From time to time, the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer questions relating to the current events of that particular week. This week with the decade approaching its end we ask: What’s Your Favorite Movie from the year 2011?
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dir. David Fincher)
Within the filmmaking landscape, remakes (especially American remakes of foreign-language films) are conceptually dismissed as being quick, easy cash-in on a story that’s already been told for an audience that can’t be bothered to read subtitles. Following up possibly the most well-respected film of his career with The Social Network,David Fincher’s remake of the international phenomenon, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a twisted yet delicate approach that manages to explore more depth and nuance than even the original source material (something that cannot be said for the more recent reboot).
Author Stieg Larsson’s dark, twisted mystery series has seen adaptations for the screen three times previously, yet Fincher’s signature style is what makes it still feel as if it’s something that we’ve never seen before. The frigid, unwelcoming land of ice and snow creates such a stark atmosphere of despair, perfectly contrasting with Lisbeth’s emotional trauma. Earning Rooney Mara a much deserved Oscar nomination for her damaged and vulnerable performance as Lisbeth Salander, she’s able to bring such a deeper layer of emotion and sympathy to the character than her rough exterior would let on. Fincher and Mara defied all expectations and achieved the impossible by reinventing a story that was thought to be fully explored, and create the definitive adaptation.
A deeply personal tale of lost romance is at the core of Goodbye First Love from rising director Mia Hansen Løve. The film follows a young woman (Lola Créton’s Camille) who sees her first romantic relationship fall apart subsequently leaving lingering imprints that profoundly influence her as she ages. Where other movies may use a breakup as the catalyst for the protagonist to grow this process is often accelerated as a means of getting to the main plot, the evolution in these cases, is often a byproduct rarely examined for what it is – a process.
Hansen Løve paints a portrait that is both mature to the harsh realities of the world yet not void of the naivety and wonder that first love brings. Camille remains burdened by her first love which brings her much internal and external strife over the course of the film further exacerbated by the reappearance of her first love in her life. Often the pure strength of our emotions overwhelms our sense of logic, as much as our bodies and minds are built to minimize and limit pain – the process of healing wounds differs for each individual. Thus the film is mimesis even if the circumstantial branches of our experience differs from Camille’s. Finally being able to say “Goodbye First Love” grants us catharsis from the past we wax nostalgic for hopefully teaching us lessons so that the next love turns out better than the last.
There’s a part of me that never wants to choose the Best Picture winner as being the actual best movie of the year – call it my hipster side, I suppose. Yet, it’s hard not to appreciate The Artist, a fun, engaging, brilliant made tribute to the silent film era. Very easily dismissed as an example of Hollywood gloating, I’d argue that The Artist is far more critical of the film industry than people often give it credit for: it acknowledges, for example, how cutthroat and unfair executives could be to its biggest stars and the fleeting allure of fame.
Of course, these aren’t particularly original observations (I’ve certainly seen my fair share of Hollywood movies about fading celebrities, including those struggling with the transition to sound). But so rarely are those themes tackled as creatively and honestly as they are in The Artist. It captures everything there is to love about silent cinema, and in doing so utilizes the full potential of the visual medium. It’s an amazing experience.
In his nearly 70 year career, Woody Allen has for the most part consistently produced solid scripts and movies. FromAnnie Halland Hannah and Her Sisters to Match Point and Blue Jasmine, Allen’s own quirkiness is often evident in the characters he writes, which can be charming and funny as well as sad and pathetic. 2011’s Midnight in Paris once again features that quirky guy, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), an old fashioned romantic, looking for meaning in the modern world. But beyond just a sense of romanticism, Allen creates comedy (as he often does) and blends it with an original fantasy that makes this movie one of his more memorable recent works.
Including the beautiful vistas of Paris, there is a charm to this movie which also comes from its characters. Gil is both the everyman, but also the dreamer, believing that life in another time period would be better. In his surreal experiences, he somehow travels back to bygone eras where he meets literary and artistic greats like Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. This fantasy, combined with deeper existential questions about life and love make Midnight in Paris a lovely film. Capped with a memorable and beautiful guitar theme, “Bistro Fada”, by French composer Stephane Wrembel, this movie is very smart, funny, and highly original and a great entry into Woody Allen’s celebrated filmography.
J.J. Abrams has made a name for himself as a “franchise man:” he set Mission: Impossible back on track after a lackluster second installment, resuscitated Star Trek for a new generation, and returned Star Warsto the forefront of pop culture. To date, his directorial filmography contains just one original IP: Super 8, a smaller scale (compared to Abrams’ other work) love letter to the blockbusters that enraptured the hearts of audiences throughout the 70s and 80s. In an era of film and television embracing nostalgia more and more regularly via musical needle drops and pop culture shout outs, that seems to be nothing new, but Super 8 carries a more genuine sense of heart and passion that sets it apart.
Abrams wears his influences on his sleeve – namely the early works of Spielberg, who has a producer credit on Super 8 – but does so with unapologetic pride, and successfully captures why those films are so beloved. The central group of heroes is given the freedom to act like real kids and embrace fleeting childhood innocence to its fullest (a la E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). The sci-fi angle is handled with restraint, even with the massive train wreck that sets the story in motion: the mystery is hidden away and teased in doses (a la Jaws) until it subverts expectations with an intimate final reveal. But at its core, Super 8 is not really a film about an alien invasion, or even a group of kids making a silly amateur film: it’s a delicate meditation on grief and acceptance, from the point of view of both a young generation growing into adulthood and an older generation reestablishing a connection with the former. Abrams taps into emotions rooted in a strong sense of reality; in many ways, this is his most refined work yet.