To Don and Jay,
Thanks for agreeing to do this project with me. I’ve been meaning to do something like this for quite some time now after reading the conversations that a few critics had had over at the Slate Movie Club. I also wanted a space where I can gush about the movies I like and bitch about the ones I don’t, where I can argue with other people who have different opinions about a film or a performance, and where I can just talk about cinema without judgment. This should be fun, considering that the two of you are big cinephiles just like me. I hope we can have a nice, friendly discussion going, although a few disagreements along the way wouldn’t hurt either.
Anyway, the Oscar nominations are going to be released later tonight, finally putting a stop to all the prognosticating on who will get a nomination. I think that now would be a good time for us to look back at 2011 in cinema and share some of our most memorable movie moments to get the ball rolling. Allow me to share some of mine:
1. Watching The Tree of Life’s creation sequence
Now unlike a lot of people, I didn’t completely fall for Terence Malick’s sweeping movie. I watched it here when it was screened at the French Film Festival, and the comments from some people afterwards were some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard:
“Ano ba yun, para akong nanood ng screensaver.”
“Nakatulog ako, tapos sa gitna, naggising ulit ako. Tapos sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘nananaginip pa ba ako?'”
To be fair, I don’t think this is a movie you’d expect to see if you’re a casual moviegoer and the only thing you knew about it from the poster was that it had Brad Pitt and dinosaurs. And I do sympathize with them – at times the movie was so infuriatingly incoherent and maddeningly slow that all the emotional connections that the movie wanted to make was lost on me. Perhaps one of you can defend its merits because I really want to understand why it is the critics’ darling of 2011.
However, one of the most exciting cinematic moments I had this year was when I watched the movie’s sublime, majestic creation sequence. In my opinion, this is an experience that can only be fully appreciated when seen in the theater. No movie scene has made me feel so small and insignificant as I sat there in awe at the scale of the beautiful and elegant images that Malick weaved together to recreate the beginning of the universe. Coupled with that haunting vocal arrangement and the faintly audible meditative narration, I’m not surprised that some people found a profound spiritual experience in that particular scene. This to me is the biggest redeeming value of this movie that still made me admire it despite my reservations.
2. “Anything that happens in that five minutes, I’m yours no matter what.”
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive was definitely my favorite movie of last year. I know so many people loved Drive that hearing that for the nth time might make it sound a bit cliche, but what can I say? The entire movie was sold on me and I enjoyed every minute of the ride.
I got hooked to the movie thanks in large part to the brilliant, cold opening sequence that showed the world how bad-ass Ryan Gosling can be. In the world of Tumblr, Gosling might be king, but behind the steering wheel as the unnamed Driver, he was a frickin’ god. In a span of ten minutes, he made all the girls swoon for him and all the guys want to be like him. Pretty impressive.
That opening scene which showed him being contracted by a pair of robbers as their getaway driver was a tightly edited sequence that wasn’t just a simple exercise in style – it revealed a lot about his character’s ethics as well. Despite his moral ambiguity, he is a person who sacredly holds the personal contracts he makes above anything else, which explains his ruthlessness in hunting down Bernie Rose and Nino when one of his arrangements goes horribly awry. Aside from that, this will probably go down in movie history as one of the best car chase scenes ever, rivaling classic ones like those from Bullit or The French Connection. I can’t wait to see Gosling and Refn again in their next movie, Only God Forgives.
3. A toast to Bridesmaids
There is so much to love about Bridesmaids. Yes it might be a bit too long and some scenes feel like extended SNL sketches, but you can’t deny its cultural impact. Yes, women can be funny and gross and inappropriate too.
Melissa McCarthy is getting the most attention and is well on her way to an Oscar nomination for her role and now infamous shitting-in-the-sink scene but I want to focus instead on Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne, particularly the scene where they tried to outdo each other’s toasts during the bridal shower. I enjoyed it partially because it made me feel awkward, and by doing that, it made me feel like I was part of the scene, like I was there with them. And that’s the thing with Wiig’s writing – her characters are relatable in their own little ways, perhaps even more so than those in The Hangover. Wiig’s writing is extremely funny but it’s also grounded in a believable reality.
Those are just three moments that I can remember off the top of my head, but I guess I’ve said too much and now it’s your turn. What were your favorite movie moments of 2011? Any favorite performances? Movie Animals? Soundtracks? Anything? The Oscar nominations may already be out by the time you write your first entries, so feel free to comment on that as well. I can’t wait to hear from the both of you.