As the decade draws to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! will be honouring the greatest films of the past ten years. This week, the year 2011 is in focus.
Hope was in the air as the year began, with the autocratic regimes of Tunisia and Egypt falling in the event which has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Elsewhere around the world, South Sudan became the world’s newest sovereign state, a tsunami caused mass devastation in Japan, and NASA ceased its Space Shuttle program after three decades.
While one journey was coming to an end, for this author, his voyage into the cinematic realm had only just begun to take flight. Literature and media electives saw him wetting his feet – or submerging them, metaphorically speaking – with a greater understanding of film, and began spending ever more time in the local movie theatre.
In other happenings, the Harry Potter franchise concluded (for the time being) with the release of The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which went on to become the highest-grossing and most-acclaimed film is the series. Universal’s Fast & Furious series got a mini-reboot with Fast Five, as did X-Men with First Class and the venerable Apes films with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But none were quite as good as the four films below.
Female-focused comedies were few and far between before Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids came about. Co-written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, it sees thirty-something Annie Walker (Wiig) become Maid of Honour at the wedding of best-friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph), only to be upstaged by fellow bridesmaid Helen Harris (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s more attractive, more successful friend.
Not since 9 to 5 has a comedy centring on women been this funny – it has some great performances, brilliant lines and plenty of other hilarious moments. Additionally, there’s little of the claptrap generally associated with these so-called “chick flicks”; instead the screenplay is poignant, discussing many of the issues adults must face as they grow old, whether they be female or male.
Bridesmaids help to usher in a number of “girls-gone-wild” comedies, yet none are as fondly remembered nor as celebrated as this one. As an acknowledgement of its popularity, the film received nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy) and Best Original Screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards, with Kristen Wiig also getting a nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at the 69th Golden Globe Awards.
The Adventures of Tintin
Legendary director Steven Spielberg first expressed interest in a Tintin movie back in the Eighties, after French film critics compared his masterpiece Raiders of the Lost Ark to the works of Belgian artist Hergé. It took another two decades to get the project off the ground, with the finished product being a family-friendly animated adventure worthy of Indiana Jones himself.
Loosely inspired by the “Secret of the Unicorn” storyline from the Tintin comics, the plot has our title character (played by Jamie Bell) and his new friend Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) uncovering the mystery behind a model sailing ship. Sure, it doesn’t sound all that exciting, but their adventure sees them travel to Africa, encounter pirates, and battle with antagonist Sakharine (Daniel Craig) in a shipping yard, all of which is spectacularly animated.
The Adventures of Tintin won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, but due to its motion-capture animation was barred from being nominated at that year’s Academy Awards in the same category – unfortunate, given it is the best animated film from 2011. Though a sequel is yet to eventuate, both Spielberg and fellow producer Peter Jackson have promised that a follow-up will be released in the near future. I for one look forward to it.
When a story shows this much adoration for a group of characters, it’s no wonder that a new generation of Muppet fanatics were produced by this picture. In it, The Muppet Show’s biggest fan, Gary (who himself is a Muppet) embarks on a quest to save the iconic Muppet Theatre from demolition by bringing Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear et al together for one final show.
Considered by many to be a pastiche of the long-running franchise, The Muppets was co-written by Jason Segel, who himself was a fan of the original television series. His love of the show comes through strongly, so it doesn’t take long to be sympathetic to the plight of the Muppet gang. Additionally, the movie boasts a bevy of memorable cameos, hilarious moments, a loveable performance by Amy Adams and some of the catchiest songs ever put to film.
The Muppets made history at the 84th Academy Awards by becoming the first film in the series to win an Oscar. Bret McKenzie – he of Flight of the Conchords fame – received the award for writing the song “Man or Muppet”, one of only two nominees in the Best Original Song category. It is also the most critically successful Muppet film, boasting a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In a time when colour and sound are the norm for cinema the world over, a studio would have to be crazy to release a film which didn’t possess those features. Somebody obviously forgot to tell director Michel Hazanavicius, whose homage to the silent era simultaneously acted as a commentary on the troubles of that period – in its simplest form, The Artist tells of a silent film star’s unforeseen fall from grace.
Central to The Artist’s success were the performances and chemistry of its two French leads – Jean Dujardin as the charismatic silent actor George Valentin and the director’s wife, Berenice Bejo as up-and-coming “talkie” star Peppy Miller. Even more impressive is how the picture utilises the strengths of the medium better than most releases of the silent era, relying heavily on visuals and Ludovic Bource’s score to tell its story.
The Artist was universally lauded at the time of its release, becoming the first French film and only the second silent film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. It also won Best Director and Best Screenplay for Hazanavicius, as well as Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. Among its other awards include a BAFTA for Best Film, a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy, and an AACTA for Best International Film – the inaugural winner of the category.
Other notable releases: Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger introduced two of Marvel’s biggest heroes to cinemagoers for the first time; J.J. Abrams paid homage to sci-fi blockbusters past with Super 8; Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation placed Iranian cinema in the international limelight; arthouse-thriller Drive proved a hit with cinephiles; an all-star cast saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy earn the public’s admiration; The Raid became the most talked-about martial-arts movie in years; DreamWorks crafted a pretty enjoyable spin-off in Puss in Boots; Aardman took a brave risk with the computer-animated Arthur Christmas; and David Fincher proved that American remakes of adaptations could work with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Do you agree with this list? What films have been missed? Be sure to comment below with your thoughts!