At the end of each year our wonderful team of writers like to round up the various movieland highs and lows into our own unique categories, to reward the diverse, the challenging and the downright lovely and both tar and feather the cinematic outcasts which offended, disgusted and just plain irritated us.
It has been a tremendous year with some intriguing debuts and some howling missteps from seasonal filmmakers. We had planets colliding, blocks attacked, apes rising and the usual spew of remakes, sequels, prequels and the rest.
Here’s our take on the filmic landscape after a whole year of 2011.
First up on stage…
Best use of an old, familiar song on the end credits – Hobo With a Shotgun
??Not only were we offered a loving and thoroughly entertaining tribute to those scuzzy, Troma-type B-pictures which filled the shelves of video shops across the land in the eighties, but director Jason Eisner had another treat in store for a knowing audience at the end of the film. As the credits roll, the fabulous and stirring end title track from legendary kids show The Racoons (the rousing electro masterpiece, Run With Us) kicks in on the freeze-frame of the eponymous down-and-out vigilante, Rutger Hauer.
The perfect end to a grindhouse homage which actually succeeded in capturing the spirit of those past films in all their gaudy, excessive glory.
Biggest Disappointment – Green Lantern??
What could have been a rip-roaring piece of fantasy wish fulfilment, wrapped up in an epic mythology (they certainly had the budget) and offering the fanboy audience a contemporary, reworked version of The Last Starfigher, instead was a tired, muddled and thoroughly unadventurous comic book adaptation.
It’s almost as if executives at DC and Warner Bros had received that Tommy Lee Jones-administered Men in Black memory scrub, post-Dark Knight, as it looks like they are now completely clueless in how to create a potentially meaty franchise, or tell a thrilling origin tale. Will lessons be learned for The Man of Steel? Let’s hope so.
Best Soundtrack – Drive
An obvious choice perhaps, but the majestic, synth-tastic styling’s of Kavinsky’s Nightcall and the shimmering beauty of College’s A Real Hero went some way to establishing the film’s dreamy, neon-infused tone, and both songs became essential repeat tracks on the iPods of cineastes around the country.
Similarly, Cliff Martinez’s pulsating, minimal electronic score helped to further create the film’s cool ambience, whilst paying homage to those memorable 80’s soundtracks from the likes of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. Cruising around the city at night never looked so alluring.
Best Opening – X-Men: First Class
Just when you think all you’re witnessing is a rehash of the original’s opening, Vaughan ups the ante and delivers a stunning and incredibly dark introduction to the unleashing of the young Erik Lehnsherr’s latent powers, in a terrifying display of metal-crunching, object-whirling fury.
The scene also reaffirms why Kevin Bacon (in the guise of a deliciously evil and smooth Josef Mengele-type doctor, before his transformation to the X-Men’s adversary Sebastian Shaw) is one of Hollywood’s most underrated character actors/leading men.
Quickest time onscreen to seriously unnerve your audience – Tyrannosaur
Witnessing a drunk and acutely disturbed Peter Mullan kicking to death his faithful mutt a few minutes into Paddy Considine’s gloriously grim and melancholic Leeds-set drama, and the urge to suddenly explore whether The Lion King 3D was starting on the adjacent cinema screen may have been tempting for some moviegoers.
Hopefully the majority braved their way through this scene and beyond, and although some of the content to follow was equally unsettling, the tale ultimately offered a tough, yet cathartic cinematic experience, packing enough emotional punch to move even the most jaded viewer.
Worst acting in a fictitious country biopic – Gwyneth Paltrow, Country Strong
While Jeff Bridges managed to wrestle with his demons in an involving and eminently watchable way within the same genre the previous year, sadly the same couldn’t be said for his Iron Man co-star in March’s Country Strong.
For this tale of a country megastar fresh out of rehab, but far from recovery, Paltrow’s transparent and soap opera-style histrionics did zero to elicit any audience sympathy. While her singing may have been adequate, the sight of her flopping around, post-gig (bottle of JD in one hand, numerous pills in the other) raised unintentional titters instead of genuine sadness. More Patsy whine than Cline.
Worst Film (by quite a margin) – Hall Pass
In a year which brought us such lifeless fare as London Boulevard, Zookeeper, Hangover 2 and the aforementioned ring-welding superhero, Hall Pass took the grand prize and basically whittled away the last shred of goodwill the Farrelly Brothers had mustered via past successes like Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary (both of which now seem incredibly far away in cinema years).
Mildly racist, mostly laugh-free (all 107 agonising minutes of it) and featuring a number of comedic set-pieces which the script editors on Benny Hill would deem unusable, this was the one of the most painful cinematic experiences for some time. Star Owen Wilson was able to redeem himself later on this year in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but it’s doubtful if the directing siblings will ever be able to do the same (the recent trailer for their Three Stooges reworking doesn’t inspire much confidence).
The Stand By Me Award for Misty-Eyed Nostalgia – Super 8
This might seem like a bit of an obvious one and many (including some here at HeyUGuys) were unimpressed, but I found Super 8 to be a thing of beauty. The creature design was strong, the “keep it hidden until late on” efforts were sensibly handled and the relationships between the teenagers were believable. JJ Abrams cast the film impeccably and each of the circle of friends felt fleshed out and authentic. Kudos of course to Elle Fanning for acting everyone else off the screen, though Charles continued quest for “production values” deserves special mention.
Having re-watched Stand By Me earlier this year on its Blu-ray re-release it obviously brought into sharp relief how incomparably accomplished a film it was, but Super 8 gets this award for juggling the action, friendship and grieving elements with aplomb.
The Taking Its Nonsense Too Seriously Award – Green Lantern
Thor was just as much nonsense as Green Lantern – Norse mythology involving Frost Giants or the Power of Will or Yellow, take your pick. But Thor succeeded in leavening and punctuating its inherent pomposity with a welcome playfulness. Green Lantern did not. Aside from one welcome and enjoyable seen where Ryan Reynolds has to acknowledge that a small face mask is not going to conceal his true identity, it took itself far too seriously. Consider a film like The Mummy (1999) as well – lots of mythology, but lightened by a knowing and breezy tone. Green Lantern was just all so serious.
There was plenty of heavyweight acting talent on board and Martin Campbell is undoubtedly an accomplished director, so perhaps the fault lies with the script. Either way, Green Lantern, Thor (and Captain America for that matter) showed that you don’t have to slavishly follow the “darker, grittier” mantra and can have fun with these characters, if you only have the Will to do so.
The Make Your Cameos Count Award – Wolverine/X-Men First Class
Okay, so this is a fairly obvious and unimaginative one as well, but what can you do? It could be argued that X-Men First Class should have steered clear of the adamantium-adorned one entirely, so heavily as the franchise leant on Wolverine as a character in the past. But it didn’t. It put him in, but with so much fun and brevity that it is hard to complain. The recent development for 12A films of “you can have the f-word once” has thrown up a few laughs (Super 8, Fast Five) but getting the perennially grouchy Wolverine to offer up the f-bomb to Magneto and Xavier, who respond with a delightfully deadpan retreat was a genuine treat.
The Michael Bay Award for Gratuitous Oggling – Transformers Dark of the Moon
The leering camera shot of Megan Fox’s torso in the first TF film was followed up by the almost breath-takingly pervy shot of her aspread a motorcycle in the sequel. Not content with that one-two, Bay decided to introduce Rose Huntington-Whiteley as the franchise’s newest eye-candy by tracking her bare legs up a winding staircase, without so much as a whiff of irony. It felt as though he was saying, “it’s okay to perv over her, it’s what she’s there for”. Shameful. Yes, she is a terrible actress and failed to deliver a single convincing line during the 2h40m debacle, but when you have Patrick Dempsey theoretically extolling the virtues of one of his cars with “look at that body, look at the shape, those lines”, only for the camera to cut to Rose H-W, it becomes pretty demeaning. Not a good award to win.
The “It had no business being that much fun” Award – Fast Five
This was the easiest one. The first F&F film was great entertainment, but the franchise went downhill quickly thereafter. Quite where it all went so right for this entry is hard to say, though the presence of The Rock is undoubtedly a factor, his incredible physicality and screen presence and the sheer audacity of the ludicrous finale carrying the film through.
Yes, there were better films this year, yes there were more entertaining films this year, but none elevated itself so far beyond modest expectations and for that, an award is in order.
The “You Was Robbed At The Oscars” Award – Christopher Nolan and David Fincher
Yes, the Oscars were a long time ago, but unfair slights linger long in the memory. The King’s Speech was an Awards Season juggernaut and ultimately it was no surprise to see it pick up the big two on Oscar night. But that still doesn’t make it right. In truth, there were two other contenders who were much more deserving of both awards, but the ongoing conservatism and lack of imagination that afflicts the Oscars put paid to both of them. Well, now is the time to put that right.
The Social Network and Inception were films of breath-taking technical and artistic accomplishment. David Fincher and Christopher Nolan have both directed better films, probably more than one apiece, but this should have been their year. They did a far better job than Tom Hooper of imprinting their directorial style on the films they directed and the respective films were simply better in every way than the film that walked away with the golden baldie.
Christopher Nolan and David Fincher were the directors of the year and their films were the films of the year and one of them should have been properly honoured on Oscar night. You wuz robbed.
The Best-Worst-Line-of-Dialog-Ever Award:
“I’m going to put a price on your head so big, that when you look in the mirror your reflection’s gonna want to shoot you in the face.” Uttered by Tony Goldwin in The Mechanic, this line is so bad it’s genius. I’m not a note taker at all, and I never take notes during a film but when that line was spoken, I scrambled for a piece of paper and a pen because I knew I’d have to use it somewhere.
The I-Can’t-Believe-I-Paid-to-See-That Award:
I’ve managed to hold a pretty decent batting average this year as far as real stinkers go. That being said, Red Riding Hood was an all around fail. Mind you, this film was not my choice, but my theater hopping compadre called in a marker. A marker that I couldn’t refuse so alas, I paid. On more than one front I might add. I struggled to get through this film and was so disenchanted by this Twilight meets Thomas Kincaid mess, that I couldn’t even take writing the review seriously. So I didn’t. (http://www.reelgoddess.com/2011/03/14/a-sarcastic-look-at-red-riding-hood/)
The Hat-Tip Award:
This one has to go to Paul. For all of its F bombs, this film managed to tip it’s hat to a slew of films that I grew up on. Raiders, Aliens, Predator and loads more had their little just dues and it all tied together brilliantly. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are great together and throw in the stone laugh of Seth Rogan and you get sheer comedy gold.
The Proof-That-Some-Young-Actors-Are-Better-Than-Older-Actors Award:
Saoirse Ronan gets this award hands down. Her portrayal of the young assassin-in-training Hanna showed the delicate balance of the innocence of youth and the skills of a master operator. Ronan was captivating as Hanna and I really hope we get to see more of her in similar roles. Now….that being said….
The Bad-Accent Award
Goes to Cate Blanchett for her role in Hanna. I absolutely love Cate and think she’s a phenomenal actress. But I really couldn’t tolerate her southern accent. It just didn’t fit. At all.
The Surprise! Award:
There are two films that top my list for this award this year. Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Real Steel. I didn’t have a doubt that they would be good or that I would like them (ok, maybe I had that doubt with Real Steel), but both surprised me by just HOW MUCH I liked them.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes stabbed me in the heart. I have a huge soft spot when it comes to animals and I hate to see them abused or killed in films. This is the one area where I tend to go girlie and shed a tear. Andy Serkis is a freaking genius in his acting because I shed tears. At CGI!
Real Steel I was just dumbfounded at. Boxing robots. How good could that be. Turns out it could be great when you focus on other aspects of the story. Hugh Jackman is always a bonus too….even when he’s playing a bit of a tool.
The Shocked-Into-Silence Award:
I’ll admit it. I really liked the Footloose remake. I didn’t expect to, and I’m still stunned about it, but after the film ended, I sat there with my jaw on the floor. I had no words because I couldn’t believe something that was such a bad idea could have turned out as well as it did. Well played, Footloose…..well played indeed.
The Great Premise, Poor Execution Award:
In Time had an awesome premise. Instead of people working for money, they work for time, living every moment like it could be your last, because for some it is etc. I loved the idea behind the story, and when I saw the first trailer, I was smitten. Then I saw the film. I loved all the known faces that popped up here and there and Cilian Murphy is always good. But for me, this film just fell flat. Amanda Seyfried grated the nerves, but I’ll give props to JT. He did a pretty good job.
The Badd Ladd Film of the Year Award:
This one goes to Warrior. Out of all the films I’ve seen this year I think this is my favorite. I don’t know squat about MMA, and I didn’t care. The story of two estranged brothers and their relationship with each other and their estranged father grabbed me from the get go and never let go. I actually double dipped this film and saw it a second time just to make sure it help up. It did. I loved it just as much as I did that first viewing. Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte were all fantastic. This one will definitely be in my collection.
Check back tomorrow for more alternative awards from the HeyUGuys team with The Truffles – Part 2…