Every once in a while there’s a crop of home viewing releases that politely asks for attention, rather than the occasional one that demands it. This is such a week, with plenty undervalued flicks finding their ways onto the shelves for your easy entertainment fix.
Top 5 Releases
Many of these releases got their time to win crowds over, but I worry this particular film was left in the dust all too easily. Not that it was intended to make any distinct slam, as RZA’s directorial debut The Man with the Iron Fists seems tailor made to be a cult classic. The response its trailer raises is something akin to “I’ll see it Saturday night on the Syfy channel,” and that should be no mark against it. While attentions may still be situated towards catching up with the greats of last year, I imagine there will be plenty time after the Academy dust has settled to check out this hyper-active martial arts escapade. It’s never too early to start a cult following.
Of the Film Misery staff members who were quite taken with the Dardennes brothers latest (It’s #10 on Alex’s 2012 list), I was possibly the least of them. Not that I have anything strongly against the film, but the complex youth dynamics cited by many a critic after its Cannes premiere nearly two years back simply didn’t translate for me. I was nonetheless giddy to see Cecille De France’s name make the shortlist for our Film Misery awards, simply for the emphasis on true supporting performances, and encouraging ones at that. Perhaps not my distinct cup of tea, but it’s very likely yours, and it’s hard to slight a film as utterly pleasant as this. Such as my thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, it’s a gift to see it acclaimed in any capacity.
One’s got to admire Stephen Chbosky for not allowing an outside director to touch the adaptation of his novel ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. As such, the film we receive is entirely from Chbosky’s personal vision. No mixed representation of what the author intended being ill-served by a detached director, as is often a difficulty in teen-lit adaptations. True, Chbosky may not yet be quite so skilled behind the camera, but neither are his characters in life. Like them, he doesn’t let anything come in the way of expressing his true feelings, even if there structural repercussions. It’s a guileless film about guilelessness, and all the young actors pull from a well of close, painful experience. Reservations stand, but I denounce you if it does not make you feel.
Blockbuster successes occupy a difficult space in film criticism, as the success of a film is ultimately up to the prejudice of mass culture. This year, though, I doubt there’s a film that unifies mass response and artistic merit better than Sam Mendes’ run at the James Bond franchise. Skyfall brought us back to the roots of the MI6 icon, but also ventured forth into a new age of digital cinema. Newman’s synthesized beats, Jany Temime’s flashy wardrobe, Dennis Gassner’s expansive production design, Javier Bardem’s delicious flamboyance, and underrated Berenice Lin Marlohe’s tender sense of doom all stand out. It’s Roger Deakins’ gorgeous as ever cinematography that own the film, however, ushering us into a new digital age with confident optimism. He even placed in In Contention’s Kris Tapley’s Top 10 Shots of 2012 column!
At the top of the heap not for the sake of quality, but because I worry that we at the site could be seen as unfairly bullying Ben Lewin’s film about polio afflicted poet Mark O’Brien. Skepticism is encouraged in the case of any film, and I had concerns this film would offer little more than John Hawkes’ ticket to another Oscar nomination. That he didn’t make the cut in that category is a shame, for he was as tender and fragile as ever in his ardent portrayal of a man seeking sexual identity. At least we can hold the Academy in some slight respect for nominating Helen Hunt’s strongest-in-years performance as the sexually intellectual woman who opens Mark’s barriers up, but also finds herself stripping layers of protection, as well as clothing. To maintain chagrin against the Academy, it deserves to be seen as a lead performance. Alex may not have been the biggest fan, and Justin had some apt complaints about its sexuality, but this film is absolutely sweet, and deserves more attention than it received.
This week certainly wasn’t in lack of potent releases. Controversial documentary Bully finally comes home, along with less buzzed but nonetheless intriguing doc Girl Model. Hilary had some mechanical issues with Photographic Memory, but you can now see for yourself. If you’re looking for light diversion, how can you go wrong with techno-buddy comedy Robot & Frank? All these are suitable alternatives in contrast too… Silent Hill: Revelations. Abstain from comment…