The Best and Worst of 2011 So Far

As always, I like to write about my favorite movies of the year so far before film festival season starts. I also like to point out if any of the movies I liked have any Oscar chances, and if they do I point them out.

So, how has the year been so far. I haven’t seen a lot of the main attraction like Thor, Captain America, Super 8, and even the most talked about film of the year, The Tree of Life. But from what I’ve seen, it’s been alright. I have seen my fair share of failures, as well as my fair share of decent and mediocre movies, but that’s always the case. But I have also seen more movies that I love than I would have expected. And there have even been a few movies that I loved that I never imagined I would enjoy.

So, here are my 10 favorites of the year so far, as well as the worse. Hopefully they’ll push you to either watch some of my favorite, and hopefully avoid the worst.

Best:

10. Hanna

Directed by Joe Wright

Hanna opens with quiet and moody shots of a snowy forest and a deer just walking around, minding it’s own business. We also see someone hiding among the trees. Then, bam, an arrow hits the deer. This sets the pace for what is going to be one of the most bizarre and exhilarating movies I will see all year. It’s bizarre in that it seems like it was made from an edgy comic book version of a Grimm fairy tale. With the gorgeous and kinetic cinematography, the awesome electronic score by The Chemical Brothers, the sharp editing, and the characters that borderline on caricatures, but never get there, and the perfect performances, Hanna is one of the most unique action movies I have seen in a couple of years.

Oscar chances: I’d say that it’s a long shot for a Best Actress nomination for Saoirse Ronan. It’s also got award worthy cinematography, editing, and costumes. But probably the only categories where it could have a better shot (but long still) are Best Original Score and Best Makeup.

9. Submarine

Directed by Richard Ayoade

There’s not much going on here story-wise. It’s just a simple coming of age story where a boy meets the girls of his dreams, his parents’s marriage is on the rocks, etc. However, this story is kind of the perfect showcase for first-time director Richard Ayoade to use all of his stylish tricks, and hence he refreshens the story and makes the movie actually interesting. It could have been much better, but it’s a rather strong debut for Ayoade.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2

Directed by David Yates

It was until my second viewing of the film that I actually thought that it was actually a really good movie. It still has it’s flaws, mainly some clunky editing, really bad directorial choices, and a score that doesn’t really fit the movie. But going in with the though that it was actually only half a film helped a lot. I actually found myself immersed in the actions scenes, I finally saw how good the entire cast, not only Alan Rickman, actually is, etc. Still, it could have been much better, but it’s a good finale nonetheless.

Oscar Chances: There’s talk of a Best Picture nomination because it is the last one, but I doubt it’ll get it, especially with the new rules that a movie has to get 5% of the number one votes to be considered. A nomination for Alan Rickman could happen, but it’s a long shot. But if it were to score in a major category, it would be Best Supporting Actor. Besides that, it’s a lock for a Best Visual Effects nomination, and probably for Best Art Direction (which it could win), and there’s a chance that it can get into the Cinematography, Makeup, and Score fields.

7. Winnie the Pooh

Directed by Stephen J. Anderson & Don Hall

Coming in at a little bit over 60 minutes, including credits, which you should sit through to watch a hilarious scene, it has more integrity and charm than just about every other movie that has come out this year. The only official sequel to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a reboot of sorts, as it introduces the characters to a new generation, and it does so by remaining faithful the characters we grew to love on the screen, and many others grew to love on the page. The comedy is very innocent but hilarious, the animation is gorgeous, the music is catchy, and the voice performances are great. A perfect animated movie.

Oscar Chances: Many would have you believe that because it is only an hour long and because it barely managed to make $25 million at the boxoffice that it’s out of the Animated Feature race. Not quite. It’s got the best reviews for an animated movie this year, and the animation branch is bound to love it. I’d say it’s a lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination. I can also see it get one or two nominations for Original Song, particularly for “Everything is Honey” and Zooey Deschanel’s “So Long.”

6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Talk about a surprise. I honestly didn’t think that this could turn out good, but they managed to do it. Thanks to a clever and rather original script, top-notch direction, and a great performance by Andy Serkis this movie rose (no pun intended) above just about every summer blockbuster, especially since just about half of them were superhero movies.

Oscar Chances: There is talk of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for  Andy Serkis for his mo-cap performance as Caesar. He would definitely deserve it, but I doubt it’ll happen right now with an association that is only now starting to take animation seriously. However, it is a lock for a Visual Effect nomination and it’s the favorite for the win.

5. The Help

Directed by Tate Taylor

The ads for The Help made it look like it was trying to be this year’s The Blind Side. Thankfully it wasn’t. Sure, it’s a by-the-numbers, sugarcoated look at Jackson, Mississippi before and during the civil-rights era (and that has caused controversy), but the performances, above average direction, and fine production values make it better than many of the movies that take on this time period.

Oscar Chances: Viola Davis should be a lock for a Best Actress nomination, as should Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress. These two could happen. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain got nominations for this. In other fields, Best Costume Design is it’s best bet, and maybe it could garner enough support for a Best Picture nomination.

4. Midnight in Paris

Directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s latest is an ode to the magic of the great city of Paris. He goes about this by actually making a nice movie where his usual cynicism kind of takes a back seat to the magic that unfold in front of the the screen. I’d rather not talk about it much, although if you read just about any review you’ll find out what goes on in the movie, just like I did. But I wish I didn’t know what I was getting into, as I believe that it would have been a much better experience. Can’t wait to watch it again.

Oscar Chances: It’s the only movie from the summer that many are calling a near lock for a Best Picture nomination. I can also see it getting an Original Screenplay nom. Best Director is also a possibility. In terms of performances, Marion Cotillard is a long shot. But if one performance deserves recognition, it’s Corey Stoll’s as Ernest Hemingway.

3. Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Directed by Mary McDonagh Murphy

Structure wise, it is a very ordinary documentary, but what makes this my number two of the year so far is how they take on the subject. This documentary talks about Harper Lee’s struggle to publish the book, what inspired her to write it, and how it affected not only the people around her, but also how it influence the civil rights movement. Using interviews, intercut with archival footage and interviews from Lee, and scenes from the movie adapattion of the book made this a very interesting documentary. Overall, it is a fascinating documentary, about a fascinating person, and her fascinating book.

P.S. Truman Capote was an ass.

2. Jane Eyre

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Having never read the novel, or even watched any of the many cinematic versions that have been made throughout the years, from the moments this starter playing, I was hooked. The first thing that grabbed me was Dario Marianelli’s brilliant score as it played during the opening credits. Then the dark, moody, and gorgeous cinematography drew me in even more. The the story kicked in, and it had me. I was hooked by Jane Eyre’s woeful life, then by the mystery that surrounded her life in Thornfield. Cary Fukunaga’s direction, and the performances from Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender sealed the deal for me. Granted the ending is kind of silly, but everything before it is so freaking great, that I can’t fault it.

Oscar Chances: The cinematography, costumes, art direction, and score are definitely contenders. And Wasikowska could be considered a longshot.

1. Certified Copy

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Certified Copy premiered last year at the Cannes film festival, and it won the best actress prize for Juliette Binoche’s performance. Since then I read so much about, and althoug I hadn’t seen any other of the director’s movies, I could not wait to watch it. Finally I did, and I was blown away. From the first static shot of a table with a microphone and a book, with the sounds of a crowd gathering off screen, I was entranced. It’s gorgeously shot (best digital cinemtography yet?), with engaging dialogue, thought provoking scenes, and a great performance by Binoche that may very well be her best (that’s saying something). It’s a beautiful and challenging experience that I look forward to watching more over the years. It’ll be hard for another movie to top Certified Copy this year.

Oscar Chances: In a perfect world, Juliette Binoche would be the front runner for Best Actress, but anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the Academy won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. But, I guess you could consider her a long shot.

Worst

1. Sucker Punch– Never has a movie make me hate myself for watching it.

2. Battle: Los Angeles– Filmmaking at its very worst and terrible propaganda

3. Red Riding Hood– If you hire one of the worst directors out there and have a terrible script, an attractive cast will not automatically make it good. I feel sorry for Amada Seyfried, Gary Oldman, and Michael Hogan

4. London Boulevard– Despicable. Fun performances from Anna Friel and David Thewlis can only take it so far.

5. Les Amours Imaginaires– I don’t like to use the word “pretentious” because being prentious can sometimes be a good thing, but this just goes overboard.

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