Thursday, December 20, 2012

BEST OF 2012!!!

In a year with some HUGE disappointments (Prometheus and its abundance of unforgivable plot holes, the unnecessarily convoluted Dark Knight Rises, The Master, etc) 2012 still turned out to be a pretty awesome year where today’s modern masters (or filmmakers I personally consider to be masters) like; Cronenberg (Cosmopolis), Haneke (Amour), Carax (Holy Motors), Malick (To The Wonder) & Reygadas (Post Tenebras Lux) all delivered. This was a big year for me personally as Leos Carax (a personal favorite of mine) broke his 13 year hiatus (excluding his short film; Merde), Michael Haneke continued his perfect streak and we got the old David Cronenberg back! Post Tenebras Lux, To Wonder & Amour left me either floored or on the verge of tears while Holy Motors, Room 237, Brief Encounters (as well as Seven Psychopaths & Argo which appear in my honorable mention category) all made me appreciate the power of cinema and to not feel so bad about my (borderline) unhealthy fascination with it. For the third year in a row Greece has made my top 10 (Attenberg) and has proven to be at the forefront of unique, twisted & odd humor (Attenberg). David O. Russell surprised the hell outta me once again (Silver Linings Playbook) and The Avengers (which really does stick out like a sore thumb) proved to be the most fun movie going experience of 2012. While everyone’s been busy praising Daniel Day Lewis’ performance as Lincoln (which is understandable) the cast of Haneke’s Amour as well as Javier Bardem (Skyfall & To The Wonder) & Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) gave some of the best performances of the year. Also, actors that I’m not very fond of like Robert Pattinson (who held his own in an ensemble cast of great actors like Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton & Paul Giamatti), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), James Franco (Spring Breakers) & Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) all made me put my foot in my mouth.
I’ve already written about half the movies in the top 10 (Post Tenebras Lux, Holy Motors, To The Wonder, Attenberg & Silver Linings Playbook) as well as half the movies in my honorable mention category, so I won’t repeat myself too much. I would like to reiterate that 2012 was the year of what I like to call “sketchbook”/stream of conscious cinema (Post Tenebras Lux, Holy Motors, To The Wonder & Cosmopolis). Half of this year’s best films felt like personal dreams, internal feelings & beautiful random thoughts projected on to the big screen in an unforced, non-pretentious way which is something I’ve been waiting to see for these last couple of years.
I’m not saying 2012 is one of the best years for cinema overall, but once the dust settled we were left with a couple of films that may already end up being some of the defining works of the decade...

Besides the top 10 listed above, 2012 brought us a few noteworthy films that I’d feel bad about not mentioning. Although Ben Affleck has yet to top Gone Baby Gone (or even The Town for that matter) he still continues to mature & grow as a director with each project - He finally let the Boston/Massachusetts setting go, he didn’t need to rely on an ensemble cast of A-List and/or “known” actors to make his film seem more appealing (not to say that John Goodman, Alan Arkin & Bryan Cranston aren’t great), and he took on a fairly challenging & (somewhat) amazing true story.
Besides The Avengers, Seven Psychopaths is probably the most fun I had at the movies in a while. Along with Sam Rockwell & Christopher Walken’s presence, it’s always a pleasure to see Harry Dean Stanton (who also made an unexpected appearance in The Avengers) & Tom Waits on the big screen giving some memorable performances as well. Normally I can’t stand that unnecessary Tarantino-esque celebration of mindless/comedic violence but Seven Psychopaths managed to make it work.
This year got off to such a slow start that by the middle of the year Moonrise Kingdom was the best thing I’d seen so far. Naturally Toronto changed all that (the large majority of the top 10 is made up stuff I saw at TIFF) but Wes Anderson, who’s style is starting to get a bit played out to some, managed to make a fun film for just about any age group that should get some type of mention. I understand how important it is to have a unique style, but I don’t think it would hurt for Anderson to stretch himself a little bit with his next project - let Bill Murray, Mark Mothersbaugh & Jason Schwartzman go and do something completely unexpected. The same applies to Harmony Korine. Spring Breakers was a fun, strange & odd ride that I want to see again just off the strength of James Franco’s performance but Korine’s ironic exploration of white people and “gangsta”/”bling” culture is starting to get a little old. But his growth as a filmmaker between Gummo and Spring Breakers is more than evident and he deserves to be mentioned.

Here’s a category I’m bringing back from my 2010 wrap-up which featured Black Swan & the underrated & misunderstood Black Venus. For those of you who don’t remember what it’s all about – this category is reserved for somewhat flawed films that some will find great, innovative and/or different (in a good way) while others may find pointless or silly. Technically this category should be reserved for To The Wonder, but I’d like to give some attention to a couple of smaller films that probably won’t get the same kinda play that To The Wonder will surely get once it hits theaters next year. Let’s be honest, anyone who even half knows me should know I wasn’t gonna finish this year without mentioning the Tim & Eric movie. At this point I know I sound like a broken record because I’ve made this statement already, but just like 99% of all sketch comedy-based feature films, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar was generally panned by most (even by some hardcore fans of the show), but those who got it…got it (sorry to sound so elitist & pretentious but that’s the best I can do). And to be quite honest, you should already know what to expect when it comes to Tim & Eric (especially in a feature length film). If you can’t take the 15 minute long television episodes you probably shouldn’t try for a 90 minute movie. I highly doubt most people miraculously stumbled in to this movie without knowing anything about Tim & Eric so you if you were disappointed or pissed at how stupid it was you really got what you deserved and shoulda known what to expect. But on the other side, Tim & Eric are an acquired taste and no one should really be given too much shit for not liking them.
Krivina is a film that couldn’t be more different from Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (other than the fact that both movies are “surreal”) but it’s another film that you have to kind of discover and read about before watching or you might be disappointed. Unlike most recent art house works, Krivina is one of the few that actually deserves a comparison to the style of Tarkovsky. This took some time to grow on me but after sitting on it for a few days I realized its brilliance. I’m not going to get too much in to this one because everything that needed to be said about this film can be found over at The Toronto Film Review but basically if you’re a fan of slow, droning, depressing, mysterious, dark eastern European art house cinema with a Brian Eno-esque score - this one’s for you. If you were looking forward to Cloud Atlas or The Hobbit there’s a strong chance this isn’t your thing.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a judgmental prick when it comes to cinema. Sometimes all I need is a trailer or even a brief synopsis to completely write a movie off. I mean let’s be honest, look at the movies below – A 21 Jump Street re-boot, a movie about male strippers and one of those movies thats shot from the perspective of someone holding a video camera 24/7? None of that sounded appealing to me. I only saw each of these films for one reason – With 21 Jump Street it was the trailer (hey, it was funny and it worked although I had a feeling it would still be stupid), with Magic Mike it was only (and I mean ONLY) because it was directed by Steven Soderbergh who has this chameleon-like adaptability to direct just about anything (remake, biopic, art house, big budget blockbuster, experimental low budget indie, action, science fiction drama, etc). Plus he has the work ethic of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (putting out two quality films a year). And I only got around to seeing Chronicle off the strength of a friends (unexpected) recommendation. I honestly can’t stand those Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity P.O.V. films. At the end of the day, these turned out to be WAY better than I expected. 21 Jump Street may have had its share of frat boy, fart, homoerotic humor but it made me laugh. And speaking of homoerotic - I ended up liking Magic Mike more than my girlfriend (pretty sure that’s not what was supposed to happen). It had a glossy almost indescribable style with a plot that I didn’t see coming. And as an Akira fan, I appreciated its influence on Chronicle (as well as Looper). More importantly, Chronicle made an original attempt at trying to pull off the fake documentary/P.O.V. genre that’s kind of oversaturated the movie world in the last 5 years or so.

Highlights, Lowlights & other random movie moments from 2012 (*SPOILER ALERT*)...

-A tour of James Franco’s crib in Spring Breakers in which he shows off all his “shit”

-The (excellent) cinematography in To The Wonder

-Charlize Theron revealing herself to be Old Guy Pierce’s daughter as if it’s supposed to mean something in Prometheus

-Listening to people defend Prometheus for the last 6 months by saying stuff like; “It’s just a science fiction film for intellectuals. I wouldn’t expect you to get it” or “There’s going to be a sequel so not everything needs to be spelled out” (Just stop. It was bad. Admit it)

The Dark Knight Rises / Skyfall
-All the elaborate set-ups where the villain gets caught on purpose only to turn the tables on everyone and you can’t help but say to yourself; “they didn’t really need to go through all that” (opening sequence in Dark Knight Rises & Javier Bardem’s prison break in Skyfall)

-I can barely hear what anyone in the movie is saying because the score is too LOUD & distracting: The Dark Knight Rises

-Wait, is this Inception or Batman?: Dark Knight Rises

-Annoyed that I missed: The Hunt, The Comedy, The Man With The Iron Fist, Tabu, Expendables 2, Haywire & Wanderlust

-Indifferent on missing: Lincoln, Redhook Summer, Flight, Life Of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty & Spiderman

-Completely fine with missing (although I'm sure I'll eventually see it): Django Unchained

-Other movies from 2012 worth mentioning: Outrage Beyond & Looper

-Yes, I saw it: The Hobbit

Breaking Dawn Part 2
-Yeah, I saw that too: Breaking Dawn Part 2

-Not the worst remake: Passion

-Unique idea, but not so sure how I feel about it: The Act Of Killing

-A poor man’s Shame: Thanks For Sharing

-This year’s Melancholia: 4:44 Last Day On Earth

-This year’s Black Power Mixtape: Free Angela & All Political Prisoners

-Meh: The Kid With A Bike, Something In The Air

-Dont understand all the praise: The Beast Of The Southern Wild

-Dont understand all the negative criticism: The Beast Of The Southern Wild

-Javier Bardem giggling to himself after putting his dentures back in (Skyfall)

-Have these even been released yet: Faust & Dark Girls

-Oh my god, fucking END already (movies that coulda used some serious editing): Wuthering Heights & Lawrence Anyways

-Good movies from last year that I saw this year: A Separation, Super 8, Beginners

Will Forte (Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie)
-Will Forte: “NO I dont want customer service, you stupid BIIITCH! I want you to put me through to headquarters, GOD DAMMIT!” (Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie)

-Giovanni Ribisi: "can I get a hug?" (Ted)

-Sam Rockwell: “Honey, I meant like Chlamydia or something” (Seven Psychopaths)

-Bradley Cooper: “Is this song seriously playing right now?!” (Silver Linings Playbook)

-Self decapitation scene in Post Tenebras Lux

-The dance sequences in Attenberg

-The getaway scene at the end of Argo (you knew they were gonna make it but it was still a nail bitter)

-The breakdown of the space room in Room 237

-The over analysis of the Bill Watson character in Room 237

-What Happened to?: Grandmasters

-The lack of Harvey Keitel in Moonrise Kingdom

-The lack of Laura Dern in The Master

-Overrated performances: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) & Bill Murray (Hyde Park On Hudson)

-Underrated performances: Javier Bardem (To The Wonder), Denis Lavant (Holy Motors), Paul Giamatti (Cosmopolis)

-Great performance in a disappointing movie: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

-Surprisingly good performance: Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis)

-Surprisingly bad performance: Wynona Ryder (The Iceman)

-Carl Lewis coming off like a complete dick in 9.79

21 Jump Street
-Johnny Depp & Peter Deluise getting shot in the neck at the end of 21 Jump Street

-Reasons to look forward to 2013: Only God Forgives, Knight Of Cups, Ironman 3, Only Lovers Left Alive, 12 Years A Slave, Star Trek: Into Darkness, A Place Beyond The Pines, Michael Shannon playing Zod in the Superman re-boot

Well that does it for 2012. From the inside the phoenix podcasts & pink smoke contributions to the site traffic & interviews (Marina De Van & Guy Maddin to name a few) its been a pleasure writing for you all. January is already done and I’m in the midst of working on entries for February. Thanks for reading…