...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
There’s a lot of great looking movies that I missed in 2012, here’s a few of them: Miss Bala, Wanderlust, Sound of my voice, God bless America, 5 broken cameras, Your sister’s sister, Savages, Shut up and play the hits, Killer Joe, Klown, Twixt, Lawless, The Master, Dredd 3D, End of watch, The perks of being a wallflower, Seven psychopaths, Smashed, Flight, Silver lining playbook, Anna Karenina, Rise of the guardians, The central park five, Killing them softly, Hyde park on Hudson, Save the date, Zero Dark Thirty, and Not Fade Away. Clicking on any title will bring you to a trailer for the film. I’m not saying all these movies are classics in waiting, but I think they’re all worth a look, with some of them holding a promise of greatness, and others possibly just a really good time. I bring up these movies to make two points; first: my list of favorite movies of 2012 will clearly be incomplete, as it’s probably missing a few of the above titles. Second: contrary to what some people are saying, 2012 was an extraordinary year for cinema, for my money the best in over a decade. Look at the above list, that’s almost thirty movies that are interesting, on top of what has made it to my list below, and any other movies I might have forgotten. So yeah: 2012 will be remembered as important, as relevant. I will not write a big spread on each movie listed below, I wrote reviews for most of them earlier in the year, besides I’m not a particularly insightful writer when it comes to movies. You’ll find much better if you get your google on. But lists are fun, so here goes. By the way, this list is in no order, these are all films I wholeheartedly recommend.
Movies of 2012
The wolf children Rain and Snow (Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki), Mamoru Hosada
A beautiful and moving drama about a single mother raising two children with the ability to turn into wolves.
Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh
Yes, the male stripper movie. It’s actually a really, really good film.
The cabin in the woods, Drew Goddard
The best horror movie in years. A beautiful deconstruction of – and comment on – the genre. Is it scary? Not that much. Is it all about horror? Hell yes.
Beasts of the southern wild, Benh Zeitlin
Some of the best acting of the year can be found in this movie. Harrowing, haunting, beautiful.
The raid (Serbuan maut), Gareth Evans
One of the best action movies I have ever scene. Right up there with Die Hard. This movie will leave you bruised.
The Avengers, Joss Whedon
The most satisfying superhero movie based on existing property ever made. Even the much maligned first act is, in hindsight, pretty great, just not as good as all the awesomery that follows.
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson
The most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson movie ever, this gorgeous coming of age story has as much substance as it does charm, a rare thing indeed.
Looper, Rian Johnson
Visionary science fiction, daring direction, a perfect script and all around great performances make Looper an instant classic.
Holy motors, Léo Carax
A riveting fuck you to tired formulatic cinema, and containing one of the greatest performances by any actor in a film, ever. Hypnotic, insane, moving, funny. Holy Motors is important.
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg
The director’s most intimate and one of his best films to date,Lincolnboasts another of the year’s best performances in the titled character. A movie where every line of dialogue is calculated and feels precious, and a movie that celebrates politics while never falling into over-simplifications.
Cloud Atlas, Larry Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski
Time magazine’s worst movie of the year is possibly my very favorite. Six separate narratives woven together in movements, like a symphony. One of the many successes of Cloud Atlas is that they made it look easy. This movies flows, is never once confusing, and kicks classic narrative devices out the window within the first minutes. An absolute gem, not to be missed.
Skyfall, Sam Mendes
Saying it’s the best James Bond film ever is a disservice to this film, as most James Bond films are really not that great (though most are a lot of fun). Skyfall is one of the best movies this year, never mind the title character.
Life of Pi, Ang Lee
A visually stunning exploration of the meaning of faith.
Argo, Ben Affleck
Gripping period thriller based on real events. Tight directing, perfect pacing and flawless performances.
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Django and Dr Schultz are my favorite screen couple of the year. Their chemistry is insane. Of course Django Unchained has a lot more than that going for it. It’s funny and violent and emotional, one of Tarantino’s best and simply put: most-see cinema.
The Hobbit, Peter Jackson
Forget about the 48fps nonsense and if at all possible, skip the 3D. What you’re left with is a beautiful and really fun fantasy adventure with truly thrilling set pieces. I can’t wait for next Christmas to see where this one goes…
Jiro dreams of sushi, David Gelb
A documentary in which the best sushi chef in the world lets you into his kitchen. What more is there to say?
Safety not guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow
A beautiful little fable about regrets and friendship and lost love and time travel.
Paranorman, Chris Butler and Sam Fell
A lovely horror romp for kids. I had such a great time with this, and the stop motion animation is a marvel…
Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN is about men, in rooms, talking. It has, seemingly, every good actor ever, and one of the greatest american directors alive today, one of the best composers in the business, a cinematographer at the top of his game, and a fantastic script. And it’s about men in rooms talking.
I didn’T repeat that last bit to discourage you from seeing the movie. I loved the movie. It has one great dialogue scene followed by another, for two hours. And what’s more, the stakes are high. These dialogues matter. Great men are talking, and their words will shape history. It’s riveting.
It’s also a beautifully shot movie. Janusz Kaminski has been Spielberg’s director of photography for well over a decade now, and I understand with the beard refuses to let him go. Since there was not much in the way of artificial lighting in 1865, Kaminski uses natural light whenever he can and what results is often absolutely beautiful.
Spielberg is all subtlety in his camera work here. It just flows with the dialogues, pushing in slightly when needed, panning softly accross a room to find a specific reaction, often just standing almost still, almost, like a child listening to every word of a wonderful story.
John William’s score is also very subdued. If a lonely piano echoing a few perfect notes to accentuate a moment is all that is needed, this is what Williams will go for. No imperial march to be found here.
All of this in the service of the words. Words given to today’s most capable actors. There isn’t a sour note in the bunch, of course, and it would take days to list all the great performances, but I have to mention that, as expected, Daniel Day Lewis makes an astonishing Lincoln. From his posture to his frail yet powerful voice, to his conviction and his incredible charm, to his weariness, this is another performance for the books by this incredible performer. And wouldn’t you know it, Tommy Lee Jones shows up and steals every scene he’s in. He is fantastic and his character (Thaddeus Stevens) is so well written I found myself eagerly anticipating when he would show up next, and giddy whenever he did.
LINCOLN is a long movie, but it kept me engaged and I found pleasure in every scene, just spying on these great men trying their damndest to change their nation for the better, while lesser, but no less capable men try their damndest to stop them. It makes for great cinema.
The first time I wrote you about Looper was on September 12th 2010, so just over two years ago, at another corner of the internet before I made tumblr my home (it’s pretty hilarious how wrong I was about the premise of the movie, hehe). I’m saying this because I want you to know I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. You have too, probably, if you know about Rian Johnson. He’s the guy behind Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008). If you saw these films then you know, you’re not learning anything right now, and if you didn’t? If you’ve never seen these two films, well, no shame in that, but they’re both great films, smart filmmaking, wholly satisfying. You should check them out. You watch those and you know that Rian Johnson has a voice and a vision and he’s not fucking around. He’s an auteur. You remember seeing Shaun of the Dead for the first time? Or Reservoir Dogs? Or Blood Simple? Yeah, Rian Johnson is in that league. They don’t fuck around in that league.
So four years ago we get the wonderful The Brothers Bloom and it’s fantastic and time passes and I’m wondering what’s next? I want more. I’m a glutton for good cinema. I eventually start hearing about Looper. Word is scarce. It apparently has sci-fi elements and time travel elements and it reunites Rian Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And it has Bruce Willis. And they play the same guy. And that’s all I can find out which is perfect. Who’d want to know more?
Cut to today. I’m sitting down in the theater with some friends and the lights dim and after a handful of shitty car commercials and a couple of trailers (How great does Killing them softly looks? Pretty damn great…) the movie starts.
Rian Johnson doesn’t fuck around, man.
I don’t talk about plot in my mini reviews, I’m a believer of going into a movie as fresh as you can, but yeah, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis and the guy is uncanny. This goes beyond meer imitation. He’s not mimicking Bruce Willis, he’s playing this character as Bruce Willis would play him. It works so fucking well that you never ever question that these to guys who look completely different are the same person at different ages. Gordon-Levitt has some prostetics in the film, just a touch, to bring some of Bruce Willis’s features to lhis own profile, but it’s just a few visual cues, the performance is what truly seals the deal. Gordon-Levitt is a miracle.
Let’s talk about Bruce Willis for a bit. He is in fine form here. He’s weary, desperate, driven and oh so fucking ruthless. He sells you everything about the character, and he’s a guy who does some very questionable things in the movie, it takes a special kind of actor to do these things and not be completely despised by the audience (it also takes a great script, and we’ll get to that soon enough) and Bruce Willis, at this point, is just an actor of that calibre. After this and Moonrise Kingdom, I’m really starting to think that Willis can do it all. Acting is a muscle and you have to keep it in shape. You see a lot of older actors who were once great and just don’t seem to try anymore. Willis does. He’s never stopped. He keeps at it and man, he keeps getting better and better. I think Looper might be his finest day…
What about Emily Blunt? Yes, Emily Blunt is in this too. I’m debating going into a rant about the sad fucking state of female roles in Hollywood, but I’ll spare you. Let’s stay positive. I’m going to put it this way: We need more roles like Sara, the role she plays in Looper. It is wonderfully nuanced. Sara is a badass, a strong independant woman with a past plagued by mistakes and regrets but a strength and unwavering willingness to atone for these mistakes by making good with what she has now. And I want to stress that she plays a woman. Hollywood thinks if you want to make a woman tough in a movie you have to basically write a man’s role and give it to a woman. This is not that. Sara is a tough woman. She has values and hopes and regrets and this movie would not work if Emily Blunt didn’t play the shit out of that role. She nails it and it anchors the whole movie. Make no mistake: she is the soul of this film and the reason everything that goes on matters so damn much. She is the card that Looper keeps up it’s sleeve until just the right time (about halfway through the film) and then uses to form the perfect hand.
Kid Blue. Okay. I need to talk just a little bit about Kid Blue. He’s played by Noah Segan (who was in both of Rian Johnson’s previous films, and for whom the role was specifically written) and whenever he showed up I was happy. Kid Blue is a great character. One of cinema’s great fuck ups. He could have easily been a running gag in the film but written and played the way he is, he’s tragic instead. He’s a beautiful, tragic asshole trying hard to do the best he can strattled with absolute shit karma and it’s wonderful to watch. He is as much a reason this movie works so well as anything else. The reason he works so well is that he’s not an idiot. He’s a decently competent guy and a great villain but he’s got shit luck. It’s a ball.
I’m going to get to Rian Johnson soon, the real hero here, but first I want to shine some light on his cousin, Nathan Johnson, the composer for the film. That score is absolutely wonderful. It’s dark and heavy and looming, haunting, foreboding. It carries the movie, scene for scene, exactly where it has to go. It’s understated when it needs to be and gripping when it’s called for. It’s vital to the movie, like a pillar holding up the foundations of the movie, giving room for the emotion and the power to resonate. I stayed all the way to the end of the credit hoping to hear a piece of the score because I wanted to listen to it out of context just to see, and sure enough (after the fantastic blues song Powerful Love, by Chuck & Mac) a number from the score started playing and, even on it’s own, supporting no imagery, it worked perfectly, carrying a tonnage of emotional weight. Bravo, Mr Nathan Johnson, job well done…
Rian Johnson. Like most of my favorite filmmakers, he both writes and directs. So he’s the guy behind this film in two ways rather than one and in both he comes out looking fucking swell. Writting time travel is tricky. I’m of the opinion that the holy grail of time travel movies is Back To The Future. Forget the sequels, some love them and some don’t, but the first one? If there’s any justice in the world this script is studied in film school. It’s perfect. It’s time travel written to a T. So that’s my bar. There’s other great time travel films, of course, like Terminator, The Time Machine, Time after time, Twelve Monkeys (based on Chris Marker’s amazing shortfilm La Jetté), Time crimes (I haven’t seen that, I’m ashamed to admit, but I’m hearing amazing things about it). All movies that use the time travel conceit extremely well. And now we have Looper. I’ve seen it just a few hours ago and I’ve been accused more that once of being a master of overstatement (I get excited, what can I say?) but I believe that Looper has a place amongst the very cream of that crop, alongside my favorite, Back to the future, and all the other greats. The time travel rules that Johnson sets up early on in the film work like gangbusters. Best of all, he doesn’t spend the entire movie relishing in the science or ramifications of time travel, he takes a few minutes up front to tell you (and show you) the what of it all, and then he tells his story. So narratively, the movie flows extremely well, and yet after the movie you’re given the gift of the puzzle. Does it all work? What if this instead of that? Does it all make sense? It’s not every movie that warrants a few pints with your friends at your favorite pub discussing all the ins and outs of the story, but this one definitely does. I take a long time to tell you something fairly simple: this script is great. It isn’t light, either. This movie is not PG13, it’s rated R. It’s violent, gory, sad, thrilling, dark as hell at times, but also romantic, funny, infused with the golden standard of dialogues. I felt traces of film noir, especially upfront, with the voice over and the quick repartee between the characters. Everyone is given great lines here. A standout is the soon to be infamous diner scene, where Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both playing the same guy, Joe, sit down to have breakfast and say their piece. It’s riveting to watch. So you have film noir elements, sci-fi elements and then, about halfway through, the whole thing pretty much turns, tonally at least, into a contemporary western. And it all works.
Because Rian Johnson, on top of being a fantastic writer, is a great director. I’ve said it before: he doesn’t fuck around. Along with his director of photography Steve Yedlin and his editor Bob Ducsay, Johnson makes this movie feel completely sorted out, instead of the thematic and tonal mess that it could have been, in less competent hands. The movie takes no time to find it’s rythm. This isn’t a roller coaster ride. It’s a movie that knows when to run and when to sit down and let a scene unfold and tension build (like the great westerns do, incidentally). It is impeccably shot and Johnson always knows where he needs to put his camera to let the intent of the scene take over without hitting you over the head with it. As an audience member, I always knew where I was. I knew, in a geographical sense, where every character was in relation to everyone else. Since I knew all this, the scene could just play out and I could just let it take me where it wanted me to go. In an action scene that is crucial. Fuck it, it’s crucial whatever you’re shooting, action or not. Bruce Willis has some emotional moments that Johnson shot so well (and that Willis completely nails), I felt myself choke up, knowing the horrifying truth of what this man was going through. That’s powerful filmmaking. That’s everyone on the team being at the top of their game.
That’s what LOOPER is. It’s a perfect storm. It’s everyone delivering a career highlight. It’s badass filmmaking at it’s finest.
If you haven’t seen Looper yet, stop fucking around :)
Trailer for Spielberg’s LINCOLN.
Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie has a new trailer out and it’s much much better than the first one.
This made me giggle…
LOOPER theatrical trailer kicks unholy ass. See for yourself…
Marilyn Monroe : Witch witch (she can cast spells, but they only affect other witches!!!)
Andy Warhole: Vampire toucher! (He likes to touch them. There.)
Larry Nostradamus: Late for stuff (A hilarious rom-com)
Napoleon: Gorilla whisperer
Genghis Khan vs Kramer (harrowing drama about a custody battle, Merryl Streep plays Ghenghis)
Charlie Chaplin and The funny Hitler (Charlie Chaplin meets a funny Hitler and kills him. Then there are dragons.)
Albert Einstein and The hamster wars of Katuhnee
Albert Einstein and The vegan sorcerer of Katuhnee
Albert Einstein and the haunted dark hollow pits of Katuhnee (this is a proposed trilogy about Albert Einstein and a legless prostitute named Katuhnee)
Hulk Hogan kills the pope
Zombie Pope: Dancehall queen
Alexander Graham Bell: reverse Centor! (Alexander Graham Bell fucks a horse and gets caught, pretends he’s a reverse centaur. People believe him so he has to keep up appearances for years, so, he fucks the horse for years. It’s a comedy of manners.)
This is the trailer for Daniel Espinosa’s EASY MONEY, and it looks pretty damn great. Enjoy!
Here’s a like for glorious quicktime HD: TADAM!
Here’s an amazing behind the scene photo from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Found it over at aintitcool, where Eric Vespe, aka Quint, has been running a behind the scene series for a few years that is pretty much my favorite thing on the site.
The trailer to Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED is here and man it does no disappoint! Christmas can’t get here fast enough…
(Now please get me a Quicktime HD version of this!)
Want to read the most intelligent and exciting articles on film & cinema happening today? All of Film Crit Hulk’s articles are lovingly compiled right HERE just for you! The “HULK EXPLAIN ACTION SCENES!” article (split into three days) is fascinating and an absolute must read (I wish action directors everywhere took a moment and read those too, to be honest… coughMichaelBaycough…)