After all the awards came out one was likely to know it’d come down to two films: Hugo and Super 8. And that’s how it’ll be in the list also. I’ll discuss each of them more in those lists. Here there’s not much to say save for the fact that I love the nominating process much more than this one. I just want to state that since it’s just me the nominations are really where it’s at and where it most matters. There’s invariably a favorite in every category but with other awards that kind of seems devalued by cliché and prognostication. I hope that through my verbosity I can pay tribute a second time to those films and artists I most enjoyed through the year.
Best Foreign Film
It was a better year than expected for foreign films. When I tallied them up I was surprised how many I had to choose from. Moreover, I was surprised by how many landed both in the Best Picture field and here. There are films I saw on this list by many means and the winner (pictured) was one of the most moving and engaging cinematic experiences I had all year.
There’s also two films I got in Brazil. Note to film buffs: if you’re willing to dedicate a computer to playing foreign-region DVDs you can get anything! I mentioned in the other post that fans of zombie and/or virus movies should see Rammbock.
It didn’t seem like it at the time but foreign films were pretty good this year, no 1987 but good.
This was another tough one. These are all great. Three are available on instant right now and they’re all pretty different. Ultimately, it’s hard to top something like Senna.
I don’t think I have cried that much since the first time I saw It’s a Wonderful Life and in this story I knew the exact outcome, moreover I think I may be as torn about revisiting this one as I am that one. Truly impressive.
Most Overrated Picture
Attack the Block
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
I Saw the Devil
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Since I am but one man then I can hand this award out. Were it a group it may seem a bit silly. We’re all human expectations play into it for few are the films we hear nothing about. Example: I knew there was some buzz about Hugo. However, beyond the New York Film Festival screening, I did not read any of the early reviews. I didn’t go in with things to look out for such aspects I knew that were disliked or divisive. With many of these films I consciously tried to avoid learning details to not start forming opinions what I did know were basic plot elements and what the general reaction was. Ask me about a film in particular I can tell you what I knew beforehand.
Now to be specific to Attack the Block. I had heard about it. I’d heard great things. I knew what the basic premise was. It never screened around me. So it was vague. I hadn’t seen a trailer. I knew what the cast was but not much more. Eventually, I used Redbox to get it, in fact, I opened an account for it. I had expectations but they were vague. Since people compare them anyway let’s compare it to Super 8, my expectations of Super 8 were vague too. I wanted to see it since the teaser came out more than a year before its release. The one with the container and the banging alien. Then the Super Bowl ad came and I had no more idea of what it was supposed to be except pretty cool looking. Here’s where people start filling in blanks and start over-emphasizing the alien but I digress.
I was even more of a blank slate for this film the worst sinking fear that I had was that it was going to be just OK and then I didn’t even like it. I kept telling my head to “shut up” and essentially was wiping the slate clean over and over giving it chance after chance and I just didn’t like it.
Yes, in essence something being overrated is a personal thing not a film thing but we’ve all said “I couldn’t get into it,” before. I “couldn’t get into it” is like “meh” or “take it or leave it” to me. The film in my estimation went from having some good ideas and promise in the beginning to get more and more annoying. Whether the hoods or the victim almost no one didn’t rub me the wrong way, the effects are cool-looking but a little underwhelming, the acting is inconsistent at best. A few have their flashes but the natural feel can render better results with a more engaging storyline. If the social commentary tried to hit me over the head again I’d have filed a restraining order. I get that the characters are simple and lack subtlety but that doesn’t mean the script has to.
Anyway, is it one of the worst of the year? Not by any means. Was I shocked I disliked it? Yes, and angry and disappointed too. I know I’m in a minority here and I don’t care. I get the appeal of all the other films but they just don’t work for me after certain point in this one I literally could not care less what happened. Sorry.
I will try to keep this brief. There is a title on this list which is the most commented review I’ve posted. Yet until New Year’s Eve I was prepared to incur even more wrath by giving it this dubious distinction. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me if they can phrase their view in an intelligent and coherent way. I will grant that I was incendiary with my review (again the dangers of writing to close to a viewing), however, the thrust of these comments inferred that because I didn’t like the film I was either deficient mentally or somehow lacking fluency in the English language. Anyway, the point of this aside is that I regret the tone of my review of The Wrong Ferrari but do not in any way recant my opinion that it’s a film I dislike greatly.
However, and I forget if I intimate as much in the replies, I do recognize that there is an attempt to do something there, therefore Happy New Year to the fans of this film: It’s not the worst of the year it’s merely on the list. Oh, and if you want to complain about this post or my inclusion of it here too feel free but one of my myriad New Year’s resolutions is to not discuss The Wrong Ferrari anymore.
The Darkest Hour is another film I didn’t expect to see, which is fine many of my favorites of the year were viewed that way and viewing them was memorable for it regardless of how good the movie was. I saw the trailer a few times and thought it looked silly and bad I’ll admit but I’ve also seen trailers of films I thought would be bad and liked and even loved the movies. Trailers are long-form commercials. There is an art to them but that does not make them art nor does it make them an accurate representation of what the film is for many reasons. So the trailer was silly. So what? Despite my reservations I never could’ve expected what unfolded.
I tweeted after seeing this that it was one of the most aggressively stupid movies I’d ever seen and that I stand by and what I mean by that is that there’s so much that makes you shake you head or roll your eyes and it just refuses to stop for 100 minutes or so. The blocking, yes the blocking, the actually positioning and movement of the actors is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. That’s something you can usually count on not being a concern. It’s hard to watch in and of itself. The dialogue when not trite is trying too hard to be funny and witty but it’s abysmal. The film also panders to racist stereotypes about the lawlessness of modern Russia to avoid the need to create any sort of plausibility in the real aspects of the plot. This scoffing, half-assed attempt at tongue-in-cheek social commentary is an affront to writing and people with any intelligence whatsoever. When the dialogue is not bad inherently it is superfluous, which is worse.
Due to the fact that the dark is dangerous the characters are frequently indoors or scenes are in the daytime so there is nowhere near enough dark in The Darkest Hour. The characters all at one point or another display typical idiotic, unrealistic actions that happen only in films and not in real crisis. Practically every performance is flat and without dimension and devoid or real emotion. Characterization is simplistic and insipid.
The effects are fine but the concept is so facile and with stakes theoretically so high it seems so unimportant. Tonality and pace have no presence here. Add to this that a man who has won Best Director and Best Picture in the past added his name to this film (granted in a “Presents” kind of way) it’s even more perplexing and infuriating.
This I can watch but the Night Watch Trilogy remains unfinished? Give me a break.
Ladies and Gentlemen the Worst Film of 2011: The Darkest Hour.
Most Underrated Picture
I decided that all (with Documentary being the exception) film categories should have equal numbers of nominees. So if there are 10 Best Picture candidates other fields should strive for that. This was a hard choice. I literally physically changed the poster above once and another time in my head. I will in brief explain why these films I feel are underrated.
Battle: Los Angeles it seems got a lot of hate just for being what it is nothing more and nothing less which makes no sense to me.
Bereavement literally has not been seen by enough people. It’s release was severely limited and I’m guessing the DVD sales aren’t that high.
Fireflies in the Garden nearly wins this prize. Not only was it in the can for three years and then not released very widely but then it also got a pretty good thumping from critics as well. None of those things sit well with me in regards to this film.
The Hole being Joe Dante’s film never really got distributed here. It may have just been picked up but I got an import from Amazon. The only reason it wasn’t picked up is because no one wanted to chance it because it’s pretty darn good.
Red State I firmly believe that if someone just either watches this film not knowing anything about it or if someone entirely different made it, it would’ve gotten better reviews. Kevin Smith doesn’t bother me at all. Ever. Even if he did I think I’d really think Red State is pretty damn good. I always strive to separate artist and art at all costs.
The Sitter is included just because of how much I liked it. I can see how you wouldn’t like it but am bemused by all the “Worst of 2011″ talk. My reaction to those is “Fine you didn’t like it but watch more movies. That stuff on Netflix you don’t want to see. A lot of times I watch it and it’s worse.”
The Ward Here’s the opposite of a bad reputation harming a director. It’s not Halloween, or The Fog or another of his classics but it’s a damn good John Carpenter movie I find.
Winter in Wartime points out the imperfections of the Foreign Language Oscar race. It was the Dutch submission in 2008 and never saw a US distribution deal until now and that too was on not nearly enough screens. While there are things that are markedly European about it, it’s the kind of story anyone can enjoy and it even has a British character so there’s even some English for the xenophobes.
Now, at a time I tinkered with the idea of making the nominating process a mathematical equation. An example: IMDb score x 10 + Rotten Tomatoes + Metacritic divided by 3 = Aggregate score. Then compare that to my score x 10 and the highest differentials would be nominated. I would then scrap the numbers and pick a winner. Obviously that’d be too annoying to do. The idea kind of struck me when I went on the IMDb and saw Never Say Never‘s score. It got respectable numbers from Metacritic but has a 1.5 at the IMDb. Clearly people who hadn’t seen it and voted just because they hate Justin Bieber. I’m sure there are other instances but it seems like this was the one time I noticed rampant abuse of the implicit honor system under which the IMDb operates: see the movie, then vote. A majority of those who saw it were inclined to like it so this had to be just blind voting.
As for the winner:
Had it not been for my local non-profit art house participating in something called From Britain with Love I never would’ve seen Toast. Due to the fact that they did participate I was lucky enough to see it twice. I saw it well ahead of the US limited release and again during its one week run or so in this country. It was just about as good each time and much like the way at times in sports one needs to re-examine MVP criteria here it seems underrated can be viewed a few ways. Some past winners did get wide releases but weren’t really appreciated. To make this decision I asked myself “Which film of these is the one most deserving of attention that didn’t get it?” and there you have your winner: Toast. The answer when asked that way was easy.