With the Labor Day weekend upon us — and such tremendous fare as “Shark Night 3D” opening in theaters — it’s fair to say that the summer movie season of 2011 has taken its last, blockbuster-wannabe breaths.
Of course, that means it’s time for us to wax nostalgic about the multiplex era that just was. (“Hey, remember that time, four months ago? When “Thor” came out? Man, those were the days.”)
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” made the most money. ($371.8 million and $349.6 million in North America, respectively.) Which was not a surprise. But there were a few unexpected cinematic turns during the months of heat and humidity.
Here’s a smattering of the more memorable moments from Summer Movie Season 2011.
Best use of flashback: Owen Wilson’s jaunts to the 1920s in “Midnight in Paris.”
Clever. Romantic. Imaginative. “Midnight in Paris” was Woody Allen doing what Woody Allen does so well, and, in a development that restores one’s faith in the intelligence of the moviegoing public, scoring the best box office returns of his career.
Runner-up: The trip back to the early ’60s in “X-Men: First Class”
Most unnecessary use of 3D: “Thor”
During a summer when fewer filmgoers seemed willing to fall for the charms (and higher ticket prices) of multidimensional fare, virtually every 3D movie seemed pretty pointless. Personally, I put “Thor” at the top of the list because I found the 3D in it distracting and it was the first big 3D flick of the summer, so, through no fault of its own, it also implied a sense of ominousness about what was to come.
Runner-up: Almost every other 3D movie, with the possible exceptions of “Harry Potter” and “Transformers.”
Most comedically awkward sex scene: Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm in “Bridesmaids.”
That opening moment sure, um, got our attention. (The awkward post-sex scene in the trailer below isn’t even the one I’m referring to. But it’s bad, too.)
Runner-up: Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone (the air marshal and McCarthy’s real-life husband) at the end of “Bridesmaids.” That closing scene sure, um, got our attention.
He could have added so much more, if only he had been permitted to be maniacally nerdy for more than a few scenes.
Runner-up: “The Hangover Part II.”Clearly he makes a good Chow. But how much Chow can a Chow fan take when a Chow fan already saw Chow in the first “Hangover”?
Saddest summer movie moment (warning: possible spoilers ahead): A certain death in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”
Yes, I’m talking about the moment when Ron Weasley realized one of his brothers, Fred Weasley, was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. I can’t stand to see a Weasley cry.
Runner-up: Viola Davis recalling the death of her son in “The Help.”
Biggest Ryan Reynolds disappointment: “The Green Lantern”
So much hype, so little pay-off.
Runner-up: “The Change-Up.” A lot less hype and a lower budget. So not as big of a deal.
Best trailer released during the summer: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Yes, movie trailers now generate as much excitement — often more — than the actual movies themselves. And this preview for the David Fincher version of the Stieg Larsson novel, which arrived online in June, was the perfect combo of dark imagery, quick cuts, car crashes, huge fonts and Karen O. covering Led Zeppelin.
Runner-up: “The Dark Knight Rises”
Best post-credits stinger: “The Avengers” tease that followed “Captain America.” Certainly this was the coda that had the most buzz behind it. (Spoiler alert: the clip below features part of the ending of “Captain America.”)
Scene that most severely derailed a film: Olivia Wilde comes back to life, naked, in “Cowboys & Aliens.”
I know it was exciting to see Wilde in the buff and all, but a decent movie swirled right down the drain from this moment forward.
Runner-up: The ending of “Super 8,” which — despite the film’s previous charms — gave me tonal whiplash.
Biggest surprise: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
At the beginning of the summer, this film’s potential was overshadowed by supposed sure things like “Green Lantern.” But an intriguing story — and a brilliant use of performance capture via Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar — earned positive reviews and more than $151 million at the box office so far.
Runner-up: People seriously love “The Smurfs”; it’s grossed $383.5 million worldwide and a sequel is on the way.
What do you consider the highlights of the summer movie season? Share your highlights and lowlights by posting a comment.