It's a little curious in retrospect to see how everyone was harping on early 2011 as being some harbinger of a huge box office slump; that was all any pundit was talking about in the first few months of the year. I'm no box office prognosticator, but even I could've told you that comparing early 2011 to early 2010 would've been a bad idea, since Avatar was still making boatloads of money in early 2010...and every movie released in the winter was terrible.
That's an overstatement, of course, but not by a large amount. Our early-year reviews are littered with one and two-star reviews. For every movie that I genuinely liked, like Source Code, I was forced to sit through a half-dozen clunkers like Dylan Dog or The Rite. Winter has always been the dumping ground for films that studios expect to underperform or are contractually obligated to release to theaters, regardless of their quality, but it's been a long time since I can recall a season as filled with non-starters as early 2011 was. Even if you weren't a fan of the summer films thus far, we can at least all be thankful that there's actual options for your entertainment dollar this time of year; a moviegoer who was asked to choose between The Roommate or The Rite in February would've been better advised to simply go home.
Since we're a little bit past the halfway mark of the year, I thought it might be nice to reflect back on our favorite films of the last six months. Here are a few of my high water marks of the year thus far. Leave your own in the comments, and feel free to make up your own categories! That's fun!
Most Favoritest: I liked Incendies a lot (these two films are my only five-starrers of the year), and recognize that it's a far more important film than Source Code, but Source Code is a mesmerizing entertainment and a film that I'd rather watch again before the often-painful Incendies, even if its ending is a not-insignificant flaw.
|Born to Be Wild|
Most Adorablest: I am super glad that my theater for Born To Be Wild was almost empty aside from a few kids, because I was...vocal with my appreciation for the film and it's little baby animal stars. What's more, this is one of the few films that has actually struck me as being far better in 3D than it would've been in 2D; the shots weren't complicated, but the 3D was stunningly well-done here, with elephant trunks getting close enough to touch. It pulls its punches on the conservationist message it probably could've pushed, but it's still one of the most affable and enjoyable animal films I've seen in years, including all those boatload of CGI children's movies.
Favorite Lady Performance: Azabal was mesmerizing and heartbreaking in Incendies. I know the odds are long for foreign-language performances to win Oscars, let alone be nominated for them, but it'd be a shame if she wasn't included in the discussion. Runner-up: Saoirse Ronan in Hanna. If there's any justice in the world, she's got a long career ahead of her.
Favorite Guy Performance: X-Men: First Class had flaws, but none of those lay with Fassbender, whose portrayal of Magneto made me feel much better about the film and look past a lot of its weak spots. It's a shame that the film spent so much time focusing on the less-interesting mutants and less time on Xavier and Magneto; one can only hope there's some deleted scenes to look over when the deleted scenes hit. Heck, at this rate, I'm actually hoping they make one of those X-Men Origins: Magneto films they've been threatening to do for the last few years. Runner-up: Are you gonna hate me if I say Chris Hemsworth? I can easily imagine Thor being a lot worse than it was without someone as charismatic as he was.
|The Tree of Life|
Most Needing Another Viewing: I confess that I never went back and watched Hereafter again; it was the one film from last year that I really wanted to give another look to. The Tree Of Life isn't going to have to worry about that, though, as even though I didn't like it as much as some other Malicks, it's still a must-buy for me. This thing seems impossible to grok upon first viewing, and is going to lead to some interesting exercises in interpretation as more people get a chance to see it.