Top 13 Movies of 2011

Note: This list is tentative and will be constantly updated to be hopefully finalized by March at the latest due to the unavailability of many movies that are garnering critical acclaim and award traction, be it on DVD or in local theaters.

After checking my first “Top of 2011” list which dealt with music, it is time for the second one about another thing that I’m interested in and which I’ve discussed many times throughout this past year: movies.

So without further ado, let us begin.

13 – X-Men: First Class

This reboot of the franchise of which I am a fan was a very needed approach in order to keep these X-Men relevant. Showing how Dr. Xavier became as such and Magneto became, well, Magneto, the movie was really a breath of fresh air for action movies that became more reliant on screen explosions and aerobics than on a decent story to which those special effects come as a complement. (My review of X-Men: First Class)

12 – Stray Bullet

This Lebanese movie may be too short and not a very accurate reflection on the war it is supposedly set in but the acting performances in this are so gut-wrenchingly real, it can’t but be on my list. (My review of Rsasa Tayshe/Stray Bullet)

11 – The Ides of March

This political drama is my favorite of its genre this year. I may not agree with the accolades it’s getting everywhere over more deserving movies but it’s still a great movie in its own merits. It’s riveting, engaging, highly reflective and real. It can happen anytime in any political campaign. The performances are top notch as well. (My review of The Ides of March).

10 – Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s back to basics is definitely one of the better movies of the year. This Parisian comedy will make you dream. It will take you beyond the confines of whatever room you’re watching the movie in and take you aboard its own fantastical world in a trip back in time. Marion Cotillard is more than brilliant in this. The plot is very original and the movie is very enjoyable. (My review of Midnight in Paris).

9 – One Day

Many didn’t like this movie. I found it enthralling and enchanting. Telling the story of a couple revisiting each other on the day they met every year over the course of 23 years. The premise is intriguing and while I’m sure it flows more smoothly in the book upon which this is based, the movie doesn’t botch it. In fact, the transitions are very smart at times. (My review of One Day).

8 – A Separation

This Iranian movie is simply stunning. It’s a cross examination of Iranian society through the lives of  a couple getting a divorce. The emotions in this run high, they never relent. The hurt in the characters is examined and not feared. Taboos are approached and at the end of the day, it leaves you with a stereotype-breaking view of Iranian society. (My review of A Separation).


7 – War Horse

Steven Spielberg’s WWI epic is, well, an epic movie as well. Based on the children’s book of the same name, War Horse is emotional and phenomenal. It’s stunning to look at and boasts one of the most pleasurable scores I have heard this year in a movie. It is a sentimental movie that transcends age lines and turns into a story for the ages. A must watch. (My review of War Horse)

6 – Moneyball

Brad Pitt shines as Billy Beane, manager of a struggling baseball team, as he tries to get his team to survive a grueling league with a dismal budget. So he enlists Jonah Hill’s Peter Brand to help him change the whole baseball game and turn it head on heels. Moneyball might be the best sports movie made. (My review of Moneyball)

5 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher’s take on this Swedish noir novel preserves the book’s essence and turns it into a stellar movie, fueled by a top notch performance by Rooney Mara who embodies the novel’s heroin Lisbeth Salander in spellbinding manner. I loved the book and the movie. (My review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

4 – The Artist

The Artist is a black and white movie which relies on the symphony playing throughout its run for its only auditory input. And it just works. It asks nothing of you as a viewer but to simply watch, not even listen. It relies on the strength of the performances by its cast to communicate the emotions it tries to convey. (My review of The Artist).

 3 – The Help


Based on the book of the same titleThe Help is easily one of the best movies this year as well. It is the tale of the quest of three Southern women in a 1960s racially segregated America for racial equality. The movie may be a work of fiction but it feels so real when you watch it, you can’t but be amazed. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” – that’s a sentence for the ages. (My review of The Help).

2 – Where Do We Go Now? (W Halla2 La Wein?)


The Lebanese movie that could. Nadine Labaki’s latest movie is without a doubt one of the best movies this year. After being robbed of a Golden Globes nomination (Angelina Jolie, I’m looking at you), we find solace in this movie winning at the Toronto International Film Festival. Telling the tale of women who go beyond their means to get the men of their religiously-divided hometown to ease the tension, the movie tugs at your heartstring, activates your tear ducts and makes you laugh uncontrollably – all at the same time, sometimes. (My review of Where Do We Go Now?)

1 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Because there’s no other movie that deserves to be here. Because there’s no other franchise that has had such a thrillingly brilliant finale. Because no other movie has ever gotten me this close to tears and because every single award show is hell-bent on shunning this from the awards it most definitely deserves. Yes, this may be predictable to many but there’s just something about the final installment in the story of Harry Potter that transcends it being just a movie and turns into a cinematic experience that we, as the Harry Potter generation, are very lucky to have experienced. (My review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2).

– – – – – — – – – – — – – – – –

Notable mentions:

Puss in Boots, previous #13 on the list’s initial version. 

Soul Surfer (check my review) previous #12 on the list’s initial version.

Source Code (check my review) previous #11 on the list’s initial version.

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5 Reasons the 2012 Golden Globes Nominations Are A Big Failure

If you, like me, were outraged by how ridiculous the Golden Globes nominations were this year, this is for you. And if you’re not, this is why you – as a movie enthusiast at the very least – should be.

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was nominated… for nothing. Not a single category. Nada. Disregard the fact that it’s the last movie in the series. Disregard the fact that it’s the highest grossing franchise in Hollywood history and disregard the fact that Hollywood owes a huge chunk of its financial well-being to Harry Potter. Leave it all aside. Deathly Hallows Part 2 has an aggregate score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. For reference, the other nominated movies have scores that range from Moneyball’s 95% to The Help’s 75%. And if you thought Moneyball’s 1% difference is irrelevant, it becomes relevant when you notice that Moneyball has this score based on 194 reviews whilst Harry Potter has his based on 257 reviews.

But no matter. For those who think Rotten Tomatoes is not a decent criteria – after all Bridesmaids is truly horrible – I shall refer to Metacritic, which gives movies a certain grade if you want based on the reviews they get. Harry Potter has a grade of 87. Hugo has a grade of 83. Moneyball’s grade is 87 as well. The Help comes in at a measly 62. I’m just saying.

It’s either the reviewers are bipolar or those nominating in these award shows are bipolar. I’m sure there’s a correlation between those reviewing and those nominating, which leads me to think this double bipolar disease they have is truly damaging to the industry. What’s even worse about this is that Warner Bros actually tried to get Harry Potter a nomination. Ah well… elitist snobs always win, I guess.


2) Lebanon’s Where Do We Go Now was not nominated in the foreign movie category but the United States’ In The Land of Blood of Honey was. Apparently the fact that the latter movie had an American production, albeit being filmed in Bosnia, did not deter them from considering it foreign. They consider the language the movie was spoken in apparently. Add to that the fact that the movie has an English version which was submitted to other categories for consideration. But as you know, In The Land of Blood of Honey is Angelina Jolie’s movie and as a friend put it, these award people can sometimes be starwhores. Just look at the other nominated movies in this category: Flowers of War has Christian Bale. The Kid With The Bike and The Skin I Live In were also directed by more famous names than Nadine Labaki.

Perhaps our Oscar hopes are not totally dead now. But Where Do We Go Now‘s chances are now very slim at best.

3) Glee gets nominated for best comedy series but The Big Bang Theory, which is truly a comedy, does not get any nominations except for Johnny Galecki’s (Leonard) nomination for best actor in a comedy. Jim Parsons (Sheldon) was not nominated. I don’t even feel like having to elaborate on this.

4) Nina Dobrev, who plays two characters on the CW’s hit series The Vampire Diaries, doesn’t even get a nomination for drama actress in a TV Show. Her characters have nothing to do with each other to make it at least easier for her to portray them. They’re as different as different go. And yet, she’s snubbed. How could a CW TV show be considered worthy after all, right? It’s not like it’s not better than most TV Shows out there. But I guess you should refer to point #1 for their view on quality. I’m sorry to break it to Nina Dobrev but apparently anything she does won’t be enough to get her an award outside the Teen’s Choice or People’s Choice Awards.

5) House’s Hugh Laurie and Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall are both not nominated for best actor in a drama even though they’re both portraying totally twisted and sick characters that should be eaten up by any award committee. The fact that they’re slowly becoming iconic characters in our generation apparently doesn’t help as well.

I guess the finger given by Hugh Laurie as House is fitting.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Golden Globes For Your Consideration Poster & Video

Warner Bros just shared this poster with me, which they’ve been circulating as part of the award season campaign for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

After being slightly bummed out by Deathly Hallows not receiving almost any award love from Critics so far, this makes me feel slightly better that Warner Bros are not simply letting it slide. Perhaps they’re keeping the big guns for the award shows that matter.

Without further ado, here’s the poster:

There’s also this short but very well-done and emotional video. Ask me, I got goosebumps watching it.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Begins Oscar Campaign

Well, not officially. I’m pretty sure that’s going on behind the scenes. But fans over at Potterish have come up with this awesome poster in preparation for the Oscar season, which the final movie of the Harry Potter series is part of, featuring the Oscar statuette holding the Elder wand.

You know, the year is almost up and I know most award-worthy movies are still waiting to be released but nothing has come close to how great Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has been. You can read my review here.

In the meantime, check the fanmade poster in support for Harry Potter’s best picture quest:

Well, accio oscar!

Harry Potter Shattering Box Office Records!

Rejoice Harry Potter fans! The huge blitz for the movie is paying off. In truckloads that is. Not only is the movie absolutely epic (my review) but the response is great as well!

Let’s start domestically in the U.S. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has decimated the midnight box office record, bringing in over $43.5 million from its midnight screenings alone, from 3800 screens. The previous record was held by the Twilight Eclipse movie, which brought in $30 million from 4000 screens. Just to show the magnitude of such an opening, if Harry grossed that much all of Friday, it would still make it the 13th biggest Friday box office opening sum in history.

The movie is headed for a huge U.S. Opening weekend as well with initial forecasts set for it to open with more than $145 million. Most people expect it to go higher and even break The Dark Knight’s record, set in 2008, by grossing more than $158.4 million in its opening weekend, Friday through Sunday.

The Friday total for Harry Potter was $92.1 million in the U.S. alone, dwarfing the previous record set by New Moon at $72 million. Friday’s sum alone puts Harry Potter as the 2nd best opening of 2011, behind Transformers. Though analysts are expecting it to go over $170 million now, to become the highest opening weekend in history.

On the international front, the movie grossed more than $43.6 million from 26 territories. To put it into perspective, that’s 82% better than Part 1 and 46% better than Half-Blood Prince, both of which had huge international opening weekends.

And look at this… the movie set opening day records in every single country it was released in! It grossed more than $7 million in Australia on its first day, beating the previous record set by Return Of The King back in 2003. What was the previous record? Just over $2 million.

The other grosses were as follows: Italy ($4.6 million), Sweden ($2.1 million), Norway ($1.8 million), the Netherlands ($1.7 million), Denmark ($1.6 million), Belgium ($1.4 million) and Finland ($749,000). It also claimed the Wednesday opening record in France ($7.1 million), the preview record in Germany ($5.3 million), and the Warner Bros. opening day record in Russia ($4.1 million).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is set to break the record set by Half-Blood Prince for biggest opening international weekend as well. And when it’s all said and done, this movie is expected to add more than $1 billion in revenue to the world’s most lucrative movie franchise ever.

I will be posting the final numbers the moment they’re available.

Harry Potter and I

It all started in July 2000 for me. I was a carefree ten year old who thought reading was more into the realms of punishment. So it was with carelessness that I listened to a conversation about some books called Harry Potter by some British woman between my dad and his brother.

My American cousin, Kristen, was reading the fourth book in the series at the time. Her dad suggested she’d give the books to me but we both vehemently refused: I because the 4th book was bigger than a dictionary and her because these were her books.

Flash forward a whole year and it’s December 2001, soon after the release of the first movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, the original title). My aunt takes my brothers, cousins and I to the movies to watch it and I get mesmerized. I thought the movie was enchanting, the story was captivating. And for a 12 year old, the idea that a movie like that actually had sequels was something that was just awesome. There’s actually a continuation to the story!

Then Harry Potter went into the back of my mind for the following six months. In June 2002, my uncle arrived from the U.S. with a paperback version of the first 3 books. So even though I still dreaded the idea of reading, I found myself enthralled with the first book, of which I had already watched the movie. While my friends were doing their oral final exams back in 7th grade, I was busy reading in class. Soon enough, I started the second book, with a sense of pride that I was now ahead of the movies. I took a hiatus in the middle of the second book before finishing the whole thing in one day on July 19th, 2002. I remember the day because it was the night before St. Elias’ day and my mom was shouting at me, holding the book while sitting on the swing on our front porch. The third book followed soon after. I finished reading Prisoner of Azkaban a few days later. I remember I was sitting kneeling by the bed when it was done. Come end of July, I was done with all Harry Potter books that I had in my possession.

And now I wanted more. But I waited a few months before starting the fourth book. Christmas break 2002. My best friend at the time, Celine, gave me a French copy of her Goblet of Fire book and even though I hated reading French novels, Harry Potter’s French version managed to captivate me as well. On Christmas eve, my uncle got me a bunch of gifts, one of which was the English version of Goblet of Fire. I picked up with that where I had arrived in the French version and as my good friend Paul Gadalla, a great person who started reading the Harry Potter books because of me, said: “the ending of this book was insane!” and he’s a 25 year old Political Science major. Where does that leave a poor 13 year old’s heart?

In late January 2003, my uncle informed me that the upcoming fifth book would be released on June 21st. And so my first wait with everyone who had caught up with the books started. I started to discover fan sites where people shared their ideas and I was fascinated with those ideas. I discovered that the title was Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix and I saw a blue cover with floating candles that gave me no idea whatsoever about the content.

Leading up to the book’s release, Time magazine did a J.K. Rowling expose about her life prior to Harry Potter and her preparations for the upcoming book release. My copy of the magazine is worn out from the many times that I read that article. But I still have it.

And so Order of the Phoenix was released. It was over 800 pages, with more than a quarter of a million words. The book is not many people’s favorite but I really like it. It represented a sense of Harry growing up to assume his fifteen year old self, his first kiss and above all, revelations about his past that were not known before.

And then my two year wait for Half-Blood Prince, book 6, started. Apparently, JK Rowling does these massive book launch interviews where she discusses many details with fans without giving too much away. So I had those details printed to make sense of what awaited me. To say I was off mark again would be an understatement. After all, guessing with things regarding Harry Potter is not a very easy thing to accomplish. The sixth book was released and I got it on launch day, getting a free mug with it as well. I finished it in two days and it left me devastated that I had two wait two years before the story ends. It was also the most grim part of the tale so far. It was a book about death, souls, memories and the importance of friends in times of darkness. But did I want it to end? I sure did. I hated not being in the know.

J.K. Rowling had revealed that books sixth and seven would have one story arc but be two different books. Everyone I knew was on their toes for the final book. The amount of anticipation was insane. It was probably the most securely kept book ever. Massive prints were prepared for the huge opening day expectations. And to say those expectations were met would be a vast understatement. It sold over 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release on July 21, 2007 in the U.S. alone.

The final book was relentless. It had no dull moments. It was mesmerizing, captivating. It played with your emotions like a slinky and you loved it for that. Anyone who asks me what’s your favorite book would get this answer from me: Deathly Hallows. Sure, it’s not philosophy or some immensely mature book that you expect a 21 year old to like. Some would say that it’s mentally degrading of me to say that is my favorite book. But what is the definition of favorite? It’s the book that 4 years later, while your little brother is reading and asking you questions, still gives you goosebumps when you remember specific passages from it. It’s the book that you can read over and over again and go on the same roller coaster ride you jumped on the first time you read it. And it’s such a gripping book that it took me one day to finish it. It was done by 6 am on July 22nd, 2007. Yes, I only got a few hours of sleep.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at my little brother Joseph finishing the Harry Potter books with the final pages of Deathly Hallow‘s epilogue remaining, a few hours before the Lebanese premiere of the final Harry Potter movie.
It makes me proud to see my brother read all the books and could think about reading other books subsequently, because Harry Potter has shown him the joy of reading.
It also makes me proud that the movie we are going to watch tomorrow has such rave reviews that top critics are calling it “wonderful, epic and grand.”

You see, our stories with Harry Potter are very much alike and yet very different. we’ve all started reading differently and we’ve all obsessed over the books to varying degrees but we’ve all entered this magical world and never wanted to leave. It’s not that our reality was bad, it’s just that the world of J.K. Rowling’s imagination is so pure and vast and beautiful that you feel like being there, even as a “muggle”, doesn’t mean you’re intruding. And it doesn’t even make you different. After all, the last four Harry Potter books each set the record for most books sold in 24 hours, with each new book breaking the record set by the previous one, a testament of the people who wanted to escape to that world as soon as its doors opened anew.

Upon finishing the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling was asked: “how do you want to be remembered?”
Her answer is something that I keep in my head till this day because it should be a life mantra for many. She said: “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

And it’s precisely that which is the biggest lesson that the Harry Potter series presented to us through its flawed and vulnerable hero: a story about the importance of aiming high in life and not being afraid to fall. J.K. Rowling was on welfare before the idea of the books popped into her head almost complete while waiting for a train.
While I know that creativity is defined as divergent thinking that, when simmering, allows you to come up with novel ideas, her personal struggle and story is also a testament that you can pull through the hardships of life.

At 10:00 pm, later today, I would have finished watching the final Harry Potter movie. The tagline for the movie is “It All Ends.”
For us, that tagline has a double meaning. You might say that it also signals your childhood ending. But whenever you look at the Harry Potter books, you can’t help but remember the days when you were reading them. Sweet memories and reminiscing… Either way, your childhood lies within you. But like Harry you have to eventually grow up and keep those memories with you. Just look at this post and the amount of memories in it. Who knew I remembered the exact date I finished Chamber of Secrets or in what body position I finished reading Prisoner of Azkaban or how I had read of Goblet of Fire or the Time magazine with the J.K. Rowling article?

They say we’re the Facebook generation. I beg to differ. We are the Harry Potter generation because these books will be what our grandchildren’s children will remember our years by. Until then, “all was well.” Excuse me as I go put my Harry Potter book that my brother just finished in its proper place in the bookcase.

Upcoming 2011 Movies To Be Excited About

I’ve come up with a list of ten movies coming up in 2011 that you should definitely be excited about:

10 – Larry Crowne:

Don’t judge me but I can’t help but be excited about a movie that has Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.

9 – Transformers 3: Dark Side Of The Moon

Sure, it’s already a financial hit, a week before its release, but as someone who was thouroughly entertained by the first two Transformers movies and even though Megan Fox will not be present in this one (sadness), I expect this to be one of the biggest movies of 2011, at least financially. And if you’ve liked the first two, this one should be a no-brainer for you to go watch.

8 – Crazy Stupid Love:

Emma Stone: “Damn, it’s like you’re photoshopped” *insert lots of laughter* —> *googles release date*

7 – Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

I have really enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes movie and hopefully the sequel delivers as well.

6 – One Day:

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess spend the night of their college graduation together and throughout the years, they revisit each other to see where they are in their lives. Based on the trailer, this looks like it’ll be a very interesting movie.

5  – The Tree Of Life:

This movie has been very polarizing. So I have no idea what to make of it. But it was one the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Festival, so it must be good enough, no?

4 – Where Do We Go Now?

The new Nadine Labaki Lebanese movie. Set for a September 22nd release in Lebanon, this is probably one of the most hyped about Lebanese movies this year. It doesn’t hurt that some of it was filmed in my hometown.

3 – A Dangerous Method:

A movie with Keira Knightley, Vigo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender about Freud? I’m there. Just watch the trailer. The movie looks brilliant!

2 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:

Just finished the book upon which this movie is based and it’s a highly entertaining read. Set for a late 2011 release, the movie stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara and, even though no trailer has been released yet, judging by the movie’s poster, this will be great.

1 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

This should be a no brainer. Epic trailer. The movie is based on an epic book and it’s the conclusion of the series that was an important part of the upbringing of millions.