The Year In Review, Part One -- The Notable Highlights & Lowlights Of January-June 2011

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by The Playlist
December 29, 2011 3:47 PM
11 Comments
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Well, with twelve months basically in the can, it’s time to put the year to bed, and hopefully, into a little perspective. 2011 was, well, just another year in movies, and that's not to say it was an uninteresting year, it's just that while things are evolving, and not always for the better, Hollywood, indies and the general state of filmmaking kept on trucking like they had to. Sure, it was hard for some movies to get made.  Warner Bros. apparently said no to a Leonardo DiCaprio pitch because it was a drama (and he's their golden child), big, ambitious studio projects were shut down because the chance to recoup seemed too tenuous (Guillermo del Toro's R-Rated $150 million "At The Mountains Of Madness") and several highly expensive tentpoles that were released this year ("Green Lantern," "Cowboys & Aliens") turned out to be some rather underperforming turkeys ('GL' was supposed to trigger a lucrative franchise, but now it's back to the drawing board).

Stars were made (mostly young ingénues at Sundance) and some icons' candles finally flickered out (RIP Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Lumet, Peter Falk, Polly Platt and Ken Russell). So, twelve months down, twelve more months to go in the arbitrary cycle of when we judge and evaluate art (and sometimes just hollow entertainment). Let's take a look back and try and make sense of things. And in honor of "Harry Potter" and "Breaking Dawn," we've cut the feature in two to maintain the integrity of the piece. Or to maximize box-office returns. One of the two. 

January
Deaths:

The year begins and almost immediately we lose British actor Pete Postlethwaite to cancer. His last roles are “Inception,” “The Town” and “Killing Bono.” Very soon after we also say goodbye to legendary ‘Bond’ composer John Barry and director Peter Yates (“Bullitt,” “The Hot Rock” to name just a few).


January Releases Still Stink:

The don’t call it dumping ground season for nuthin’. Despite some hopes from ardent fans of Michel Gondry, Vince Vaughn and Natalie Portman, "The Green Hornet," "The Dilemma" and "No Strings Attached" once again prove that January is truly the nadir season of movie releases for your brain (though ‘Hornet’ & ‘Strings’ are successful at the box-office regardless).


January 16: Ricky Gervais Rips The Golden Globes & Hollywood A New Asshole

Just as Hollywood is kicking off the holiday cobwebs in time for their first self-congratulatory awards show, Ricky Gervais tears everyone a new one. Best line? Hard to pick, but this dig was aces: “Our next presenter is from such films as 'Hudson Hawk,' 'Look Who’s Talking,' 'Mercury Rising,' 'Color of Night,' 'The Fifth Element,' and 'Hart’s War.' Please welcome Ashton Kutcher’s dad, Bruce Willis.” Though the Globes organizers were so embarrassed on behalf of the industry that they vowed to never have him back, they swiftly realized that it was the only reason anyone paid attention, so he’ll be returning again in a few weeks.

January 19: Anne Hathaway Gets ‘Dark’

Anne Hathaway is cast as the Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises,” while Tom Hardy’s villain character is revealed as Bane. What doesn't become clear until later: Hardy will record all his lines with a tangerine in his mouth and his head in a bag.


 

January 24: Kevin Smith Is His Own Worst Enemy
After accruing some good will with 2010’s Southwest Airline Fat-gate, an semi-disliked Kevin Smith engenders even more ill-will with a fake auction for this new film called “Red State” at Sundance. And also by making a terrible film called “Red State.”



Jan 30:  Henry Cavill Finally Gets ‘Super’sized
After years of inhabiting the runner-up spot, British actor Henry Cavill is crowned the next Superman for Zack Snyder’s upcoming superhero film, “The Man of Steel.” Too bad for Cavill it’s a Snyder film…Cavil is the third English actor to play a major American super hero icon, subsequent to Christian Bale (Batman) and Andrew Garfield (Spiderman), a sustained campaign by the British government to avenge the time Anne Hathaway played Jane Austen. 

Jan 31:  A New Batch of Sundance Queens Are Crowned
Another cabal of Sundance starlets are created based off some pretty terrific performances. The names Felicity Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, Adepero Oduye and Brit Marling don’t mean much at the time, but later in the year, they’re inescapable. In fact, one of them’s reading over your shoulder right now.



January 31: Harvey Scissorhands Strikes Again
Having scored 12 Oscar nominations, and coming tops at the DGA and PGA awards, "The King's Speech" takes the front-runner position in the Oscar race. Sorry, “The Social Network,” it’s gonna be a fait accompli any minute now. Nevertheless, after many claims that "this will never happen,” Harvey Weinstein gets his way and announces the re-release Oscar-contender “The King’s Speech” in a PG-13 form, in order to appeal to that vital demographic of 14-year-olds obsessed with the ins and outs of 1930s British monarchy. To make up for the subsequent negative publicity, he’ll be re-releasing this year's awards smash “The Artist” in the original, untainted NC-17 cut in March.  

February
February 14: Nobody Still Likes January Jones

January Jones says what every geek fan pretty much already knows, “X-Men: First Classis rushed and over-scheduled. Her icy demeanor, alleged affair with director Matthew Vaughn and general candidness wins her no additional fans, although her push-up bra does get through to a certain demographic. GQ then names her one of the 25 Least Essential People of 2011 at the end of the year. It all starts around here. Let’s hope Season 5 of “Mad Men” gives her more to do.

February 27: Shylamalan Gets Another Razzie

Fortifying his position as one of the worst working filmmakers alive, M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbenderwins out at the Razzie Awards. Will Smith will eventually have the bright idea to work with him instead of Quentin Tarantino.  

  

February 28:  Harvey Weinstein Drives Mediocre Film To Oscar Victory, News At Ten
The King’s Speechwins Best Picture, signaling two shifts in Hollywood. 1) Harvey Weinstein’s Oscar-campaigning mojo is back. 2) The pendulum that the Academy seems to revert back to every five years seems to have swung to the safe and conservative side. After his PG-13 meddling, Weinstein is noticeably absent in filmmaker Tom Hooper’s Best Director acceptance speech.

February 28: Worst. Oscar. Hosts. Ever

James Franco and Anne Hathaway host the Oscars, ensuring that Franco won’t host the opening of a Banana stand, let alone any major awards ceremony for the rest of his life. On the plus side, Rob Lowe had a good night, knowing that his dance with Snow White is no longer the worst moment in the history of the show.


March

March 3: The Return of ‘Blade Runner’?
Sequel and prequel rights for “Blade Runnerare sold. Purist fans gasp that a sci-fi touchstone could be besmirched with a lesser follow-up. They then go put on their Tyrell Corporation t-shirts, and settle down to rewatch “Alien Vs. Predator.” Later in the year, Ridley Scott will get in on the act as well.



March 21:  ‘The Hobbit’Finally Begins

After months (arguably years) of delays and a last-minute perforated ulcer for Peter Jackson, which briefly smells like Mordor doom, “The Hobbitfinally starts shooting in New Zealand. Accountants at Warners/New Line comment: “Precious!”




March 27: Lois Lane Is A Red-Head

Amy Adams is cast as Lois Lane in “The Man of Steel.” She’s not a brunette, which leads one California-area DC Comics fan to set himself on fire in the studio car park.





March 27th: ‘Mildred Pierce Becomes The Best Film Of 2011 So Far That Isn’t Actually A Film

Todd Haynesbrilliant five-part HBO drama “Mildred Pierce” is released. It is eventually nominated for nine Primetime Emmy Awards and wins two, including supporting turns for Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce.  It’s also nominated for another twelve Creative Emmys and wins two.



March 29: Batman Will Rise Without Nolan

Warner Bros. announces that they’ll rebootThe Dark Knight” series once Christopher Nolan is done. In the same breath they admit the first “Green Lantern” trailer was terrible, but promise better things to come. We’re still waiting...  There’s no talk of a ‘Harry Potter’ reboot yet, but you can rest be assured that cash cows with that much brand equity do not stay dormant for long in this day and age.

March 29: ‘Black Swan’-Gate Half Heartedly Starts

Non-controversy controversy about “Black Swan” and its ballet dancing begins, Yawn, “Black Swan”-gate doesn’t last very long. Guys, next time you do this BEFORE the Academy Awards Ceremony, duh.




April
April 9: R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

The great Sidney Lumet dies. Known for such seminal films as “12 Angry Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Network,” "The Pawnbroker," and "Fail-Safe," Lumet was sadly never given a proper academy award for his directing work, but luckily the Academy were wise enough to reward him with an honorary Oscar in 2005.



April 22: Once Again, Matt Damon Will Not Be In This Movie

After months of back and forth, and Tony Gilroy reportedly almost bailing on the entire thing at one point – he wanted Oscar Isaac or Joel Edgerton for the lead – compromise is begrudgingly struck and Jeremy Renner lands the lead role in “The Bourne Legacy,” leading to you spend the next eighteen months explaining to your dad “No, Matt Damon isn’t in this film.”


April 26: Shitty Horror Film Becomes Year’s Most Profitable

The “Paranormal Activity” team (Jason Blum, Oren Peli and Steven Schneider) know what they’re doing. Make cheapo fright films at budget cost, prey on audiences' bored lust for shitty cheap thrills. And others are catching on; case in point, made for under $1.5 million, a little horror film that you barely remember -- "Insidious" starring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson -- would go on to gross $97 million worldwide, by April making it the most profitable film of the year .

April 30: Tarantino Announces Racist Slave Epic

After months of talk about his gestating “Southern,” project, Quentin Tarantino reveals his latest will be a spaghetti-western slavery epic called, “Django Unchained" and Christoph Waltz will star. Will Smith flirts with the lead role, but it ultimately proves to be too controversial (or too racist) for his squeaky-clean image, depriving us all of a “Wild Wild West”-style tie-in single.

May
May 6: Arrogant Crybaby God Does Good

The first official superhero film of the summer, "Thor" grosses a very strong $65 million in its first weekend, then eventually grosses $449 million worldwide, thus ensuring a sequel. Rumors it’s going under the working title “Thor Horse” are, as yet, unconfirmed.




May 8: Aging Alcoholic Racist, Anti-Semite Wife-Beater Comeback Met With Shrugs

Mel Gibson returns not with a bang, but a whimper. Reviews at SXSW for “The Beaverare tepid and when it finally arrives in theaters, and it grosses a paltry $6 million (on a $21 million budget). It’s less of an outright audience rejection of Mel and his very public and notorious 2010 antics as it is something even more debilitating to a career: a big, collective shrug. We imagine Mel reacts the way he usually does; by drinking a gallon of bourbon and shouting at BET until he falls asleep.

May 13-May 19:  Springtime For Lars Von Trier
A week or so after a deliciously anticipated project is announced (Lars Von Trier & Marty Scorsese shooting some 'Obstructions'), good ol' provocative Lars nearly deep-sixes it all (and his career), with some tossed-off, careless comments about Nazis, and a shitstorm is kicked off. Cannes organizers deem him persona non grata, the media breaches in the water like a great white smelling blood and poor Lars learns firsthand about the power of misguided words when they hit the wires. An ugly situation in which we're all culpable.

May 19: ‘Bridesmaids’ Somehow Forces Male Audiences To Think Female Comedies Aren’t All “Gay”
After major buzz at SXSW, “Bridesmaids” becomes a smash hit. It also delivers the introduction of many to Melissa McCarthy and a tsunami of “hey, girls! We can do it” articles about the heretofore-unsuccessful female-led comedy genre. It grosses $288 million worldwide and surpasses “Knocked Up” to become the most successful Apatow-produced comedy thus far. It’s such an incontestable hit that sequel talk begins and cast and crew start to see multiple rewards as their stock in Hollywood skyrockets.

May 27-May 29:  Deja Vu: We’re All Hungover Again

Meanwhile, “The Hangover Part II” is a painfully lazy retread of the 2009 comedy hit. It therefore unquestionably becomes the highest grossing R-Rated comedy of all time ($581 million worldwide) and, surprise surprise, director Todd Phillips says a third film is on the way. Shocker. Still, Justin Bartha gets to buy a summer house.
 

May 22: Graying Recluse Appears To Collect Global Film Olympics Cracker-Jack Prize
Three years after it shot, "The Tree Of Life" premieres in Cannes and eventually wins the Palme d’Or prize. Terrence Malick makes a surprise appearance, although for some reason the paparazzi seem more interested in taking pictures of Brad Pitt.  



May 24: ‘Snow White’ Film Blinking Contest Ends

The stupid, and perhaps even reckless, game of release date chicken with Universal and Relativity’s disparate ‘Snow White’ projects ends. Relativity wins round 4 (or is it 5?) of this one-upsmanship lark by nabbing the earlier release date, but it remains to be seen if they’ll laugh last with the box-office crown. Whoever wins, we lose. Especially when a filmmaker is forced to turn around and release a film in 8 months.

June
June 3: Not Quite ‘X-Hausted’ Yet

X-Men: First Class” doesn’t perform as well as “Thor;” its opening is considered soft, and there’s some question of whether a sequel is dead in the water. Domestically it is the lowest grossing of the five “X-Men” films so far, and second lowest internationally, but it does still crawl to $353 million worldwide, and a writer’s eventually hired for the follow-up. Maybe next time around, they can afford enough screen time for all the characters!


June 13: Geeks Given Less Underoos For Early Summer Christmas

In a surprise move: Warner Bros. keeps both “The Dark Knight Rises” & “The Man of Steelaway from Comic Con. Fans console themselves by masturbating their way to carpal tunnel syndrome in front of a PPV rental of an animated “Justice League” movie.

 

June 20: Classy Michael Bay Blames Fox's ‘Transformers’ Axing On Spielberg
Michael Bay throws his producer under the bus and says Steven Spielberg told him to fire Megan Fox from the “Transformers” franchise for calling her director a Nazi. Of course, no one really notices, but near the end of the year Spielberg refutes this claim, telling Entertainment Weekly that he did no such thing. Although he has cast Bay as the villain in the next "Indiana Jones" film we're told.

June 21: Thanks Assholes, You Just Ensured A ‘Pirates 5’ & Another Johnny Depp Island
Despite being a piece of shit, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” goes on to become one of the top ten grossing films worldwide ever.  Somewhere in the world, Terry Gilliam sheds a single tear. The small consolation is by the end of 2011, it’s pushed to the #12 slot, so it turns out that vanquishing Voldermort wasn't the only good deed Harry Potter did this year.

June 24: The Biggest Woody Is ‘Paris’

Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Parisbecomes his highest grossing film since “Annie Hall,” eventually raking in $145 million worldwide, beating the 1977 film by almost four times the amount. Oscar talk starts to bubble, but as of right now it remains to be seen whether it will land among the Academy's finalists. In fairness, it's just mediocre enough to do so.

 

June 26: In Blackest Day, In Darkest Night, Ryan Reynolds' Career Gets A Terrible Fright
Despite a rumored budget of near $300 million, in its second week in release “Green Lanternplummets at the box-office, demonstrating that anyone who showed up in the first place was curious, or a masochist, or both. While it does eventually gross $219 million worldwide, it’s not nearly enough. Unquestionably the biggest stumble of the summer so far.

Part 2 will follow tomorrow, put it on your calendar.

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11 Comments

  • brian | December 30, 2011 4:47 PMReply

    XMFC (no big names, coming off the heels of 2 shitty entries) did more critically/commercial to boost the franchise then X3 or Wolverine.

  • Joe | December 30, 2011 10:26 AMReply

    "Domestically it is the lowest grossing of the five “X-Men” films so far, and second lowest internationally, but it does still crawl to $353 million worldwide, "

    It's actually the second highest internationally. First Class made more overseas ($207m) than X1, X2 and Wolverine. It also wasn't in 3D like Thor and Captain America were.

  • Huffy | December 30, 2011 8:49 AMReply

    Yikes. Sounds like a certain writer didn't get an iPad for Christmas. In all fairness most of the snark was warranted. Garbage year for Hollywood, creatively and commercially (can't say that they didn't deserve the latter).
    I'm also amazed at how much of a coward Will Smith is about "risky" career choices. He has so much goddamned money that he could star in nothing but fucking Guy Maddin flicks for the rest of his life and still be able to buy a new vacation home every year.

  • john | December 30, 2011 1:25 AMReply

    fuck you guys are bitchy.

  • jonathan | December 29, 2011 9:18 PMReply

    I just wanted to let you guys know that mildred pierce was nominated for 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, not 9. Also, Kate won for lead actress, not supporting.

  • Dylan Bradford | December 29, 2011 5:33 PMReply

    The Sundance Film Festival's 6 head programmers have acknowledged that they do not in fact watch the over 10,000 film submissions, and that they hire "someone" else, ( 30 to 40) other people to screen them before they are passed along ( in their own words) so why don't they divulge the information as to the qualifications of these people? Why would any serious filmmaker feel comfortable about the fairness and spend 65.00 or 75.00 to simply let anyone look at their film? Would you "pay someone from craigslist" for instance and say, I will give you money to let you look at my film and tell me what you think.
    This is about as ludicrous as stupidity can get, but Sundance operates as do other film festivals off of desperation, and John Cooper doesn't care about watching these films, he is out and about traveling the globe looking at films from other festivals, he does NOT watch the films.
    Sundance films are not independent, its who you know, not what you know or what you have made, they could care less and there is proof of that being made into a film that reveals the corporate corruption including interviews with those who worked at Sundance and behind the scenes. The movie is called "Scam Fest" and this film will open filmmakers eyes to what really happens to their films, and money. John Cooper, Shari Frilot, Jill Miller, Keri Putnam and all the rest of them are sold out and corrupt people, they have no talent, never made a film, have no qualifications other then to sit in a chair and push around paper and distribute money, and all the while Robert Redford does nothing, he simply states his usual rhetoric, "We support filmmakers" he is like a wind up doll.
    Well known film reps bring in 4 to 10 films and have private screenings and pay nothing, while your film sits in a box waiting to be watched by some college nit wits busy on their text phones forwarding through submissions, that wouldn't have the time, patience or intelligence to know what a really great film is, and know what? Who gets duped in the end? You the people, the arts, movie goers, and so we have the same old cliches only boxed up "independently" and the real gems go to the garbage. The only people that have the nerve, and the integrity to stand up to Cooper and all his cohorts in their money making scams is the Yeager's whose film Jesus of Malibu was never given the chance, the film trailer, e-mails, and info all reveal specifically how corrupt Sundance is and has been for over 25 years. It is only a matter of time when the states attorney shuts them down from ripping the general public off of millions of dollars each year, millions do the math, and has every filmmaker agree to their terms which is a contractual agreement, if this were any other institution, these people would be behind bars in prison, but the same old show goes on and on, smoke and mirrors, and the on-line publications encourage it, and they don't write about it either, Filmmaker Magazine, Film Threat, Indie Wire, all of them don't want you to know either because they are all making money in this, if not why don't they tell you some really important information like Sundance is corrupt? Why don't they get down to the question and interview; "Dear programmers tell us, who watch's the 10,000 films and can we speak with these "people" please? That won't happen, and so in the meantime I not only tip my hat to the dear filmmakers William and Anais Yeager who have in my mind made the greatest film the world my ever have had a chance to see, but has brought all this to our attention, and it is quite obvious when you look at the film trailers for Jesus of Malibu, that this could be the most creative and solely true independent film ever made, way ahead of it's time, and when you consider that Sundance had no interest in simply answering the Yeager's e-mail or phone call regarding their film trilogy, it is obvious that it is about who you know, and Kevin Smith will always get in line before you or I ever do.
    Lets call this what it is for once and for all, its a big party, its about money, not about art, and it is about ripping people off, real indy filmmakers who keep submitting for years and years what a sad thing this has become, and shame to all those who don't tell you about it, shame on them and you filmmakers who keep feeding this "beast".

  • Kevin | December 29, 2011 10:53 PM

    So, your movie didn't get in, huh?

  • shark | December 29, 2011 4:51 PMReply

    Uh, guys, in Chrome, the images cover some of the text. There seems to be some kind of formatting issue. This has been a problem in a number of your posts. :(

  • Kevin | December 29, 2011 5:06 PM

    Hey Shark, we're working on it. But a refresh of the page should resolve the formatting issues.

  • Mike | December 29, 2011 4:29 PMReply

    Great post, one nitpick though, Christian Bales is Welsh, not English, though you could probably get away with 'British' as a catch all.

  • Mike | December 29, 2011 4:30 PM

    Stupid autocorrect, Bale, not Academy Award Winner Christian Hay Bales.

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