Year-In-Review (Editor’s Honorable Mentions)

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2011 presented a nice eclectic view of cinema we haven’t seen throughout the years.  If we summed it up to a ‘theme’ for the year, “silence” or “origins of cinema” would come to mind.  Films like Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” and Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” would fall in line with those thoughts. 

When creating my ballots for the Best of the Year, the are obvious categories that are stacked to the brim which would be inevitable for some omissions that in other years would either make the shortlist or be the clear front winner.  I’ll address all of these as the week’s ‘Year-In-Review’ winds down but I’ll be curious to hear the thoughts of our readership.

Listed below is the Honorable Mention films ranking my #20 through #11 along with the unranked citations of certain films from the year.

Unranked Flawed but Worthy Works of 2011

  • “50/50”
    • A comedic look at a very serious subject showcasing a terrific lead turn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the unbelievably ignored Anjelica Huston.
  • “Carnage”
    • One of the year’s great ensembles bringing forth a return-to-form performance from Jodie Foster and a hilarious turn from Christoph Waltz.  It’s good to see a light Roman Polanski making solid work.
  • “Certified Copy”
    • Juliette Binoche turns in one of the greatest performances of her career while filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami uses artistry and terrific camera work by Luca Bigazzi to illustrate one of the more even tempered films of the year.
  • “Hot Coffee”
    • A small documentary that didn’t make much of a splash but resonated loudly as presidential election looms near and the economy seems to be hurting the working class and protecting CEO’s and politicians who swore to protect us.
  • “Like Crazy”
    • Felicity Jones is one 2011’s greatest finds as this love story from Drake Doremus and along with co-star Anton Yelchin finds a sense of originality and beauty behind two people from opposite sides of the world that seem destined to be together…or are they?
  • “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
    • Sean Durkin makes a big debut and introducing us to the likes of Elizabeth Olsen who portrays the dark and enigmatic Martha who can’t find peace after escaping a cult.  Olsen delivers on the promise while John Hawkes goes deeper and darker then we though he could.
  • “The Muppets”
    • Jason Segel brings the Muppets back to the big screen and reminds us how important they were to us in the first place.  A wonderful shuffle of songs that show off the subtle comedy and heart remains, one of the great soundtrack of the year.
  • “Super 8”
    • JJ Abrams follow up from “Star Trek” didn’t live up to the hype necessarily but it did give an even enough story while showing great works from child actors Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning in this ‘E.T.-like’ aura stricken film that has great sound and visual effects.
  • “Take Shelter”
    • Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain set the screen on fire in this demented and twisted film about a man who we may or may not believe is losing touch with reality.
  • “War Horse”
    • Steven Spielberg always puts his best foot forward and while the story wasn’t paced or created in the best of fashions, it was a joyous visual film that allowed newcomer Jeremy Irvine and Emily Watson to show some beautiful humanity.

                    Honorable Mentions (#20-#11)

#20: “Winnie the Pooh

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The return of ‘Pooh Bear’ was a heartwarming and wonderful surprise.  Despite a very short and quick take on an extended tale, the film was a throwback to a childhood once forgotten.

#19: “Arthur Christmas

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One of the most endearing and enchanting animated features of the year, this underrated gem gave the proper dose of heart and laughs and giving a breath of fresh air to the Christmas movie season without being pretentious or predictable.

#18: “Hugo

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Though the script is uneven at times, on the basis of visuals alone, this is one of the best things to come out of 2011.  Containing hands-down the best 3-D experience I’ve ever encountered and a terrific cinematic love letter to the origins of film, it’s a respectable take from director Martin Scorsese.

#17: “The Tree of Life

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Terrence Malick, one of the great directors of modern cinema, created one of the most alarming and visually striking pieces of work in years.  Though the narrative requires much more from the viewer than one would like, I can applaud the artistic and emotional value beset by the writer/director along with outstanding performances from newcomer Hunter McCracken, Brad Pitt, and Jessica Chastain.

#16: “Midnight in Paris

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Woody Allen’s return to form is a welcomed addition to a great year for cinema.  Showcasing career best work from Owen Wilson, this story about a man transported back in time in Paris was a unique and funny spin on the European romance.  Co-stars Marion Cotillard and Corey Stoll also allow the characters to run rapid in their acting talents presenting two outstanding performances.

#15: “Pariah

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Very excited that I caught this small, independent feature last minute thanks to a big push from the studio and fellow staff writer Michael Ward.  Writer/director Dee Rees brings a light, reserved tale on the inner conflict of a young African-American girl, Alike and her constant battle with her sexuality.  Along with her overbearing mother portrayed brilliantly by Kim Wayans, Alike’s devastating story takes hold on your heart and shatters it before its 86 minute end.  Not to mention, Adepero Oduye gives THE breakout performance of the year that many voters will likely forget.  I promise I won’t.

#14: “Crazy, Stupid, Love

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Reinventing the romantic-comedy genre and pushing up a notch, this terrific summer film bringing forth one of the best ensembles of the year, inhabits a strong sense of family, friendship, and of course, love.  Steve Carell has never been better while Ryan Gosling (and his abs) stretches his acting legs out into a more dynamic and well-rounded role.  With a screenplay by Dan Fogelman,  “Crazy, Stupid, Love” remains the great summer surprise of the year.

#13: “Warrior

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Gavin O’Connor takes great actors Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte and pushes them to their limits in this modern day “family-fighter” tale.  Though definitely not the most original take on a genre seen, it’s the performances and terrifically paced and directed qualities that makes “Warrior” so successful.  While Nolte will likely be recognized for his recovering father work, Edgerton and Hardy will both be left on the sidelines as the true stars of this uproariously tender film.

#12: “Bridesmaids

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You can’t leave 2011 without giving a solid salute to the wonderful ladies of “Bridesmaids.”  Easily one of the best ensembles of the year and introducing the talents of Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd, this summer blockbuster allowed ‘Saturday Night LIVE’ star Kristen Wiig to stretch out her legs in performance and writing and leaving a lasting impression for years to come. 

#11: “A Better Life

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Chris Weitz, responsible for penning and directing “About a Boy” develop and nailed one of the most electrifyingly and beautiful stories of the year.  While all the praise seems to be on the performance of great actor, Demian Bichir, you can’t take Bichir’s ‘Carlos’ without applauding a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat or the honest and leveling work of Jose Julian or the rapturously morose finale that didn’t leave a eye dry in any theater or living room across the world.

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Tune in Tuesday for the year’s best scenes, shots, and genres of 2011.  Tomorrow, the Awards Circuit Community Awards ballots will open up.  Get your ballots together.

Comment and discuss.