First published on 15 Dec 2011. Updated on 15 Dec 2011.
In a year of yawn-out-loud special effects blockbusters, only one made us sit up and pay attention: the story of an intelligent ape’s struggle to find his place in the world of men. Featuring Andy Serkis as the hairy hero Caesar, Rupert Wyatt’s Hollywood debut marked an evolutionary leap in the art of motion capture performance.
Animators let us down this year, bigtime. From Johnny Depp’s peculiar Rango to George Miller’s all-over-the-shop Happy Feet 2, from lucklustre Easter Bunnies to run-of-the-mill Santas, good animated storytelling was in short supply. Luckily this colourful tale of a macaw called Blu learning to fly and eluding birdnappers in Brazil was more fun than a Mardi Gras.
When Canadian twins start researching their mother’s early life story in Lebanon, a horrific tale of love and suffering emerges. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, This French-Canadian film had the impact of a Greek tragedy, leaving us shaken, stirred and emotionally scarred.
David O Russell’s return to form dealt with boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) who rose to become world welterweight champion despite the interference of his trashbag family – including manipulative mum (Melissa Leo) and crack-addict brother (Christian Bale). Both Leo and Bale won well-deserved Oscars.
6 War Horse
Spielberg’s rousing, old-fashioned epic revealed the insanity of World War One through a smart stallion’s odyssey on both sides of the trenches. Some images, like the horse leaping over a tank in no man’s land, we’ll never forget.
Tilda Swinton gave the performance of her brilliant career as the shellshocked mother of a murderous teen in Lynne Ramsay’s evocative adaptation of the novel by Lionel Shriver. It’s shattering stuff.
Against the odds, Woody Allen came up with a late-career masterpiece in this crowd-pleasing comedy about a nostalgic would-be novelist (Owen Wilson) who is transported back in time to the Paris of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein and Picasso. It was witty, it was romantic, and had a touch of real magic.
The Apocalypse Now of wedding comedies, Bridesmaids grabbed nuptial anxiety by the bridal train and gave it a giant wedgie. Kristen Wiig’s performance as a maid of honour desperate to stay in control of her best friend’s big day was the funniest thing to splatter across the screen all year.
Brendan Gleeson: comedy god, or what? As an obnoxious cop in small-town Ireland, Gleeson heaped the insults on Don Cheadle’s FBI agent and kept us guessing as to his motives in John Michael McDonagh’s achingly funny modern-day western.
And the best fim released in Australia in 2011 is….
The Coen Brothers’ flawless adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis stands as one of the greatest Westerns of all time. An Oscar-winning portrayal of Rooster Cogburn by John Wayne in the 1969 version didn’t stop Jeff Bridges getting into the filthy britches of one-eyed bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn, who is hired by 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt her daddy’s killer (Josh Brolin), helped by a preening US Marshall (Matt Damon). All four gave magnificent performances while the Coens’ lucid direction was a masterclass in cinematic storytelling. Released in Australia way back in January, nothing quite matched it for the rest of the year.