2011...the best bits...movies

It's been a good year for movies, partly because I've been going to the cinema a lot more, so have actually seen many of them 'as intended' but also because some of the films that impressed me the most were those that surprised me.

There were some good pickings from the summer blockbuster season. While we did get a fair share of decidedly average action fair in the likes of Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, Transformers and the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel no-one other than the accountants at Disney really seemed to want, we did also get the rather excellent X-Men: First Class, which showed you can still make an interesting super hero movie, and a suitably epic conclusion to the Harry Potter series with the second installment of the Deathly Hallows. Wedged in between good and average was Cowboys and Aliens, which was just some good popcorn fun, if more than a little ridiculous... 

I also thoroughly enjoyed Super 8, which was everything a summer movie should be, and paid suitable homage to those that had gone before it, invoking a neat mix between ET, the Goonies, and a monster movie...although Mister Abrams could do with toning down the lens flare a little..really we get it, you like lens flare, does it need to be in every other shot? (or at least feel that way) I mean we indulge Spike Lee with his 'once per movie' walking tracking shots, and Martin Scorsese is allowed his ultra long steady cam sequences...but you really do not need to put your signature 'thing' in every other scene... 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes also deserves a mention for being far better than I had feared. The technology behind it was mightily impressive. Likewise Woody Allen is proving that he is still aging well and added another good entry to his list of later movies with Midnight in Paris.

Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam documentary was also excellent if you are a fan of the band.(Or just want to watch a really well made music documentary)

The 'He who could soon be huge' award goes to Ryan Gosling who showed some range and had a break out year with terrific performances in Drive and The Ides of March, as well as showing a lighter touch in Crazy, Stupid, Love. His dramatic turn in the Ides of March  was particularly impressive given he was sharing the screen with George Clooney, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and more than holding his own. I will look forward to seeing more from him in years to come...

My three favorite movies of the year though were very different. In fact I can't really split them, since they are all very, very different types of film. 

The first is Joe Wright's Hanna. With an amazing performance by it's young lead, Saoirse Ronan, the tale of the young assassin trained to avenge her mothers death, was brilliantly paced, tight, and well played. It didn't have much hype, and came early in the year, which is never good for getting end of year mentions, but it stuck with me throughout the year regardless. 

Next up was the animated tale of a lost lizard in the Johnny Depp voiced Rango. This was the best of kid's movies in that it wasn't really a kid's movie at all. Wonderfully surreal, and packed with adult references, it also had some superb animation and visuals. It works primarily due to Depp's presence (although the supporting cast provide almost uniformly excellent voice work) and his comic timing here is virtually flawless. It also benefits from the best appearance by a Mariachi band in any film this year...

Lastly comes Martin Scorsese's love letter to cinema itself in the end of year Hugo. It is a wonderful pageant to the magic of cinema, and of the importance of imagination and storytelling itself. It wasn't anything like I had been expecting, and shows that a great director can approach something truly different to anything he has done before and pull it off superbly. Just go and see it and let it carry you away. In an ever more cynical and commercialized world I love that movies like this can still be made.

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