Monday, July 4, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2011 Mid-Year Report Card

The midway mark of 2011 has come and gone and with it we pause to look back on the last six months. What has the cinema given us that will stand the test of time? Hard to say, although I've found one surefire masterpiece - Kelly Reichardt's trance-like minimalist western, Meek's Cutoff - and a series of very strong contenders for any "best of 2011" list. You'll notice that the upper echelon on the list below is very heavy on genre entertainments. Perhaps exemplifying my current state of mind more than anything else, but I've found myself cherishing the entertaining trips to the cinema that Scream 4, Unstoppable, Thor and Kaboom provided me over the exercises that were The Tree of Life, Sleeping Beauty and Of Gods and Men. Don't get me wrong, those movies are incredibly worthwhile experiences that have provided hours of intelligent discussion, thought and writings, but I can't deny that I wish I had more encounters like those I had with The Green Hornet, I Love You Phillip Morris or Insidious, you know? Still, having said all that, Meek's Cutoff is the best film of 2011 (so far) and that's hardly a thrilling, action-packed trip to the multiplex, is it?

It's both unsurprising and yet disappointing that the three best films that I have seen so far this year on the big screen were actually classic movies. Gone with the Wind, Taxi Driver and Baraka are all bona fine "greatest of all time" trustees and being able to witness them a the cinema was something I'll cherish far more than, say, Bridesmaids.

Let's take a look at all the films I've seen that have received a 2011 release - or have one imminent because we like long lists - either theatrically or on DVD. Some titles, like Black Swan, were not released in Australia until this year hence their inclusion. I'm sure I've left something out and I'm sure people will balk at my ranking of stuff like Burlesque, but there ya go. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on the year so far.

1. Taxi Driver (35th Anniversary ReRelease)
Martin Scorsese's greatest film is getting an official re-release next week so I think it's fare to include it (whereas I saw Gone with the Wind and Baraka at single Astor sessions). I honestly can't recommend this movie enough, especially on the big screen. Those magical opening credits with the taxi cab slowly emerging out of a pit of filthy New York subway steam and smoke took my breath away, as did so many other images found within. It's an astonishing movie and, with little surprise, will probably be the best film released in 2011 35 years after the fact. A+

Meek's Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt's latest film is a grand expansion of scope and ambition for this incredible talented writer and director. I've liked her past movies, like Old Joy and her first Michelle Williams collaboration Wendy & Lucy, but with those two it felt like her very minimal take on the material was because there was little there in the first place, but with this sparse western her talents - her wonder with framing nature and the way people interact with it whilst dealing with loss - finally met a story that really took my breath away. I was incredible moved by this film and it has effected me ever since. A

3. The Illusionist
4. Scream 4
Sure, it's not the fourth best made movie - or the fourth best anything, really - but I just had a blast and I'm gonna have an even bigger blast devouring it on DVD over and over again. A-

5. Rabbit Hole
6. I Killed My Mother
7. Inside Job
8. Burlesque
There's something to be said about a movie that gave me so much enjoyment. I cherish this movie and I can guarantee that I will rewatch it more than any other film on this list - barring Scream 4 most likely. A-

9. Jane Eyre
10. I Love You Phillip Morris
Best comedy of the year, hands down. I still laugh thinking of it and I saw it nearly a whole year ago at the Melbourne International Film Festival. A-

11. Black Swan
12. Unstoppable
13. The Green Hornet
14. Heartbeats
Xavier Dolan, director of this and I Killed My Mother, is surely one of my favourite new directorial and acting (to be honest, I think he's a better actor but his directing is so assured that it's hard not to fall for him and his films). A-

15. Kaboom
16. Thor
17. Griff the Invisible
18. Rango
19. Insidious
20. Certified Copy
21. The Tunnel
22. Potiche
23. 127 Hours
24. Another Year
25. Rio
26. Of Gods and Men
27. Bridesmaids
Despite my reservations about some of this film, surely Kristen Wiig's performance will go down as one of the year's best. B+

28. Senna
Most assuredly one of the greatest feats of editing for the year. B+

29. In a Better World
30. Oranges and Sunshine
31. Sleeping Beauty
32. The Tree of Life
33. X-Men: First Class
34. Cane Toads: The Conquest 3D
35. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
36. Source Code
37. True Grit
38. Mega Piranha
This ranks just below two Palme d'Or winners - don't say I ever take myself too seriously, you guys! B

39. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape
40. Limitless
41. Mrs Carey's Concert
42. Wasted on the Young
43. Oceans
44. Mr Popper's Penguins
45. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D
Perhaps the defining film of the year and home to one of the best scenes committed to celluloid - that'd be the hair flick sequence set to Etta James' "At Last" - doesn't have anything on the great backstage concert documentaries like In Bed with Madonna, but it succeeds grandly at what it is (which is basically In Bed with Madonna for the G-rated tween set). B-

46. Water for Elephants
47. I Am Number 4
48. No Strings Attached
49. The Round-Up
50. Catfish
51. Mad Bastards
52. Conviction
53. Here I Am
54. The Fighter
Definitely my least favourite of this year's ten Best Picture nominees. C+

55. Sanctum 3D
56. The Adjustment Bureau
57. Never Let Me Go
58. Little White Lies
59. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
60. Blame
61. How I Ended This Summer
62. Barney's Version
Three movies in a row with utterly infuriating lead characters. Or, in the case of Blame, a whole bunch of infuriating lead characters. C- for all three.

63. I Saw the Devil
64. Brighton Rock
65. Stake Land
66. Snowtown
Did you eventually go and see this controversial Aussie film? I remain staunchly in the negative on Justin Kurtzel's debut feature, a arty telling of the worst Australian serial killings, but others have most definitely been high on it. My review was quite popular so do go have a read if you haven't already. D+ from me.

67. The Hangover Part II
68. Cars 2
69. Kidnapped
70. Sucker Punch
71. Norwegian Wood
The best part of this film from Tran Ahn Hung were the 20 or so minutes I fell asleep during. Insufferable drivel; these characters couldn't off themselves fast enough. D

72. The Tempest
73. Rubber
What a load of rubb...ish. D-

74. Hereafter
75. A Heartbeat Away
76. Battle: Los Angeles
The two movies I gave an F to in 2011 were released on the same day. Coincidence?

What say you, dear readers? Do you agree or - as I suspect - disagree most violently.

1 comment:

Marty said...

1. The Tree of Life
2. True Grit
3. Midnight in Paris
4. Meek's Cutoff
5. Black Swan