2012 IN REVIEW: Movies I Promise to Revisit

Promise to Revisit HEADERHaving seen about 120 films from the 2012 calendar year, it makes sense that a bunch of them would get the shaft in my contributions to our “2012 IN REVIEW” blow-out. But there were some films that I might have considered mentioning, had I actually solidified my opinions on them upon first viewing. I found myself feeling more inconclusive about many of 2012’s films than I have in some time. What’s more, I find myself particularly unable to reconcile my conflicted feelings toward those movies against the much stronger reactions (one way or another) they might have spawned in the film community.

But of course, since I believe on principle that you can only stand to benefit from viewing a movie multiple times, I suppose I owe it to myself to give a second chance to some of the movies that particularly inspired ambivalence within me.

Below is a list of ten films that failed to make my personal top twenty (or bottom five) for whatever reason, yet I promise to revisit them one day. Have a read, and let me know which 2012 movies you plan to check out at least one more time:

21jumpstreet

21 Jump Street

Why I Want to Revisit It: Part of me wonders if my bias against many mainstream comedies rallied with my generic exhaustion with remakes, and that is what essentially killed my enthusiasm for 21 Jump Street. While I certain enjoyed certain moments of it –Channing Tatum plays a meathead with a heart of gold, and one surprise cameo is absolutely, mind-blowingly brilliant – I took considerable umbrage with the movie’s gruesomely mean-spirited finale (particularly that “severed penis” scene). The movie also had trouble, frankly, convincing me that high school culture had progressed far enough so as to cast out the exclusionary jock mannerisms of Tatums character. Maybe that’s me just projecting how I perceive schools’ general reaction to otherness (21 Jump came out when the beltway media still very much cared about bullying), or maybe I’m just nit-picking. Nonetheless, I now wonder if I hadn’t been a little unfair to the movie upon first viewing.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? I suppose I could watch it any time I want. Maybe I’ll wait until the next time I hang out with my brothers – all huge fans of Jonah Hill – and watch it with them. Sometimes understanding and appreciating the appeal of a certain movie requires watching it with people for whom it was expressly intended. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll give it a shot if Film Misery ever does a “Channing Tatum” Marathon.

alps-movie-image-01Alps

Why I Want to Revisit It: Giorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth was one of my very favorite movies of its respective year. perplexing, cringe-inducing and even quite funny at times, I immediately knew I could not wait to see what the Greek director had in store for his next project. Unfortunately, because even the fantastic Twin Cities movie community can’t be kind to all movies this small, I couldn’t see Alps until it hit Netflix on the back-end of the year. What’s more, when one does a year-end binge on movie-watching, the most obfuscating ones have a tendency to slip from my mind almost immediately. Alps was that kind of movie for me, and while that could be (as the reviews suggest) because the movie simply doesn’t make good on the themes it explores about mortality and the grieving process, I dare say I’m readier to admit my own failure to meet Lanthimos halfway than to accuse the director himself of failing (especially given Duncan’s kind words about the movie).

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? When an exciting director with a light filmography has a slated new release, I typically seize the opportunity to revisit their previous efforts, if only to remind myself what I like about them. Once I know when exactly Lanthimos’ next film will be available to me (pray, in the form of a theatrical release), I will give Alps the fair shot it deserves.

Screen Actors Guild - ArgoArgo

Why I Want to Revisit It: Quite simply, because it is the most acclaimed movie of the year that had absolutely no chance of cracking my top ten list, and because my review – which I am compelled to repeat was largely positive – spurred some of the most epic internal debates of any film this year. While I sort of wrote Argo off as a supremely taut thriller bogged down with shallow and perfunctory characterizations, I know there are many, many people out there who found far more to identify with in the American hostage characters and the Hollywood execs (Alan Arkin even got an Oscar nom, despite John Goodman giving the stronger performance) than I ever did. With two Golden Globes, a potential Oscar, and a Film Misery Award under its belt, I certainly owe Argo a second chance.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? My partner, who’s not nearly the film fan I am, is nonetheless working to see each of the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees (amazingly, he’s up to six). It’s likely that I will be taking him to Argo before the Awards Ceremony next month.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas

Why I Want to Revisit It:It seems I can’t go to a single one of my favorite movie sites or talk movies with a single one of my good friends without hearing how Cloud Atlas is one of the year’s best films, if not the best. I can certainly understand the love; Tom Tykwyr and the Wachowski siblings’ intertwining six-story epic is nothing if not an ambitious effort. Yet while Cloud Atlas entertained me well enough, I’m not entirely convinced the directors’ overall execution actually match their lofty artistic goals. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but feel like this would be what The Tree of Life might have looked like had Christopher Nolan directed it, and while I admire both those directors for their own reasons, that’s not really intended as a compliment. The purposefully breathless story-to-story transitions, while conducive to the movie’s brisk pacing, makes it difficult to invest emotionally in most of the stories. And while many lauded Cloud Atlas for telling six very different tales, I couldn’t help but lament how homogenous and unremarkable the filmmaking felt behind each of them. It also doesn’t help that, to me at least, the Wachowskis have always been rather hacky philosophers (even The Matrix, a movie I adore, entrances me strictly as genre exercise).

But the conviction of others has a way of casting doubt on one’s own (provided you’re a weak-minded fool like I am), and I wouldn’t be telling the true-true if the adulation of others didn’t give me pause in dismissing Cloud Atlas. Perhaps Tykwer and the Wachowskis deserve another chance to vex me, and to convince me it has something smart and/or interesting to say.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? Likely within the next year, and perhaps even the day it hits Blu-Ray. My partner loves it and would relish another look sometime soon. Besides, I can’t bear to remain so ambivalent toward a movie for this long. When it comes to talking movies, few things drive me crazier than not having the strongest opinion in the room.

CosmopolisCosmopolis

Why I Want to Revisit It: I’m beginning to realize how quickly this post is devolving into a “2012 Movies Justin Was Too Stupid to Get” list, given that David Cronenberg’s latest is yet another film I eagerly watched in theaters, only to have the experience leave me completely nonplussed. Strangely, I was quite transfixed with that other “dude rides episodically in a limo” movie from this year, Holy Motors. But that latter film’s intent was to titillate on more emotional, cinematographic level, while I believe Cosmopolis was perhaps a more intellectually pointed allegory on our country’s fiscal climate and celebration of youthful, wealth-supplemented debauchery. Quite honestly, the talky, philosophical musings grew quite wearisome, but apparently there are plenty of critics out there who have come back to sing this Cronenberg joint’s praises. Again – incertitude obliges me to a second viewing.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? Another reason I feel the charms of Cosmopolis eluded me were because the only Cronenberg films I have seen – embarrassing as it is to admit – are his three most recent (and most conventional) ones. Methinks I desperately need to treat (subject?) myself to a Cronenberg marathon – and catch up with his more revered efforts – in order to understand how his brain ticks.

Top 10 Movies of 2012 Podcast, Django UnchainedDjango Unchained

Why I Want to Revisit It: Were I to announce my pick for the year’s biggest disappointment, it would have to be Quentin Tarantino’s latest blood-soaked ode to Blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns. It’s a disappointment for numerous reasons, not least of which being that it is the first Tarantino movie I’ve ever seen that I’ve not flat-out adored, let alone not like very much (I know what you’re thinking…and I’ll say I would even defend Death Proof as staunchly as I would Kill Bill). Other problems beleaguering Django include a bevy of disappointingly undercooked characters (whither Broomhilda’s personality?), an overly drawn-out finale and – despite a few superb moments like watching Jamie Foxx whipping a treacherous overseer – a negligence on Q’s part to explore more fully the shift in power dynamics from the white oppressor to his black subservient. I was hoping for a far angrier, far more unsettling movie about race, frankly.

Still, there is plenty to admire about the movie’s craft, and it inspired some of the year’s best movie essays. The performances are uniformly wonderful, Robert Richardson’s gritty cinematography deserves its Oscar nomination, and the movie does play with enough interesting ideas that part of me wonders if Tarantino’s political undercurrents might be more loaded this time into his visuals, as opposed to his characteristically flowery dialogue.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? Django‘s the first movie I plan on revisiting, and I am likely to do so while it’s still in theaters. I may wait until it gets to the cheap theater, though, and save myself a few dollars if all I am buying is another three hours of warmed over Tarantino, and not the hidden masterpiece I so dearly hoped for.

John Carter FEATUREDJohn Carter

Why I Want to Revisit It: When a high-profile Disney movie becomes one of the most noteworthy turkeys in box office history, it’s bound to develop a cult following of nerds eager to champion it when others failed to. I was admittedly less than kind to John Carter in my review last March, calling the movie both a disappointment for Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton and a rather humorless bore overall. But it is an indisputably ambitious failure, the product of an assured directorial vision that perhaps became corrupted with bad creative decisions. While I don’t predict this will develop a cult following on par with other 2012 duds like Cloud Atlas or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I’m confident a vocal minority will be singing John Carter’s praises, and that will spur people to reconsider the film in the years to come.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? Not for another decade or so. A well-meaning fiasco like John Carter needs time to ferment in the collective consciousness of the geek realm, and I don’t imagine we will be asked to reconsider Stanton’s first and only bomb until many years have passed.

Mirror MirrorMirror, Mirror

Why I Want to Revisit It: Okay, I get it! I’m the minority opinion on Tarsem’s take on the Snow White story! Whereas my other colleagues (Alex and Duncan specifically) are so eager to sing its praises, I found everything about the movie – its visuals, its humor, its performances – to be hopelessly banal and derivative. Most egregiously, I find Julia Roberts’ villainous monarch to be unforgivably wooden – a drag queen who’s more of a “drag” than a “queen.” But as I’ve already said, I don’t actually trust my own convictions when they get challenged so virulently by people I respect. I guess I owe it to them – and to myself – to give Mirror, Mirror another shot.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? Someday, if ever I find myself on the East Coast with nothing to do, I shall seek out Duncan, and I will have him screen Mirror, Mirror to me, explaining in vivid detail at which precise moments I utterly failed to acknowledge the movie’s brilliance.
Prometheus

Prometheus

Why I Want to Revisit It: Is Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe, as Roger Ebert said, a challenging and thought-provoking film because “it raises questions about the origin of human life and doesn’t have the answers?” Or is it, as Hilary brilliantly suggested, a disappointing mess that’s “too much like the last season of LOST and not enough like… the other seasons of LOST” (I’ll state, however, that I remain a staunch defender of LOST’s final season)? I’m more prepared to declare that Prometheus falls in the latter camp, if only because I question the provocativeness (and existence, really) of the film’s core questions. But a another glance really wouldn’t hurt. Even if a second screening merely serves to reaffirm my doubts, at least Scott has moments of brilliance scattered throughout – from that horrifying “abortion” sequence, to Michael Fassbender’s indubitably successful performance, to the thoroughly gorgeous computer effects. So a revisit couldn’t be all that painful.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? When I finally saw it, I jokingly tweeted that Prometheus is “30 additional minutes, five years and one Ridley Scott director’s cut” away from greatness. While I’m typically loathe to judge a movie based on what it is not, those seem like perfectly acceptable prerequisites for a second screening.

LockoutLockout

Why I Want to Revisit It: Let’s not mince words here: this Luc Besson production just might be the stupidest movie of the year. I’ve seen some people – friends and critics – defend the movie as a guilty pleasure, or simply as “dumb fun.” I like “dumb fun” as much as the next guy, but I would argue that just because a movie is “dumb” doesn’t mean the filmmaking behind it has to be equally inept (the 2009 Star Trek is dumb as a box of rocks, but it’s made by a supremely skilled and talented director). Lockout is a stupid movie made stupidly, from its abysmally executed opening chase scene to its half-baked pseudo-romance between Guy Pierce and Maggie Grace. The movie was not “fun” for me; it was tedious. Still, I can’t deny the pure communal pleasure some moviegoing experiences can offer (it’s doubtful I’d have loved Snakes on a Plane so much had I not seen it with a crowded, energized audience). Having only bothered to see Lockout home alone via Netflix Instant on a Saturday morning, perhaps I watched it completely under the wrong circumstances.

When Exactly Will I Revisit It? When I’m watching it with other friends. Drunk, I hope.

Those are ten movies from 2012 I plan on revisiting someday. What 2011 films are you willing to give a second chance?

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  • Oh Justin, I think you and I watching ‘Mirror Mirror’ together would be me awkwardly pausing every 20 seconds to dissect every distinct detail, or else you quaking in a fit diphtheria while a laughed in boisterous opposition.

    But, in the spirit of your list, I admit I’ll have to check out ‘Lincoln’ again soon, though I don’t imagine my feelings shifting greatly. I gave ‘Life of Pi’ a second chance when it released theatrically, but walked out not long after the boat sank. I feel that’s the heights of Ang Lee’s artistic and emotional instincts on that film.

    • Maybe we’de need to squeeze in the Cloud Atlas re-screening too. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see you flip out over those Wachowski segments.

  • Justin, I agree with you on the finale of ’21 Jump Street.’ I blame the last 20 minutes on the increasingly annoying Rob Riggle and ‘Project X’ screenwriter Michael Bacall (my goal is to blame as many things on ‘Project X’ as I can this year). However, I don’t think that the movie is excusing or dismissing bullying, I think it’s just admitting that bullying today is no longer meatheads in letter jackets pushing nerds into lockers. At my wife’s school it’s the smart, ambitious kids who hold all the power and some of them can be just as cruel as any 1980s screen bully.

    I think I fall somewhere between you and Duncan on ‘Mirror Mirror.’ I could understand your conclusion that the film is banal at times, but derivative? I thought it was one of the most visually imaginative and flat out fun movies of the year. Surely any lack of pop in Julia Roberts’ performance is made up for by the ever charismatic Nathan Lane, Lily Collins, and the excellent ensemble of dwarves?

    • To be clear, Alex, I didn’t mean to imply that 21 Jump Street is dismissive of bullying. Perhaps I worded it awkwardly (after all, I was working with a movie I’d not seen in ten months), but if I meant to accuse anybody of being dismissive, it was the beltway media and the collective consciousness around it that treated bullying like a passing fad. The only reason I pointed that out, really, was to highlight the fact that maybe my own (admittedly skewed) perceptions of how bullying works in public schools could have fudged with my ability to buy into the ironic scenario of seeing the jock become the meek one. I appreciate you sharing me some insight into what your wife sees as an educator, however, as that lack of perspective was a personal shortcoming I was trying use to explain why I might not have given the movie a fair shake (or, as I said, my nit-picking).

      • Ah, I see what you’re saying. Bullying is undoubtedly still an issue in high schools and people like Tatum’s character very well might be behind it, but I was appreciative of the fact that it recognized that bullies are not the same today as they were in the 1980s, something that modern movies seem to be unwilling to admit (i.e. The Amazing Spider-Man). It’s been a while since I saw the movie, but I recall Jonah Hill’s character experiencing a bit of peer pressure via text messages that could qualify as cyber bullying. It does not get in-depth into the bullying problem, but I don’t think that was its goal.

    • Shifting gears, I stand by my use of the word “derivative” in describing Mirror, Mirror. The whole production felt like Tim Burton on Prozac, which is to say nothing of the incredibly bland point-and-shoot cinematography and its abundance of the most facile midget jokes you can imagine (jokes that basically amount to “gee, aren’t all midgets just hilarious?!”).

  • Jose

    The first movies that popped into my head were: Lincoln, Argo and Looper, all of which are acclaimed, but I hated.

    I guess I should also add Paranorman and Life of Pi. I didn’t hate these movies like that previous three, I just found them very underwhelming.

  • Both Cloud Atlas and Cosmopolis are very underrated movies.

    The only movie i would love to re-visit someday would be Lincoln (after it wins the Oscar). I liked it but i didn’t thought it was that great.

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