Monday Morning Critic – The Top 10 Moments of Cinema in 2011, The Artist

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

With the year in cinema effectively wrapping up this weekend, with only The Iron Lady left from 2011 to debut, and debuting in a handful of theatres in a staggered platform release, it’s time to look back at the year that was. 2011 was a remarkably poor year for cinema as a whole; I think it’s hard to say otherwise.

The proof is the pudding, so goes the old saying, and the proof therein is in the final box office receipts.

If it had been box office receipts wouldn’t have dropped from 2010 as dramatically as they have; in terms of actual ticket sales we’re at a level we haven’t seen in eons. That’s not a good thing for Hollywood, which doesn’t rely on the domestic market as much as they did in years past to fund films (the foreign market is nearly three quarters of overall cinema revenues) but definitely not a good sign, either. You can blame it on a lot of things, from a recession to the shortened window between DVD and theatrical release, and it’s hard to deny that they’re not influencing factors. It’s hard to justify $10 for a theatre ticket when in a couple months $15 will get you the DVD which you can watch in the comfort of your own home.

However, gloom and doom aside, there was plenty of good in 2011. And while a top 10 of 2011 list won’t be forthcoming this week, as that’ll be next week’s column, I’d like to focus on something I find equally as important: the Top 10 moments. I tend to think of cinema at its best works as something that captures you for a moment in time. We remember great films but oftentimes we remember great moments in them. We also remember great moments in lesser films, as well. There’s the first playground showdown in White Men Can’t Jump, Kevin Costner’s tipping of a pitch in Bull Durham, Bob Barker and Adam Sandler in a brawl in Happy Gilmore and a host of others from films of varying quality. The thing is that while we may not remember all of the films, there are certain moments we can never forget.

And I think a great moment in a film is worth its weight in gold; we remember great moments in films and sometimes elevate them accordingly because of it. Like the first trash talk from Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, which makes the film seem more important than Eastwood doing as close of an exploitation flick as he could with a cop as the good guy. They might not have been in the 10 best films, though plenty of them were, but there were 10 indelible moments of the year that I think are worthy of looking. Thus I present the Top 10 Moments in the Year Cinematic 2011. I’ve scoured YouTube and Google video for as many as I could find; there is a beauty to cinema in sharing it.

I couldn’t find the scene, but the moment I’m discussing is shown early in the film’s green band trailer.

10. Daniel Craig being pulled up to the house – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I may have dislike this film something fierce BUT that initial scene with Michael Blomkvist being driven up to the estate sets a remarkable tone for the film. It’s ominous the way Fincher has constructed it; there’s a sense of dread and we’re not sure if he’s being set up for something entirely else more deadly. Obviously he’s not, considering there’s like 8 hours left of the film to go at this point, but I will give Fincher credit for how he’s designed this aspect of the film.

9. The elevator fight scene – Drive

I love the style of this film but the sheer brutality of Ryan Gosling beating a guy to death is both remarkable and terrifying.

I couldn’t find it on the YouTube, thus another good moment from the film.

8. “Can I turn it on?” – My Week With Marilyn

I loved Michelle Williams in this film but I wasn’t a huge fan of the film itself. But the scene with Marilyn Monroe as she’s at the prep school and spotted, asking Colin (Eddie Redmayne) if she can go from being Norma Jean into the movie star and just turns it on, is remarkable. It’s one of those indelible Oscar type moments where an actress just really channels their subject. If Michelle Williams doesn’t win an Oscar this year I’ll be genuinely surprised; her Marilyn is easily the best cinematic portrayal out there. And this is the ultimate money scene; we get to see the regular Marilyn and then the superstar that everyone was shown. It’s a remarkable transformation out of an actress.

7. Dueling Michael Caine Impressions – The Trip

In any normal year this would be the funniest moment of the year, but it was topped by another scene later on this list. But it was remarkably funny as two of Britain’s best do dueling Michael Caine impressions.

No mas, again

6. The Rock is introduced in Fast Five

One of the big weaknesses about the whole Fast and the Furious franchise is that there hasn’t been anyone who’s been a cop in it that really plays into the series’ remarkable over the top badness. James Remar had fun in the second film but really no one looking to bring down Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have really gone out and just oozed kick-ass.

And then Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said “screw that noise” and comes out and gives a blustering performance as Luke Hobbs, ass-kicker de jour who brings the wrath of God with him. It was an injection of awesome into the proceedings that the film can’t quite recover from.

It’s at the four minute mark or so, approximately.

5. Steve Carell crushes Julianne Moore’s rom-com conventions – Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The one thing I can’t stand in romantic comedies is that something major done to wrong a man is never treated the same as it is a woman. Guys in romantic comedies tend to get screwed this way; so when Emily (Moore) is wondering aloud to Cal (Carrell) about how she didn’t know where their marriage went wrong, etc, and in most films the guy would just have to sit there and take it because men in romantic comedies are written to be as dumb as women are written to be inconsiderate. And Cal just utters an epic line about nothing changed until she slept with David Lindhagen.

4. Boyle meets the FBI – The Guard

Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle need to do another film together.

3. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is introduced – Transformers: Dark of the Moon

If you ever wanted to see exactly how Michael Bay could take a Victoria’s Secret model and get an entire new crop of 13 year olds to simultaneously go through puberty at once, you’d show them the introduction of Shia’s new lady in the third Transformers film.

2. Koba and Brendan Conlon engage in a brutal slugfest – Warrior

We all know Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and his brother (Tom Hardy) are going to be in the finals of the Sparta tournament. But how they get together is rather remarkable and the Koba (Kurt Angle) fight is the best one in the film. Koba, for those who haven’t seen the film, is the best fighter in the world looking to perhaps steamroll through the tournament. Brendan was a UFC castoff turned teacher, having reentered MMA to try and save his house. Going in Koba looks like an MMA god and he brutalizes Brendan for the bulk of their fight. And then … he pulls off the brilliant submission against the undefeated fighter and Olympic Gold Medalist to make it to the finals. It was a well staged fight for a film about MMA, something the movies really mess up, and it also told a great story. Brendan is not in the same class as Koba and seemingly just wants to try and make it to the judges’ scorecards; Koba is out to finish him with reckless abandon. And going for one last submission attempt, Brendan pulls off a miracle with a leglock out of nowhere from a terrific (in terms of MMA for movies) grappling sequence.

I couldn’t find the clip, again, but the trailer is pretty rad.

1. Tom and the French detective – The Way

One of the big things about The Way, in order to really appreciate it, is that it’s a film about fathers and sons. Usually we’re given a son trying to understand the legacy of a father. The relationship between a man and his father is one that defines him throughout his life; no man ever wants to outlive his child, either. Understanding Tom and Daniel’s relationship is something that takes the entire film to really gauge. To understand how poorly Tom understood his son you just need to see he and the French detective who found his body discuss what his son was doing and you see it in Martin Sheen’s reactions. It’s a brilliant bit of acting; Tom and Daniel were never close, far from it, but you can see how far apart in this little scene. It tells so much story and gives so much background (and the clip doesn’t do enough justice as the full scene plays out a bit longer) without ever having to say much at all.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Movie – The Artist

I had a DVD lined up for this week but forgot to watch it this week; normally I do that on Sunday afternoon while I’m writing the column but the holiday weekend and my Christmas Day tradition of movies & Chinese food eliminated my DVD viewing time. I actually finished writing this column at like 2am, and got back in a couple hours prior, so a DVD was out of the question. I feel compelled to write about The Artist, which looks like the front-runner for Best Picture this year because it’s that damn good.

If you think about it, The Artist is a fairly pedestrian film. It has nothing more to it than the last act of Chaplin coupled with something from Sunset Boulevard. It’s about the rise of one star and the fall of another during the transition from silent films to talkies; plenty of films have worked the subject and frankly worked it in a more effective manner in terms of a true story-telling mannerism. And if this was a film that used modern sound, et al, like Chaplin did while showing the silent film era then this would’ve been a marginally forgettable film. But then Michel Hazanavicius does something out of the blue and in the process elevates the film by shear virtue of format.

Set it as a silent film.

The thing with silent films that I think gets lost when we look at them now is the sheer inability of an actor to use the format. It’s much showier, for lack of a better term, than modern acting and requires you to use something besides dialogue to make a point. It’s the thing that enthralled me with the film: the acting. When you don’t have audible dialogue one imagines that your job as an actor changes so much I think. It’s kind of a lost art to be able to use expressions and non-verbal communication to get a story across; acting has evolved away from the days of the silent film when you didn’t need a voice. You had your face.

Or something like that as Norma Desmond would’ve said and the artistry of the film is something to behold. See it if you can.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Iron Lady – Meryl Streep is Margaret Thatcher, British PM extraordinaire, in a biopic in limited release.

See it – Streep is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination every year, it seems, and this’ll probably do it for her again. The buzz has been in either direction in that it’s a sensitive piece about Thatcher as a frail old woman reflecting on her life or as a savage takedown by the British equivalent of a hippie. They put their tie dye on after morning tea, I suppose. Either way it’ll be worth a viewing if you can see it.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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