The Years Movies in Review

Corey Wackel

Woody Allen: Any Hollywood figure who has been in the business for more than 30 years seems to have a problem reinventing themselves as time goes on. That doesn’t appear to be the case for director Woody Allen, who made his 42nd directorial effort with last year’s film Midnight in Paris. This film managed to remind me just how great Allen’s work can be. It is his funniest film in years and it features a great cast delivering lines that only Allen could write. Of all the films I saw in 2011, Midnight in Paris was my favorite. There is a sense of wonder and magic that only seems to be possible through the endless talents of Allen. For those of you who have not found yourselves drawn to Allen’s films in the past, something tells me that you will find things to enjoy in his latest film.

Bridesmaids: Judd Apatow has been hit and miss as a producer, but he always makes an attempt to help tell stories that are at one moment side-splittingly funny and at another incredibly heartfelt. That is what he and Freaks and Geeks co-creator Paul Feig have managed to do with Bridesmaids. When it was released, the film was called the female version of The Hangover, but in my opinion Bridesmaids is actually a slightly better film. The film is co-written by Kristin Wiig and what she does with the script is brilliant. She shows that multiple female characters can each be fleshed out within a film while allowing every character to add to the larger picture. This film works so well for me because none of the characters seem to be two-dimensional. The script is also one of the most memorable of the year, with each actress getting the chance to deliver a line that will stick with you long after the credits role.

Super 8: I was hesitant to watch this film when it first came out, mainly because I fail to recognize why director J.J. Abrams is considered such a visionary. Still, I gave the film a chance and I am glad I did. It is important to note that the entire film is an homage to director Steven Spielberg, whose early films not only provided the formula for blockbuster movies but also deal with many of the issues that are addressed in Super 8. Abrams’ story is far-fetched and some of it gets lost along the way through the film, but what remains consistent are the great characters and the tangible ideas they represent. The kids in the film are discovering their lives and are forced to deal with major losses. The entire film is not so much a sci-fi action film as it is a meditation on loss and forgiveness. Those who go back and watch Spielberg’s E.T. will find many of the same ideas.

Emma Stone: This year, Emma Stone has made her star power evident by starring in The Help and Crazy Stupid Love. Each performance is different, but something remains the same in both: Stone seems to be one of the most effortless actresses working in Hollywood today. She was already one of the funniest, but her work in The Help shows a completely different side of her. She has moments of humor, but her role is largely a dramatic one and Stone nails it. She also gives a simultaneously funny and sexy performance in Crazy Stupid Love. While that film was in a genre that Stone was more comfortable with, her character is unlike anything else she has shown us. After her work last year, I cannot wait to see more from her.

Brad Pitt: Brad Pitt is a worldwide superstar, yet I’ve often found it hard to like him as an actor. In his earlier films, he seemed to rely on his looks more than his actual talent. Last year, though, was a complete breakthrough for Pitt, a year which showed me the impact of a truly talented actor. Pitt first stared in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. While the film was actually one of the worst of 2011, Pitt gives a commanding performance as the domineering father of the film. Adding to that, Pitt gave the finest performance of his career in Moneyball, which was one of the best films of 2011. As a fan of baseball I was excited to watch a film that addressed the problem of payrolls within major league teams. What I didn’t expect from the film was a towering lead performance. As he ages, Pitt seems to accept roles more closely related to his own life and that works to his overall advantage. He seems to be delving deeper into his characters than ever before and it shows. His many emotions and his great acting ability are put on full display and I applaud him for a great year.

Coming soon: Year of the music