2011: MY YEAR IN FILM

page 3

christopher funderburg

  2011 AWARDS & IGNOMINIES

Worst titles:

HappyThankYouMorePlease.

Martha Marcy May Marlene.

There Be Dragons. (this movie is not about dragons, it is about the Spanish Civil War.)

The Myth of the American Sleepover.

Sympathy for Delicious.

The Music Never Stopped.

I Am.

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

The Other F Word.

 

Worst punning title (which I guess at least actually qualifies as a pun):

The Big Uneasy.

 

The "Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons Award" for an actor giving it all in a film he really shouldn't have:

Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun.

(Seriously, my friend, it's not worth it.)

Runner-up: Gary Oldman in Little Red Riding Hood.

 

The "Wish They Had Gotten the Adrien Brody in Thin Red Line Treatment Award" for an actor who did the most to ruin the film in which they were appearing:

The anachronistically styled, personality-free non-dancer Berenice Bejo in The Artist. She employs exactly three expressions: "child star!" ultra-smiley, "whoopsie-doopsie" embarrassment and "I can't believe they cancelled Lone Star" pouty sadness. My comments are something that will anger a few people right now, but in three years no one will even remember who I am talking about.

 

The "Monica Potter Award" for a bland, charmless actress being forced down audience's throat despite their demonstrable indifference:

Juno Temple in Kaboom, Dirty Girl, Killer Joe and The Three Musketeers. Up next: Lovelace and The Dark Knights Rises.

 

The "Local Hero Award" for an over-rated "under-rated" film:

The Devil's Double.

 

The "Stanley Kubrick Award" for a film that attempts to bully audiences with its cold, aggressive style and "genius":

Martha Marcy May Marlene.

 

The "Robert Redford Award" for a filmmaker coasting on a decades old reputation:

Roman Polanski, Carnage. (Ouch. I didn't want to do it.)

 

Really, is this a trend?:

No Strings Attached, Friends with Benefits.

 

Star for whom it is most easy to root for their failure:

Bradley Cooper: Limitless, The Hangover Part II.

 

Also, I feel like I should mention that when Pixar doesn't make a masterpiece, it really underscores just how brutal the world of kids' animation is. Was Rango (which is an ok movie) really the best animated family film of the year? These are the only other options:

Kung Fu Panda 2.

Mars Needs Moms.

Rio.

Happy Feet 2.

Puss in Boots.

Those are the highlights. The highlights.

 

The "House by the Edge of the Park Award" for an overhyped cult film that is actually pretty boring and not nearly as "crazy" its makers and fans believe it to be:

Rubber.

runner-up:

Hobo with a Shotgun.

 

For the Museum of AmerInide style:

HappyThankYouMorePlease.

alternate:

The Myth of the American Sleepover.

2nd alternate:

Pariah.

 

The "Van Hesling Award" for a beautifully awful movie:

A lot of people would vote for Drive Angry, but that film's "outrageousness" was little forced, smug and self-satisfied - and it's disqualified on that account. Nicolas Cage is coming pretty close to ruining "beautifully terrible" as a genre altogether. Sucker Punch probably rates a mention, but again, it's "craziness" is so pandering and craven, that I can't get behind it. There's too much of a "giant robot samurai statues with chain-guns ZOMG!!!?!? Wtf?!?!" to its very concept for it to deserve this award.  Should I give it to Another Earth, a movie that is so fucking awful and stupid that I kinda like it? It's a dour, high concept sci-fi film about an essay contest. And it. is. awful. Nah, this one has to go to Red Riding Hood, the ridiculously concieved Twilight-ifaction of a brief, repetitive children's story, in which bug-eyed Amanda Seyfried uses Gary Oldman's severed arm to defeat a werewolf. The film ends with a soft-focus love scene.

The "It's a Knock-off Award" for best eponymous theme song:

Chipwrecked, from Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. I dare you to verify this.

 

The "Worst Case of Futro Award" for production design intended to look futuristic, but instead looks instantly dated:

The wrist-band guns from Cowboys & Aliens.

 

The "I Think I Love My Wife Award" for a film just good enough to deserve a bad review:

Drive.
If you say, "hommage to to mid-80's William Friedkin and Michael Mann flicks," I'm right there with you buddy. And director Nicolas Winding Refn has proven he will always make films with style to burn. His faithful revamping of Thief and To Live and Die in L.A. undoubtedly has something special about it, but like its main character it just never gets its head right - this is a movie that leaves me suspecting its makers and star of the most shallow "this shit is awesome" intentions. It's not fair to saddle a film with the actions of its audience, but I couldn't but think "that sounds about right" when I heard a Drive superfan threw a hot-dog at Tiger Woods because the film inspired him to "do something epic." This is not a movie to inspire complex thoughts or emotions in its audience, it's a film very carelessly built on the back of totally rad badass attitude and it's hard to imagine anyone having a reaction to it deeper than "it's so fucking cool." But there's something unseemly about the loving detail with which the slow-motion camera lingers on Christina Hendricks' skull as it is annihlated by a shotgun blast or the way it attempts to acknowledge that hero Ryan Gosling is a ridiculous psychopath only to stylistically reassure us that his faults don't make him any less awesome. On top of that, there are a bunch of awful performances in the film, like the ones from Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman (and I normally love those guys) - stunt-casting Albert Brooks works in that Brooks is great, but the stale air of the stunt lingers through even his hyperbolically violent (once again lovingly-photographed) death. There's nothing at stake, just one cool thing after another, Gosling's relationship with Cary Mulligan an undercooked nothing that exists solely to make the scenes of violence involving her even more, like, totally fucking sick, dude. I like this movie. I think. I'm certainly impressed by it, but it's swathed in a kind of forced phoniness that I'm sure the filmmakers would use words like "pastiche," "post-modern" and "commentary on genre" to justify. This is a film that luxuriates in its own opulent coolness above anyting else - there's no way for it to be anything other than totally awesome. It'll make you want to throw a hot-dog at a disgraced golfer.

 

Look, I've already said all I have to say about Tree of Life.

 

Biggest Gulf Between Reputation and Actual Film Quality:

Shame.

runner-up:

A Dangerous Method.

 

Movies for which folks went bananas that did not make me go bananas:

The Artist.

Senna.

Hugo.

Jack and Jill. (hey, people went bananas in the negative sense; the movie didn't bug me.)

The Adventures of Tin Tin.

X-Men: The First Class.

Attack the Block.

Heartbeats.

Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Project Nim.

 

I literally can't believe anyone liked this film:

Take Shelter.


It has been popping up on year-end "Best of" lists with surprising consistency, but I genuinely can't imagine why. Bland, flat and repetitive with an absolutely idiotic ending, there's no reason to remember this cliched tale of burgeoning schizophrenia (or is it?!?) and truly no reason to single it out for accolades. It's great if you like endless cat-scare dream sequences punctuated by our hero waking up suddenly in a pool of sweat/urine. Seriously, if anyone tells you that you should see this film, that's a perfect signal to ignore anything else they ever have to say. This film isn't worth anybody's time, not even a Michael Shannon fanatic such as myself.

 

Movies people loved that made me go the opposite of bananas (i.e. depressed me with their crappiness):

Midnight in Paris.

A Dangerous Method.

Into the Abyss.

Hobo with a Shotgun.

Win Win.

Incendies.

Rubber.

 

Movies I missed and I don't feel like I missed anything - but I mean literally, as though seeing them would have zero effect or meaning and that I would be exactly the same person before and after the screening and have no new thoughts or opinions or ideas in my head. The idea of seeing these movies holding as much interest to me as staring off into space for an hour or reading on the internet about heroic cats:

Of Gods and Men.

Contagion.

The Green Hornet.

The Ides of March.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

My Week with Marilyn.

 

Movies you have forgotten existed:

Sanctum.

Flypaper.

Abduction.

 

Great films that I saw in 2010 (or earlier):

Tabloid.

Insidious.

Super.

13 Assassins.

Submarine.

The Time that Remains.

 

Films that would have been on my 2010 "Favorites" list if I'd hadn't seen them only recently:

Mother.

How Do You Know.

Toy Story 3.

Tangled.

 

 

Movie I should mention in some capacity:

Sucker Punch.
This thing is like the zero point for nerd culture, a shining example of how the pseudo-sophistication of comic book culture and craziness of "what if it were a samurai zombie Nazi ninja!??!" meme-forging have sprinted well past their point of total creative exhuastion. This is the film that pop culture has been building to for the past five years and the results aren't even mildly interesting - it's all nubile ass-kicking women in fetish gear taking on the most cliched message-board memes, post-modern genre mash-up jerk-off material structured around faux-intellectual "like, what is exploitation really? And for that matter what is reality?" musing that inarguably take a page from Alan Moore's "I really have a philosophy about what I jerk off to" playbook. Am I being too oblique when I say that if you declare Watchmen one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, you're begging for movies like Zack Snyder's "they're stripper mental patient ass-kickers!" movie to get made? Purists like to claim Snyder botched his adaptation of Moore's work - Sucker Punch shows he understands Moore and the ascendant comic book culture warriors better than they understand themselves. What's your argument against me? Thor? The Green Lantern?

 

    BEST RE-RELEASES

 

RED DESERT

 

 

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP

 

 

LE RAYON VERT

 

 

POSSESSION

 

 

THE WAGES OF FEAR

 

Standout Performances:

Aggeliki Papoulia (Alps), Asuka Kurosawa & Denden (Cold Fish), Felippo Timi (The Double Hour), Fumi Nikaido (Himizu), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Albert Brooks (Drive), Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe), John Cho & Kal Penn (A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas), Anna Paquin (Margaret), Donnie Yen (Ip Man 2), Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia).

 

My favorite performances of the year:

Maria Onetto (Puzzle)

Joel Michael Murray (God Bless America)

Lau Ching-Wan (Life without Principle)

 

  MEMORABLE MOMENTS, SCENES AND CHARACTERS FROM 2011

Joel Michael Murray walks away from the car in slow motion... until the flaming rag falls out of the gas tank. Time for a new plan. God Bless America.

"Oh, you weren't watching it, but you saw it." You just can't win water cooler discussions. God Bless America.

Charlotte Gainsbourg can't relax and decides to compare the wire ring to Melancholia one more time.

On top of a table, versus Sammo Hung, Ip Man fights his way into a business arrangement. Ip Man 2.

The arrogant boxer makes fun of the Chinese "dancing" and disrupts the exhibition by pummelling some unsuspecting Chinese boxers. You will root for him to get stomped by Mr. Ip Man (2.)

The Bruce Lee impression and "Prince isn't dead?" Alps.

[Smash the lamp.] Alps.

"It is like the Alps. No one could ever replace those peaks, but who would complain if a lesser mountain were replaced by them?"

An interlude with the Angel of Death. Chicken with Plums.

Maria de Medieros smashes the violin... and then after a film you understand her reasons. Chicken with Plums.

Flash-forward to the reality t.v. life of Nassir-Ali's son, in which his daughter thinks she's going to fart after eating a pizza, but instead gives birth. Chicken with Plums.

"You're good-looking man, more or less" Alan Tudyk to Tyler Labine. Tucker & Dale Versus Evil.

Chanokporn Sayoungkul as the breathtaking beauty who redeems our faithless hero, only to lead to his second downfall. Headshot.

A double-cross, a chase in the rain, a Buddhist turned badass. Headshot.

The crazy looks Ryan Gosling gives Cary Mulligan just before the elevator doors close, right after he has stomped in a dude's head. Drive.

Stealing underwear. Tree of Life.

The pastor's suddenly moving story about a golf cart and a panicked squirrel. Into the Abyss.

Shooting Uggy. The Artist.

Oh jeez, I wish I hadn't just seen Matthew McConaughey force Gina Gershon at gunpoint to fellate a greasy piece of "K-Fry-C." Killer Joe.

Maria Onetto diligently attends to all of the guests, lovingly prepares all the food, bakes a cake and lights the candles... at her own birthday party. Puzzle.

Maria Onetto remains skeptical as her burly, blue-collar husband attempts to convince her to hug a tree as part of a yoga regimen. Puzzle.

A casual, unexpectedly declaration of "hey... I really like you" from husband to wife. Puzzle.

A butcher knife spins on the edge of the countertop, lets hope it doesn't drop directly down into our hero's face! Final Destination 5.

A bus trapped on a collapsing bridge. Another stellar opening disaster set-piece from the Final Destination series.

Mission in-freakin'-sanity: the gloriously ludicrous heist finale of Fast Five.

Pushed too far, Ludivine Sagnier breaks down in the parking parking and assaults her own car. Love Crimes.

Is Kristin Scott Thomas coming on to Ludivine Sagnier? Love Crime.

Ludivine Sagnier suddenly appears, covered head-to-toe in a white hazmat suit. Love Crime.

Gary Oldman's engaging interiority, suggestive opacity in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Oldman has already chartered you a plane back home. Here it comes now, right down the runway. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Elena Anaya's luminous, pale, flawless skin - not a bad place to live in. The Skin I Live In.

The two rapes that aren't, first with a furry and then with Antonio Banderas' paranoid teenage daughter. The Skin I Live In.

The erotic cosmonauts. Crazy Horse.

"Les filles du craazeeeee!" Crazy Horse.

A bunch of pretentious strippers gather around backstage to laugh at a bootleg tape of Bolshoi ballerinas wiping out. Crazy Horse.

Speed dating. The Double Hour.

"I thought you were giving me a signal not to say anything!" Anna Paquin's unbearably uncomfortable meeting with bus driver Mark Ruffalo. Margaret.

Jean Reno's indelicate thoughts on Zionism earn him a glass of wine in the face. Margaret.

Anna Paquin lets Matt Damon and a random teacher know that she had an abortion, just in case he was curious. Margaret.

Unflappable Rory Culkin accepts the invitation to take Anna Paquin's virginity and can't quite live up to his "too cool for school" demeanor. Margaret.

"This isn't about you, it's not some subplot in the story of your life, this is my friend that died and I'll never see her again." Margaret.

The sister is going to take the deal - who is Anna Paquin, again? Margaret.

Raising funds any way they can and making an excuse for the overnight trip. I Wish.

The kindly old couple that save the pack of children from a night on the street and a complete botch of the mission. I Wish.

They check his backpack, but the puppy doesn't come back to life. I Wish.

Things get out of hand on the dancefloor during carnivale and there's nothing Aaron Eckhart can do about it. Rum Diary.

The cop suddenly interrupts the devil's activities at the greenhouse, the rows of flourescent lights flick on. I Saw the Devil.

A gallows, lovingly built by mom and dad. Himizu.

The rocks Keiko keeps as a tally of Sumida's transgressions. Himizu.

Wandering the wasteland of flattened homes in Fukashima. Himizu.

The boring business meeting with the exotic fisher buyer turns into a bloodbath. Cold Fish.

A dazed, blood-drenched Asuka Kurosawa doesn't understand that our hero is trying to kill her - she's in love! Cold Fish.

Cut up the body, burn the bones, scatter the ashes. Cold Fish.

The beautiful junk pin-wheels and scrap-paper dioramas that spring up around Cocco at the chilling, unendurable climax of Kotoko.

Shinya Tsukamoto breaks into Cocco's apartment to find her soaked in blood on the bathroom floor, nearly dead from self-inflicted wounds. Somehow, the results are one of the funniest scenes of the year. Kotoko.

An unstable schizophrenic making stir-fry while holding a real live baby. Kotoko.

"Hi-o-eh-chuga." Cocco's beautiful song to her son in Kotoko.

Panther bets on the stock prices to go up. Life without Principle.

The loan officer played by Denise Ho convinces the meek old woman to invest in BRIC stocks - it only takes several attempts to get a usable recording of her consent. Life without Principle.

The robbery in the parking lot goes wrong in an amazing number of ways. Life without Principle.

    MY FAVORITE SCENES OF THE YEAR

Tara Lynne Barr's monologue about everything she hates and Joel Michael Murray's affectless interjection, "I like sports." God Bless America.

Raising bail for a brother in need, finally bailing him out of the East Kowloon jail... and then his immediate arrest by the West Kowloon gang-monitoring squad. Life without Principle.

Just as the trains pass, the children call out their wishes, including some new ones we didn't know were coming. I Wish.

 - christopher funderburg
2/23/12

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