At the end of every year, every site posts their mandatory best of/worst of lists. One of my own new years resolutions was to get at least one of those done before too long. For today I have chosen to approach movies, so while our memories of 2011 are busy going from short term and long term, here is a rundown of Awesome Achievements to remind you what movies deserve to be remembered and why. It is the 2011 Too Much Awesome for the Oscar Movie Awards, movies you won’t see at the academies in a few months from now, but they sure had an impact on us.
To begin, I am reminded of a quote Willam Dafoe said to us as the Green Goblin in the first feature length Spider-Man movie:
“The one thing they love more than a hero… is to see a hero fail. Fall. Die trying.”
The Last Airbender Award for Epic Fail goes too…
It is true. People love to see a train wreck. Every year, we get at least one of those; a film that releases with such scorn and…sucking, that the media proceeds to make it the laughing stock of the industry. Last year, the absolute worst case scenario happened, as this dishonor befell upon just about the most anticipated movie of my entire life, leading to probably one of the most unhealthy and sole crushing cases of denial anyone could possibly go through. While I had nowhere near as much invested in this year’s flop as I did The Last Airbender, it still hurt.
The Green Lantern
Here was yet another film that despite its flaws, I still managed to be marginally optimistic in my review. Still, cliché story, bland script, choppy editing, some of the cheesiest effects seen in a decade (I mean seriously, just LOOK at that costume), and barely any screen time or action at all from the other Green Lanterns. Not exactly doing justice to the source material.
Even though I didn’t know barely anything about the character at all, I still wanted this to do well. In a perfect world, this could have been to DC what Iron Man was to Marvel three years ago. A moderately successful hit would have been the gateway to Warner Bros. giving the go for other yet-to-be-seen DC heroes getting their own movie deals, like Wonder Woman, the Flash, Captain Marvel, and Oa knows what I would give to see them attempt a Teen Titans movie. Instead, Warner Bros. is, yet again, back to crawling under their comfort zone of relying on the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel to pull their weight.
But enough of this unpleasantly. This is an award ceremony after all, and from this point forward, there is nothing but smiles to be had.
The Karate Kid Award for Diamond in the Ruff goes too…
Just about the complete opposite award that The Green Lantern won, this is for a movie that we weren’t looking forward to in the slightest, as its trailers paint it as being just another uninspired pile of clichés, staring “insert popular actor of the hour here”, but then said movie comes out and, surprisingly, exceeds all our expectations, while reminding us that some things are cliché for a reason: because they’re awesome. Last year, that was a remake of The Karate Kid, with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, which I couldn’t have cared less for, but after seeing it, I have to admit was an incredible remake, with the kind of young martial arts/acting talent that I wish I could have seen in The Last Airbender. This year, we have this.
You know, that thing that everyone called Rock-em Sock-em Robots the Movie, staring Hugh “Go **** yourself.” Jackman? Yeah, I never expected to have as much fun with that movie as I did. Here is a film where, beat by beat, you pinpoint where every plot point is going a mile away: It’s Rocky and all of its seventeen-thousand clones all over again, just with CGI fighting robots. And yet somehow, Real Steel plays out with enough heart and pure raw emotion that all my preconceived notions on the derivative plot is seismic tossed out the window, and I couldn’t give a damn how cliché it is. Jackman and the rest of the cast pull off their various character troupes without the slightest hint of irony, and come off just as believable and endearing as the characters that invented those tropes in the first place.
As soon as you buy into the premise, the rest of the movie is just a blast. The robots themselves looked great, fought great, and came in a wide variety of designs and colors. Even though they aren’t technically living things, each of them felt like they had distinct personalities. It almost reminded me of some of the classic robot series from my childhood, like Metabots, or Cubix Robots for Everyone. Anyone remember those?
The District 9 Award for Best Use of Aliens goes to…
Some of you may ask why District 9 is the name of the award when that movie came out in 2009 and not 2010. Well, because this award goes to a movie with a unique and original take on aliens, and quite frankly, I can’t remember any one alien movie that struck a cord with me at all in 2010. 2011 however was a different story. We had quite the share of extra terrestrials touch down on earth this year. One of them I thought had some of the most original aliens I’ve seen in years. I’ll give a hint: it’s not The Darkest Hour.
Attack the Block
You know what I love? When they come up with actual unique and random locations in the world for aliens to land in. In this case, they drop down in just about the most Ghetto street corner of all of London, where a ragtag gang of teenage thugs, who would more often than not be the shallow annoying stock bullies in every other movie, get to be our heroes this time. The second thing I love: the aliens themselves. They are these massive gorilla…bear…wolf things with pitch black fur and, for reasons that go absurdly unexplained, their teeth glow a bright neon turquoise color. I seriously want to know how they came up with this design. Other sci-fi writers out there, please take note. This is proof that originality does still exist.
The Scott Pilgrim Award for Biggest Nerdgasm goes to…
Last Year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was one of those generation defining movies where it felt like it was made explicitly and definitively for me and my demographic. What was basically a love note to classic video game culture and the generation that founded it, Chris and I could not stop talking about it. This year, we had yet another big nerd movie that I’ve been sharing with everyone I can.
What Scott Pilgrim was to classic video games from the 80’s and 90’s, Paul is to classic sci-fi films from the 70’s and 80’s. I was hard pressed not to find a reference at least every ten minutes, and if you’re in the generation just above me (early-mid 30’s) you’ll probably find even more. It doesn’t get much more nerdy than opening with a pair of British nerds living their dream of going to the San Diego Comic Con, followed by a road trip to some of the most famous extra terrestrial sites in the South East America, only to run into an alien voiced by Seth Rogen being chased by Jason Bateman who is working under another famous nerd icon who turns out to be the awesomest celebrity cameo since Bill Murray showed up half way through Zombieland.
The Toy Story 3 Award for Lifetime Achievement goes to…
This award is pretty self-explanatory. It goes to a long running movie series that uses its large time span to allow the universe and characters they created to grow up with its audience. Last year’s Toy Story 3 was a sure fire winner in this category, because while there was an 11-year gap between it and Toy Story 2 in which nothing of significant importance happened, I believe it was meant to be that way. TS2 left a very foreshadowing message about the finite nature of being a toy, though it was a message that wouldn’t be answered in that universe for at least a decade. So in my opinion, it was the perfect choice for Pixar to move on for a while and make numerous other classics like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL.E, and Up, and then bring us back to Andy’s house at the absolute best time to create one of the greatest and most memorable cappers in recent history. Though this year, it may have met its match.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
After seven movies of buildup, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 pulls out all the stops, bringing ten years worth of magic, and dumping it out on us in one big all encompassing final battle between the forces of good an evil. Hero shots, death scenes, and action set pieces roll across the screen one after another with such passion and finesse. Since Dan, Rupert, and Emma were first offered these rolls when they were nine, ten, and eight years old respectively, they have been in it for the long hall, and they did not disappoint. No one could have guessed that ten years down the line, all three of them would still look and play their parts so perfectly. And I can’t stress it enough, that final 19-years-later epilogue scene that I’ve been dreading since I first read it, I could not have been more happy with how it turned out. The magic behind these movies is monumental, and I will share my memories of the boy who lived for years to come.
And with that, we close up with a quick rundown of this year’s must-own movies. Films that aspire to the qualities and sense of fun and adventure that we a Toy-TMA thrive on.
The Too Much Awesome Top 5
Finally, a Superhero movie even my own comic-book-phobic mother can love actually exists. (Seriously, she ate it up) 2011 was a great year for comic books in general (Green Lantern not withstanding), but of the many excellent comic book films, Thor in my opinion had the best visual effects and set pieces of them all. There was a great balance between the God-like scenes on Asgard and the mortal scenes on Earth, all the minor characters from both realms were a ton of fun, and Loki particularly set himself up to be a bright, resourceful, and cunning villain to the Marvel universe, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store next. Shakespeare veteran Kenneth Branagh could not have been a more fitting director. And then of course we got The God of Thunder himself, Mr. Hemsworth, whom I’m sure all the ladies are excited to see in all his stone chiseled glory again this year in Disney’s Snow White and the Huntsman, acting opposite of Twilight star, Kirsten Stuart.
Oh yeah, that and some…Iron Man, Cap, Hulk…tie in… thing.
4. Captain America The First Avenger
The Star Spangled Man with a Plan. Marvel tells the beginnings of America’s costumed war hero with such heart and drive, that it’s hard not to get behind him. The action is a bit more down to earth than Thor, but Evan’s physical prowess in a costume that actually looks moveable in makes it all the more believable. With another pinpoint accurate villain turn by Hugo Weaving as the Red Scull, a just about mirrored page to screen adaptation of the Howling Commandos, and Tommy Lee Jones making at least one more awesome comic book appearance before pushing his luck with more MIB sequels, this could be the super hero movie that sets the standard for this entire generation.
3. X-Men First Class
This was certainly a great year for Marvel, as the hits kept coming. First Class wasn’t just the best X-Men movie in seven years, it was the best X-Men movie of all time. Rebooting the entire series with younger actors all relatively new to the industry, playing mutants that have yet to appear on the big screen, and then you make them fight a Kevin Bacon Nazi, in yellow spandex, where do I begin? This has got to be one of the gutsiest comic book movies the industry has attempted in a while, and it paid off in just about every single facet. The big wide open, multi-faceted final battle between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club? That’s what EVERY SINGLE final battle in every X-Men movie should look like from now on.
2. The Muppets
While I may be a generation too late to remember the Muppets in their prime, I am still a very passionate thespian, and this musical tale of an old gang of performers coming together to put on one last hurrah was right up my ally. The Muppets themselves prove after all this time, their brand of wholesome family humor and well placed fourth wall jokes has not aged a bit after all these years.
Kermit the Frog: Guys, we can’t kidnap Jack Black. That’s illegal!
Fozzie Bear: What’s more illegal, Kermit: briefly inconveniencing Jack Black, or destroying the Muppets?
Kermit the Frog: Kidnapping Jack Black!
The musical numbers were great, Jason Segal and Amy Adams were great, even the basic plot, as clichéd and laughable as it may be, was great. Anything that is apparently real enough to piss off the morons at Fox News into thinking that it’s trying to force some far left agenda onto our kids because the “villain” is some greedy Tycoon named “Tex Richman” who wants to tear down the Muppet Studio so he can drill for oil is good enough for me.
I know, I already gave an award to Paul for it’s strides and nudges to the sci-fi nerd community, but even apart from all the references and fan service, it’s just a pretty damn fun comedy, with just about the greatest cast of current comedy stars all year. Pegg and Frost as our lead duo have the best chemistry in the world. Seth Rogen as the title character is the funniest he’s been in years. Jason Bateman as Agent Zoil and the two other agents played by Hader and Trugilo are just as endearing as our heroes, and our heroine played by Kirsten Wiig, who also happened to be the lead in Bridesmaids, another awesome comedy in 2011, steals every scene she’s in.
It’s a shame that much like Scott Pilgrim last year, this movie went pretty unnoticed on the radar and wasn’t exactly the big hit I wish it was. Though, I will admit that everyone I have thus far recommended this movie to has gotten a lot of laughs out of it, so hopefully the appeal will grow over time.
And that’s a wrap folks. Here’s to looking ahead to 2012 and hoping that The Avengers is as awesome as we’re anticipating, the Spider-Man reboot doesn’t suck as much we’re fearing, that Twilight will finish one last train wreck and then be promptly dead, buried, and never seen or spoken of again, and lastly, that The Knights of Badassdom will finally get a freaking release date.