2011 Film Retrospective
// Jonty Davies

Though the characters portrayed in cinema live in worlds of manufactured illusion, the ideas they present to us are an integral reflection of who we are as humans. There is a world of fabulous cinema that is very much alive, and it’s important to consider how the overarching themes and tropes are influenced by our contemporary reality.

These are thoughts I’d like to expand on, but with 2012 just upon us, I’ll use this introductory column to go over some of last year’s cinematic highlights and provide a look at the year ahead.

Jonty’s Top 3 Films of 2011

3. The Tree Of Life – A galaxy explodes and life is created. In the eternity that follows, a life passes in an instant but will forever remain a piece of the giant puzzle. It’s a film that tries to visualize and speculate on the very nature of existence almost entirely without story or conventional dialogue.
Clocking in at 139 minutes, The Tree Of Life features an overwhelming operatic score, dinosaurs, the creation of the Universe, and Pitt’s amazing hair. The film is a poetic masterpiece but almost collapses under the weight of its own ambition. Directed by the ultra-reclusive Terrence Malick, a man who’s had an almost 40-year career yet released just five films, each one a mind-blowing masterpiece, Tree Of Life is a beautiful meditation on our place in the universe.

2. Incendies – Though technically released in 2010, the success of this film (if only limited – $6 million total gross) was entirely due to its impressions on the 2011 festival circuit. Incendies is a brutally affecting film that is layered two-fold: it tells a woman’s story of survival in the violent religious disparity of the Middle East, while simultaneously following her two young-adult children as they try to find the father they’d never met and the brother they didn’t know they had. Incendies is delicate, yet it holds truths and secrets that are simply devastating. The film is Canadian, and though small in scale (compared to, say, The Tree of Life), it’s a beautiful and harrowing masterpiece that deserves acclaim for its tasteful and varied treatment of Middle Eastern horrors and for its powerful discourse on family.

1. Drive – Under mega-pastiche directing by Nicholas Winding Refn, Ryan Gosling kills it in one of the coolest roles ever. With clear nods to Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Clint Eastwood, Gosling plays a nameless getaway driver with a silent, brooding intensity. He has a tender heart but can instantly reveal dangerous depth. Drive also features a fantastic use of music that, while electronic and modern, serves to exemplify the classic homage nature of the film. Action box office is always big (Transformers 3 made $1.123 billion this year), but Drive was not as successful as it deserved to be, grossing $67 million total. The low success can be attributed to a failure in marketing: the trailers tried to sell it as a typical Fast and the Furious-type formula despite the fact that it’s actually a hyper-intelligent and very sensitive piece of cinema (in a fully nonsappy and still totally violent way).
It’s brave, cool and features easily the most romantic scene ever that also happens to involve a head being crushed in an elevator. Maybe it seemed too brainy for the action crowd and too action-y for the brainy crowd, but the critical consensus was almost unanimously positive, and it’s absolutely a beautiful film.


The Hobbit – Bringing in $3 billion worldwide, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy is the sixth-highest grossing film franchise of all time. Beyond dollars and cents, it claimed 17 Oscars and was universally applauded by audiences and critics alike; it is the unequaled master of grand fantasy cinema. The Hobbit is where it all began, and we can expect this film rendition to be just as successful.

The Dark Knight Rises – The final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, which has upped the very ante of what a superhero flick can be.

Prometheus – It’s the Ridley Scott-directed prequel to Alien, starring Michael Fassenbender and Charlize Theron. Need I say more?

The Amazing Spiderman – Don't call it a comeback, because Tobey Maguire shall not be coming back for this web slinging reboot. Though the Maguire franchise was highly lucrative and well received, The Amazing Spiderman is looking to rebuild the canon from scratch. Sounds sticky.

The Avengers – Considering that every single superhero movie of the past few years (with the exception of the superlative Batman series) has been building up to The Avengers, expectations are dazzlingly high. Expect the star-studded super-romp to aim for the bleachers. 2012: Year of the superhero?

The Hunger Games – If you're up on young adult fiction you'll surely be aware of this mega- seller about teens being forced into armed combat by a malevolent government decree. If you're also into Japanese film/manga/fiction you might notice the glaring similarities to the fabulous Battle Royale. 2012: Year of the remake? (Also, Battle Royale is being remade for Hollywood sometime in the future. 2015: Year of the remade remake?)

Overall, 2011 was a decent year for film, and 2012 is a nutcase hotbed of hype, so there is a lot to look forward to. It’s a good thing, after all, since this might be our last year ever.

// Jonty Davies, columnist
// Illustration by Tyler Hughes

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: