On February 26th, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the year’s best films by handing out the most coveted trophy in Hollywood – the Oscar. Hosted for the ninth time by veteran comedian Billy Crystal, this year’s Oscars should be exactly what movie fans have come to expect from the star-studded celebration.
Of course, the real stars of the evening are the movies themselves. From huge 3-D blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II to experimental artful films such as The Tree of Life, cinema fans had no shortage of amazing movies to watch this year. While the ever impressive visuals of 3-D and other new technology made it seem like the movies of 2011 looked toward the future, a unifying theme seemed to be a reverent look at the past. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, for example, made good use of 3-D technology to paint a striking picture of Paris in the 1930s. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was literally a trip back in time, while The Artist was a love letter to the era of silent films of the 1920s.
One of the biggest cinematic events of 2011 was undoubtedly the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, concluding a 10-year, eight-movie saga. While it was snubbed for Best Picture by the Academy, the Harry Potter series is staggeringly popular and the final movie drew huge crowds, earning over a hundred million dollars at the box office in its opening weekend. Many of us high-school fans grew up with Harry Potter, making it particularly bittersweet to see the series end. While there was mixed reaction about the final movie being split into two parts, the writers found a natural pause in the story and the result was a two-part epic that did the novels justice.
While many movies of 2011 were visual spectacles, they were also filled with stand-out performances from many of Hollywood’s top actors. George Clooney, who last received a Best Actor nomination for 2009’s Up in the Air, once again earned a nod for his starring role in the family dramedy, The Descendants.
Brad Pitt also had an outstanding year, turning out critically acclaimed performances in the family drama, The Tree of Life, and earning a Best Actor nomination in the baseball biopic, Moneyball.
Emma Stone, who until now was best known for her roles in teen comedies such as Easy A and Superbad, starred in the hit novel-turned-movie, The Help, a dramedy dealing with racism in the South in the 1960s. Although the movie does carry some of the lightheartedness people usually associate with her, The Help offered Stone a more mature role, which along with her recent win for Favourite Movie Actress at the People’s Choice Awards, launched her into more serious actress territory in 2012. That said, it is her co-star Viola Davis who got the Best Actress nomination for her work in The Help.
One of the other huge performances came late in 2011 from Rooney Mara (a relative newcomer who you may remember from The Social Network), who wowed us in the American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Playing the role of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, Mara portrays the dark and troubled protagonist expertly, making her another strong bet for Best Actress at this year’s Academy Awards.
The last year gave us many outstanding movies, but, as everyone knows, only one can take home the award for Best Picture. As always, there are the top contenders, namely The Artist and The Descendants, which are favoured to earn the gold statuette. But, with a category of nine nominees this year (it used to be only five up until 2011), the prize is anyone’s to take. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, for example, opened to much acclaim in December, going beyond a typical boy-and-his-horse story, while Martin Scorsese’s Hugo has also received a lot of Best Picture buzz.
All in all, 2011 was a great year for movie lovers, and we all look forward to February 26th for the final verdict on the year’s greatest films.Login or register to post comments. All comments have to go through a queue for approval to keep the nasty stuff out, but we'll post yours as soon as we can.