supporting actor for William Hurt (I think he was on-screen a total of one minute).

There just wasn’t that film that everyone had to see and had the critics drooling over it. People were talking about Brokeback Mountain, but not because it was a good film, but because of the subject matter. I, quite frankly, was just bored by it. I think Crash won because it was “cool” and “trendy” and “shitty.” Whoops, that last one was what I thought about it. It also won because the voters were split between the other films and it averaged out on the ballots as the best. I’m guessing Brokeback and Good Night probably had the most first-place votes, but Crash ended up with a higher average score. That’s the problem with this year, there wasn’t that galvanizing film (Avatar) that everyone had to see or that film (Schindler’s List) you watched and said, this is “THE” film of the year. I know Avatar didn’t win, but everybody was talking about that film.

Which brings me back to my original question, what should’ve won? I really don’t know. Because every single one of these films from 2011 are flawed. I thought X-Men was the best movie of the year, but let’s be honest, it’s not The Dark Knight (2008) in terms of superhero movies. That’s why my vote is for Drive. It had the “cool” factor. It had the “it” actor of the year in Ryan Gosling and at the end of the year when people, including me, actually got around to seeing it, it had everyone talking. But, in the year 2020 when people look back at what films we remember as representing the year 2011 it will probably be none of them. Hopefully, 2011 will just be erased from the film history books. But I have a feeling it will be The Artist. Drive will end up in the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart and people will forget about it. The Artist, having the prestige as actually winning Best Picture in a bad year for movies, will be the film that our future selves are talking about. Except I expect the conversation to go something like this:

“Can you believe The Artist won Best Picture in 2011?”

“Wasn’t that the Black-and-White silent film?”

“Yea.”

“Ehh…what else was released that year?”

“Uhhh…Drive…”

“Wasn’t that that movie that made Ryan Gosling the biggest actor on the planet?”

“Yea.”

“Huh. That was a pretty bad year for film…”

That’s why I consider 2011 to be a below average year for film. Here’s to 2012…

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Alex

Wrote on 08/19/12 at 04:17 PM CT

I think 2010 and 2011 are about the same for top of the line films. I loved Drive and the others in my top 5 were really good for me. 2010 is the same. Tron is still the best for me while Inception is not as good as it once was (in fact, the 3rd worst Nolan movie). 2012 looks to be crap in my opinion. Hopefully the finish line to Oscar season is incredible, or 2012 will be a wasted year.

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Chris

Wrote on 08/17/12 at 07:53 PM CT

I agree - while I have watched a lot more films from 2011, there were only six I rated 3.5 or higher (my threshold for must-watch films): Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 2, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive, Super 8 (I liked this one more than you), 13 Assassins (even subtitled, better than almost everything that came out of Hollywood) and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (an entrancing documentary form Werner Herzog). In 2010 I had eight films that reached that mark and so far in 2012, I have four that have made the grade.

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