I’ve missed a lot of reviews in the past few weeks, and I apologize. If you know me, you know that perhaps my greatest flaw is my tendency to promise things and never follow through. There hasn’t been a weekly review in months, and that’s on me. While compiling my Best Films of 2012 list, I realized that half of them hadn’t even gotten a review on this site. Here, I’ll try to briefly summarize my feelings on some of my favorite films of the past year. This is unlike anything I’ve done before, so bear with me.
I had tremendous fun with Skyfall, even as a Bond novice. I think that the hiring of Sam Mendes is a step in a great new direction for the franchise. Used to be that no one cared who was directing a Bond film, so directors without talent occasionally took the reigns. I would love to see Wilson and the Broccolis start hiring auteur directors for each new film. Let’s face it, we know what we’re going to get when we see a Bond film nowadays. The days of Bond genuinely surprising us, innovating, and influencing are long gone. What can make Bond films stand out now is who’s actually making them. Get Christopher Nolan to direct a Bond movie, or Peter Jackson, or the Wachowskis. Make that the reason for people to see the new Bond adventure. As Quantum of Solace proved, audiences won’t be swayed by seeing a bunch of generic action sequences in trailers. Skyfall had a great marketing campaign, and it worked like gangbusters. At the time of this writing, Skyfall is the first Bond film to cross $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Daniel Craig is a great Bond, and the people rioting online at the time of his casting a couple years ago are surely eating their words. He’s icier than other Bonds, but never inhumanly cold. He’s a person, not just a stylish suit and a British accent, which Brosnan sometimes fell in to. He somehow elevates the character out of the name itself, and all the stereotypes and imagery that spring to mind when you hear it. I’ll be sad when he leaves the franchise, but I’m more excited than ever to see where it goes next.
Forever ago, I briefly raved about this film in a blurb at the bottom of the main page, and promised a review in the coming days. This is a pattern with me, as you can tell. Anyway, Chronicle really knocked my socks off, and for me it’s the biggest surprise of the year. I was thoroughly unimpressed by the trailer, but the film itself is a great character study, and a remarkably perceptive study of the corruptive influence of power through a superhero metaphor. It’s also a superhero origin story in disguise. It’s a lot craftier than it gets credit for, and it’s one of my favorite films of the year.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Can we just say that I was completely disappointed and move on? Because I don’t want to get into it. I put off this review for ages because I didn’t want to say what I knew was true: The Hobbit is a bad movie. Is it enjoyable? Fitfully, and not until about halfway through, but sure. When it kicks, it kicks. But it’s far too long and it’s a slog at its worst. This all stems from a lack of focus on Bilbo. For a movie called The Hobbit, he’s barely in the damn thing. He disappears from the picture for long stretches, and by the end the movie wants to convince us that he’s gone through some major character shift, that he’s had an arc. The music swells, the emotion stirs, but I remained unmoved. I saw this three times in the theaters, and I liked it less each time. I’ll see the next two films, but I’m going to be a lot more skeptical the next time around.
Also, 48 fps looks terrible. Maybe I’ll do a larger piece on why it’s a total failure in the future, but for now all I’ll say is that I hated it and I wanted to die.
I fell in love with this movie at first sight, even though it’s actually not as memorable as I expected it to be. Seriously, I saw it a month or two ago and I barely remember any significant images from it, even though it was undoubtedly a beautiful movie. It left more of an immediate impression than a lasting one, and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. While I was watching it, it was a total delight. The young actors playing the leads are solid, and the movie never lost me because of their performances. I’m not a Wes Anderson fanboy, but I like his movies, and I think this is one of his best.
Ben Affleck is a great director and I wish he started his career directing instead of starring in countless, infamously crappy movies. Argo succeeds in that it, like the best historical films, makes the situation tense even if you know how it all ends. It’s a bizarre story, made totally convincing by Affleck and his actors, without falling into camp. Argo is going to be up for a lot of awards in the coming weeks, and it deserves every one of them, in my opinion. Is it the best movie of the year? No. But it’s a solid example of the craft of filmmaking, and a great drama for adults without pandering to our baser sensibilities.
Sleepwalk With Me
I’ve heard the standup act that this film is based on, so I knew all the jokes ahead of time, but I still laughed along with this sweet, small comedy film. Who knew Mike Birbiglia was such a great director? It’s not easy to play yourself without coming across as an egotist, but Birbiglia smartly and humbly makes a movie about how he’s flawed, and how he came to realize that. It’s a pretty brave move to tell this story, but Birbiglia never holds back, and you’ve gotta admire him for that. Plus, it’s hilarious! How can you say no to that?
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I wasn’t exactly sure what this movie meant, and because of that I can’t say I enjoyed it, but let’s face it. This is a really beautiful movie, both in terms of its images and its themes. The nine-year-old actress playing Hushpuppy, whose name I cannot spell, is a firecracker, and she lights up the screen. The characterizations of the inhabitants of the Bathtub are surprisingly strong all around, and the actors portraying them add to this significantly. The world of Beasts of the Southern Wild is colorful, and well-colored by its filmmakers. I’m not sure what it was about, but damn it if I didn’t believe it was about something the entire time.
The Raid: Redemption
Couldn’t say why I liked this film as much as I did. It has a totally nonsensical plot and no characters to speak of, but it sure is fun to watch. The fight sequences are perfectly executed by everyone involved. It’s the kind of movie you put on at a party just to marvel at how damn cool it all is. I can’t say I’m intrigued to watch it again any time soon, but I recommend it as the best action movie of the year.
21 Jump Street
Put this one on the shelf next to Chronicle as a movie that I thought would be terrible that I ended up loving. I don’t think I stopped laughing once the whole way through. It’s fiendishly clever and witty even when it’s crass. I don’t think it’s possible not to laugh out loud at least once during this film. There’s something for everyone here.
Best animated film of the year? Totally. Sorry, Frankenweenie. It’s dark, sharp, witty, pretty, and funny. Need I say more?