Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

As we say goodbye to the somewhat daffy, somewhat dreary, whatever-you-make-of-it year of cinema that was 2011, and welcome a time of reflection and hope for a better one to come, I offer some of my favorite memories of the past year of movies.  Note this is not a best-of list (that comes with more reflection and timing...damn the critical society for their silly Oscar dazing; filmmaking requires a time to breath to truly absorb.)  Here's some happy gems I savored:

The grotesque, but fascinating demise of Gwyneth Paltrow in Steven Soderbergh's outbreak horror global flick Contagion.

When Owen Wilson's Gil met Salvador Dali (played with a never before seen sense of humor by Adrien Brody) in Midnight in Paris.

The nuttiest and most hilarious sequence of the year: when the Bridesmaids gals took that ill-fated plane ride to Las Vegas-- Kristen Wiig was "ready to paarrtttyyy," and welcomed everyone to the celebration of perhaps the most artfully executed girls-gone-wild piece ever created for the silver screen.

The nervy, stomach-inducing sequence atop the world largest building in Dubai, whereTom Cruise scaled in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol.  Shot with such tense, such verve, such "how the hell did do that" kind of cinematic magic that franchise filmmaking appears to have lost some time ago.  I didn't feel good watching it, what with the butterflies in my stomach churning of the fear of heights I never knew I had, but damned if I wasn't compelled.

The alarming and worthwhile sense of discovery in watching the absorbing charm of Elizabeth Olsen tackling a dense, hard to define character of many names in Martha Marcy May Marlene.  Ditto the arrival of Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, just to cheat a little.

The shock and awe of George Valentin's nightmare possibly becoming a reality as everyone has a voice but himself, the greatest silent movie star in the world in The Artist.

"Life a Happy Song," the best musical sequence in a feature film since Catherine Zeta-Jones belted "All That Jazz" in The Muppets.

The opening prologue to Melancholia, in which director Lars von Trier romantically and beguilingly scored his end-of-the-world operetta to tune of Wagner's Tristan & Isolde.  von Trier has never been quite so unnervingly and beautifully poetic.

That nifty, ultra cool, so-stylized it hurts elevator shot in Drive, where Ryan Gosling became not just a movie star, but a generational icon.

The sad and haunting conclusion to best romantic story of the year-- the bittersweet farewell of the lovers from Weekend.

What are your favorite cinematic moments of 2011?

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