Now that it’s Fall, I’m looking forward to all the high-quality films that will grace cinema screens in time to qualify for awards season. I’m also curious as to how 2012 will be remembered. What theme will emerge to define it? I will remember 2011 as the year of the cinematic love letter. This is in reference to three particular films: Super 8, Hugo, and The Artist.
In between his Star Trek films, J.J. Abrams made Super 8, his love letter to the Steven Spielberg productions of the 1980s. The protagonists were coming-of-age kids going up against adults/authority figures while confronting a mystery where the stakes were high and the danger was real. It is only their courage that will determine how things will turn out in the end. Released in June, Super 8 would go on to make over $200 million domestically and ended up being the highest-grossing of the three films.
Hugo, based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” was Martin Scorsese’s love letter to film pioneer Georges Melies, who figures prominently in the film. The film actually makes the case for film preservation without sounding preachy. Melies’ films actually take center stage at one point in the film (Scorsese lovingly recreates the making of those films). It is also about the embracing of new technology (which is part of the reason Scorsese shot the film in 3-D). Scorsese’s use of 3-D here was hailed by many to be the best use of 3-D ever.
The Artist was Michel Hazanavicius’ love letter to silent cinema. The film charts the decline of a silent film star and the rise of a new film star in the emerging sound era of Hollywood. Although there are some echoes of 1952’s Singin’ In the Rain, the film prefers to recreate the qualities of silent films: it’s in black-and-white, is silent (for 99.9% of the film, anyway), is in Academy ratio (1.37:1), and is accompanied by a terrific score that must carry the film without becoming overbearing.
To a lesser degree, Steven Spielberg’s CG-animated The Adventures of Tintin (a film he had wanted to make for years) was a throwback to his own Raiders of the Lost Ark (which just happened to celebrate its 30th anniversary last year). It was a thrilling and fun mystery/adventure with a reporter rather than an archaeologist trying to solve the mystery. It did okay at the box office, but it would’ve done better had it not also been competing with Spielberg’s other 2011 film, War Horse.
So, as the leaves turn color, I ponder about the upcoming films. What front-runners will emerge? Which films will live up to expectations? Which will fall short? We will soon find out together.