Film in 2011: The Ones I Saw

The 69th Annual Golden Globes started ten minutes ago. I’m sure other movie sites are live-blogging the event, and I would never endeavor to do such a thing myself. (I’m not funny enough. Besides, those recaps are always more amusing to read after the fact.) Instead I thought I would take this opportunity to summarize how I experienced the year 2011 through film. I flipped through several volumes of my handwritten film journal and listed the names of all 110 films that I saw between January 1, 2011, and today. And those are just the movies that either premiered or came to theaters in the United States in 2011, regardless of their release date in their country of origin.

This isn’t a “best of 2011” list, and it’s definitely not ordered by what’s most and least favored. In fact, it was only after I listed the 110 titles that I was able to take stock of which 2011 releases I have seen and therefore evaluate them as a group. I have said for weeks that 2011 was a lackluster year for movies; nothing really impressed me and I’ve collected no new favorites for all-time. Whenever “year in review” articles come out, for the critics–and I’m generalizing here–it’s always about which movie-making trends dominated: comic book superheroes, blockbuster franchises, or 3D. They lament the dreadful state of movies and movie-making on all scales and in all styles, but I don’t want to blog about that. However, I will say this: even the “prestige” features that are rolled out in the autumn and are feted for Oscar left a lot to be desired for me. Am I being unfair, though? The movie year 2011 looked less than spectacular for me perhaps because I moved from New York City back home to suburban Washington, D.C., right in the middle of awards season. Without the earlier release dates and easy access to multiple cinemas–mainstream and arthouse alike–to which I’d grown accustomed in New York, I’ve had to either wait to see some movies or forfeit seeing them altogether. But I’m not making any excuses; after all, I started off very clearly stating that this post is about the movies I saw.

It may be too early to say, since the nominations for the Academy Awards have yet to be announced, but none of the ones most likely to be nominated knocked my socks off (and I’ve yet to see two big contenders, The Help [Tate Taylor, 2011] and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close [Stephen Daldry, 2011]). That’s including The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011), which I’d been eagerly anticipating since its debut at Cannes. To be completely honest, none of the films on my list did anything that great art is supposed to do. My favorites of the year weren’t the most challenging, intellectually and emotionally stimulating, or poetic pictures I’ve ever seen.

So without much further ado, I give you some totally arbitrary observations of my movie-watching experiences in 2011 (note that each individual list descends in the chronological order that I viewed the features):

The movies I liked the most:
Mozart’s Sister (Rene Feret, 2010)
Hanna (Joe Wright, 2011)
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)–the only film I saw twice in the theater
Beginners (Mike Mills, 2010)
The Trip (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)–even if it is a condensed version of an older British TV show
(Foxy) Festival (Lee Hae-yeong, 2010)
Potiche (Francois Ozon, 2010)
Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011)
Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011)
50/50 (Jonathan Levine, 2011)
Footnote (Joseph Cedar, 2011)
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2011)
A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011)
War Horse (Steven Spielberg, 2011)
Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)
The Arbor (Clio Barnard, 2010)

The critical and/or commercial darlings I didn’t like at all:
Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011)
Sarah’s Key (Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2010)
The Ides of March (George Clooney, 2011)
The Rum Diary (Bruce Robinson, 2011)–true, it was no one’s darling 
Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, 2011)

The most over-hyped:
Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)–I did like it though
Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)
The Muppets (James Bobin, 2011)
Terri (Azazel Jacobs, 2011)
Warrior (Gavin O’Connor, 2011)
The Artist–I didn’t like it enough to call it a favorite 
Margin Call (J.C. Chandor, 2011)

The ones I liked more than I was expecting I would:
Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011)
Anonymous (Roland Emmerich, 2011)–I know, I know

The ones that disappointed:
Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga, 2011)–it’d have been a lot better if they’d included the deleted scenes that were made available on the DVD
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, 2011)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

The ones that really weren’t as bad as the critics and audiences made them out to be:
J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood, 2011)
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, 2011)

Now, for the following, the title in bold denotes which of the random groups I liked more (or the most).

The two films that were the most overtly Spielbergian without being directed by Steven Spielberg in 2011: Paul (Greg Mottola, 2011) and Super 8 (J.J. Abrams, 2011)

The only prequels and sequel of blockbuster franchises I bothered to see: X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn, 2011),  Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Rob Marshall, 2011), which, incidentally, is the worst 2011 film I saw

The romantic comedies about booty calls between friends: No Strings Attached (Ivan Reitman, 2011) and Friends with Benefits (Will Gluck, 2011)

The comedies about grown men who get on people’s nerves because their wanting to see the good in everyone is usually perceived as naivete: Arthur (Jason Winer, 2011) and Our Idiot Brother (Jesse Peretz, 2011)

I realize that it’s difficult to comprehend this experience without knowing the names of all 110 titles I saw from this year. I’m not about to list them here–this has gone on long enough–but to give you a better idea, here are some of the noteworthy movies I have yet to see:

The Iron Lady (Phyllida Law, 2011)
Albert Nobbs (Rodrigo Garcia, 2011)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011)
The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011)
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

Just before I hit the “publish” button, the Golden Globes telecast has ended. Besides Christopher Plummer winning for his supporting performance in Beginners and Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris‘s screenplay, there’s not much here for me to be excited about. So here’s to hoping 2012 is an infinitely better year for movies!

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