Movies

Late-year run of memorable films define 2011

By Jackson Santy ’13
THE ROUNDUP

Alas, Christmas lights have been taken down, “Elf” is no longer being played six times a day and Dick Clark has signed off for the New Year.

As we enter into 2012, it is a time to reflect on the year that was.

The year of 2011 was particularly uncharacteristic for the film industry.

I was generally unimpressed with a majority  of the film releases. It wasn’t until the tail end of the year that the industry began to turn it around.

This was an offbeat trend compared to years past, where the memorable Oscar-worthy films were released slightly earlier.

Nevertheless, despite Hollywood’s tardiness, this year’s best film releases spanned across a broad spectrum, from hauntingly beautiful to delightfully crass.

“50/50”

A comedy movie about cancer?

Believe it or not, it’s true.

There is no doubt that “50/50” is the funniest movie about a totally unfunny subject that you have ever seen.

Inspired by a true story, “50/50” is about a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has just found out he has been diagnosed with cancer and has a 50 percent chance of living.

The film illustrates that even in times of darkness we can always find humor, friendship and love.

Levitt, along with comedy star Seth Rogen, delivers a great performance transitioning from laugh out loud hilarious to painstakingly gloomy.

Although their performances were indeed talented, what really makes “50/50” so good is its writing.

The writing has incredible finesse with its constant transitions from jokes to drama.

“The Artist”

“The Artist” was without a doubt, the best movie of the year that you haven’t heard of—literally.

The film takes place in 1927 Hollywood during the pinnacle of the film industry just prior to the introduction of the “talkies” (movies with sound.)

And what better way to immerse viewers than to make the film itself silent and black and white.

“The Artist” is a crowd-pleasing homage to the wonderment of silent cinema; the film is jubilant and craftily ingenious with charming performances and visual styling.

When Oscar season begins, there is no doubt that “The Artist” will receive nominations for art direction, cinematography, directing and best picture.

“War Horse”

There were many public misconceptions when this film was released.

Prior to its release in theatres, many moviegoers had gathered this was yet another Hollywood war epic blockbuster.

However, to the surprise of many viewers, “War Horse” is the not typical war flick.

Instead, powerhouse director Steven Spielberg takes a different angle in the war movie genre.

“War Horse” cannot be compared to other Spielberg grandeurs like “Saving Private Ryan.”

The film focuses less on explosions and firefights and more on human emotion.

“War Horse” was so brilliantly done; it captivated the hearts of millions of viewers.

The film itself is a Best Picture Award’s dream, boasting brilliant acting, stunning scenery and a noteworthy director who’s been nominated before.

Will it win? Quite Possible.

Is it the best movie of the year? Meh.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”

Let’s face it; if a movie sells out almost nationwide for its midnight premier, it’s going to make this list.

Much to the dismay of its franchise fanatics, the renowned Harry Potter series came to an end this year.

Director David Yates outdid himself in this pièce de résistance, bringing viewers a more than satisfying end to the films, no matter how depressing it may be for fans.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” is a thrill ride that will leave viewers—well—spellbound.

The franchise undoubtedly has placed itself among renown film series as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and James Bond.

“The Interrupters”

Highly-acclaimed documentary filmmaker and Chicago native Steve James directs yet another magnificently gritty masterpiece.

“The Interrupters” centers on the harsh world of Chicago gang life and a group brave men and women (The Interrupters for which the film is named) who have dedicated their lives to ending gang violence.

The documentary spans throughout a year in the life of the city as it grapples with the epidemic of urban violence.

At the heart of the story are Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra, each of whom have deep backgrounds in street life as well as compelling stories of redemption.

Prior to seeing the film, I was skeptical as to whether or not it would measure up to James’ first and previous documentary, “Hoop Dreams.”

But sure enough, it did even more than measure up.

Without a doubt “The Interrupters” is a 10 out of 10, a rating that I’ve only ever given to three other films (“The Godfather,” “Schindler’s List” and “Casablanca”).

“Midnight in Paris”

Woody Allen’s newest brainchild was the epitome of his neuroticism that he illustrates so well in his film.

Even those who don’t enjoy the styling of Allen, will surely enjoy “Midnight in Paris.”

Other than that criticism, the movie was wildly entertaining.

“Bridesmaids”

Since its release, “Bridesmaids” has been described as a “female version of ‘The Hangover.’”

But it’s really so much more.

“Bridesmaids” differs from “The Hangover” because it actually has a solid plot.

Sure “The Hangover” has plenty of gut busting slapstick, as does “Bridesmaids”, but “Bridesmaids” is so much smarter in the way it’s written.

The plot is much more complex and deep yet has just as many laughs as “The Hangover.”

Writer and star Kristen Wiig has proved to be a dynamo in the comedic world and may very well be on as high a level as Tina Fey in a short time.

“Drive”

Unless you decided to go skydiving instead of seeing this movie, you missed a 100-minute adrenaline rush.

After getting out of the movie I had to resist every bone in my body that wanted to exit the theatre parking lot in a peel-out at 80 mph.

Honorable Mention:

“The Ides of March”

“The Descendents”

“The Tree of Life”