It is September. We’ve had the Oscars, Cannes and the blockbuster season, and this weekend saw the end of the Venice film festival. So, most of what was to happen in film this year has already happened. Time for a little overview then.
Last year I kept lists of the best ten and the worst ten films of the year. I’ve done the same thing for this year so far. And to start off on a good note: this year’s worst films aren’t that much worse than last year’s worst films. 2011’s Clash of the Titans was Conan the Barbarian, in terms of noisy nonsense, but Conan still offered some fun. Last year we had a Sex and the City sequel, this year we had the third Transformers movie. Those two cancel each other out. The same goes for Sucker Punch and Prince of Persia, and for Get Low and Fair Game. The ‘worst films of 2011’ list, for all the dreadful terrors that are on it, is not my main concern.
I have two main concerns. The first one is the list of films that should have been on the ‘worst film’ list, but aren’t there, because the list is already filled. I’m thinking of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, of the superfluous The Eagle, of the failed Horrible Bosses and the incoherent The Rite (review forthcoming). That these films are now in the large bulk of ‘mediocre’ films is a problem.
My second concern is the ‘best films of 2011’ list. There are films on there that really don’t deserve to be there. Mainly because I am still to stumble upon anything resembling A Serious Man, or The Hurt Locker. True Grit, though good, was nowhere near the Coen’s best work, and Oscar grabber The King’s Speech felt strangely tame and artificial, despite outstanding performances.
So on this year’s ‘best of’ list, so far, we find such films as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Rango. For a film to be simply exciting (Rise…) or simply funny (Rango), and for it to showcase impressive technological advances (both) is now good enough. Just compare: In 2010 the one animated movie on the list was Toy Story 3. Now it is Rango.
Of course The Fighter was excellent, and so was Black Swan. And Bridesmaids was fantastically funny, despite the excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Source Code is the closest we’ll get to an Inception this year. But it is the closest to it, not a match. Furthermore Bridesmaids doesn’t hold up to Four Lions or Kick Ass. And I am yet to find anything as emotionally charged as Winter’s Bone or El Secreto de Sus Ojos. Harry Potter 7.2 was satisfying, but not much more than that…
Nothing to feel really good about then? Well, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were not as bad as I expected them to be. They were surprisingly entertaining actually, apart from the action scenes. X-Men: First Class lived up to its expectations, and Fast Five was an outrageous guilty pleasure. These films kinda make up for the big let down of Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.
But in conclusion, all in all? Quite too many films did not live up to potential or expectations or the sheer common decency of meeting the lowest level of quality you can still get away with. 2011 is just not good enough. Yet.
What’s left to look forward then? Well, the award films will start pouring in, with strong contenders in We Need To Talk About Kevin, Martha Marcy May Marlene, War Horse, The Help, The Iron Lady, We Bought a Zoo and The Ides of March. And perhaps the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake. But I’m looking forward most to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which really should see Gary Oldman pick up a long overdue little gold statue.
Best of 2011 so far: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, True Grit, Rango, Source Code, Bridesmaids, Harry Potter 7.2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Tree of Life.
Worst of 2011, so far: The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Paul, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Unknown, Sucker Punch, Get Low, Conan the Barbarian and The Tree of Life.
Yes. Malick’s is in both categories. Everyone who has seen it will understand.