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2011: The best in film

As 2011 draws to a close I am here to recall some of the best things that happened in film over the course of this year.  Overall, 2011 was a fascinating year in film, from disappointing box-office numbers to surprise success stories.  Here is my take on 2011: the best in film.

The best comeback of 2011: Kirsten Dunst

The twenty-nine-year-old broke out into the movie scene with her eerie turn as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire.  The success continued with The Virgin Suicides, where Dunst proved she could handle more adult roles, then with the Spider-Man trilogy, where the model/actress hit box office success.  However, in recent years Dunst has found little success in film.  This all changed in 2011 when Dunst joined the controversial director, Lars von Trier, in his apocalyptic feature, Melancholia.  Despite intriguing roles over the years, Dunst has never gained the status as a serious actress.  Melancholia changes this as it becomes a showcase for the real talent that she has so longed to present to the public.  Lars von Trier almost overshadowed her performance with his pro-Nazi remarks at the Cannes Film Festival, yet thankfully the film festival rewarded her performance with the coveted prize of Best Actress, beating out the Oscar-worthy performance of Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin.  While the opportunity is fading, I still hope to see Dunst receive a nomination at the Oscars this year.  This performances is one of the greatest in years and would be a shame if it were overlooked.  The young actress has a number of films set to be released in 2012, so I hope you are all ready to see plenty of her in the year to come.

The breakout star of 2011: Jessica Chastain

Even if every one of her movies from 2011 tanked, you would have to applaud Jessica Chastain for simply dedicating all the time and effort into her films.  Out of the eight films on her filmography, six of them were released this year.  This actress was everywhere this year, from art house theaters with Take Shelter to book club movie dates with The Help, and am I glad to have had the experience of seeing her at every turn.  Her diverse body of work is something that most actresses would kill to have over the course of their career, yet Chastain was lucky enough to have it all in one year.   Sorry Octavia Spencer, I think we should just give the Oscar to Chastain right now!  You deserve every bit of recognition you receive Chastain. Bravo!

Honorable Mention: Michael Fassbender

While it would be hard to call Fassbender a ‘breakout star’, this year really put the actor in demand.  I have yet to see Shame or A Dangerous Method but Fassbender also had a marvelous year.  I wish you the best of luck in this year’s Oscar race.

The biggest surprise of 2011: The Artist 

Who would ever guess that a silentfilm would be made in 2011, and that it would also be the front runner for Best Picture?  I, for one, never would have dreamed that something like this would happen.  This surprising film is already a crowd favorite as well as a critical darling.  It seems the silent film can do no wrong.  I have yet to see the film myself, but I will definitely jump at the first theatre around me that finally decides to release it.  This surprise success comes at a perfect time, as all the top grossing films of the past year were either sequels, remakes, or based off of previous source material, and proves that there is still some creativity brewing in the movies.

The best soundtrack of 2011: We Bought a Zoo

Cameron Crowe delivers again with this feel good movie of the holiday season.  While the film may be getting mixed reviews, there is one thing that audiences must agree on: the greatness of the film’s soundtrack.  Every one of the director’s soundtracks are killer, and this one is no different in the quality, but Crowe did switch things up a little by opting to use only the work of Icelandic artist, Jonsi.  The film is a must see for the holiday season, and even if you don’t enjoy the movie you can jam out to the superb soundtrack.

Honorable mention:  Drive

Listen to ‘A Real Hero’ by College.  It speaks for itself.

The best trailer of 2011: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

When I mention this trailer I mean the one that was released back in May.  Everything about this trailer makes me want to see the movie.  From Karen O’s howling cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, to the shock of seeing Rooney Mara in character, this trailer is damn near perfect.  Maybe it is because I have not read the acclaimed book series, nor seen the Swedish film trilogy, but I am unnaturally excited about this “feel bad movie of Christmas.”

The best director of 2011: ……

As much as I hate not making a definite decision, I must say that both Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese deserve this honor.  Both directors have been in the business for decades, yet continue to produce top notch films.  Allen has had some trouble in the past decade, but Midnight in Paris certainty marks a return to form.  Also, Allen was rewarded for his return to from as Midnight in Paris became the highest grossing film of the director/writer’s career.  Unfortunately,  Scorsese’s Hugo did not find as much success at the box-office, it has become a frontrunner for Best Picture.  It is great to see their love for cinema continue to shine through.

Dishonorable Mention: Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt is a pathetic return for the Oscar-winning director, and a definite blotch on his filmography.

The best performance(s) of 2011:  The cast of The Help

It was a joy to see veterans of the business work alongside up-and-coming stars in this summer’s surprise hit, The Help.  Most importantly, Viola Davis deserves recognition right off the bat.  This woman is the backbone of the movie and guides the audience through the many ups and downs of the film.  I have read the novel and fell in love with the character of Abilene, whom Davis portrays with such grace.  This movie would not be the same were it not for the superb talent of Davis.  After countless lifeless female characters, it is a relief to have a female driven cast that works.  Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, and Allison Janney are among the many women that make this film so incredible.  I could not be more happy with the final product of The Help.

Honorable Mention: Bridesmaids

This comedy is really a showcase for the SNL darling Kristen Wiig, who proves her talent as a leading lady, but the scenes with the main six main ladies (Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendo-Covey) will have you laughing for days.

Dishonorable Mention: Sucker Punch 

A perfect example of lifeless, pathetic female characters.  I would say watch it to see what I mean, but I do not want to put you through such torture.

At last!  My favorite movies of 2011:

10. Weekend– This love story between two men is raw, emotional, and a great example that love knows no gender.

9. Hugo- A love letter to cinema that is perfect for all audiences.

8.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2– The perfect way to say farewell to everyone’s favorite wizarding community.

7. Super 8– Recalls the great days of innocence in film, nostalgia at its finest.

6. Life in a Day– This time capsule documentary captures the beauty of life.

5. 50/50- This cancer comedy, that is actually a comedy, will have you laughing through your tears.

4. Bridesmaids– The term ‘chick-flick’ should not be used in same sentence with this outrageously hilarious film.

3. The Help– A marvelous adaptation that has everything a great movie should.

2. Midnight in Paris– This movie about the ages is on par with Allen’s best.

1. The Descendants– A modern masterpiece that accurately portrays the roller coaster ride of life.

Honorable Mentions: War Horse, Contagion, Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, Drive, Crazy, Stupid, Love., and X-Men: First Class. 

Dishonorable Mentions: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Apollo 18, Red Riding Hood, Larry Crowne, Season of the Witch, and Trespass. 

Keep in mind that I have yet to see some of the frontrunners from this year (i.e. The Tree of Life, The Artist, Moneyball, A Separation, etc.)

I hope you have enjoyed my 2011: The best in film!  I will update this blog weekly with everything movies and will have plenty of material as the awards season continues.

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