The 2011 Half-Year Report Card

The 2011 Half-Year Report Card. By Simon Miraudo.

It’s that time again; when we all ask one another with the same vocal intonation, ‘Can you buh-lieve it’s July already?!’ (The trick is to squeak your voice on the final syllable.) Yep, 2011 is halfway over, and as the blockbuster season tapers away to make way for the Oscar months, we thought it might be time to take stock of the year so far.

As kids around the country run home to their parents waving their report cards proudly in the air (or, more likely, keep them hidden inside their S&E books), let’s grade the best and worst of the past six months. Finally, we’ll conclude by deciding whether or not we need to sit down 2011 and have a stern talking to them about their work this year, or pat it on the back for a job well done.

The five best pictures of 2011 so far:

  1. The Tree of Life (5/5)
  2. Martha Marcy May Marlene (4.5/5)
  3. Rango (4.5/5)
  4. Super 8 (4.5/5)
  5. Meek’s Cutoff (4.5/5)

Not a bad top five there, I must admit. That being said, things drop off dramatically after Meek’s Cutoff, with the only other potential contenders including 4-starrers The Trip, Certified Copy, Tabloid and Bridesmaids. NB: Martha Marcy May Marlene and Meek’s Cutoff are touring the Australian festival circuit; the former opens wide in January, while the latter arrives on DVD later in the year. Also, January releases that I adored, such as True Grit and Catfish, have been counted as 2010 films, while the festival flick Lourdes (which would have easily made the top five) was discounted because it’s from 2009.

The five worst pictures of 2011 so far:

  1. Red Riding Hood (1/5)
  2. Battle Los Angeles (1/5)
  3. Faster (1.5/5)
  4. Sex and Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy (1.5/5)
  5. Your Highness (2/5)

Now this is a competitive field. Honourable mentions go to Hereafter, Unknown, I Am Number 4, The Rite, Desert Flower, Fast and Furious Five and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The five best leading performances of 2011 so far:

  1. Elizabeth OlsenMartha Marcy May Marlene
  2. John HawkesMartha Marcy May Marlene
  3. Steve CooganThe Trip
  4. Michelle WilliamsMeek’s Cutoff
  5. Kristen WiigBridesmaids

Needless to say, I really liked Martha Marcy May Marlene. The guys are certainly trailing the ladies this year; Hawkes and Coogan were the only fellas that deserved being mentioned in the same breath as Olsen, Williams and Wiig. Although The Tree of Life’s leading men were excellent (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken), they are merely instruments in Malick’s orchestral achievement – ‘presences’ rather than ‘performances’ – so just an honourable mention for them.

The five best supporting performances of 2011 so far:

  1. Melissa McCarthyBridesmaids
  2. Rob BrydonThe Trip
  3. Elle FanningSuper 8
  4. Jessica ChastainThe Tree of Life
  5. Bruce GreenwoodMeek’s Cutoff

The two funniest performers grab the top spots, followed closely by inevitable Oscar winner Elle Fanning (robbed of a nomination for last year’s Somewhere), The Tree of Life’s angelic Jessica Chastain (I say supporting, but some will disagree) and the always-excellent Bruce Greenwood as Stephen Meek, the gruff voiced wild-west tracker who doesn’t know how to track. Fun fact: Greenwood also did the motion-capture for the Super 8 monster! Two great performances in one year!

The five worst performance of 2011 so far:

  1. Everyone – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  2. January JonesX-Men: First Class
  3. Julie ChristieRed Riding Hood
  4. January JonesUnknown
  5. Alex Pettyfer –  I Am Number 4

Oh January Jones; so pretty, and so excellent in Mad Men. This has not been a good year for you.  The only thing keeping her from taking the top spot is the combined (and undividable) awfulness of the cast of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, who are annoying and aggressive and orange and psychotically unfunny without exception. Honourable mentions go to Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson as Kristen Wiig’s roommates in Bridesmaids. Mis-judged!

The five best scenes of 2011 so far:

  1. CreationThe Tree of Life
  2. Elle Fanning’s monologueSuper 8
  3. The duelling Michael Caine impersonations – The Trip
  4. The skyscraper falls – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  5. The safe robbery – Fast and Furious Five

OK, maybe the 30-minute long ‘Creation’ sequence is more than a single scene, but I’ll be damned if I’m not putting the most gorgeous, brain-snapping and unfathomably crafted moment in film this year on the list. Elle Fanning’s monologue in Super 8 (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about) is practically an Oscar reel, and no moment was funnier than Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s competing Michael Caine impressions in The Trip. However, I also felt the need to give praise to two of the most – let’s face it – awesome moments of the year so far. Even bad movies can have great scenes, and the climactic action set pieces of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Fast and Furious Five were genuinely memorable and entertaining cinema nuggets.

Films that deserve another watch:

  1. The Green Hornet
  2. The Adjustment Bureau
  3. Sucker Punch
  4. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
  5. Wasted on the Young

These are the movies that I found myself defending in the first six months of the year more than any others. If you’re a hater, perhaps take another look at these five before writing them off completely. The Green Hornet boldly twists the superhero genre with an obnoxious, adolescent lead character; it’s a film that feels like it was made by kids (fun, chaotic, nutty), but is definitely not for kids. The Adjustment Bureau fuses sci-fi with rom-com and wraps it in a religious parable; there is a rather complex and thoughtful universe here to examine. Sucker Punch is a mess, but what a mess! We may never see something this expensive and crazy ever again, and I find that really endearing. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never … this is just a good movie. Wasted on the Young has a weak first act, and a silly finale, but wedged in the middle is a stylish noir-thriller.

Best Australian film: Mrs. Carey’s Concert

Best documentary: Tabloid

Best films that went direct-to-DVD: The Double Hour and Lourdes.

2011’s Current Standing: Steady, with plenty of room for improvement.

For every great movie that we’ve seen in the past few months, it’s seemingly been followed by two abominations. However, one Tree of Life is worth sitting through a dozen Red Riding Hoods; comedies like The Trip and Bridesmaids had us rolling in the aisles as it were, and blockbusters Super 8 and Rango reminded us that big, fun movies can also be smart. We’ll need some more time to decide whether or not any of these features deserve to go into the pantheon of all time greats. Here’s hoping the second half of the year outdoes the first.

Discuss: What have been your favourite films/performances/scenes of the year so far? And, on the flipside, what have been your biggest disappointments?

2 Responses to “The 2011 Half-Year Report Card”

  1. I haven’t seen “The Tree Of Life” but unless Malick has had a radical change in form I think I’d rather watch real foliage blow in the wind than another one of his films.

    I virtually never go to the cinema any more so I’ve only seen 2 of movies you mentioned. Here’s my 2 cents on them…
    “The Green Hornet”: Disappointingly unfunny. Please don’t make me watch it again.
    “The Adjustment Bureau”: Perfectly entertaining whilst watching it, but doesn’t hold up too well if you start to thinking about it afterwards. I fear if I watched it again the logic holes will cause me to enjoy it less. The religious overtones didn’t sit all that well with me either.

  2. Recently watched The Tree Of Life, Super 8 and a while back, the Adjustment Bureau. These 3 films were my three favorites in the first half of this year.

    Spot on with The “Creation” scene. Art and cinema fused as one, as only Malick’s vision can. Jessica Chastain’s acting was 1st class, as well as the two lead males Pitt and Penn. But Jessica trumps both i thought. A film I enjoyed being immersed in, in its entirety, and a film that was a joy to have discussions about with friends after. Certainly not for everyone’s taste, but if one has an open mind and would love to broaden their movie experiences, this movie is it.

    Super 8 was a movie that was surprisingly fun to watch because it reminded me of E.T. Loved Elle Fanning in Somewhere and she is great in this flick. An actress on the rise.

    The Adjustment Bureau always intrigued me because of the subject matter (Fate vs. Free Will). I also wanted to know if Matt Damon can star in a romcom flick, and he can. I thought the film was carried quite well by Damon and Emily Blunt’s chemistry. Loved the running sequence in the second half of the movie.

    Have to mention that i enjoyed TF3 (principally for the action sequences) because you don’t need to think about it, but it was a tad too long and the acting was mediocre.

    Looking forward to the second half of 2011.

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