I'm about to post my Top Ten of 2011 list but there are still a few films I wanted to comment on briefly before I release the list. Most of these are films that have received some love this year during the awards season, which is why I wanted to weigh in on them before I close out my 2011 reviews for good. Anyway, here they are and my Top Ten should be on here in the next few days.
The Artist - Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, and John Goodman - Rated PG-13
This is the heavy hitter this year as this film continues to win award after award. First off, it has the gimmick of being a silent film, which does make it interesting. Secondly, it is funny, entertainging, and touching. That said, I don't understand why this film is considered anything other than a cute experiment in filmmaking. I guess some people are just falling in love with the film, but I only found it amusing. I just feel that giving this film accolades is comparable to giving Chicago the Best Picture award just because it's something we haven't seen...for awhile. Let's not forget, Hollywood didn't make silent films because they thought they were the best way to get stories out there; they made them because that's all the technology allowed for. I think this film was made more for Hollywood types than it was for a regular audience. All of this is really in response to the film's reception thus far. If not for all the awards, I would probably devote much more space to what I liked about the film, but if you want to read a love fest about this film, just check out...nearly every single other review of it.
Oh, and one last thing: that old timey soundtrack was amusing for the first ten minutes but it became very annoying very quickly. Once again, there's a reason why they don't make silent films anymore.
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Written and directed by Sean Durkin, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, and John Hawkes - Rated R
By far one of the most disturbing films of the year. Elizabeth Olsen is the best part of this film and if she doesn't get nominated for Best Actress this year, it's only a matter of time. She does a great job as mentally disturbed former cult member. Of course, it's easy to look disturbed once you've been around John Hawkes for a while. Hawkes gives yet another quiet, menacing performance that surpasses his Oscar-nominated turn in Winter's Bone. The film itself is one that demands a few viewings and actually deserves them as well. It is a disjointed film and some elements may slip past in one viewing. Overall, an effective film. Although I would rather have seen more cult scenes and less sister bickering scenes.
Coriolanus - Directed by Ralph Fiennes, written by John Logan, starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, and Vanessa Redgrave - Rated R
This film seems to be getting attention only for Redgrave's performance. She is great, but there's so much more to this Shakespeare adaptation. First off, kudos to Fiennes for wanting to bring a lesser known work to the big screen. Secondly, John Logan's adaptation is one of those effective slight updates that feels logical rather than goofy. Fiennes, in an impressive directorial debut, proves, if anything, that he can shoot a very effective action sequence. If they ever make a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare movie, Fiennes would be a no-brainer. His acting is great, too. As the temperamental Coriolanus, Fiennes seethes through the role. His angry outbursts are fantastic and you can just see the anguish in his face as he holds back in the early scenes. Gerard Butler does fine, as well, if for no other reason than he is speaking in his natural accent again (I don't know how many more American accent attempts I can stand from him...). Some may take issue with Coriolanus as a character, but I found his resolve fascinating. It's refreshing to see a character/politician who is unwilling to shill to the masses rather than speak his or her mind. Finally, the film simply captivated me. I was with it all the way. One of the best adaptations of Shakespeare in a long time.
*I found these last few to be a bit less substantial (except Bellflower and We Need to Talk About Kevin, those films have grown on me, I just can't express how I feel about them properly just yet) than the above films so I'm going to finish up with some very brief comments on a handful of films.
The Ides of March
I dug it and all, but it felt a bit too much like Primary Colors. Someone becoming disenfranchised with politics? Doesn't that describe the general public at this point? It just came off as a bit too serious, especially considering that the point of the film is over a decade too late.
The Iron Lady
What can I say? I knew next to nothing about Margaret Thatcher going in and after the film was over I didn't necessarily understand why there was a film made about her. A documentary would do just fine. But hey, whatever reason you need to give Meryl Streep another Oscar, right? For the record, she does an impressive job. It would just be nice to see some new faces win Best Actress.
This one is getting all the attention for Christopher Plummer's supporting performance of an elderly gay man. He's fine, but I still think Albert Brooks was better in Drive. The film itself is entertaining and fresh, though I can never truly buy Ewan McGregor as a plucky American...
The synopsis for this film is so nuts it had to be great. Basically it's a story about two guys who want to make a flamethrower for their post-apocalyptic car so they're ready for a Road Warrior-type future. That aspect of it is weird and cool and definitely makes the entire film worth it, but what makes Bellflower something special is out it accurately portrays young people and relationships. Sure it's a bit crazy, but it gets the tone right. And there are a few cool images, as well. Worth watching just for the oddity of it all, but worth watching again for how good it is.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
I found this movie utterly effective...and I never want to see it again.. Easily one of the most disturbing films of recent memory. Tilda Swinton is great, but Ezra Miller and Jasper Newell steal the show as Kevin (at different ages). You want to keep young people from getting pregnant? Make them watch this movie. Seriously, this movie messed with me for days. I've recommended it to multiple people and now I feel bad about it...