Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Summer Movie Awards - 2011!

With the release of the final major Summer movie a week or so ago, I think it's time to dust off my annual Summer Movie Awards!

There is a difference between the movie awards I do at the end of the year and the awards I do at the end of each Summer movie season. Summer movies are designed to be simple stories that wear their hearts on their sleeves, they usually rely on very little subtlety, and are showcases for the technical prowess of the industry's greatest behind the scenes craftsmen. Not only that, these Summer movies deliver heroes that we root for, villains that we love to hate, and the lovable love interests that anchor our heroes. In essence, these awards are not to honor performances of the actors like the Oscars, nor is it about honoring the Cinematography or Directing or Writing. It is simply honoring movies that delivered the Summer movie criteria (detailed above) with so much propulsive clarity, that this is their own moment to shine, since very few Summer movies often show up in year end lists.

As a whole, this was not the best Summer of moviegoing, while not as weak as last Summer, it by no means holds up to 2009 or 2008. Regardless, 2011 deserves to be valued on its own merits, so let the Summer Movie Awards - 2011 Edition, begin!

Coolest Moment of the Summer
- Cerebro Montage from X-Men: First Class
Summer Blockbusters have always been known for the moments. Those moments that make you wanna cry, those moments that keep one on the edge of their seat, and the moments that are just so awesome they send shivers down your spine, and those moments I like to deem, cool. There were many cool moments from this Summer, from the first words spoken by an ape, to the highly impressive sequence with the replicating gold in Harry Potter, but the one that wins out above all is the montage in X-Men when Professor X first uses Cerebro, the machine that boosts his brain power and allows him to reach every mutant in the world. The scene was expertly handled; tense, not knowing whether or not the machine would fry Xavier's mind, then it works and we watch as Professor X and Magneto recruit young mutants for their team (including the spectacular Hugh Jackman cameo). This scene just perfectly showcases the ensemble nature of the movie, as well as the energy and mise en scene which is deeply rooted in 1960's pop culture.
(Runners-Up: Magneto's Frankenstein Monster from X-Men: First Class, Gringotts Vault from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, Caesar Speaks from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Sub Lift from X-Men: First Class)

Best Action Sequence of the Summer - Room of Requirement Burns from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
Here's to all of the edge of your seat moments of thrills and chills for this Summer. As with every Summer, almost every movie, even the comedies, have to have an action sequence; it just seems to be a requirement of Summer moviemaking. But the action sequence that rose above the rest was when the Room of Requirement goes up in cursed flames, as Harry and his friends have to escape the neverending blaze. The sequence hit all of the right marks you want in a good action sequence. Thrills. Close calls. The humorous anecdote from the funny guy (Ron). And the hero being heroic (in this case, saving snot nosed Malfoy's life).
(Runners-Up: Ape Uprising on Golden Gate from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Kruger Chase from Captain America: The First Avenger, Cuban Missile Crisis from X-Men: First Class, and Train Wreck from Super 8)

Most Emotional Moment of the Summer - The Walk into the Forest from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
There is something to this moment that no other movie could quite rival from this Summer. Summer Blockbusters are known not just as spectacle extravaganzas, but also as movies that touch us in ways that often realistic dramas can't. This moment where Harry literally walks to his death, accompanied by the ghosts of his mom, dad, godfather, and great mentor, is just one of those moments where it is hard to keep it together. While this movie had a great many moments that were highly emotional as an audience member who grew up with these stories, this one stands out above the rest. When Harry asks the obvious question in regards to death, "Does it hurt?" Gary Oldman's heartfelt reply will elicit emotion from nearly any audience member.
(Runners-Up: Magneto and Professor X Fight on the Beach from X-Men: First Class, Nineteen Years Later from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, Neville's Speech from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, and Captain America Crashes the Plane from Captain America: The First Avenger)

Best Hero of the Summer - Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
In a Summer with countless superheroes, I go with the teenage wizard for the Best Hero, but you cannot get a character more heroic or selfless than Harry Potter. Harry is a character that puts everyone else in the Wizarding World before him. He willingly walks to his death at the hands of Lord Voldemort, just so his friends and everyone else fighting for the good can survive. Not only that, Harry is also a marvelous man of action. He is never content with simply being a strategist, he wants to be on the front lines and kick some wizard butt, too, which makes him all the more awesome.
(Runners-Up: Captain America from Captain America: The First Avenger, Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Magneto from X-Men: First Class, and Sam Witwicky from Transformers: Dark of the Moon)

Best Villain of the Summer - Voldemort from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
Same case as above, there were many good villains from this Summer, but one was truly great. When a villain actually rises to the levels of creepiness that we tend to associate with absolute evil, you know the villain is one to remember. Lord Voldemort is Harry Potter's mortal enemy, evil incarnate, and what we see in this final Harry Potter movie is a shattered man desperate to not face mortality at all costs. However, when Lord Voldemort decides to get reckless, the results are nothing short of catastrophic for the good guys, as Voldemort will kill anyone who stands in his way between his killing Harry Potter, even his own soldiers, which makes Voldemort the great antithesis to Harry's selflessness.
(Runners-Up: Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class, Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger, Azazel from X-Men: First Class, and Loki from Thor)

Best Love Interest of the Summer - Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger
In all honesty, this was a Summer with few genuine love interests, but even if there were more to choose from, Peggy Carter might still stand above the rest. What makes Peggy Carter the great love interest for Captain America is that she is an old fashioned girl who believes in waiting for the right man. Moralistic and compassionate, but also a tough soldier who would rather fight to uphold her beliefs than be the damsel in distress and wait for the hero to save her. The type of strong female character that is sadly missing in most movies nowadays.
(Runner-Up: Mystique from X-Men: First Class and Carly from Transformers: Dark of the Moon)

Biggest Surprise of the Summer - X-Men: First Class
There really was only one movie that caught me off guard this Summer in the positive way (as there were many movies I was anticipating that didn't fully deliver, see below for more). This latest installment in the X-Men franchise took us back to the beginning of everything, back to the start of the odd relationship between Xavier and Magneto. I'll be honest, even after seeing the trailers, I was not sold on this movie. The third X-Men movie and Wolverine were both such big disappointments it was hard to muster any sort of excitement for First Class, and boy was I glad that I was proved wrong, with this being a great entry point for any filmgoer to meet the X-Men for the first time, or meet them again.
(Runner-Up: None)

Biggest Disappointment of the Summer - Super 8
Now, on the flip side, there are those movies that I was actually anticipating a great deal, and they just failed to captivate me in the way I wanted them to. While there were some other disappointments that I actually gave lower scores to, J.J. Abrams' Super 8 seemed to have all of the ingredients in place to make a great movie adventure. Alas, it was not meant to be, with the movie meant to be an homage to the Steven Spielberg movies of the '80s, and coming across simply as that, an homage, and not a movie that could stand proudly alongside with those quality Spielberg works like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I still love J.J., but this was not his best movie.
(Runners-Up: Thor and Green Lantern)

Most Emotional Movie of the Summer - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
I pretty much gave this one away earlier. With this being the final installment in the series, it was pretty much a given that it was gonna be the end of something beloved, and whenever you end something that is this loved by so many people, such as myself, it will be an emotional roller coaster ride. Luckily the movie fired on all cylinders and delivered in all of the emotional areas that the book did as well, and even added a few of its own, such as Neville Longbottom's stirring speech before he chops off Voldemort's pet snake's head.
(Runners-Up: X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Most Entertaining Movie of the Summer - X-Men: First Class
As far as fun at the movies go, there was no other movie that flew by as quickly as this movie did. Director Matthew Vaughn laced the movie with hip 1960's pop culture aesthetic, and in so doing created a movie that felt younger, hipper, and more energetic, than any of the other X-Men movies. Not to mention, the action was expertly crafted, the character relationships were charming and lovable with new surprises around each turn that even shocked this X-Men fan at times. Just a wonderful movie of awe, wonder, and discovery, which is why we see these kinds of movies to begin with, right?
(Runners-Up: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Captain America: The First Avenger)

Most Technically Rewarding Movie of the Summer - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
To be honest, I am fed up with overuse of CGI, so it's funny that I loved the motion capture CG apes in Planet of the Apes. Maybe it's because motion capture technology has come so far, or its because WETA digital has surpassed ILM as the top effects' house in the world, I don't know. Whatever it is, when the CG work can actually cross that plasticky exterior and connect emotionally with an audience, that's when you know the effects worked, as it did here.
(Runner-Up: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, X-Men: First Class, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides)

Best All Around Movie of Summer 2011 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II
C'mon, did you really think myself being such a diehard Harry Potter fan would not honor the final installment as the Best Movie of the Summer? Let's be honest, this movie just had the best of everything all in one brew. It was emotional. Highly entertaining. Technically well crafted. Just a good movie on all fronts that never failed to deliver the moments as I mentioned earlier. Cause as it is, it has become easy for a movie to simply follow the formula to create an enjoyable Summer Blockbuster, but if the cast and crew can create memorable moments that accentuate that formula, that's when you know the movie is a special movie, such as this grand farewell to Harry Potter.
(Runners-Up: X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Final Words: I give Summer 2011 a C!

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