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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Review: FALL/WINTER 2011

            So once again it is January and usually we end up writing a top-ten column like every other movie blog out there. However, this year I’ve been writing a top-five column for every season of the year (you can check the spring and summer column here and here). So I guess it is time to review this years Fall/Winter season. I am grouping the fall/winter into a single column for a few reasons: firstly, because the Spring and Summer seasons were each four months long, so the third season should also be four months, and secondly because the Holiday/winter/Award season is usually only attributed to the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it would be insane to cram a whole season of movie watching into one month. Thus we have the fall/winter season of 2011 here.

            The fall/winter season, tends to be an odd blend of the Spring and Summer season, for the most part the Fall, like Spring, is filled with the movies that studios and distributors could not figure out when else to premiere; these are generally “Indy” movies. While winter, like summer, is a high grossing season, so all the studios churn out a second round of blockbusters. However the fall/winter season will always have the Award season casting a shadow over its premiers, so generally studios try a little harder; generally, not always, because ironically fall/winter is also the season of the cheesiest Halloween movies and corniest Christmas movies.

            Sadly I missed a few movies this season, and I know that quite a few of them probably belong here (The Muppets, Moneyball, Tin Tin, are probably it). But as I stated in my last two season reviews, these is not the strictest top-five, but a list of good movies I’d recommend and probably will watch, or have watched, again.

            Drive – An elegant, and practically silent, thriller directed by Nicholas Winding about The Driver (Ryan Gosling) and his lovely neighbor (Carrey Mulligan). This film was crafted with surgical precision, and it delivers not only a thrilling ride, but also the only realistic car chase in film since the 1960s. It is essentially a Clint Eastwood western on wheels. 

            Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil – Halloween is the time of really, really, really bad horror movies. If you happen to be a B-movie fan I guess this is a good thing. I enjoy a good B-movie, but would likely never place it in a list like this. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is both a good B-movie, and a good post-ironic parody of all the good and bad B-movies. Although it premiered, a few years ago in Comic-con, and this summer on video-on-demand, I am placing it here because it did enjoy a very, very, very, limited release this October. This is the perfect movie to enjoy with a fun crowd and a few drinks, a truly social movie.

            The Skin I Live In – Another homage to the horror B-movies of classic drive-ins. But unlike Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, this is not a parody but a very serious attempt to make a very serious mad-scientist movie. They say that Stanley Kubrick always wanted to direct a porn film. The Skin I Live In perhaps answers the question, “What would happen if a movie like this was made by a great director?” And to be frank, I love the answer. This is Almodovar at the top of his form. The Skin I Live in borrows the best from every one of his movies and churns it into a truly horrific masterpiece.

            Hugo – This is nothing short of Martin Scorsese love letter to filmmaking. And what a lovely letter did Marty craft. Scorsese is, perhaps, the greatest director working today. And the only director, as far as I have seen, that seems to know how to direct 3D. The 3D in Hugo is not a gimmick; it is not subtle; it is not overwhelming; it is simply necessary to explore the thematic and visual elements this movie pursuits. Was it a surprise that Scorsese was able to use 3D? Not really, end of the day it is just a filmmaking tool, and a good director should know how to use it. (I didn’t see Tin Tin, but I suspect Spielberg is probably one of the few who know how).

            The Artist – Most people today cannot fathom seeing a movie in black and white. A silent movie? “Hell, no!” is the usual answer. But in many ways that is what makes Michael Hazanavicius’ film so great, it knows its audience isn’t quite down to watch a silent movie. So it plays with them, to great effect. And delivers what is likely the most entertaining movie of the year; short, sweet, candid, and honest. Not a single summer blockbuster can boast any of these qualities. Not that I have anything against summer blockbusters. Had the artist come out in 1929, it would have been a summer blockbuster; it would have been a science fiction thriller about the advent of sound on film. Now, imagine that. 

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