My countdown of my most anticipated films of 2011 goes up later this week, but first a quick look back to eleven months ago when the cinematic year laid before us like a blanket of untouched snow, and we thought that Jake Gyllenhaal didn't look half bad in Prince Persia. These movies made up my list of the most anticipated films of last year. Let's see exactly how badly my eager hopes for the cinematic year were manhandled in the darkness of the movie theater...
At the time I predicted it would be Stiller's "best role in ages" and wondered if Greenberg could be a breakout film for Noah Baumbach, to which the answers were an emphatic yes and no, respectively. An artistic success for all involved, Baumbach nonetheless remains in the same indie niche as before it came out.
Did it deliver? Perfectly. It met my expectations almost exactly, ending up this close to the ten spot on my list of the year's best, only to be nudged out by a flurry of last minute viewings.
09. Black Swan
To think there was a time when I was way more excited to see Green Zone than Black Swan. I can only attribute Swan's embarrassingly low placement to the fact that I didn't know anything about it, at the time hazarding it to be some kind of ballerina ghost story. Had I known I would find it to be unequivocally Aronofsky's best to date I like to think I'd have bumped it up above Iron Man 2.
Did it deliver? Did it ever. A third viewing is likely in the near future.
08. Iron Man 2
Maybe the year's biggest let down. Not that it was terrible by any stretch. Just that it was so thoroughly average. Last year I confidently assured that, "the infallible rule of sequels states the second film in the franchise is always the best". Turns out the rule was entirely too fallible.
Did it deliver? Missed the mark by a wide margin. My longwinded explanation as to why can be read here.
07. Get Low
I placed this one this high on the list based entirely on my undying admiration for both Duvall and Murray. Turns out that while they got to give amusing characterizations they've both given much deeper turns in countless earlier movies.
Did it deliver? No, but it's tough to get too angry at this sweet but Hallmark-y shallow production.
06. Green Zone
This would have to qualify as the biggest disappointment on the list. After Greengrass was on such a roll with Bourne and United 93 it was rough to see him stumble through this muddled, unfocused film. The same goes for Damon, who was clearly giving it his all here.
Did it deliver? Sadly not at all. Mixing fiction with docudrama realism it ends up getting the worst of both worlds. Leaden storytelling mixed with factual info that can be easily dismissed due to the fictional elements. At least Greengrass didn't misplace his gift for giving his action a vivid, you-are-there feel.
05. Toy Story 3
This wasn't exactly a difficult call, was it?
Did it deliver? Another Pixar film, another timeless masterpiece for all ages. Yawn.
04. Cemetery Junction
Gervais and Merchant are responsible for some of my favorite pop culture from any source from the last decade, so their foray into feature film directorial debut would have to be a similar triumph, yes?
Did it deliver? Um, not quite. A small endearing film to be sure but nothing to do backflips over. It underperformed to such a degree in England that it didn't even manage a proper release here in the States. Pleased to see that Gervais and Merchant are returning to the small screen for their next collaboration, but if they want to give features another chance I'd say they deserve another at bat.
03. True Grit
Coen brothers films shoot to the top of these lists on general principle. That it was a reunion with Jeff Bridges was icing on the cake. If I had seen that trailer earlier this would have been my number one choice.
Did it deliver? Yes and no. Based on the sky high expectations with which I greet the work of the Coens, no. But that's the same as saying it isn't one of the best movies ever made. Based on the much more reasonable standard of - Is it a solid flick worth my time? - sure it delivered and then some. Maybe a touch over-anticipated considering its lofty place here and the fact that I wasn't giving The Social Network the time of day last Winter.
When I ranked this list I was still reeling from the release of this film's mind-blowing trailer. Unfailing Scorsese worship was the only thing that kept this from topping the list.
Did it deliver? Absolutely. Although for me time has let it settle down on to the level of an awesome Summer movie and not so much an undisputed classic, Nolan's hugely ambitious film was still well worth all the jittery anticipation.
01. Shutter Island
This time last year I was thrilled to bits that the master finally appeared to be dropping the Oscar bait for good and all and was going full-tilt boogie on some truly outre material. I couldn't get to the theater fast enough.
Did it deliver? Sigh. Eight months later and I my thoughts on Shutter Island still haven't settled. I have the niggling suspicion that I let a masterpiece slip by me, but my honest reaction was and is, no, this isn't in the same time zone as Marty's best work. Still, it hasn't left my thoughts a year later and that's means there's something there, doesn't it?