If I had my own damn Award Show…

Well, the Oscars are coming up in a couple days. I’ll get my picks and predictions and whatnot posted Sunday morning and then try to do some sort of real-time reaction thing like I tried doing with the Emmys a while back… In the meantime I figured I’d chime in with what I actually thought were the best people and films of 2011, rather than what was nominated by the bunch of white (94%), old (86% are over 50), men (77%) that make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Truthfully, there is a decent amount of overlap with the Oscars. What can I say? Some things are just indisputably great. However art is subjective so this is more of a “my favorites” than the objectively best of the year because objective best doesn’t really exist…

I know that theoretically the time for a Best of 2011 list would be the beginning of January but I live in Sacramento and a lot of the artsy films that end up making this list aren’t released in Sacramento, where I live until later in January or even in February. Hell, February’s almost over and A Separation just came out TODAY. As it is, I still haven’t seen several movies that seemed like they would have been contenders such as Take Shelter, Meek’s Cutoff, or the aforementioned A Separation (not to mention Oscar contenders like The Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs). So I’m human. I can’t see everything. I just do what I can with what I got and on that note, let’s get this started…

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WORST PICTURE – Well, let’s start this shit off with the… well, shit. It’s easy to dump on Adam Sandler movies like Just Go with it or Jack and Jill (I didn’t actually see the latter; from the trailer it looks like it would have made this list) but those movies don’t really aspire to be more than what they are. This list is reserved for the movies that just pissed me off with their awfulness.

Dishonorable Mention: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Okay, this film had enough redeeming attributes that I can’t rightfully call it one of the worst films of the year but god damn did it make me angry. Firstly, it all hinged on the performance of a kid who doesn’t really seem to have a clue as to what “acting” entails. The most maddening thing, earning it’s unranked spot on this list is that it uses 9/11 as a cheap gimmick to wring some unearned tears out of the audience. 9/11 has a place in cinema. United 93 proved that. This is not that fucking place. The fact that this got an Oscar nomination sends the mind reeling. Like I said, not necessarily one of the worst movies of the year (though the more I talk about it, the more I reconsider that) but the dislike I bear this movie earns it a spot on here.

3.            I Am Number Four – God damn you, Twilight. By making a shitload of money with your general awfulness, you’ve inspired imitations! I Am Number Four is about an alien, who like the vampires of Twilight, decides the place he really wants to be is high school. Genocidal aliens are out to kill him and every last member of his species (in numerical order for reasons that ARE NEVER EXPLAINED) so you’d think he’d have bigger problems. This is one of the high school stereotype movies where just because a pretty blonde girl is creative and artistic the boys at her school somehow stop noticing that she is still, in fact, a pretty blonde girl. Then there’s the generic guy in the lead, whose name I could look up right now but if he failed to leave that much of an impression why even bother? The worst thing this movie does is drag down great character actors like Kevin Durand and Timothy Olyphant with it. D.J. Caruso’s first film was an awesome little neo-noir called The Salton Sea (which you should all totally check out). This movie makes me sad to see how far he’s fallen.

2.            Sucker Punch – Warner Brothers can have a very supportive relationship with some of its directors (that’s why Clint Eastwood has been with them for so many decades). After Christopher Nolan made them huge piles of money with his Batman films, they were willing to fund his passion projects. After The Dark Knight, he basically got a giant fucking budget to do whatever he felt like. That movie was Inception and was my favorite of 2010. After the successes of Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen, Warner Brothers decided to try the same thing with Zack Snyder. The result was Sucker Punch. It looked like it would be fan boy’s wet dream with hot girls, ninjas, steam punk Nazi zombies, dragon and hot girls. Instead it was an incoherent mess with too many different levels of fantasy and reality (including one completely superfluous fantasy level where the mental hospital is like a brothel?) and an ending that is supposed to be a twist or something but is really just stupid. Snyder’s next movie is The Man of Steel and I’m hoping that he can pull Superman off as long as someone else does the writing.

1.            Take Me Home Tonight – I hated this stupid movie so much more than I think is rational. The main character was an employee at Suncoast (as I used to be!) and it was set in the 1980s (as I used to be!) so really it should have been hitting all my right nostalgia buttons. The first red flag should have been that the film was made and completed in 2007 and shelved until 2011. The second red flag should be the presence of Dan Fogler… which actually ties sort of into the 2007 thing since he was in everything that year. Fogler’s career (at least in 2007) seemed to boil down to “HE’S FAT BUT HE’S COCKY! DO YOU GET IT?” I was bored to death in this movie and I’m pretty sure I never laughed. Fuck this movie.

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THE FUN FIVE – Not every movie is Citizen Kane. If you look back at some of your all-time favorites you may find that more of them are like Star Wars. They may have their share of problems but they’re great anyway. They’re FUN. Isn’t that why most people go to the movies? FUN? These are the movies that aren’t top ten material but were so damn enjoyable that I have to give them a shout-out.

5.            Captain America: The First Avenger – Not everyone responded to this one as much as I did (though it still made a ton of money anyway) but damn did I love this movie. It was action-packed. It was filled with comic geek stuff that I love. It was hopeful. It was about a good person doing good stuff. Heroism and sacrifice and all that… and it was optimistic. The Avengers might take Cap to some darker places but this movie firmly plants him in the good vs. evil of World War II. There’s kind of an optimistic feel to this movie (though the very end kind of undercuts that a bit) that I was stoked about.

4.            X-Men: First Class – Okay, so first off you have the X-Men who I have always loved. Then you put them in a movie that has the feel of a 1960s James Bond movie? We got a winner! Directed by the guy behind Stardust and Kick-Ass? YES! After the awful misfired of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this is exactly the fresh start the series needed. The film is well-cast and the key characters are well-developed (though some suffer from being mostly background characters). This movie proves that the superhero comic book adaptation genre has more versatility than previously thought.

3.            Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Okay, I know I wasn’t the only one unexpectedly moved by this movie. Screw it, I’m on the apes’ side now. Fuck humanity. (More on this movie later.)

2.            Fright Night – Another one I wasn’t expecting to love near as much as I did. I wasn’t a diehard fan of the original Fright Night. In fact I only saw it a couple weeks before the remake. I was nonetheless wowed by how enjoyable the new version was. Colin Farrell was menacing as a vampire with a very rapist-like energy. David Tenant was ridiculously entertaining as a Vegas showman. Anton yelchin makes a relatable sort of everyman. Even Christopher Mintz-Plasse managed to work within his typecasting to create a memorable performance. And Imogen Poots is… just… damn… (someone with that name shouldn’t be hot, but there she is with her name-defying hotness)

1.            The Muppets – If you have a soul, how can you not love this movie? It’s just… damn, I love this movie. I had a smile on my face from ear to ear for the entire duration of the film. Deep beneath my cynical exterior beats the heart of a child who will get swept away by just about anything Muppet-relation. Jason Segel , Nicholas Stoller, Bret McKenzie, and James Bobin have updated the Muppets for 2011 in the most simple way imaginable: not really “updating” them at all, just allowing them to show us all why we’ve always loved them.

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SPECIAL ACHEIVEMENT IN DIGITAL PERFORMANCE: Andy Serkis and Weta Digital, Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Can we agree now that Andy Serkis is the Lon Chaney of our age? I suppose the main difference is that Lon did his own make-up while Serkis relies on technical wizards at Weta Digital. Still, with Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Adventures of Tintin, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes Serkis has proven himself a master of his craft. The Oscars have yet to recognize him for this. Perhaps it’s because the Academy is made up largely of actors and they’re hesitant to embrace any technology that renders them “less essential,” but it’s precisely Serkis’s involvement that renders characters like the chimpanzee Caesar so realistic and moving to begin with. Let’s give the man his due already.

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN/ART DIRECTION: Dante Ferretti, Hugo – A lot of people aren’t entirely clear what Art Direction and Production Design are. They are exactly what they sound like. Production Designers and Art Directors build worlds. Dante Ferretti is among the best of them. He’s created a hellhole version of London for Sweeney Todd, an anachronistic Rome for Titus, and a 1950s madhouse for Shutter Island. For Hugo he built a magical Paris of a bygone time. He build the inner workings of clocks and a train station that captures the imagination of a young boy, and of everyone in the audience.

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BEST MUSIC: Cliff Martinez, Drive – I enjoyed Drive but didn’t geek out over it the way many others did this past year. One things that elevated beyond the level of your standard Michael Mann-homage crime thriller was Cliff Martinez’s music. Somewhat retro, but dead-on appropriate, martinez’s music gave depth to the film. Ryan Gosling’s lead performance was something of a blank (intentionally so) and I feel like the music helped fill in some of the vagaries of the character. No other movie this year was as defined by its music as Drive.

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia – Really, from the opening of this film, it’s obvious this is the only choice (although apparently not to the Academy). The end of the world has never been rendered on film in such a beautiful painterly way. The whole film is not composed so. Lars von Trier’s more handheld style takes over when it is appropriate. The more artsy slow motion stuff happens when it’s appropriate. The cinematography of the film reflect the content. That should be such a simple thing. That should be true of all movie, but alas it isn’t. Claro’s work on Melancholia is beautiful and worthy of praise.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza, Carnage – This film (adapted from Reza’s play The God of Carnage) keeps moving constantly. What starts as a serious but polite conversation degrades into a shouting match over the course of the film and it all happens totally organically. Roman Polanski has helped to take what could have been an incredibly stage-y film and made it into a fine piece of cinema. The dialogue is first-rate and a top-notch cast tears into it with gusto.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Will Reiser, 50/50 – Will Reiser found himself with cancer in his 20s. He went through a lot and eventually beat it, then he did what all artists do: he channeled it into art. Now people who have only seen the trailer are probably asking “Art? Isn’t this the movie where Seth Rogen tells his buddy to use his cancer to pick up chicks?” Yes it is that movie. 50/50 is riotously funny at many parts. It’s also deeply moving. It’s a movie that runs the full spectrum of human emotion, all pulled from Reiser’s real-life experiences (though the film is technically fictionalized).

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

5.            Sarah Paulson, Martha Marcy May Marlene – It’s not as showy a role as those of her costars but Paulson really grounds the movie. While other characters are brainwashed cult members, charismatic cult leaders, or impatient husbands, Paulson plays the woman in the middle trying to make sense of it all.

4.            Amy Ryan, Win Win – I just like Amy Ryan. In this movie she plays a woman who may be just about the perfect mother, standing in stark contrast to her role in Gone Baby Gone a few years back. “Wife” roles traditionally aren’t the best acting showcases but Ryan shows what someone with real talent can make of one.

3.            Octavia Spencer, The Help – The words “eat my shit” are never really friendly, but Octavia Spencer belts them out like a declaration of war (which they are, in a way). “Sassy black woman” can be a stock character but every time I was afraid the character would veer into stereotype, Spencer undercut my expectations and grounded it in real character work.

2.            Shailene Woodley, The Descendants – A big bias of the Academy is against younger people. Shailene Woodley was phenomenal in The Descendants and a girl with troubled relationship with her mother who is now going to die. That’s a lot of shit to negotiate and Woodley does in the way you’d expect a smart, capable, but kind of fucked-up girl to.

1.            Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia – Gainsbourg’s character has spent her life being a good wife and mother, as well as a support system for her fucked-up sister. With the imminent and unavoidable end of the world approaching, everything she has ever spent her life doing is now pointless. Needless to say, she handles it badly.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Honorable mention: Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris – Kind of a one-joke performance but I just cannot emphasized how fucking much I loved his Hemmingway.

5.            Alex Shaffer, Win Win – I’m sure there will be some people who see the movie and disagree with me on this one. It’s a very minimalist performance, but he’s a teenager. He’s a teenager from a troubled home too, but he doesn’t play that like the “angry young man” archetype that movies have run into the ground. It’s a naturalistic performance. Maybe Alex Shaffer (who was a wrestler before he started acting with this movie) only has this one great performance in him, but it’s enough.

4.            Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method – Any field has its own politics, and psychology is no exception. Mortensen doesn’t only play Sigmund Freud as a wise mentor figure to Michael Fassbender’s Carl Jung. He can also be petty and dismissive to anyone who doesn’t follow exactly in his footsteps. Of course the man who pioneered psychoanalysis is going to be a complex character and Mortensen is well up to the challenge.

3.            Christopher Plummer, Beginners – I know it’s a cliché at this point: “if you want an Oscar, go gay.” Well, that’s probably going to work out for Christopher Plummer, and deservedly so. Plummer plays a man who has spent decades upon decades in the closet and is finally living openly in the twilight of his life. He knows time is short and he may not find that one true love, but he can be himself and in that he can find happiness.

2.            Patton Oswalt, Young Adult – I’ve always found Patton Oswalt amusing if not downright hilarious, but I never really had him pegged as a stand-up who’d successfully maneuver the transition to acting. I was wrong. So fucking wrong.  In Young Adult he plays the victim of a senseless crime who has been avoiding life behind a mask of cynicism. When a woman from his past shows up, he goes against his better judgment and sacrifices the detachment that’s been keeping him safe all these years.

1.            Albert Brooks, Drive – I’ve pretty much always found Albert Brooks downright hilarious, so it’s quite a change of pace to see him downright terrifying. The worst part is how subtle the difference is. Brooks’s gangster is just as affable and friendly as any other character he’s played, but will not hesitate to slice someone open. He says it’s “just business, not personal” and he MEANS it which, when murdering an old friend, is even more chilling.

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BEST ACTRESS

5.            Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene – While her older sisters may have made a fortune with cutesy kid flicks and weird fashion statement, it looks like at least one Olsen sister has some serious acting chops. The many-named heroine of the film is almost several different people: independent young woman, brainwashed cult member, traumatized escapee. Olsen pulls off the many faces of Martha/Marcy May with an eerie intensity. I had my problems with the movie but I think Olsen is a new star.

4.            Charlize Theron, Young Adult – Theron won an Oscar played a very ugly woman in Monster. Here she keeps all her physical beauty but goes about as ugly as possible on the inside. Her character has a solipsistic worldview influence by a steady diet of reality television and the shallowness of the high school beauty queen she once was. She’s had some hardships and emerged a worse person from each of them. In the movie there’s a moment when she is almost on the verge of reforming and then is given the exact wrong kind of encouragement and reverts to endless path of bitchiness she’s been on most of her life.

3.            Viola Davis, The Help – Viola Davis turned less than ten minutes of screen time in Doubt into a well-deserved Oscar nomination so it’s no surprise that given a leading role she can knock it out of the park (hell, she was even one of the redeeming things about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). She plays a strong woman in difficult circumstances, the kind of role that most average actresses would do okay with. She brings a warmth and gravitas to the part (two qualities that don’t always go together, but she makes them work).

2.            Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia – I’ve always though Kirsten Dunst capable enough, but nothing special. Cute, but not really hot. Likable, but not really charismatic. Okay in movies, but not a great actress. She blew me away in Melancholia (also got me to rethink the hot judgment). She gives a completely fearless performance as a woman lacking the ability to cope with daily life, who finds a kind of calm as the world around her falls apart. Dunst channeled her own history of depression into the role and worked with Lars von Trier, who’s known for putting his leading ladies through hell to get great performances out of them. The result is validation: Kirsten Dunst is a damn good actress.

1.            Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams is a damn good actress; that, we knew. However the pixie-like indie sensation seemed an odd choice to play buxom and full-figured sex icon Marilyn Monroe. My skepticism was foolish however and Williams turns in perhaps the definitive performance about the fucked-up neuroses that plague the brain of an actor. There’s the desire for respect, for attention, and the feeling that no matter how much people like you it isn’t really you they like. It’s a lot to convey in the breathy voice of an iconic movie star but Williams pulls it off. Her Marilyn is a woman of intelligence, but deep problems.

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BEST ACTOR

5.            Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50 – When did that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun become an accomplished actor? I guess it’s been a few years now but you know how there’s actors you always associate with a particular role (usually from TV) until one day, BAM, you see something and while you’re watching it you totally forget whatever role you had mentally typecast them in? 50/50 was that movie for my perception of Gordon-Levitt. He goes through the full range of human emotion in this movie and ends up giving a great performance grounded in reality.

4.            Paul Giamatti, Win Win – In Win Win, Paul Giamatti starts out looking to do the wrong thing and then ends up doing the right thing. We get it. Times are tough and sometimes you can’t afford to live on the straight and narrow. But then there’s some things you just have to do because they need doing and you’re the one to do them.

3.            Michael Fassbender, Shame – It’s a good thing this movie isn’t in 3D or else you’d lose an eye! There, now that we’ve gotten past the obligatory “Michael Fassbender’s penis” joke, let’s move on to the fearless performance in this film. People tend to snicker at sex addiction, but Fassbender takes us deep into the unique kind of hell that it really is. Addiction is addiction. Fassbender clearly wants out of this cycle of self-degradation but he’s powerless to escape.

2.            Jean Dujardin, The Artist – Jean Dujardin can do more with an eyebrow than many actors can do with their entire body. He gives one of the greatest performances of the year and does it [mostly] without audible dialogue. Silent film acting isn’t highly in demand anymore which is a shame because Dujardin is masterful at it. He takes us through a movie star’s rise, fall, and redemption and I feel like even if the entire movie was just a close-up of his face we could still get the whole story.

1.            Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman tends to go big in most of his roles, but this piece of extremely minimalist acting might be his best to date. George Smiley is mostly a passive character. He observes. He calculates. He takes in information until it is time to use that information. 90% of the performance is in his eyes. His role is perfectly encapsulated in one scene. Smiley and two other spies are in a car. A fly is buzzing around. The two others swat at it to no avail. Smiley just watches it until at just the right moment, he cracks the window and the fly leaves the car.

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BEST DIRECTOR

Honorable mention: J.J. Abrams, Super 8 – The main reason this is an honorable mention instead of on the list is because it is entirely directed in the style of another director, Steven Spielberg. But it’s one hell of an homage.

5.            Martin Scorsese, Hugo – Martin Scorsese has created a love letter to early silent film pioneer Georges Méliès, and indeed cinema as a whole. He also showed the young whippersnappers in the film industry how to use 3D to build a world, rather than as a gimmick to jack up ticket prices.

4.            Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life – This marks the only appearance of The Tree of Life on this list. I, like many people, found it somewhat inaccessible. I, also like many people, also found it beautiful and spiritual… more akin to a prayer than a typical trip to the cineplex. Also, dinosaurs. I don’t fully understand it and I don’t fully appreciate it, but Malick has done something beautiful and I think it’s worthy of recognition.

3.            Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist – The last director to try a major silent film was Mel Brooks over thirty years ago. Michel Hazanavicius has outdone old Mel. Whether it’s using the latest film-making techniques or the oldest, it’s all about the craftsman wielding the tools and Hazanavicius has proven himself a master craftsman with this film.

2.            Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – This Swede burst onto the international scene a few years back with the excellent vampire film Let the Right One In. The coldness of that film carries into Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He crafts his visuals with the precision of jeweler and allows an incredible cast of actors to do what they do best.

1.            Lars von Trier, Melancholia – Okay, so the guy has a problem with telling bad Nazi jokes that piss off the French, but he can make one hell of a movie. He also pushed Kirsten Dunst to a career-best performance and oversaw beautiful visuals and a compelling narrative into one of the best films of the year.

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BEST PICTURE

Honorable Mention: Super 8 – From a sentimental perspective, this might be my favorite film of the year. It took me back to watching Spielberg movies like E.T. or Jaws back when I was a young child in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There were kids who seemed like real kids instead of annoying precocious movie kids. There was a real danger. There was also a profound message about coping with loss and pain. I liked this movie a lot, and while I couldn’t quite put it in my Top Ten I had to give it a shout-out.

10.          A Dangerous Method – The idea of psychoanalysts being more screwed up than the people they’re treating is not exactly a new concept, but this one uses the two fathers of the entire field of study, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (also its unsung mother Sabina Spielrein). David Cronenberg’s film have changed in the past decade from being about fighting a threat literally inside yourself (as in The Fly or The Brood) to a more metaphorical take on the same idea. Can we battle our impulses? Does this new-fangled “talking cure” really work? A superb cast and excellent direction explore the topic. It’s refreshing to see a movie about ideas instead of action.

9.            Win Win – Thomas McCarthy is one of the great writer-directors working today. With excellent films like The Station Agent and The Visitor under his belt (not to mention an Oscar nomination for co-writing Up) I was ready for anything he made. He didn’t disappoint. Win Win is about family, responsibility, and just the people you connect with in life. McCarthy’s films always feel real.

8.            Buck – Buck Brannaman is the real-life horse whisperer. This is a documentary about him (and also, implicitly, my pick for BEST DOCUMENTARY). Having witnessed the way horses were trained (beating them when they did something “wrong”), Buck knew there was a different way. How this ties into the way he himself was raised is adds more heartbreaking depth to the film. I can’t really point to what film-making strategies make Buck one of the best films of the year, but all I know is it tells a powerful story and tells it well.

7.            Hugo – A love letter to film history, to literature, to adventure, Hugo is a film that should be beloved of all cinephiles. There is the standard set-up of a fantasy story, a young orphan forced into unusual circumstances is confronted with a mystery and the promise of adventure. However the place this mystery and this adventure leads to isn’t to a realm of fantasy, though it does lead to a kind of magic. The film uses of film history’s most famous film-maker/magicians to blur the line between film and magic. I, for one, believe they are one and the same.

6.            Melancholia – Christopher Titus used to have a bit where he would say the advantage of being dysfunctional is that when shit goes crazy you’re prepared while all the “normal” are losing their heads. Melancholia is the story of two sisters, one incapable of functioning and the other in control of her life. Then the earth is doomed and everyone everywhere is going to die. Suddenly the role are reversed. To the dysfunctional one, the thought of total extinction is somehow comforting while the other panics over all the things she has worked for in her life.

5.            Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – It is one thing to follow the twists and turns of this film’s plot, but even more compelling is to focus on the characters. Who are these men who live in a world of secrecy and lies? What motivates them and who if anyone can they trust? Excellent direction and top notch cast (Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy) keep this taut thriller intriguing from beginning to end.

4.            50/50 – You know that old cliché “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry?” Well I laughed. I cried. This is a movie that has some powerful moving human drama juxtaposed with gut-bustingly funny humor. It’s all grounded in the real experiences of the screenwriter so it never feels inauthentic. Since Will Reiser survived and wrote this movie, I always knew it was a safe bet that the main character was not going to die but oddly that knowledge didn’t make the stakes of the film feel any lower. In the run time of the film I grew to care about the characters like they were old friends.

3.            Midnight in Paris – When you read of the adventures of Ernest Hemmingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, you get a sense of a period of history that was really alive. If you could go back to that time, would you? (Not me, I like my internet access.) Nostalgia is powerful force. I know, as anyone who’s heard me go off about the 1990s (the 18-year-olds I go to school with hate it when I do that) but the here-and-now is what we got. Dissatisfaction is a given no matter where or when you are. Woody Allen’s best film in years explores all this with a sense of whimsy that prevents it from ever getting too deep into navel-gazing philosophy. A love of literature is recommended for this one…

2.            Rango – Naturally this also doubles as my pick for BEST ANIMATED FILM. It’s a spaghetti western take on Chinatown set in a desert town populated entirely by varmints. Do you need more than that? Is that not enough for you?!? If not, get off my site; we have nothing in common. I’ve been loving this trend of live action directors getting into the animation game. Gore Verbinski’s deranged energy is exactly what makes Rango into the masterpiece it is. The great cinematopher Roger Deakins also serves as a visual consultant. The combination of photorealistic computer animation and eccentric character design would be jarring in a different film, but Rango pulls it all off.

1.            The Artist – So if anyone’s known me long enough, they’ve probably heard me (or read me) mention how modern talented film-makers should tackle silent films. Well, Michel Hazanavicius listened to me and in doing so totally proved my point. He made a work of art that is setting the film world on fire. Part of me hopes this inspires a wave of copycat silent films (many of which would invariably be inferior, but some of them would probably demonstrate the creativity that silent films brought out in film-makers). By using a technique that hasn’t really been commonly done in eight decades or so, Michel Hazanavicius highlights one of the key rules in art and in indeed life in general: adapt or die. George Valentin’s reluctance to embrace new technology is almost his undoing. He survives only by adjusting to the new style of the medium. It may seem odd to technologically regress in order to make a case for advancement but it makes the whole thing even more poetic. Anyway, I know I’m hardly daring or original as pegging The Artist as the best picture of the year but it got me.

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  1. […] what I felt were the best movies of the year etc. then that’s a different article altogether (one that can be read here). This is about the Oscars. For most categories, I just offer a quick pick for what WILL win and a […]

  2. […] 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) – So I don’t know if you all got this from my review, my best of 2011 list, or my Oscar article but I really enjoyed the hell out of The Artist. The loving tribute to and […]

  3. […] The film also features the always-lovely Léa Seydoux as a antiques dealer in 2010 and then-First Lady of France Carla Bruni as a tour guide who doesn’t care much for Paul. The characterizations of the writers and artists are fantastic. Since they’re meant to be more a fantastical occurrence than in-depth and accurate characterization they’re style of speaking and acting is drawn directly from their work. Stoll is brilliant as Hemmingway who speaks most in short, clipped sentences about things like war and machismo. Pill also stands out as Zelda Fitzgerald, played as charming though decidedly unbalanced. Brody is off-the-way weirdness as the surrealist Dalí. Wilson is sort of acting as the Woody Allen stand-in of the film. He plays everything with that familiar neuroticism but unlike other actors who have done this (like Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity), Wilson maintains his own familiar screen persona throughout. I found this film to be simply delightful. It’s one of Allen’s best and one of my favorites of 2011. […]



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