Posted on 02/28/12 12:24 PM | Last edited on 02/28/12 12:24 PM
I know we're already two months into 2012, and most Top 10 lists are already out for months but to watch all of the award contenders I needed this little extra time.
Because I like doing lists, this blog will not only feature my 11 favourite movies of 2011 but also my favourite performances in some specific categories (admittedly, inspired by Award shows like the Oscars but I want to point out that I made my choices before the final results of the Oscars were revealed).
For all haters (I don't like to use this word but I think sometimes it's appropriate to call certain people that way) I want to point out that this is NOT a blog about the BEST performances and films but about my FAVOURITE pieces of cinema this year - things that affected me personally or gave me just a really good time even when they weren't executed as properly as other stuff.
So, let's start right away. I'll begin with the different categories and close with my Top 11 List, thanks for reading and commenting at this point.
Favourite Lead Performance by a Male
Michel Piccoli in Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope)
Runner Ups: Ryan Gosling for his body of work especially in Drive, Christoph Waltz in Carnage
My first choice, and already controversial. The film itself may be not an extraordinary piece of work but Piccoli made me sympathize with the Catholic Church, a feat that's rarely accomplished. Additionally, he's perfectly casted and has the exact looks you want for a guy who plays the pope.
For a long time (until I saw Habemus Papam mid-January) Ryan Gosling was my number one for the year - he was excellent in Drive and I also liked him very much in Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Ides of March. 2011 was generally a good year for him as he secured the third rank on my list of the most handsome men (only behind George Clooney and Bradley Cooper; and yes, I have such a list for both genders^^)
Favourite Lead Performance by a Female
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady and Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Runner Ups: Saiorse Ronan in Hanna, Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method
There were so many excellent female performances, it was really hard to chose for me. But after all I have to pick Streep although I actually don't like her that much and neither her movie. Regarding Mara though, I never hesitated and decided that was my favourite performance of the year as soon as I left the cinema - I still think that way, only that Streep's talent is so big, her total transformation into Thatcher almost overshadowed my appreciation for Rooney but after all, I take them both, the British Prime Minister and the Anal Rapist.
Hanna, which was one of the most overlooked films of the award season in my opinion (due to its genre and its limited release), has to get some attention at this point as well. Ronan was just mesmerising and I love to see her growing up and develop in a finer and finer actress role by role.
Favourite Supporting Performance by a Male
Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Everyone who has read the books or saw the films it's apparent that Snape is the most important character in the series. Yes, even more important than Dumbledore, Voldemort or Harry himself. He's the one, who sacrificed the most and lived a false identity for unanswered love. We suspect it throughout the series but we never completely perceive it and in the end we're happy for him - that he's not the villain we thought he is but the true hero we wanted him to be. Our perception of him changed throughout the seven books and eighth films but Alan Rickman's brilliance playing this nuanced character never lingered. This is Snape's hour, this is Rickman's hour.
Favourite Supporting Performance by a Female
Jessica Chastain for her body of work especially in The Tree of Life
Runner Ups: Judi Dench in My Week with Marilyn, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
I've only seen two of Chastain's six roles of 2011 (with two more hopefully coming soon) but she was that good in both The Tree of Life and The Help that I can't help but put her in this spot. Maybe Dame Dench would have had a chance if I had seen J. Edgar too, as I heard she was great in both roles (with little screen time though) but my love for Chastain is too big. She came into the year as a dark horse and came out as one of the hottest actors in business.
Favourite Ensemble Cast
Easy one, I don't have to say much about that and I guess many of you will agree. From Viola Davis who steals the lead from Emma Stone (who is totally overshadowed here and should also get some critical recognition beside her co-stars, she gets the mainstream attention anyways so maybe that's just fair) to the excellent supporting cast featuring Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Dallas Bryce Howard (freakishly villainous here and in 50/50), Sissy Spacek, etc.
And, it's a pretty darn good movie.
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Runner Up: Tomas Alfredson for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Hazanavicius revived a craft that's almost entirely forgotten nowadays - how to make a silent film. So much responsibility lies in the hand of the director in this type of films and Hazanavicius proofed everybody wrong by delivering one of the artistically best movies of the year. He also showed guts by even daring to try to finance this film and he was the driving force behind it to get it made eventually.
Hazanavicius seems like a master of his craft, like a wizard, like... an Artist now and nobody came even close to his achievement.
Favourite Original Screenplay
Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Runner-Up: Asghar Farhadi for A Separation
Another easy one. Midnight in Paris was my favourite film of the year and my first Woody Allen film ever. It brought me on my way to become a die-hard fan of his.
The idea of going back in time to the "better days" is very vivid in my mind and I was completely stunned that no one else ever tried to do this. The "cameos" of all the great personalities of the 30s and how they lived and all knew each other rounded out what I loved so much about it.
Favourite Adapted Screenplay
Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza for Carnage
Runner Up: Tate Taylor for The Help
This was a bit trickier. Carnage has the dialogue and the thespian atmosphere, The Help the characters and an actual plot. Both are funny and well-acted. But whilst The Help's script profits from great acting, Carnage's script enhances the acting. Classic dramatic theater has always been the breeder of acting excellence and Carnage brings this attribute to film. It's not much more than a chamber play, but while others criticize this I thoroughly appreciated it.
Favourite Original Score
The Chemical Brothers for Hanna
Runner Ups: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, John Williams for War Horse, Paul Brill for Page One: Inside the New York Times, Ludovic Bource for The Artist
I'm not very musical but sometimes even I admire and appreciate film scores. Mostly they stay unrecognized but there were quite some exceptions this year. The Chemical Brothers' amazing score for Hanna was one of these scores that can define the outcome of a film. It was elementary for the pacing and the style of the movie that the music was a perfect match. If you look for a more classic film score, my favourite in this category was John Williams' work in War Horse, music that you may not recognize at all but gives Spielberg's weeping epic just the right amount of melodrama on its way.
My underdog here is Paul Brill who created one of the catchiest themes I've ever heard in a trailer/film. Also not to forget Ludovic Bource's score for The Artist, I think I don't have to explain how crucial good music is in a silent film. And, last but not least, Reznor and Ross who again worked with David Fincher and created an acclaimed soundtrack - only this time I agree with the universal praise.
Favourite Adapted Score
Tyler Bates and Marius De Vries for Sucker Punch
Although I'm a die-hard fan of Snyder's style over substance policy even I have to admit that Sucker Punch was a bit of a disappoint to me. From the creator of visual marvels like 300 and Watchmen I expected more. Nevertheless, I can't understand how people claim that's the worst movie of the year. I see it more like a failed experiment; Snyder tried too hard to make his film look good rather than making it be good.
The "plot" was a disaster, the visuals weren't that great but Sucker Punch had one part I truly loved. The music. It suited the film so perfectly that the main song Sweet Dreams (performed by lead Emily Browning) could as well be the title of the film.
Best Editing (because Favourite Editing sounds just wrong)
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Apparently, the Academy and I agree that it's pretty cool to make a 140 min crime thriller feel like a 90 min roller coaster ride. If there's something like a perfect pacing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't quite there but definitely in sight distance. Another choice without any competition, I don't think any other film relied so much on his editing as this one so that's just another point in favor of it.
Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life
There were certainly many many films which really looked amazing, but no one is a runner up to The Tree of Life. I absolutely can't understand how the Academy could make Hugo winner for Best Cinematography. Because Hugo had 3D and The Tree of Life hadn't? That's ridiculous. But, well, they chose Saving Private Ryan over The Thin Red Line too back in the days, haven't they.
To be honest, The Tree of Life would have been a confusing, boring and pretentious piece of crap wouldn't it have that awesome visuals. Like Malick's other films, it can only explore its philosophical themes so well because the visual marvel sucks you into the movie like a black hole.
Favourite Visual Effects
The Tree of Life
Runner Up: The Three Musketeers
As you maybe recognized in the category above, I found The Tree of Life was, purely visually, the best film of the year. That has also to do with this amazing origin of the world sequence at the beginning of the film. Without brilliant effects this sequence would have been nothing special though. I loved the way the Special Effect guys used some of the old techniques beside CGI to make it look so fantastic. I wasn't surprised that the guy who was responsible for the effects in 2001 (in my opinion still the most beautiful film ever with the single most impressive visual effects ever) contributed to this.
I would have loved to give this "award" to the silly but thoroughly enjoyable and visually stunning The Three Musketeers. I haven't seen some of the summer blockbusters but The Three Musketeers had the best CGI and some of the best 3D of the year (Hugo was more subtle in the use, The Three Musketeers had more awesome 3D-generated moments). If you won't believe me considering the critical bashing just watch the opening credit map scene.
Favourite Equipment (?) (This is a melting pot of Make-up, Costumes and Production Design. I'm not really able to judge which film was best in either of the categories, for that I don't pay enough attention to this kind of detail. I rather decide what had the best overall impression on me)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rumour has it that the only thing that stayed undestroyed at the end of filming was the floor of the Hogwarts big hall. Aided by plenty of CGI magic hundreds of set designers and workers deconstructed that monster set that served the Harry Potter franchise so well. With all this computer generated crap we often forget how much of what we see actually really exists on set. Not only the background but also the masks and make-up, just think of Voldemort or Griphook. Harry Potter is the clear all-around champion in this category and I dare to say it would win if you split them up as well (except for the costumes maybe).
Favourite Animated Film
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Steven Spielberg was 2 for 2 this year, making two marvellous films. Although I found War Horse overall even better, The Adventures of Tintin brought animation to a new level. Critics may say motion capture isn't real animation but CGI-animation had (has) its detractors as well.
Also, the characters (the thing that was motion captured) were the weakest part of the animation. For me, the backgrounds, the dust and use of light were the most impressive things in the film - and these parts weren't real at all.
For all fans of Rango, I'm sorry I'm not a big fan of Westerns so I couldn't appreciate (nor understand) all the references and Johnny Depp alone makes not a good film (although it was truly funny to hear him do his thing). I was rather disappointed with this years animation output. Cars 2 was solid fun and still better than the rather mediocre Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots or Rio, although Pixar was nowhere near the top of their abilities.
Favourite Voice Artist
Jesse Eisenberg in Rio
That was just a perfect fit. A wisecracking parrot, and Jesse Eisenberg. Can it be a compliment to be compared to such an animal? I truly mean it that way.
In a year when Johnny Depp's Rango conquered the Wild West and Dreamworks as well as Pixar assembled a killer-voice cast to promote their summer blockbuster, a young blue parrot steals the show. It raises an utterly uninspired Hollywood animation film to an average film experience. I gave Rio a 60 rating, without Eisenberg as Blu it'd have been 50 - no other film or voice cast can claim that such an impact on a film's outcome.
Without further ado or any more words my Top 11 of 2011 list with links to my reviews:
This blog entry will be updated if I get to see one mesmerising picture that will change my mind (which will definitely happen). I doubt anyone of you will read or recognize the changes then but I'll do it anyways.
PS: sorry for the crappy layout - I tried hard but I couldn't do better... I'll work on that and revisit this post when I fully understand RT's blog engine :)
An alphabetical list of all the 2011 films I've seen (with my personal rating) just in case you don't find your favourites: