(KTSF by Sean Au)
While the movie landscape in 2011 was ruled by blockbuster sequels, the revival of extinct genres gave movie lovers a breath of fresh air.
Particularly noteworthy was the performance of the final film in the Harry Potter franchise. Adapted from the last of J.K. Rowling’s popular series, the eighth Harry Potter Film, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2, was the year’s biggest money maker. Domestic box office totals reached $381 million. Even more impressive, global figures of the 8-movie franchise top $7.7 billion, smashing records set by JAMES BOND and STAR WARS, making Harry Potter the most successful franchise in movie history. Artistically-speaking, the high quality of the Harry Potter films have elevated their cultural significance.
Here is my pick of the year’s best movies:
In a rare glimpse into the underbelly of alluring Barcelona, the Spanish film, BIUTIFUL, takes us to experience the final days of a man, who strives to ensure that his two children will be all right when he dies. Javier Bardem excels in making us feel our footsteps getting heavier with every beat of our heart.
9. IN A BETTER WORLD
A doctor who serves in a refugee camp in Africa returns to Denmark and spends time with his son. When confronted with a violent incident, the doctor tries to control his son and young friend, but fails. The children decide to avenge the father, but their efforts lead to unintended consequences. This meditation on violence took home the Best Foreign Movie Oscar in Denmark.
An old lover returns to stir up the relationship of an existing gay couple. The old flame is rekindled, which creates tension in the existing relationship. Once the lovers are re-united, will they know what they want out of the connection? AUGUST portrays a painful and realistic view of a relationship under strain.
7. SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN
In the latest movie by Bay Area Chinese film maker, Wayne Wang, two girls become sworn sisters in early 18th century Hunan. Fate pulls them apart and they share their lives through the secret language of ‘Nu Shu,’ which is written on fans. Their tale is told with a parallel story of two women in modern day Shanghai whose friendship is drifting apart. The plot questions whether we will remember the relationships we cherished when we were young.
6. THE FLOWERS OF WAR
Zhang Yimou’s latest war epic takes place when Nanjing falls into the hands of the Japanese in 1937. In the film, a bevy of prostitutes hide in a grand city church. They are initially at loggerheads with another group of convent girls, but ultimately, they make sacrifices to protect each other from the Japanese soldiers. Though not Zhang’s strongest work, he is able to hold his own among modern Chinese artists.
On the outside, this Manhattan man has a great job and has his life together, but behind closed doors, the protagonist struggles to control his sex addiction. The constant pursuit of the next orgasm has landed him in a psychological abyss. The Venice Best Actor, Michael Fassbender, makes us feel the despair behind his ecstasy.
4. THE HELP
Set in 1960s America, this film takes place in the dawn of the civil rights movement, as a young woman writes a book to chronicle the lives of black maids in the South. While relieving the injustice of yesteryears, THE HELP makes us realize that prejudice still exists today in different forms and with different targets.
While a bride’s incessant smiles on her wedding day mask her depression, the planet Melancholia is in a collision path with planet Earth. How will the young bride live the last days with her sister’s family? Best Actress from the Cannes Film Festival, Kirsten Dunst, excels in her breakthrough role, drawing us into the world of the chronically depressed. With elegance and respect, director Lars Von Trier’s created the most beautiful end-of-the-world movie ever made.
A twin brother and sister in Montreal must fulfill their mother’s last wishes for them to return to her homeland in the Middle East to find their father and a brother they never knew existed. Retracing their mother’s footsteps, the twins begin to understand how she became a living tragedy of religious civil war, and at the end of the journey, unveil a shocking truth. INCENDIES skillfully transitions between the past and the present, as every moment becomes an intense quest for truth. The movie demands your undivided attention, but rewards you with a devastatingly effective ending.
1. THE ARTIST
In this movie, French filmmakers revive the extinct art form of the silent movie. The result? The year’s Best Picture. As silent movies die an inevitable death in the 1930s, the actor’s star fades. Will the affection he shares with an up-and-coming actress go anywhere with their fates diverging? THE ARTIST takes us to experience what cinema used to be some 80 years ago and reminds us why we fell in love with this unique art form in the first place.
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