You may recall (never) having read how I’ve missed authentic cinema after seeing Rabbit Hole, which remains one of my all-time favourites. Having watched Sherlock Holmes 2 and Mission Impossible 4 back-to-back, I miss that feeling of nostalgia for meaningful stories.
In both instances, plots fail to stay in mind as much as mindless action and banter. And as you would recognise, sequels and remakes remain rampant. But that is not to say that 2011 was not a great year for films. There were actors who gave heartfelt performances and screenwriters who churned out brilliant words. These were my top five for the year.
5. X-Men First Class
More disapproving voices surface in the distance. After the disastrous X-Men Origins, who would have thought the negative reactions unjust? But Matthew Vaughn’s First Class reignites the franchise with a serious take on the thought-provoking duality of the X-Men and the Brotherhood’s beliefs. A surprising choice of casting turns in layered, emotive performances as their convictions take on separate paths. Thrown into the mix is some light fun coupled with tight action that is bound to entertain both comic fans and the average movie-goer.
4. Midnight in Paris
The beauty of Woody Allen’s works is often in the charm of his screenplays. This time, he brings his wit and fantastical touch to Paris in the 20s. It is almost impossible to not fall in love with each elegantly crafted character of the literate and artistic world back then. Capturing the nostalgia of a romanticised long-gone era, Midnight in Paris is not just a beautiful love story, but one set against an immersive and surreal dream.
3. We Bought A Zoo
Nobody expects much from a plain title like this. It seems dull and the film would have been, if not for the brilliant writer at helm. We Bought A Zoo is essentially a down-to-earth, modern fairy tale. The zoological business venture is a little aside, secondary to Cameron Crowe’s story of family and loss. Actors provide honest voices to their authentic characters that make them easy to relate to. As always with Crowe’s films, a memorable soundtrack finds an organic fit in its natural, soothing sounds.
Speaking of soundtrack, Drive has a phenomenal tracklist that will linger with its unforgettable scenes. Soundtrack aside, I’m having a little trouble with writing about this movie. The cinematic experience can hardly be described in words. Featuring the elegantly haunting Kavinsky’s Nightcall, the opening sequence encapsulates the lasting quietude in its dark mood. Beauty engages and captures without the need for words. It requires and acquires Ryan Gosling’s precision in his portrayal of the Driver that is empathetic yet distant, and intimidating but gripping.
Like Funny People, 50/50 has a plot that centres on cancer and the presence of Seth Rogen. That being said, writer Will Reiser looks to his own experience for a grounded script that holds up as its own. Third Rock From The Sun‘s Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen are no strangers to comedy, and the pairing works. Amid the light-hearted moments, it never once forgets the constant struggle in the fight against the disease. Gordon-Levitt’s emotional performance feels genuine, and deserves a few accolades for moving many to tears.
Honourable mentions go to Attack The Block and Red State, which almost made the list. I’m still looking forward to catch films I’ve been hearing great things about, especially Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and We Need To Talk About Kevin that will hit theatres and DVD in the coming months. Till then.