Haven't seen that one. Nope, haven't seen that one either. Haven't even heard of that one.
Those were my reactions when the Oscar nominations came out Tuesday. For the first time in a long time, I have not seen any of the Best Picture nominees a month before the awards are handed out.
Now while I intend to change that in the near future - "Moneyball," "The Help" and "Midnight in Paris" are certainly the next three movies I plan to rent - it was an underwhelming year at the cinema. Of the top 11 box office earners in the U.S., only one was not a sequel or prequel, and that was "Thor," which is anything but original. Usually at least a few of the mainstream hits are nominated for Academy Awards, but the highest earner of the nine Best Picture nominees was "The Help" at No. 13, making $169 million. In fact, three of the four box office top earners were savaged by critics, with "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" and "The Hangover Part II" combining for a 95 percent satisfied rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
All that being said, however, there were a few quality flicks to come out of 2011. Here are a few of my favorites:
"50/50" - This was quite easily my favorite movie of the year, and I don't understand how it didn't become a bigger hit. The advertising campaign may have hurt it, as it wasn't so much a comedy as the trailers led people to believe. "50/50" is written by cancer survivor Will Reiser and is semi-autobiographical, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring as a twenty-something rocked by a cancer diagnosis in which he's given a 50 percent chance of survival. The movie then follows how Levitt deals with the news, along with how his friends and family also adjust. The mood stays fairly light throughout but it's more of a dramedy, as there are humorous moments throughout but also some heartbreaking ones. Levitt and Reiser both should have received Oscar nominations, and Anjelica Huston, Anna Kendrick and Seth Rogen are all superb. It deals perfectly with a touchy subject, as only a cancer survivor could.
"Bridesmaids" - Hands down, "Bridesmaids" was the funniest film made in 2011. Billed as a movie that proved women could be funny - although I'm not sure who still thought otherwise - it was crude but with a solid heart underneath. Kristen Wiig is a woman whose life isn't going the way she hoped, and it only gets worse when she discovers her best friend since childhood is getting married. Wiig's consequent downward spiral is simultaneously hilarious and sad, and speaking as someone who doesn't really like Wiig on "Saturday Night Live," she thoroughly deserved her Golden Globe nomination. The cast was excellent despite not casting a ton of really well-known actors and actresses. Just a warning: Don't be thrown off by the explicit opening scene.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" - While I thought Part 1 was better, the final chapter of the Harry Potter series ended on a solid note. Loaded chock full of action, the set of nine movies wraps up nicely and leaves you a little sad that you'll never see the characters again.
"Water for Elephants" - A great book was made into an almost equally great movie. Sprawling, grand sets explore the life of a circus in the Great Depression. While Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon do solid jobs as the stars of the movie, Christoph Waltz steals the movie as August, the owner of the circus.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.