But what of the good things out there? – They need to be acknowledged as well. I mean, if they’re not, then all creativity might stop and we’d live in a world where Freidberg and Seltzer are our kings. Now there’s a post-apocalyptic future if ever there was one.
So without further ado, here are the positive OTB Awards for 2011.
The Contenders: Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender
They’ve all had great years. Ryan Gosling’s had a plethora of good films out this year and delivered a bevy of fine performances including the lovesick Dean in Derek Cianfrance’s bittersweet drama Blue Valentine; savvy campaign manager Stephen Myers in George Clooney’s political drama The Ides Of March and slick pick-up aftist in one of the comedies of the year Crazy, Stupid, Love. But it’s his role as Driver in Nicholas Winding Refn’s achingly cool Drive that the cherry on top for Gosling.
Brad Pitt meanwhile delivered arguably his career-best performance as the domineering patriarch in Terence Malick’s epic The Tree Of Life and a winning performance as the stat-watching, fast-talking General Manager of the Oakland A’s in Moneyball.
Michael Fassbender also enjoyed a meteoric rise with an excellent turn in Jane Eyre as Mr Rochester and revealed that if anyone could take over from James Bond it’s him in X-Men: First Class. His biggest achievement though is Shame but as that doesn’t come out till the beginning of next year, we’ll have to overlook it.
And the winner is…
Ryan Gosling. It couldn’t really be anyone else. Women want him (while writing this article, I already had a female member of staff lean over and murmur, “he so pretty”), men want to be him (or have developed mancrushes – not for nothing was the phrase “gay for Gosling” bandied about earlier this year). He’s also clearly the coolest dude of the year, making a white satin jacket with a gold scorpion emblazoned on the back this year’s most wanted fashion item.
The Contenders: Tilda Swinton, Olivia Colman, Jessica Chastain, Carey Mulligan, Elle Fanning
Jessica Chastain was seemingly omnipresent this year appearing in no less than five films. She’s certainly redhead of the year (beating out curvy goddess Christina Hendricks). Chastain put in great performances in both The Tree Of Life and Take Shelter, was underused in Ralph Fiennes’ modern take on Shakespeare in Coriolanus and did well in both The Help and The Debt.
Tilda Swinton meanwhile had but one role but it was one that lingered long after the credits. She played the tormented mother of the sociopathic Kevin in Lynne Ramsay’s excellent We Need To Talk About Kevin. Easily one of the performances of the year (Swinton looks like she hasn’t slept in a decade), she’s a strong contender for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars.
Elle Fanning was a surprise revelation in Super 8, delivering not only the best child performance of the year, but also one of the best performances period.
Olivia Colman proved that she has dramatic as well as comedy chops in the harrowing Tyrannosaur. A scene in which she flicks between heartbreaking blubbering grief into a seemingly happy, well-adjusted shop asssistant has to rank among one of the scenes of the year.
Carey Mulligan has also has a great year (redeeming herself from the pointless Wall Street 2 last year), delivering a superb supporting performance as a vulnerable mother in Drive. Again, she would have been a stronger contender if Shame was out this year, but it’s not, so ho hum.
And The Winner Is…
Olivia Colman. She probably won’t get the recognition she deserves come Oscar time – Tyrannosaur just doesn’t have the distribution – but she will likely at least get a Bafta nomination. Rightly so too. OTB would like to honour her by at least giving her our top pick for this year.
Sometimes trailers, hype and expectations get in the way of a good movie. These films were the ones we thought were going to be utterly crap but instead turned out to be little sparkling gems.
The Contenders: Fast & Furious 5, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Final Destination 5
All of these looked like dumb by-the-numbers movies. It’s no surprise that they’re all sequels as by this point all creativity has usually leeked away leaving pure unsullied monetary gain as the sole reason for their creation. But no, we were wrong, they were actually all pretty damn good. Fast & Furious 5 featured some of the best action scenes of the year, Harold & Kumar’s third outing was an hilarious seasonal treat and Final Destination 5 was edge-of-your-seat nail-biting, wince-inducing horror.
And The Winner Is…
Fast & Furious 5. Make no mistake, it was big and dumb but it also knew exactly what it was and did exactly what it said on the tin. High octane chases, utterly ridiculous action scenes and The Rock (who improves everything), Fast & Furious 5 was great fun. And if that’s what you’re going to the cinema for, then you couldn’t go wrong.
Sometimes a soundtrack is so good that everytime you hear one song from it, you automatically start humming the next one in the playlist. All of below fall into that category – songs so well chosen, they fit the mood of the film perfectly.
The Contenders: Blue Valentine, Super 8, Drive, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Most of Blue Valentine‘s soundtrack was by lo-fi indie band Grizzly Bear who lent a beautifully dreamy atmosphere to Dean and Cindy’s relationship. It also featured an absolutely beautiful tear-jerking version of You Always Hurt The Ones You Love by Ryan Gosling and the lost soul gem You & Me by Penny And The Quarters recorded in the 1970s but only released for the Blue Valentine soundtrack.
Drive was the coolest movie of the year and a large part of that was its soundtrack: synth-fuelled 80s brilliance featuring the likes of College, Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx and Desire. Perfectly suited to the liquid night of Drive‘s cinematography.
Super 8 was completely of its time – an homage to the Spielberg movies of the 80s. The appropriate soundtrack featured classic tunes like My Sharona by The Knack, Easy by The Commodores, Heart Of Glass by Blondie and Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t released till next week but most of its tracks are by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. As expected, the tracks have a dark, moody sound which is more about atmosphere than individual tracks. Perfect on a bus ride home.
And The Winner Is…
Drive. It’s hard to think of a better soundtrack. Ryan Gosling might be cooler than cool, but the Drive soundtrack is the ice bucket in which he rests.
There’ve been a lot of action movies this year and most of them have failed to cut the mustard. That’s largely because of a lack of character – if you don’t care about the characters, you don’t care about them. But there have bene a few stand out scenes that just make your jaw drop when you see them.
The Contenders: Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa running, Super 8 – Train Crash, Fast & Furious 5 – Train To Car Diving
All of the above will cause even the most cynical of critics to widen their eyes in astonishment; they feature the most exciting stunts and the most intricate stunt choreography. Fast & Furious 5‘s scene saw Paul Walker jump from the side of a train to a moving car before said train went over a cliff; MI4 saw Tom Cruise sprint down the side of the world’s tallest building and jump through a window and Super 8‘s train crash was one of the most exciting scenes in cinema dwarfing any pyrotechnics that Michael Bay could dish up.
And The Winner Is…
Mission Impossible 4 – Burj Khalifa running. Watching Tom Cruise sprint down a sheer wall of glass, swing out into empty space and attempt to dive through an open window on the 125th floor of the world’s tallest building was absolutely jaw dropping. The fact that he did it himself makes it doubly impressive. Simply incredible.
A well-timed celeb or character cameo can be a great bonus to eagle-eyed viewers or fans of the series. Here are a few unexpected triumphs that only last a few seconds.
The Contenders: Keith Richards (Pirates Of The Carribean 4), Buzz Aldrin (Transformers 3), Scott Bakula (Source Code), Hugh Jackman (X-Men First Class).
Keith Richards had a fairly predictable as Cap’n Jack’s dad in Pirates 4 not only because Depp had reportedly based his performance on him but because Richards had been rumoured to make an appearance since the second movie.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo in the X-Men First Class wasn’t particularly unexpected either but did lift the movie.
Scott Bakula’s cameo was only a vocal one and for fans of a certain Donald P Bellisario sci-fi series but was a calculated winner and Buzz Aldrin was another total suprise for Transformers 3 but his appearance was actually more embarrassing than gratifying.
And The Winner Is…
Scott Bakula (Source Code). Comparisons with sci-fi classic Quantum Leap were inevitable when Source Code was released as it saw Jake Gyllenhaal “leaping” into someone else’s to try to put right what once went wrong. But an unexpected, blink-and-you-miss-it joy was the voice of Dr Sam Beckett, Scott Bakula, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s dad on the end of a phone call. It wasn’t lampshaded at all, so if you weren’t paying attention, you’d miss it but for those who caught it, it was absolutely inspired. Oh boy.
Unfortunately, there has been some crap out there this year. Check out who deserves a lump of coal in their stocking in The OTB Awards: The Bad. Or if you want a straight talking list of the good movies of 2011, check out OTB’s Best Films Of The Year.