Well, as we draw to a close on 2011, it is that time of the year to reflect, ponder and gaze back at what has been an eventful year in movies. I’m not going for the bog standard review of 2011 cos let’s face it, it’s been done before. In the light of that, I’m branching out and delivering my reasons why this year brought us shocks, belly laughs, all-out entertainment and man crushes!
1. Ricky Gervais Vs America
The start of the year couldn’t have begun anymore controversial thanks to funny man Ricky Gervais. On hosting duties for the second time at the Annual Golden Globe Awards, Gervais let rip into big names such as Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis and Robert Downey Jr with risqué jokes as dry as Gandhi’s flip-flop. His opening monologue was, in my opinion downright hilarious and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Allowing him to drink whilst on stage was a mistake the Hollywood Foreign Press Association should have seen coming. Gervais received mixed reviews and backlash from the American press, some stating he was “merciless from the start” and his jokes set “a corrosive tone.” It can’t be that bad though if he’s been invited back to do it all over again. Roll on January 15th 2012 I’d say.
2. A powerhouse Oscar line-up
This year’s Academy Awards dished up a silver platter of fantastic feature films. A one-eyed US Marshall, a stuttering Monarch, a social networking genius and an against-all-odds Boxing champ were just a few of the eclectic range of characters that ruled the Kodak Theatre. Not to mention Natalie Portman delivering a career best performance as a troubled ballerina in Black Swan. It’s a shame though that James Franco appeared to be disinterested during the whole proceedings. In the end, the Brits took home the big prize with The King’s Speech reigning supreme and my Oscar fave, The Social Network and director David Fincher leaving empty handed. Still though as I right this, I am puzzled and frustrated as to why there was no recognition, not even a nomination for the genius that is Christopher Nolan for the masterpiece that he brought on screen in the shape of Inception.
3. The rising stars to keep an eye on
This year has indicated to me that a watch post is needed to be setup to keep an eye on a number of emerging stars. Young starlets who introduced themselves at one stage or another are surely destined for truly promising and long careers. Jessica Chastain aka the actress who appeared in pretty much every film this year is certainly one to keep an eye out for after performances in the likes of Take Shelter, The Tree of Life and The Help. After putting in a stunning Oscar nominated debut performance in the bleak Winter’s Bone, Jennifer Lawrence firmly established herself this year with a turn as young Mystique in the summer blockbuster X-Men: First Class. She will be next seen in the highly anticipated adaptation, The Hunger Games next year. German/Irish actor Michael Fassbender is also hot property at the moment after putting in brilliant performances in X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method and sex addiction drama, Shame. There is a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding the actor at present and deservedly so. A future James Bond in the making? Yes. Yes I definitely think so!
4. X marks the spot
In a summer full to the brim of reboots, robots and Ryan Gosling (more of him shortly) it was Matthew Vaughn’s outstanding 60’s prequel which resurrected the world of mutants back into First Class status. The pairing of James McAvoy as playboy Professor Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as the determined Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto was near flawless. The body of the story focused on these two troubled minds and it was executed brilliantly. With an all-star cast that included Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence and January Jones, X-Men: First Class has been positioned well at the top of many people’s top ten of 2011 including mine for it’s superb action, character development and all round entertainment that the box office clearly marvelled at.
5. Man of the year – Ryan Gosling
Equipped with a tooth pick, leather driving gloves and sporting a silver satin retro jacket, Ryan Gosling not only increased his army of female fans but gathered an a legion of male fans with an ice cool performance in one of my favourite films of 2011, the ultraviolent, ultra cool 80’s-styled actioner Drive. Previously, Gosling has been quietly going about his business, for instance earning himself an Oscar nomination for Half Nelson back in 2006. In 2011 however, it has been year of the Gos with roles in Drive, Crazy, Stupid, Love and in George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March. He has firmly positioned himself on Hollywood’s golden boy list with roles to come in crime epic, Gangster Squad and the remake of Logan’s Run. Keep a firm eye on this one!
6. James Bond will return … In 2012
When the world of James Bond was in jeopardy with the financial struggles of MGM, it was a sigh of relief to learn 007 would be making a return in 2012. Details of the 23rd Bond adventure have been creeping in and in November the official press conference took place at Whitehall, London with cast and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli on hand to delve into the world of Skyfall. With a mighty cast that includes Daniel Craig reprising his role as Bond, Javier Bardem as the main villain, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Judi Dench. Plus with Sam Mendes sitting in the director’s chair you have the essence for the quintessential Bond movie that is being promised. Furthermore it has no reference to Quantum of Solace … Bonus if you ask me!
7. Christopher Nolan rises to Batman’s final crusade
Since his previous effort in the mind blowing Inception, I have never been more excited for a film than Christopher Nolan’s third and final part to his epic Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Normally his films are in lockdown and shrouded in secrecy, however TDKR is different. With two trailers and numerous other images and footage on display to the web, the Brit filmmaker is going all out for Rises. This week saw the release of the full trailer and boy did it blow me away. It was an understated trailer in terms of the content, but the anticipation and intensity of what was shown was nothing short of epic. It opened up so many questions and theories – Was that Bruce Wayne supporting himself with a cane? Who is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s good Gotham cop running from? What is going on in that American Football stadium? Tom Hardy’s brute villain Bane looked dominant and the Caped Crusader looked weak and broken. Set eight years after The Dark Knight, we are in for one massive showdown. Unfortunately July 2012 is still a while away :(
8. Oscar welcomes back an old friend
Following two back-to-back occasions whereby the hosts of the Academy Awards have been, to put it bluntly, crap, next year’s Oscars will have one of their old golden boys back in town – Billy Crystal. I was surprised to learn the comedian has hosted the prestigious ceremony on eight occasions in the past and from what I’ve seen, he is the right man for the job. He made a cameo to commemorate the great Bob Hope at this year’s ceremony and for the few minutes, he shone and is exactly what the Academy needs.
9. Marvel prepares for the mash-up of all mash-ups
The past few years have seen a number of standalone Marvel adventures, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk for example. This year Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger had their fifteen minutes of fame. If you add Loki, Nick Fury, Black Widow and Hawk-Eye to the equation, the likelihood is that you arrive at the solution of Joss Whedon’s uber-anticipated superhero smackdown, The Avengers. Similarly to The Dark Knight Rises, there has been a welcome helping of footage being sprinkled across this year of our heroes in action pitting themselves against the evil Loki. I was hoping for a much more substantial foe than Tom Hiddleston’s villain. Nevertheless, the Brit actor delivered a solid performance as Thor’s sibling and there will no doubt be more twists and turns as the April release will no doubt creep on us quicker before you can spot Marvel head honcho Stan Lee’s standard cameo appearance!
10. Brendan Gleeson shines as a racist copper
Reflecting on what has already been documented, it is time to turn to the other side of the spectrum and focus on one of my favourite performance’s and one of my top ten movies of this year. In John Michael McDonough’s fairly unknown crime caper, The Guard, Brendan Gleeson effortlessly plays a small time Irish Garda investigating a murder that leads to an International drug smuggling case in small town Ireland. McDonagh is the brother of Martin McDonagh who brought us the brilliant In Bruges. You know you’re in good hands when your sibling directed one of the freshest comedies in some time. The Guard does not disappoint with a razor sharp script and a slight unorthodox Western vibe to the film. Alongside Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle forms the other half of an unlikely but sparkling partnership in one of the finest comedies in years. It’s criminal, however it has not reaped in more praise than it has.
11. The Brits proudly waves the flag
Talk about endurance. Not only did the Britons rule the Oscars with Tom Hooper’s bromantic, historical drama The King’s Speech, they followed that up with the likes of Paddy Considine’s blistering directorial debut, Tyrannosaur. The Dead Man’s Shoes favourite went down the same avenue of Tim Roth and Gary Oldman by introducing a bleak and brutal domestic tale of violence and instability. September saw the release of the big screen adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It had me thinking this surely must be the strongest British cast seen in movies. It had a line-up to die for including Oldman, Firth, Hardy, Hurt, Cumberbatch and more. It made out what The Social Network similarly did last year, that fiery, long-winded and compelling discussions were the scenes to beat.
Written by Michael Cunneen