As the year is approaching its end, it’s customary for bloggers and critics alike to do a top ten list of the best movies of the year. I won’t be doing that, because I haven’t seen nearly enough films of 2011 yet. A list like that from me is still a good half year away from meaning anything. So rather than reflecting strictly on the films released this year, I’d like to reflect on all the films I saw this year.
Thus, I present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards! Or ASTMTFIWI2K11A, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. A bunch of random categories will be conjured for whatever films I feel like singling out for one reason or another.
This year I watched 229 movies I hadn’t seen before, from 19 different countries with release dates spanning from 1925 to 2011. A lot of it is from recent years, but I did check out a couple of older “you haven’t seen that one!?” flicks too. I saw my first ever films from Belgium, Brazil, Greece and Russia (Ben X, City of God, Dogtooth and Night Watch, respectively). I saw my first ever Charlie Chaplin movie (The Gold Rush) and got my first glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I watched highly regarded classics like Casablanca, The French Connection and the Alfred Hitchcock films Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as newer stuff like the brunt of the Best Picture Oscar nominees from the last ceremony. I saw great films like Man on Wire and A Single Man, and I saw crap like Season of the Witch.
For these awards, I’m only counting films I saw for the first time in 2011. Rewatches need not apply.
And now, on with the show!
It kind of feels like Kate Winslet has been around forever, always turning in great performances. And yet there she was in Peter Jackson‘s teen murder drama Heavenly Creatures, her arrival on the big screen loudly heralded in the opening credits. As for the performance itself? A bit rough around the edges perhaps, but full of energy and enthusiasm.
Hard-Boiled was pretty kick-ass all around and could have gotten a shout-out for plenty of different things. But that baby putting out a fire by wetting himself really stood out. Patently ridiculous, but so good.
“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Runner-up: Withnail & I
While I did like Withnail & I less than Carrie, that one seems to be more of a cult classic than anything. Carrie has more wide-spread acclaim, which made it all the more disappointing to me. I’ve had more fun discussing the film with people afterwards than I had watching it.
Award for Excellence In Sexiness
Winners: The entire cast of Nine
Runner-up: Sharon Stone – Basic Instinct
Nine is an overcrowded meandering mess of a movie musical, but it’s certainly gorgeous to look at. Hard not to be when you cram Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Fergie and more into it. Special credit goes to Penelope Cruz. Her performance of “A Call from the Vatican” is sizzling. Look it up if you haven’t seen it.
More of an interesting experiment than a triumph as a movie, Shortbus is the result of director John Cameron Mitchell setting out to create a film that uses sex in ways not done before. A fascinating endeavour that makes for a one-of-a-kind movie.
“You’re Not Fooling Anyone” Award for Most Homoerotic Tension
Winners: Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law – Sherlock Holmes
One wonders why Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly were even in this film. Sherlock and Watson clearly only had eyes for each other.
Most Shades Of Brown Award
Winner: The Book of Eli
Few movies look as lifeless as this one. The Book of Eli makes The Road seem like Speed Racer by comparison.
Both Memories of Matsuko and Kamikaze Girls were directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, who I can only assume is Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s long-lost twin brother. The two films share the whimsical tone and rich sense of color found in Amelie. But Memories is the more accessible of the two for someone like me who isn’t well-versed in Japanese culture, and it’s combined with a sadder story that borders on Lars von Trier territory at times. You’d think it would make for a styles clash, but it works surprisingly well.
I couldn’t get into this tale of alienation and Iraqi War blues, filled as it were with characters I found it impossible to relate to. But the scenes where lead actor/director/writer Scott Prendergast dons a big-headed mascot costume to hand out fliers on a country road were really sweet and funny, and easily the bright spot of the movie.
Perhaps not a film that springs to mind when one thinks “twist ending”, but the last shot of Breaking the Waves made me reexamine the whole movie and what it had been trying to tell me. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.
Best Conclusion To A Declaration Of Love Award
Winner: Robin Williams – The Fisher King
“But I still don’t drink coffee.”
Scrabble beats out crosswords in this war of words. Wordplay does have a nice upbeat tone, celebrity cameos and a great climax, but Word Wars finds the people that stick with you, which is a crucial component for this type of documentary.
Shannyn Sossamon Award for Best Shannyn Sossamon Performance
Winner: Shannyn Sossamon – Road to Nowhere
As you may or may not know, I have quite the soft spot for Shannyn Sossamon. Granted, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition here considering that the majority of my Sossamon watching has taken place in earlier years, but her work in Monte Hellman‘s twisting neo noir is her most challenging to date, and she nails it. Here’s to hoping for more great performances from her in the years to come, and no more slumming around in crappy horror films like Devour and One Missed Call.
Best Movie Seen With A Friend Who Had A Cold Award
Before I saw the movie, I had heard the jokes about how one should cough in the theater while watching this viral outbreak film to make people squirm. And then my friend shows up outside the cinema with a cold, proceeding to cough and sniffle throughout the movie. Very appropriate.
“A documentary about a typeface? Oh ho ho, how quirky! I bet there’s a whole bunch of fun angles and cleverness at work to make it interesting! Surely this will be one of those way-better-than-it-sounds type of films!” No. It isn’t. It’s just really damn dull.
And by “no reason”, I of course mean except fanservice.
Best 2011 Film So Far Award
Tightly-wound, exhilarating, violent and oh so slick, helmed by a stone-faced Ryan Gosling who is as impressive as always. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: the movie itself, or the fact that it managed to live up to all the lofty praise people had been heaping over it ever since Cannes. Time will tell if Drive will remain my #1 as I see more films from 2011, but at this point in time, it’s a very easy pick.
Some people like to point out how Hollywood only churns out garbage these days. I don’t think it’s that pronounced a problem, considering how there’s still good blockbusters popping up here and there. But if I did subscribe to the notion, I’d say that I Am Number Four is everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today. A stupid excuse plot, characters without any depth or likability, lifeless CGI-filled action scenes and no emotional investment whatsoever. I find no redeeming factors in this movie.
Best Swedish Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table story-wise, Sweden’s Foreign Language Oscar submission Beyond is still a very well-acted family drama and a strong directorial debut by Pernilla August. Don’t ignore this one even if the Academy decides to.
Worst Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
Winner: Zombie Nation
Runner-up: The Traveler
Well, duh. It’s only the worst movie I’ve ever seen. If you want to know more, check out my review.
Best Film Seen By Me In 2011 Award
Winner: Blue Valentine
Runner-up: Breaking the Waves
Blue Valentine is a devastating piece of work that absolutely floored me. A unflinching look at a relationship’s two extremes: the hopeful genesis and the brutal armageddon, with the inbetween left for the viewer to imagine. Heart-wrenching to the bone, and the best film I’ve seen all year.