Gary Thompson: Movies that made a scene on the screen in '11

Memorable scene : Tom Hardy dropping a guy with a kick to the chest in "Warrior."
Memorable scene : Tom Hardy dropping a guy with a kick to the chest in "Warrior."
Posted: December 28, 2011

THE DECEMBER release of "The Artist" is a fitting cap to 2011, a year to remind us that movies, like children, should be seen and not heard.

Case in point: A couple of readers called to ask me, earlier in the year, if Takeshi Miike's samurai smackdown "13 Assassins" was dubbed in English.

The technical answer is no - it was subtitled - but the essential answer is: What difference does it make? The movie is so visually succinct and powerful that words were beside the point; the subtitles were redundant.

We don't begrudge sound entirely (unless we're watching "Transformers 3" in IMAX) but 2011 was the year of the visualist - "The Artist," the return of Terrence Malick ("Tree of Life"), Steven Spielberg's "War Horse."

What images will you remember from 2011?

For me, it's Tom Hardy in "Warrior" walking into the MMA ring and dropping a guy with one thunderous kick to the chest.

Will Ferrell living in his front yard in "Everything Must Go," drinking beer in a lounge chair in a room without walls, an image at which I never failed to laugh.

A terrified teen making the Parkour jump of his life to save himself from an alien invasion in "Attack the Block."

Just about anything in Miike's "13 Assassins," - you know when the fight is over because the loser's head is rolling downhill.

The duplicate earth in the sky of "Another Earth," an image repeated in "Melancholia," a movie whose apocalyptic ideas/images were magnified and made human in "Take Shelter."

The 20,000-year-old artwork of Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." In this 3-D documentary, Herzog argued that Paleolithic man was using charcoal and torchlight to put on 3-D shows millennia before "Avatar."

Martin Scorsese makes a similar observation in "Hugo," working in 3-D to enliven the story of cinematic pioneers who shocked turn-of-the-century audiences with footage of oncoming trains.

In 2011, directors such as Scorsese and Herzog used film to explain their love of motion pictures. A theme also at work in J.J. Abrams "Super 8," his movie-within-a-movie about a teen film crew encountering an alien (production value!"). "Rango" became a forum for Gore Verbinski to pluck scenes and images from his favorite classic movies.

Woody Allen's hero (Owen Wilson) in "Midnight In Paris" is a Hollywood screenwriter (and blocked novelist) convinced his art form is inferior to the greats who lived and worked in the Paris of generations past. His view changes when he's magically transported at midnight to mingle with Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali.

What is the golden age of art?

Allen's answer was atypically generous - it's whatever one

you're in.

The year of the image would seem to leave little room for actors, but there were performances that also stick in the mind.

Mia Wasikowska was an awesome "Jane Eyre," and her scenes with Michael Fassbender brought gravity to that overripe story. What a year for Fassbender - "X-Men First Class," "A Dangerous Method," "Shame." The latter had a great moment for Carey Mulligan.

Brendan Gleeson made "The Guard" a treat, playing off Don Cheadle.

Ferrell had some nice scenes in "Everything Must Go" with Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern, and young Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of Biggie Smalls.

John Boyega was a terrific Moses in "Attack The Block," and I don't think I saw a better against-type supporting role this year than Isiah Whitlock Jr. in "Cedar Rapids."

"The Help" and "Bridemaids" are getting most of the attention for ensemble casts, but I wouldn't neglect "Margin Call," the dark-night-of-the-soul saga of an imploding Wall Street firm that yielded nice moments for Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto and Stanley Tucci.

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