2012 in FILM

Back despite popular demand, here’s my running best-of-2012 list in FILM* (based on release dates in 2012 & 250 votes, per IMDB)

*that I have seen

In rough order of quality:

GREAT/VERY GOOD

  • John Carter - fun, epic, interesting art design, nice action and just very hard to identify anything wrong with it. Just about the best adaptation of goofy pulp 100-year-old pre-Space Age sci fi stories conceivable. Shame it was such a financial flop (especially since this will be interpreted by most to mean the movie was bad, which it is certainly not) and that the series won’t continue, but probably inevitable given the goofiness.
  • The Avengers - fun and well executed, a little forgettable. I am a little bit tired of that Iron Man guy.
  • 21 Jump Street – insane and surreal, which was really the only sane approach to doing something as retarded as making a 21 Jump Street movie
  • Chronicle – superhero as metaphor for teen angst found-footage thing that has some very good scenes and hits all the right notes.
  • Act Of Valor - No story, no actors, it’s about guys whose job is to kill other guys as I recall. ‘Realistic’ in a way we never see, which is valuable and weird. (Most of the time we like our ‘realism’ much more fake.) In other words: AWESOME

GOOD/SOME PROBLEMS

  • Prometheus – ‘good’, but beautiful visuals and stupid hifalutin concepts hastily overlaid onto a horror franchise doesn’t add up to a classic. Basically it’s as if 2001, Alien, Mission To Mars, Moon, The Abyss, The X Files and about a zillion other movies were thrown in a blender. There is just nothing new in it. You can totally just never see it and your life will be none the worse.
  • The Hunger Games – fascinating pop document. Worth watching if only for the surreal costume design and the heightened melodramatic allegorical depiction of teenage emotions/dilemmas/problems. Found it hard to suppress the unintentional laughs at the Seriousness of it all.
  • Get The Gringo – vicious, but better-than-expected Mel Gibson vehicle is a welcome return to (more or less) his Payback character
  • Mirror Mirror – Tarsem Singh, ‘visuals’, ‘use of color’, palette, bla bla. Actually I kinda don’t remember this one. Was this even the Snow White movie I saw, or was it that other one? It was ok. Will say that portrayal of 7 dwarves as forest bandits on stilts was inspired choice. Julia Roberts is also good (!).

SO-SO/NOT TERRIBLE

  • Lockout – silly B level pseudo sci fi action thing elevated to like a whole new weird level by giving Guy Pearce a ridiculously dry and absurd one-liner pretty much every 30 seconds. Could make for a good drinking game
  • The Tall Man – better than it has any right to be for a Jessica Biel ‘creepy’ trick/twist-story. The plot of Gone Baby Gone told from reverse…by, like, Dean Koontz. Definitely worth seeing for $0 (e.g. Netflix streaming) as the price is right, otherwise pass.
  • The Lorax - not great, but changes/extrapolations from dull/preachy book are mostly an improvement; focus on Once-ler’s origin was the right choice. Better than average musical score and vocals for this sort of thing.
  • ParaNorman - decent stop-motion thing bogged down by boring PC stuff about ‘acceptance of others’ we’ve seen a zillion times. Like Coraline, aesthetics is trapped in late ’80s proto-goth Winona Ryder worship for some reason.

BAD

  • Iron Sky - really wish this was better. Was hoping for something akin to Sky Captain with Nazis and spaceships, but it’s more like a made-for-Sci Fi Channel C movie with almost-instantly-dated and lame ‘political satire’ humor, only punching above its weight a little due to competent CGI
  • The Dictator - not a good movie. One of those comedies where all the laughs are in the trailer. And one of those ‘daring’, ‘no-holds-barred’, ‘not-afraid-to-offend-anyone’ satires that (aside from scatological jokes) is actually timid and super-PC at its core. Baron-Cohen is morphing into Adam Sandler.

As you can see from the above list, I apparently have the cinematic tastes of a 14 year old. I can’t believe how few 2012 films for/about grownups I’ve actually seen. This year it’s like the worst percentage ever. But, IMDB does not lie.

7 Responses to 2012 in FILM

  1. Callowman says:

    The Nerdist podcast recently interviewed Max Landis, the writer of Chronicle. First there is a longish segment of blather, much of which can be skipped. Though not by me – my iPod’s fast-forward button is broken. About two-thirds of the way through, he pitches a movie idea, the brilliance of which instantly won me over, even though I had concluded he was an annoying sociopath up until then. After a brief lull, he talks about the pitch process, which is also worth a listen.

    Tangentially, I found myself wondering whether his father John was ruined by the helicopter accident in The Twilight Zone, since he made some terrific films before it and not such great stuff after. They didn’t ask about that, though, and anyway Max is too young to know.

  2. Matt says:

    I’d put the Avengers as good/some problems. The main problem was that the plot was incomprehensible gibberish and generally woe to you if you haven’t seen all the other movies (still not sure who the bow and arrow guy is).

    • Yeah, I can understand that critique. Especially given how reliant the whole ‘plot’ was on the backstory set up in Thor, which is sort of the weirdo cousin of these Marvel movies. I actually liked Thor, but I’d bet for a lot of moviegoers, if there’s one they haven’t seen, it’s likely to be Thor.

      For me it was the interaction between the characters, the team building etc that made the movie work. I don’t think I’m the first to observe that the actual plot/threat was basically indistinguishable from that of a Transformers movie or some such.

      The bow/arrow guy didn’t bother me because I chose to ignore him. This might be a problem with Jeremy Renner rather than the character, because nowadays when I see Renner all I can think about is him buying a house with his ‘friend/partner’, and it’s distracting. If he were just fully out this would be far less of a problem. That’s all basically my fault though, so I don’t hold it against the movie.

  3. Ian says:

    I thought Prometheus was pretty terrible, visual beauty notwithstanding –
    * One-dimensional characters (with the possible exception of Noomi Rapace/Elizabeth Shaw)
    * Characters actions more often made no sense than made sense
    * Alien ecosystem/technology poorly thought out
    * Dialogue, spoken by alleged world-class scientists and ex-military men, that all sounded like teenage skater kids
    * Gratuitous Hollywood leftyism (Christianity undermining, black character is the most morally good/wise one, etc)

    • But blacks *are* the most morally good/wise people, everyone knows that. Especially Stringer Bell.

      I think most of these problems are exacerbated by the ambition of the movie. The original Alien movie was basically just a disguised slasher/horror film; you didn’t fault it for having 1D characters (which it did) or not fleshing out the aliens’ histories (both types). You knew what you needed to know (stomach/parasite birth, acid blood) and no more.

      This one clearly has a pretense to being about Ultimate Questions and so forth, even though when you really diagram it out it’s pretty much just a remake of Alien, whose strength (like Alien) lies in setting up creepy and/or yucky set pieces and claustrophobic situations. But the ambition led to more grandiose expectations, and the need to give it an Ultimate Questions theme is what (IMHO) seems to have shoehorned the screenwriter(s) into writing the stupid dialogue and making the characters do dumb things etc.

  4. josh says:

    The Whit Stillman movie was this year, wasn’t it?

    • Hmmm, IMDB says 2011 so it didn’t make my filter. Probably it was shown at a festival or something in December hence officially considered a 2011 release.

      Hard to say whether I’d put it with the first or second batch. I thought it was great but can understand that others saw problems with it.

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