The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

10 things I’ll remember from 2011

with 17 comments

Are you done talking about 2011?

I’m not. Not quite yet. In this post I’ve listed ten recollections from 2011, things to remember this year for.

1. The anticlimax of Bridesmaids

I caught up the buzz long before Bridesmaids opened. This was supposed to be the milestone in the history of women and movies. Never before had a movie featured so many female comedians at the same time, giving the male characters secondary roles. The screenwriters were women too, which was supposed to grant us something entirely different from anything else we’d seen. The biggest morning paper in Sweden did a huge feature article with a number of interviews. We were making history!

What we got in the end was a decent comedy, but nothing more. Once again we saw women who were obsessing over weddings, what to wear and how to meet Prince Charming. Women making cupcakes. Melissa McCarthy was pretty funny though and there was a poo scene that I won’t forget anytime soon. But it was an anticlimax, that’s for sure.

As a women I was far more inspired by Hanna than by Bridesmaids, that’s for sure.

2. The excellency of Michael Fassbender in Shame

Who deserves the title “actor of the year” for 2011? Among female actors, my vote goes to Carey Mulligan, appearing in three of my favorite movies – Never Let Me Go, Drive and Shame and excellent in each one of them.

For the male actors there’s a dead race between Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender. On average I think Gosling did a better choice of movies (Blue Valentine, The Ides of March, Crazy, Stupid Love and Drive as compared to A Dangerous Method, X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre and Shame).

Some performances stood out to me. Among the women I think of Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Elena Anaya in The Skin I Live In and Kirstin Dunst in Melancholia, who oozed depression from every cell in her body and managed to look more sick than sexy as we watched her naked in a bathtub scene. (Such a shame that the Lars von Trier stole her thunder at the infamous press conference inCannes.) Among the men Christoffer Plummer in Beginners comes to mind, as well as the said Gosling in Drive.

But my number one acting performance this year was Michael Fassbender’s portray of the sex addict Brandon in Shame. I don’t know how he does it, but without saying a word he can tell the story of his life through a look or muscle twitch. He didn’t just expose a naked body; he exposed a naked soul through his eyes. It was amazing to watch.

3. The Norwegian success

The Swedish film industry has tried to launch the expression “The Swedish film wonder”. This is a bit of a joke considering the quality of most of the Swedish movies I’ve seen this year.

I’m a little bit reluctant to say what I’m going to say now, since there as you might know is a friendly competition between Sweden and Norway, like you have with your sister or brother.

But to tell the truth – Norway is on a roll. I watched four Norwegian movies during 2011: Oslo,  August 31st, Trollhunter, Turn me on, dammit! and Headhunters. They were all excellent and ended up on my extended top list of films from 2011.

I can’t but pout a little bit, envious of their success. They were already better skiers, had more beautiful mountains and the oil to make them wealthy eternally. And now they’re better film makers as well. Maybe it’s time to brush up the old idea of making a union?

4. The girl who knocked out her own tooth over the sink

Which film scene was the most troubling of 2011? With all the dark movies I watch there were quite a few to choose between. I hate rape scenes in movies and the ones in Incendies and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made me very uncomfortable.  The scene where they took away the scalp in Contagion was quite disturbing, as was the arm amputation in 127 hours and the swamp scene in Winter’s Bone. And who can forget the ultra violence in Drive? Now I know what it sounds like when someone is jumping on the head of someone else until it cracks. It’s not a sound I’d like to hear again.

But the scene in Dogtooth with the self inflicted damage in the bathroom  was the one that troubled me most. It was unbearable to watch and her strange, bloody, toothless smile made it even worse. I’ll never forget it.

5. The unsolved mystery that was The Tree of Life

Some movies are like straightforward novels, driven by plots that engage you and characters you care about and a way of storytelling that you feel at home with. Other are like poetry – fragmented, impressionistic, conveying moods states of mind, open for interpretation of the viewer. The Tree of Life is definitely a poem movie.

I admired it and I enjoyed parts of it a lot, the cosmic parts where we watched the birth of the universe accompanied by gorgeous classical music and whispering voices. I even enjoyed the so-hated-on dinosaur scene, which is supposed to have made people leave the theatres in wrath, demanding a refund for their tickets. But I couldn’t embrace the extended periods of scattered reminiscences from a childhood, Sean Penn looking pensive and a number of people walking around on a shore for an unknown reason. I respect it more than I love it, putting the blame of my lack of understanding on myself.

I’ve read dozens of thoughtful posts where people have analyzed The Tree of Life from various metaphysical perspectives, but for all their weight, for all the knowledge and enthusiasm they contained, they couldn’t help me to penetrate the mystery that was The Tree of Life.

6. The Tintin disappointment

I know I’m in a minority, but The Adventures of Tintin was the biggest letdown of 2011 to me. I think my dislike to great extent comes from that I grew up as a Tintin fan (I still am and I revisit my favorite albums once in a while.)

On an intellectual level I share the view that you shouldn’t compare a movie adaptation to the original work but judge it on its own merits. But in reality I can’t completely disregard of my feelings. I had thought I would feel familiar watching Tintin, but instead I felt lost. The heart and soul of the comic was gone, Haddock acted weirdly and the landscapes weren’t anywhere near as pretty or fascinating as in the comic books. For all the motion caption and 3D and advanced computer technology, the characters looked like plastic dolls, a little creepy and far less alive than if they had been drawn the traditional way.

The action scenes were drawn out, sometimes spectacular but strangely disengaging. For how weird it sounds, I got really, really bored. And that was the last thing I had expected from a franchise I love, staged by two directors who previously have made some of my favorite movies.

7. The farewell to Harry Potter

The launch of the final movie in the series marked the end of an era and the 20-something’s cried floods because they were taking farewell of their youth. It was an Andy-says-goodbye-to-his-toys moment.

I’m admittedly too old to claim that I grew up with Harry Potter, but I’ve followed the books as well as the films over the years, in company with my kids as well as for my own enjoyment. It’s one of those franchises that I don’t think of as a franchise but as a dear friend.

Not all movies in the series have been brilliant, but I think the final part was one of the best and gave it a worthy end. (I decide to forget about the very last extra scene at the railway station, which made the entire theatre burst out in laughter.)

8. The discovery of the world of short films

I attended the annual international short film festival in my city for the first time, watched sixty short films in a week and fell completely in love with it. Not every film was brilliant, so what when the next one is just a few minutes away? The box of chocolate from Forest Gump is a worn out image, but it’s really valid in the case of this festival. Every set of films contained at least one or two delicious pieces, my favorite one being Skallamann (Baldguy) from Norway (again!), a mini musical with a coming-out theme and a cheerful song that will stuck forever.

9. The Swedish encounter with Hollywood

While generally skeptic to remakes, especially one as soon and uncalled for one as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I must say that I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent with it the last couple of years in Sweden enormously. Never before has a Hollywood production of this size been made inSweden. It gave job opportunities to film workers, and it gave everyone else something to talk about. They placed held the press conference for international media in Stockholm, flying in all the stars from Hollywood one last time.

At the launch before Christmas the Swedish newspaper Dagens nyheter made interviews with a number of people who in one way or another  had been involved in the recordings. This quote from a site manager for one of the shooting places reflects a bit of our big-eyed fascination.

“When Swedes make films, we say that “if we are shooting in the direction we need to avoid including that modern lamppost or the ugly house”. The Americans think the opposite: “We must be able to shoot in 180 degrees, fix it!” So we had to remove forty lampposts and repaint the houses. Two hectares of land around Segersta were sealed off, school buses diverted and the church was temporarily closed. The committee was also to build a general store – in full scale, around100 square feet. The house is still standing.  There was no room to question it, we just had to seek planning permission and go for it. Working for the world director David Fincher was a bit like going to war – if you sign you have to make it work, there’s no room walk around moaning over stuff. Everything was so much bigger and with much higher standards. Terribly challenging, but above all great fun.”

I wrote previously that I wanted Fincher to do something better with his talent than wasting it on follow-ups of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But on the other hand, I secretly hope that they will make them. They gave us quite some show, didn’t they? It feels a bit empty now that it’s over.

10. The closing shot of Melancholia

It seems suitable to end my list of memories from 2011 with the most memorable movie ending of the year. There were a number of candidates: Never Let me Go, Dogtooth, The Skin I live in, Black Swan, The Ides of March, Of Gods and Men and Oslo August 31st  to mention a few. But the undisputedly strongest image of the year, the one that I still can recall as if I just had walked out of the theatre, was the final shot of Melancholia. We knew what was coming, it had been established from the very beginning of the movie, and yet – when it happened it was quite a bit of a shock. I could have sworn they’d suddenly transformed my ordinary little theatre to an IMAX one with 4d effects. The entire place was trembling. And so was I.

And that was about it. I guess I’m ready to let go of 2011. Now bring me on 2012!


Written by Jessica

January 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses

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  1. Skallamann!

    Lots of great stuff there. I need to see Shame like yesterday. It seems like one of those films that was made with me in mind.


    January 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    • Skallamann Bondo!
      And yes, you need to watch that one. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait until March as for so many other movies that are up for discussion right now.


      January 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm

  2. Norway, Sweden, pfff… The best Scandinavian movie I’ve seen this year is the Finnish Rare Exports: a Christmas Tale.

    As for Belgium (Flanders) all the talk was about our Oscar send-in Bullhead. And how it will be the start of the directors, but especially the actor, Matthias Schoenaerts carreer. He’s having a good start by playing in the US remake of another very good Flemish movie, Loft, this year.


    January 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    • Hm. I didn’t see that. I watched Le Havre, but it’s half French and not enough to talk about a Finnish Wonder on par with the Norwegian one.

      I must admit my complete ignorence as comes to Belgian cinema. Hm… Mr Nobody was Belgian, right? Do you think I’ve watched anything else from your area?


      January 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      • I think to properly appreciate the Norwegian wonder, you need to know it seemed next to impossible to make even Swedes watch Norwegian movies just a few years back. Suddenly (our own) newspaper reviewers will dare call a Norwegian movie good without adding the compulsory “for a Norwegian movie”. While the other Nordic countries have had some excellent movie-makers for quite some time now. I totally understand that it’s no biggie to people from elsewhere. But to us it’s almost a kind of cultural confidence boost 😉 And praise from Swedes – especially when it’s “a little bit reluctant” – is just the sweetest thing.

        It’s not really a movie thing, but I think the top of my “10 things I’ll remember” list for acting performances this year would be topped by finally having gotten to see Liv Ullman live. Which incidentally also makes me think a renewed union Norway-Sweden sounds sweet 🙂


        January 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

        • It appears to me as if we sort of take turns within Scandinavia. For a while Danish movies were the thing. Sweden had some success too, for example with Lukas Moodysson. It’s only fair that Norway get to be in the spotlight. For a while at least! We’ll take back the number one spot eventually. 😉


          January 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

      • The Dardenne brothers are great cinema makers which have won 2 Palme d’Ors at Cannes. They make movies about the poverty in Wallonia which are very simplistic but very emotional. They’re probably the best directors we have and a good start to see our cinema. I personally think that they make great cinema.

        As for others, I really like Felix van Groeningen’s work. His latest movie, The Misfortunates was really excellent and now that I think of it, another movie about the lowest classes of society.


        January 14, 2012 at 12:39 am

        • Oh, the Darndeen brother’s latest movie is up here I think. Le gamin au vélo is up right now in the city where I live. I take it as a recommendation to see it then.


          January 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

          • I haven’t seen their latest movie but they haven’t made a not-excellent movie yet so it’s on my to-watch-list too.


            January 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

  3. Gotta agree on Trollhunter. I’m generally not a fan of the Blair Witch-style found footage film, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this, but Trollhunter blew me away. Can’t wait to see more from that director.

    Dave Enkosky

    January 14, 2012 at 5:24 am

    • It was definitely one of the movies from this year that will stick to my memory. It also felt a little fresh for being in the monster-movie-genre. I don’t think the Scandinavian troll fairy tales have been explored this way before.


      January 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

  4. I love this list. Well, except for your Tintin disappointment. IT’S SO GOOD 😦

    I am fully with you on Bridesmaids. It’s okay, but a lot of scenes are dragged out, and overall it’s not that special.

    And yeah, I’m super sad about Harry Potter being over. That series took up my life from the age of 11. It was hard to let go.

    Corey Atad

    January 15, 2012 at 8:59 am

    • I totally expected us to disagree on that one Corey. What can I say? Sorry! 😦

      I hope we’ll agree on your number one movie for 2011 once it comes around though. I embrace sentimentailty so I expect to like Warhorse a lot.


      January 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

  5. Love the list! Gave me a lot of food for thought.
    I laughed out loud reading that quote from DN. Oh silly Hollywood!


    January 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    • Cheers Julyssa and welcome to my little place! Yeah, it was quite a different film event in Sweden. We’ve seen nothing like it before and unless there will be follow-up movies I don’t expect us to see it again.


      January 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

  6. Great list. I would give props to Danish filmmakers as well. They have been pumping out some great films in recent years, and the Danish auteurs were raelly making a mark internationally this year. I always have this weird fantasy that someone like Roy Anderssonw would have a film that breakout in America.

    I agree on your performances on all count. The year that really gave us Fassbender, Gosling, Chastain, Hiddleson and so on. Gosling in Drive was the performance of the year for me though. It’s a tough character to tackle yet he managed to made a borderline stock character so original and cinematic. It’s really a great year for those who love subtle and nunace performances like this, with other brilliant turns from Fassbender and Gary Oldman.

    I feel that 2011 was a pretty great year for film. It’s a very promising year with much to look forward to in 2012.


    January 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    • I’ve started to take for granted that the Danish ones are good. They’ve been on top for years. But Norway took me by surprise. I had no clue they were as good until this year.

      I dwell in the Filmspotting community where we have some supporters of Roy Andersson. I always feel a bit ashamed since they know and love his movies far more than I do. But at the same time it makes me a bit proud. To have such a celebrated (in certain circles that is) film maker in my country. I still prefer his commercials to anything else though. 🙂 I’m afraid he’s not super productive though. I just checked IMDb and it said that his next project isn’t expected to come on the screen before 2014.


      January 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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