This year in film was a crazy one. Between sequels for just about every big franchise in the known world, we’ve gotten two Steven Spielberg movies release in the span of mere days, remakes no one asked for that actually turned out really good, two movies that rejoice the silent film era, a whole bunch of nostalgia trips, ballsy films that attempt no less than to show audiences the meaning of all of life, films about hot chicks escaping into their imaginations to avoid being raped, films about tires coming to life to explode people’s heads, and the final installment of what is literally the most lucrative franchise in movie history. If that’s not a crazy year, I don’t know what is.
It certainly was a unique and incredibly interesting year of film, and I’m here to count it all down in what is probably my biggest blog post I’ve ever written. With 20 of my favorite films of the year, and also my favorite performances, my worst movie of the year, most overrated/underrated, and tons of other miscellaneous crap. Hold your breath, because this is gonna be a long one! The best & worst movies of 2011 begins now…
The Silver Soap Bar Awards For The 10 Best Runner-Up Films of the Year
#20: Bridesmaids (Directed by Paul Feig)
A funny, raunchy, female-driven comedy that also works as a surprisingly strong character study showcasing Kristen Wiig’s talent. Bridesmaids is hilarious and heartfelt exactly when it needs to be.
#19: Source Code (Directed by Duncan Jones)
Duncan Jones’ sophomore effort isn’t as strong as his debut Moon, but Source Code moves at an incredibly brisk pace, managing to be both a thought-provoking sci-fi and an intense action thriller.
#18: Meek’s Cutoff (Directed by Kelly Reichardt)
Incredibly slow-paced but always intense. This slow-burn of a western thriller is subtle and restrained, yet always keeps your nerves on your toes thanks to a strong atmosphere (unusual for a western) and a performance from the always-wonderful Michelle Williams.
#17: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Directed by Brad Bird)
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is how all action movies should be made. The set-pieces are mind-blowing, the pace exciting, the performances entertaining, and it’s all tightly directed by Brad Bird.
#16: 50/50 (Directed by Jonathan Levine)
A difficult balancing act of drama and comedy that’s incredibly effective on both fronts. I was surprised to find myself laughing hysterically one minute, only to be swept up by emotion within the same beat.
#15: Another Earth (Directed by Mike Cahill)
A thought-provoking sci-fi drama with ideas and emotion to spare. Another Earth also features a strong performance from newcomer Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film, and marks her as a talent to watch.
#14: The Descendants (Directed by Alexander Payne)
Another film that balances drama and comedy expertly, The Descendants feels real and genuine through every minute of its running time, and features George Clooney in one of his most fantastic performances.
#13: The Future (Directed by Miranda July)
Strange, dark, and whimsical. The Future, unlike most indie comedies, uses its quirks to reveal darker truths about human nature. A worthy follow-up to July’s debut Me and You and Everyone We Know.
#12: Crazy, Stupid Love (Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa)
One of the more surprising films of the year. Crazy Stupid Love is a fantastic romantic comedy that pretty much has it all: Wonderful performances, a lot of heart and charm, a hefty dose of romance, and hey, it’s really funny! Who would’ve thunk…
#11: War Horse (Directed by Steven Spielberg)
A manipulative melodrama that, despite how much it desperately and obviously tugs the heartstrings manages to really work. Of all the people who can make a script like this work, it’s the legend himself, Steven Spielberg.
The Golden Soap Bar Awards For The 10 Best Films of the Year
#10: Super 8 (Directed by JJ Abrams)
Many of Super 8‘s detractors have complained that the film loses itself in the final act due to having an unsatisfying resolution for the big monster at the heart of the movie. And I strongly disagree. If anything, I usually don’t care about CG monsters in most movies anyway. What I want in a film is characters to care about and it is then that the action sequences have meaning. And Super 8 delivered on that front. Not just a thrilling sci-fi adventure, but a nostalgic ode to childhood and the Spielberg films of yesteryear that feels sincere and genuine in all the right places.
#9: Melancholia (Directed by Lars von Trier)
Melancholia is a punishing experience that tortures the viewer with unholy amounts of depression and despair that can become too much to handle at a certain point. At the same time however, it rewards the viewer as much as it drowns him/her in misery thanks to beautiful imagery, affecting emotion, and two of the best performance of the year in Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It’s not for everyone, but those who are willing enough for a big spoonful of hard-hitting sadness will be rewarded for one of the most artfully captivating films of the year.
#8: Midnight in Paris (Directed by Woody Allen)
Midnight in Paris is in the exact opposite end of the spectrum of Melancholia. Of all the movies this entire year, none have left as wide a smile on my face quite as much as this one did. Thanks to the best Owen Wilson performance I’ve seen in years (Seriously, it regains your faith in Owen Wilson), Woody Allen’s ode to the City of Lights lights up with ridiculous amounts of charm to the point that it becomes infectious. The screenplay is wickedly playful with sharp dialogue and clever usage of historical characters, and it just feels like Woody Allen had a marvelous time just making the film. Pretty much one of the most enjoyable experience of the year.
#7: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Directed by David Fincher)
Yes, the detractors are all correct when they say that David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is very, very similar to the original Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Despite that, however, this remake felt much more effective thanks to some small but strong improvements. The characters feel more like human beings for one thing; the bad guys are a bit more morally ambiguous, the character of Mikael Blomkvist is more interesting, but most important of all is that Rooney Mara plays the film’s title character, Lisbeth Salander, with incredible gusto, making for one of the most memorable performances, and easily the most memorable character, of the entire year. It also helps that David Fincher supplies the film with more suspense and dread than the previous film. Despite the glaring similarities, this is without a doubt a superior remake.
#6: The Artist (Directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
Another film that made me smile and smile throughout all of its running time, The Artist is a lovingly made throwback to silent films of yore. As much as I love Super 8, it really felt like JJ Abrams was desperately hitting the marks to be like a classic Steven Spielberg film, but not quite getting there (despite being so close). The Artist, however, really feels like a silent film from the ’20s that history has only uncovered until recently, and can now be shared with the world for anyone to enjoy. And damn is it enjoyable. Probably the best crowd-pleasing movie of the year, The Artist is just pure cinema magic that no matter how much you try to resist it, makes you wanna stand up and cheer.
#5: Hanna (Directed by Joe Wright)
Hanna is probably the most surprising film I’ve seen this year. I came into it with little expectations on what to expect, and came out blown away. Less of an action film (Though there’s plenty of wonderful action) and more of a modern fairy-tale, Hanna brings us into the psychological mindset of its young assassin with such an incredible amount of depth and style. Joe Wright creates a surprisingly surreal atmosphere that makes the film stand-out, but he also choreographs and shoots action sequences with amazing flair and intensity. All while the thumping sounds of an irresistible Chemical Brothers score (more on that in a bit) echo in the background. Surreal but absorbing, Hanna is both badass and strange, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
#4: Hugo (Directed by Martin Scorsese)
Without a doubt the most uplifting film of the entire year. Martin Scorsese’s love-letter to silent cinema, Hugo is beautiful, sincere, gorgeous, and heartfelt beyond all measure. One of those films about films that really captures the joy of the movies and what makes this medium so special to all of us, it’s simply impossible for any self-respecting movie-buff to see this movie and not be swept up by its unabashed love of cinema. It also helps that Martin Scorsese uses this film to grace moviegoers with what is literally the best use of 3D you will ever see in your entire life. Wondrous and uplifting, Hugo is a movie-lovers dream come true. #blurb
#3: Martha Marcy May Marlene (Directed by Sean Durkin)
This may come off as over-exaggeration, but Martha Marcy May Marlene is honest to god one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in a theater. Strange considering how quiet, subtle, and restrained the entire picture is. But the film’s psychological intensity really seeps into the viewer causing unbearable amounts of tension and unease. It got to the point that I was shaking throughout the entire second half second half of the film, and I would’ve left ill from it all if I wasn’t so enthralled by the film’s talent. First-time director Sean Durkin really nails the tension down, truly bringing you into the exact psychological mindset as its tortured, titular character so effectively that it becomes almost painful to watch. Making it even more effective is Elizabeth Olsen’s performance, who is easily deserving of an Oscar after her work here. Coming from both a first-time director and an actress in her first major film role, it’s strange to see that everything comes together so perfectly. Martha Marcy May Marlene simply must be seen. It’s a terrifying psychological thriller that will stay with you months after first viewing it.
#2: Drive (Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)
What exactly is Drive? Is it an action film? Why yes it has action scenes and car chases here and there, but they’re few and far between and the film seems to move at a slow-pace. So, I guess it’s a drama then. Well…no, because it also features brutal violence straight out of a horror picture…or a crime movie! That means it’s a crime movie, right? Well…not really, since the main focus is actually on Ryan Gosling and Carrey Mulligan’s relationship. So does that make it romance? Well not exactly, they mostly just exchange glances at each other with very little dialogue.
It wasn’t until later that I finally came to the conclusion of what Drive is, and why everyone who expected a Fast and Furious-inspired car movie left disappointed: It’s a character study on a man with no character. On paper, that sounds stupid, but it’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year (Obviously, this being #2 in my top 20 list). Ryan Gosling takes the enigma of The Driver, the film’s unnamed central character, and makes him incredibly compelling, even though he still remains a mystery by the end. What makes it work is that what he lacks in personality he makes up for in tension. You never know what the Driver is gonna do next, when he’s going to do something nice, or when he’s going to just snap and let all hell break loose. It also helps that Ryan Gosling gives out literally the best performance of his entire career (And considering a career involving Half Nelson and Blue Valentine, that says a lot). He’s always intense, always unpredictable, impossible to read, but is able to showcase lots of visible emotional scars so effectively that he manages to gain your sympathy even while he’s performing unspeakable acts of brutality.
Everything about Drive oozes tension. The action sequences play out less like action sequences and more like graceful games of chess in which the main character is in checkmate at all points throughout the film. The rest of the cast, including Carrey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Ron Pearlman, Bryan Cranston, and an incredibly unexpected turn as the villain by comedian Albert Brooks, is also fantastic, especially Brooks who brings ridiculous amounts of menace to his villain. Every single performance is simply, utterly pitch-perfect for this film.
Stylish, surreal, and intense–and like Hanna, a modern fairy tale–Drive is a unique, nerve-wracking experience that keeps you at the edge of the Driver’s seat (See what I did there guys?!?!….okay I’ll shut up now).
#1: The Tree of Life (Directed by Terrence Malick)
When I walked out of The Tree of Life, I didn’t feel like I just walked out of a movie. I felt like I had just finished a profound, soul-searching journey through my own life. It all sounds incredibly cheesy, sure, but Terrence Malick’s opus to all of life truly is one of those rare once-in-a-lifetime experience that deserves to be called “profound”.
The main reason it is that effective is how sincere Terrence Malick is in his approach. Everything comes straight from the heart. It feels like a deeply personal film that may have more meaning to Malick than to the viewer. Yet it never feels that way in the traditional sense. What’s amazing about The Tree of Life is how personal it feels from Malick, yet it still manages to feel like something out of the viewers’ life, that is if the viewer allows the movie to wash over him/her. Everything is painted in a broad, easily identifiable stroke, yet the canvas is so huge as it attempts no less than to encapsulate all of existence, that everything still feels intensely intimate.
The childhood this film depicts feels so much like my own, even in spite of some notable differences. Mostly because it captures the emotion of childhood. While Super 8, The Artist, and Midnight In Paris were all well-done in their use of nostalgia, The Tree of Life not only makes you remember your past, it feels more like you’re re-experiencing your childhood. And then there’s the philosophical side of the film, which brings the film to much higher meaning through addressing all of existence and what could possibly be the afterlife. These moments feel like beautifully written, meditative poems that have been brought to life by imagery. To say that I could not contain myself throughout the final act of the film is a massive understatement. This movie broke me down. Hard.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those with an open mind ready for a one-of-a-kind experience, The Tree of Life truly is unlike anything else you will ever seen.
Well that was fun. BUT WE’RE NOT FINISHED YET! Now it’s onto some miscellaneous shenanigans!
The “Suck On This, Michael bay!” Award For Best Action Movie
Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Directed by Brad Bird)
There are set-pieces in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol that I find impossible to not find completely thrilling exciting. Everything about the action scenes in this film is so well-done, so properly shot, edited, choreographed, structured, just everything about them is about as well-done as you can possibly do with an action scene. Sure there were action movies that I thought were better if not more slow like Hanna and Drive, but in terms of pure balls-to-the-wall, pants-wetting, non-stop action, this was the high-point…literally, because that Burj Khalifa tower is fucking HUGE!
Honorable Mentions: Hanna, Drive, Fast Five, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (If only for the forest chase scene alone)
The Tickle Mah Balls Award For Best Comedy
Horrible Bosses (Directed by Seth Gordon)
As far as movies that just made me laugh, this one was the caper. It’s not on my top 20 list because it definitely has script problems, but it’s hard to complain when you have Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis doing what they do best, Charlie Day knocking it out of the park in what is the equivalent of The Hangover‘s breakout performance by Zach Galifinakis, and of course we have the horrible bosses played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrel at their most deliciously evil. It isn’t as dark as it could’ve pushed like, say, World’s Greatest Dad, but it’s definitely the film that made me laugh the hardest in the theater.
Honorable Mentions: Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, Crazy Stupid Love
The Golden Shat-On Pants Award For Best Horror Movie
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Directed by Sean Durkin)
Okay, Martha Marcy May Marlene isn’t technically a horror movie in the traditional sense, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t admitting to it being the most terrifying experience I had in the theater. It’s bone-chilling tension from start-to-finish, elevated by haunting performances from Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.
Honorable Mentions: Fright Night, Paranormal Activity 3, Insidious
The James Cameron-Approved Award For Most Overrated Movie
Rango (Directed by Gore Verbinski)
There were plenty of films that I found overrated this year, yet I could still get why people would like them. I found just about every Marvel superhero film this year to be overrated (Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America) yet I could still get why people liked those films because they all had some good actors in their respective lead roles. I also found The Adventures of Tintin rather overrated, but it was still light, innocent, and inoffensive; and there were moments in it that I really enjoyed.
The one that took the cake for me, however, was Rango, but even this film had some qualities of merit. The animation is gorgeously detailed, able to find beauty in hideousness, there are some nice nods to westerns and noir films that I appreciated, and Johnny Depp did a pretty damn good job playing against type as a CG bumbling chameleon. That being said, nothing in this movie grabbed my enjoyment.
One of the main complaints people had over Super 8 was that it was basically just referencing a bunch of old movies that you loved yet left the plot elements very weak and unsatisfying. I didn’t have that problem for Super 8 because I cared about each of the characters involved. I did, however, have that exact problem with Rango which just seemed to be referencing a bunch of old movies, but felt completely hollow in the story and character development.
And I honestly can’t comprehend how people can say that the ending of Super 8 is unsatisfying, when the ending of Rango is so abrupt and ho-hum, that I honestly felt like even the people making the movie didn’t care much about what was happening. While Super 8‘s story did have problems, I cared about the characters enough that I could overlook its problems. With Rango, there was nothing for me to latch onto, nothing to make me care, and thus the script problems were amplified. Thus, of all the overrated films this year, this one was the most frustratingly overrated for me.
Honorable Mentions: Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America, Moneyball
The Flaming Cowpat Award For Worst Movie of the Year
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Directed by Michael Bay)
When I initially discussed Transformers: Dark of the Moon with my friends after seeing it, I thought to myself, “That wasn’t very good, but I didn’t hate it either.” As the film sunk with me, however, I began to realize just how much this film sucks. I mean, I knew it was bad from the beginning, but its badness really seeps into you much later. It’s still not as horrendous as Revenge of the Fallen, but still just as intelligent, i.e. retarded.
Yes, there’s some decent action in the final 45 minutes of the film, but in order to get to that, you have to slog through an hour and a half–that’s the length of a god damn normal-sized movie–of some of the worst writing and acting you’ll see this entire year. Firstly, Shia LaBeouf somehow got even more annoying than his character from Even Stevens, and constantly shouts for no apparent reason, while great actors like Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and once again John Turturro, are all wasted by having almost literally nothing to do.
And speaking of nothing to do, there are characters that literally have no point. At least some pointless characters are there for one retarded, contrived reason like giving out information leading to the macguffin, etc. In this movie, however, the pointless characters literally have no point. John Malkovich accomplishes almost nothing other than get Shia LaBeouf to stop whining by giving him a job that has no point of being in the movie (the entire job-hunting sub-plot was useless altogether). Frances McDormand is even more pointless since all she does is talk through a radio signal when action is happening somewhere else to explain information the audience already knows.
And yes, while the final one-hour action-palooza is well-shot, it doesn’t feel exciting like Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol does, because you simply don’t care about anything that’s going on. Simply having an entire hour of unbroken action does not a good movie make.
Keep in mind, reader, that I haven’t seen too many of the really awful movies that other people seemed to have despised. I didn’t see Jack & Jill, Alvin & The Chipmunks, The Smurfs, or Spy Kids 4D (Seriously, I have no idea how that one ended up being made), but of all the movies that I personally have seen, this was the one that stuck out the longer it lingered in the mind.
Honorable Mentions: Priest, Battle: Los Angeles, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Straw Dogs
The Cyanide Ice-Cream Award For Most Disappointing Movie
The Green Hornet (Directed by Michel Gondry)
Would you like to know how much I love Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Oh, how about it being my favorite movie of all time tied only with David Fincher’s Fight Club. Yeah, I love it.
So when I heard that Gondry would be teaming up with Seth Rogen, who’s one of the funniest dudes working in Hollywood right now, to make a buddy-cop/superhero-without-super-powers movie that had lots of kung fu and Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds playing as the villain, I got fuckin’ stoked! I was ready to marry this project before it even came out! And…then I watched the movie.
What. A. Fucking. Letdown.
The movie itself is not terrible, but it is rather bad and really poorly scripted. What is terrible, however, is Seth Rogens character as The Green Hornet/Britt Reid, who is so ridiculously obnoxious and unlikeable that the film just does not work. I do admit to the action scenes do having a lot of flair thanks to Gondry’s typically stylish direction (All of the “Kato-vision” moments are beyond cool) but Rogen’s character was just so filled with douchebaggery that I wanted to punch myself throughout the film. Considering the talent involved, this should’ve been better.
The 16-Legged Guinea Pig Award For Most Interesting Failure
Bellflower (Directed by Evan Glodell)
I still don’t know what Bellflower is about, or whether I liked it or not. I knew I was interested and mesmerized at all times throughout the movie, but I was also left scratching my head throughout the ambiguous ending and the jarring tonal shift from mumblecore-y romantic comedy to psychological drama/action/horror/David Lynch mindfuck. All I can say is that it’s one of the most interesting and original films of the year, but a true success it unfortunately isn’t.
The “YOU THREW A SHARK AT AN AIRPLANE AWARD” For Most Bat-Sh*t Insane Movie
Rubber (Directed by Quentin Dupieux)
A sentient tire goes on a killing rampage by blowing people’s heads up with the power of its psychic mind….that’s really all you need to know.
The Star-Gate Award For The 5 Best Scenes of the Year
There were so many amazing scenes this year that I decided, why the hell not, let’s give this award to five awesome scenes…
#5: The Burj Khalifa from Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
When it comes to action set-pieces, I don’t think I’ve seen a recent one that’s as jaw-droppingly thrilling as Tom Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world with only a pair of sticky gloves. The nauseatingly high elevation should be enough to do all sorts of nasty things to your vertigo, but even worse is when the sticky gloves start to malfunction. The scenes oozes suspense and excitement.
#4: The Subway from Hanna
I find it so awesome when directors decide to shoot something in one long continuous shot. Not only does it bring a sense of fluidity, but also lets the director really flex his directing muscles and show off what he/she can do. Joe Wright has always seemed to be a fan of the one-shot take (See the WWII sequence in Atonement) but he outdid himself with this one, as we see Eric Bana just walking into a subway station. It starts out normally as we see him exit a taxi and onto a street, but then we start to notice something. The camera hasn’t cut at all, and strange men are following Bana around. What’s going on?
It isn’t long until he enters the empty subway station and 10 hitmen have surrounded him. All Eric Bana could use is his wits and special assassin skills to take all of them down, and Joe Wright choreographs the fight scene in one long steady take that circles around Bana as he simply annihilates everyone in the room.
#3: The Prologue from Melancholia
The 7 and a half minute prologue to Melancholia features some of the most stunning and haunting imagery of the entire year. Unlike most apocalyptic films, Lars von Trier begins his with the world ending then goes back from there. And if there’s one man who can make the apocalypse look stunning and gorgeous, it’s Lars von Trier. Featuring some effective CG effects for the colliding planets and what is honestly some of the most gorgeous uses of slo-mo you’ll see in your entire life, Melancholia opens hauntingly, and gets more deranged from there.
#2: The Elevator from Drive
Unlike most of the scenes in this list, this one doesn’t really have that much in the way of stylistic tricks or gimmicks. It is, however, one of the most powerfully done sequences I’ve seen all year. As the Driver finds that he’s trapped in an elevator with a man who’s ready to kill him and his only love in life, Irene, in just a few mere moments, he realizes what he has to do in an instant, and realizes the grave consequences of his actions, and he knows that he’s going to lose Irene whether he succeeds or not. He decides to take advantage of his final moments with Irene by holding her back and kissing her in spectacular slo-mo and silence.
And this tender moment is immediately followed up by the Driver proceeding to smash the man’s face in with the heels of his boots. Emotional and brutal all at once, I’ve seen the film twice in theaters and this sequence always sends chills down my spine.
#1: Creation from The Tree of Life
The one sequence that got thousands of moviegoers walking out of the theater in befuddlement is without a doubt polarizing. And it is also one of the most beautifully shot, meticulously crafted, gorgeously composed, and emotionally powerful sequences I’ve seen since the Star-Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it is all done with zero dialogue and nothing but the unbelievable images on the screen.
In just a mere 20 minutes, Terrence Malick tells what is quite possibly the greatest story of all: How all of the universe formed seemingly out of nothing, and how all of life was created. Beginning with the literal Big Bang; viewing the formation of planets, stars, and nebulae; the creation of molecules, which in turn form into matter; and finally the first living creatures of the earth: the dinosaurs. Wondrous, stunning, powerful, and visually awe-inspiring, it’s a sequence that leaves you with your jaw on the floor.
And you thought this list was over? Oh, but you thought wrong. For I have lots of time on my hands, which says much more about my social life than you think. We still have to honor some of the people who helped make these movies possible, and we’re counting all of these people down too. Don’t worry, you’re almost done, you’ll be untied from that chair in no time…
The “HEEERE’S JOHNNY” Award For Best Actor
George Clooney from The Descendants
Who doesn’t love George Clooney? Seriously, from his square jaw to his silvery gray hair to that chiseled face and his suave demeanor, I find it impossible for anyone to really hate George Clooney. It also helps that he’s grown from his General Hospital origins into a legitimately great actor, and his work in The Descendants is some of his strongest stuff yet. Playing not a single note wrong whether it be confident, charming, emotional, or intense, he hits every emotional beat successfully, and considering how Alexander Payne writes his scripts and how authentic he makes every character feel, that’s no small feat.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Hardy – Warrior, Ryan Gosling – Drive, Jean Dujardin – The Artist, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 50/50, Owen Wilson – Midnight in Paris, Brad Pitt & Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life
The “You Were Such A Superlady” Award For Best Actress
Elizabeth Olsen from Martha Marcy May Marlene
I loved Natalie Portman’s psychotic turn in Black Swan as much as the next guy (She got this same award from me last year), but it was definitely a very external performance involving lots of crying, screaming, and self-mutilation. The thing that makes Elizabeth Olsen’s psychological trauma so disturbingly real is actually how internal she makes all of her struggles. She rarely ever acts out or lashes out on anyone, but just the subtlest hints of paranoia can convey the most powerful emotion. Even just the blank stare you see on the image above is able to show how damaged she is emotionally as a human being, and that she’ll never be able to go back to normal. It’s a haunting performance that is going to stay in my nightmares for a long, long time.
Honorable Mentions: Charlize Theron – Young Adult, Saoirse Ronan – Hanna, Brit Marling – Another Earth, Kristen Wiig – Bridesmaids, Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Kirsten Dunst & Charlotte Gainsbourg – Melancholia
The Disappearing Pencil Award For Best Supporting Actor of the Year
Patton Oswalt from Young Adult
Young Adult is a film that is centered around one of the most amazingly despicable and unlikeable characters to grace the silver screen with Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary. How do you ground a film with such a horrible human being as your protagonist? By having one of the nicest guys as a side character to balance things out. Yet Patton Oswalt doesn’t overdo niceness as his character. He still remains grounded with his own flaws and bad habits. Yet he’s probably one of the main reasons why Young Adult ultimately works. Even in spite of all of this, he’s the most sympathetic character in the film and plays him with a surprising amount of depth coming from a former comedian. While he might not get Oscar recognition this year, he’s still a winner in my book.
Honorable Mentions: Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Albert Brooks – Drive, Ryan Gosling – Crazy Stupid Love, Ben Kingsley – Hugo, Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Seth Rogen – 50/50, John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Kathy Bates With A Sledgehammer Award For Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life
About one year ago, we had no idea who in the hell this Jessica Chastain girl was. Then, out of nowhere, she makes her debut in Terrence Malick’s masterwork and now she’s seemingly in everything now, and she’s heading on to even bigger roles such as playing Princess Diana in an upcoming biopic. To say that she’s the big breakout star of the year is an understatement, but it also helps that she was fantastic in her first major film role with The Tree of Life. For playing a character that’s supposed to embody all of the virtues of grace and compassion, she truly does exude that quality from her. She’s like a paragon of all that is beautiful in the world: Graceful, eloquent, always forgiving, incredibly meek, naturally beautiful. Despite conveying what is essentially a quality rather than an actual human being, she does it with such beauty that you’re enthralled the entire way through.
Honorable Mentions: Marion Cotillard – Midnight in Paris, Jennifer Aniston – Horrible Bosses, Julianne Moore – Crazy Stupid Love, Cate Blanchett – Hanna, Carrey Mulligan – Drive, Shailene Woodley – The Descendants
The Travis Bickle Award For Most Memorable Character
Lisbeth Salander as played by Rooney Mara in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
A goth, piercing-laden, tattoo-covered, high-functioning autistic, bisexual, supergenius hacker riding a motorbike. That is interesting by default, but there’s more to Lisbeth Salander than just those unique traits. She actually bears heavy emotional scars from years and years from abuse from men. The entire point of the story in both the book and the films is that she literally takes revenge on misogyny (The original title of the Swedish book was literally “Men Who Hate Women”). And while she’s definitely screwed up, she’s honestly a much better female role-model than the likes of all the Mary Sues and Bella Swans that dominate our culture. She’s actually strong, fierce, independent, and hey, she can kick your ass. And even in spite of her problems, she still displays strong hints of humanity, especially in the film’s heartbreaking final moment. While not exactly perfect, she’s one of the most fascinating human beings ever to grace the silver screen and she’s played wonderfully by Rooney Mara.
Honorable Mentions: Martha in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Mavis Gary in Young Adult, The Driver in Drive, George Melies in Hugo
The Typist Award For Best Screenplay
Sean Durkin from Martha Marcy May Marlene
What makes this script stand out the most for me is how effortlessly it shifts from reality to flashback, and how it gives small hints that one may or may not be the other or that those flashbacks may be just part of the protagonist’s imagination rather than real memories. It makes the film that much more disturbing and terrifying when you can’t pinpoint exactly where you are in the movie and how each of the transitions are so fluid that you really can’t tell reality and memory apart. It may not be Aaron Sorkin or William Shakespeare, but it’s definitely one of the most effective screenplays of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Steven Zallian – The Girl WIth The Dragon Tattoo, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life, Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist
The Kubrick-Approved Award For Best Director
Terrence Malick from The Tree of Life
Note: That’s not actually Malick in the picture, but it’s the best I could find of a behind the scenes pic considering how reclusive and secretive the director is
Few directors have accomplished the audacity and ambition that Terrence Malick has brought with The Tree of Life. It’s deeply personal to him, yet it’s able to connect with just about anyone who puts their mind to the film. He’s honestly this generations Stanley Kubrick, as foolishly high praise as that might seem, yet he has something that Kubrick didn’t: A warm, heartfelt sense of intimate emotion that contrasts nicely with Kubrick’s cold cynicism (Which there’s nothing wrong with, but it’s nice to have a different perspective). He attempts no less than to capture all of life with The Tree of Life and that’s enough to call him one of the most ambitious directors of all time. The fact that he succeeded in his vision so profoundly and so beautifully just makes him not just one of the most ambitious directors, but one of the best directors of all time period. Not that you needed more persuading considering he’s been creating masterpieces since the ’70s (Days of Heaven, Badlands, The Thin Red Line, The New World). But it isn’t until now that he’s basically reached a peak that will be tough for any other director to climb. Even if you weren’t a fan of the film, there’s no denying the artistry and talent that he employs with his camera. Give him a round of applause.
Honorable Mentions: Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive, Sean Durkin – Martha Marcy May Marlene, Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Phew. That was a long one. If you’d like to complain about how long this list was, agree/disagree with my opinions on the list, or ask how I was able to drug you and force you to read it all in the first place, you can leave a comment or something. You can also be notified of more of my shit by following me on twitter @Enigma6667.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get pumped for 2012. Happy New Year, everyone!