While many other film critics and movie sites have already disclosed their picks for the best films of 2012, Film Misery has decided to post all their 2012 in Review articles the week of January 14. While it was primarily intended to ensure we would give due coverage to the precursor awards leading up to the Oscar Nominations on January 10, the decision to wait a bit is advantageous in the sense that it essentially buys more time for the Film Misery writers to see as many films as possible from 2012 that they had missed. And God knows we each have our lion’s share of “homework” to do before January 14.
QUESTION: Which 3 Movies Do You Still Need to See Before You Make Your 2012 Top 10 List?
Beasts of the Southern Wild – This film is definitely right up my alley and has attracted attention for its acting and debut direction. I’m looking forward to the celebrated and unvarnished performances of Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry as well as the fantastical portrait of childhood that Alex compared to Where the Wild Things Are. I enjoy and identify with stories focused around isolated children setting off on grown-up missions, especially when their journey is couched in magical realism. For similarly-minded persons, might I make a not-so-random book recommendation – while we are in the throes of a very uncertain film awards frenzy, publishing experienced its own bombshell in 2012. The excellent novel Swamplandia! by Karen Russell is the story of a young alligator wrestler determined to save her family’s Floridian amusement park, a lush and inventive book which should have won this year’s not-awarded Pulitzer for Fiction (a decision that shocked this year’s jurors).
Amour - I’ve been intending to see Michael Heineke’s Funny Games for a while but haven’t found the resolve to submit myself to it. (I also think he’d be preaching to the choir with me in terms of acknowledging the reality of on-screen violence – I’ve always been too sympathetic to the pain experienced in horror films to be able to watch them.) Amour’s portrait of a woman’s decline towards death as her husband struggles to care for her looks just as devastating, but Duncan’s review suggests it has a warmth beneath Heineke’s trademark calculation. As a contender for both Foreign Language Film and Best Picture Oscar nominations, it’s one I need to brave. I second Alex’s request (below) for a means to see it!
The Turin Horse – Speaking of bummers, how about the unmaking of the world in six agonizing, reversely-biblical days? G Clark is a well-known fan of this film, just read his masterful breakdown of “the final darkness,” a tantalizing description of what sounds like the definition of “plodding.” This looks like the movie the film student in me would love, even if the experience of watching it mirrors the drudgery depicted on screen. I’ve read several references to Beckett made of The Turin Horse, which I take somewhat with a grain of salt – Beckett is often invoked whenever one is confronted with an existential void or sense of entropy, whether or not it is inhabited by his sublime poetry of language and gesture. Yet I am eager to see if Béla Tarr’s last film indeed un-creates the universe with effective humor and despair.
Silver Linings Playbook – I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of David O. Russell, but his latest film has some unexpected fans including a number of critics that I deeply respect. Justin had a mixed reaction to the film and since we agree on just about everything, I don’t expect this movie to make my end of the year best list, but I am quite curious nonetheless.
Argo – I joked with Phil on the podcast a couple weeks ago that because I missed so many films in theatres this year, I was going to be that guy who wants to talk about movies like Argo months after everyone has stopped caring. I was a little heartbroken that I could not participate in the lively discussion that took place when the film was initially released, but I have a feeling this movie might show up on a top ten list or two and I don’t want to miss the debate the second time around.
This is Not a Film/Holy Motors/Tabu/It’s Such a Beautiful Day/Amour – I lump these five films together because I desperately want to see them, but don’t see any way that I will be able to before our top ten lists are due. Holy Motors is the only film that played in Minneapolis and I missed it during its one week here. The rest of the films will either only be available on DVD or won’t play in theatres for several months. Films like these are the reason I always want to amend my top ten list halfway through the following year. NOTE: If anyone out there has (legal) access to any of these titles that they can share, please e-mail me!
Any Day Now – This film has always appealed to me on a personal level, having grown up in a distinctly biased household, not to mention my own mental/social handicap from a young age. The story of a gay couple attempting to adopt a child with Down syndrome is one rife with potentially crass complications that will likely hold it back from reaching the inner recesses of my heart. Nonetheless, I find myself obligated to give it my time, and I’m dead certain it will render a fierce performance from Alan Cumming.
How to Survive a Plague – There are many documentaries I’ve set aside as stalled requisites of the season, many of which I’m more likely to experience without the weight of a Top 10 list breathing down my neck. Yet like Any Day Now, I’ve found myself personally obligated to seek out How to Survive a Plague, the AIDS documentary which has most reverberated across the critics awards circuit. Hilary has been quite outspoken in her adoration of this activating bid for advocacy, and if not for her indulgence, I must see it for everyone I know who could be affected by this.
Seven Psychopaths – I may very well not see any of these films before my Top 10 list is settled and published (in fact, I’m rather certain of it). I don’t imagine Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy would even rank in the Honorable Mentions if I had seen. The fact of the matter is that, for all my fondness of his debut film In Bruges, a tightly tethered and damn entertaining comedy of strong emotions, I did not grasp my opportunity to see this out-of-the-box creative enterprise. If Marty hasn’t earned my indulgence after such a brilliant first feature, what does that say about my humility as a filmgoer?
I Wish – I tried my best to limit my selections to movies I actually had a chance of seeing before I finalized my list, and unfortunately many of the acclaimed 2012 films out there are ones I either managed to miss (Sister), ones that seemingly missed my town (Middle of Nowhere), or ones that will not arrive in time to warrant consideration (Amour). This Japanese film from Hirokazu Koreeda is one of those acclaimed films that I simply never made time to see during its limited theatrical run. That’s definitely a shame, as I would characterize the critical response to this film about two young brothers who are separated by their parents’ divorce to be almost uniformly rapturous. It is increasingly a shame I missed it originally, since I have grown so cynical of films with precocious child antagonists that I would greatly prefer to give money to films whose child characters are less like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and more like The Kid With a Bike. Fortunately, this one is now on Netflix Instant for all to see.
Zero Dark Thirty – Soemtimes I worry I get desperate to see a movie for the worst possible reason: because controversy has been simmering for so long that I cannot stand not to have an opinion on it. As Duncan suggested last week, conversation surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film – among the year’s most critically acclaimed – has of late been overwhelmed by debate over whether or not certain plot developments serve to condone the use of torture. While I am certain there is much more to the film worth discussing, it’s become nearly unbearable waiting to see how the film makes me feel on the subject (I abhor torture, yet I find the argument critics are making to be more compelling). Fortunately, Zero Dark Thirty finally comes to my town next week, and I my narcissistic self will finally have the chance to force my opinion upon others.
Red Hook Summer – Ever the provocateur, the director of Malcolm X and 25th Hour has recently garnered publicity less for the films he has been making, and more for what he has to say about the racial politics within the films of other high-profile directors like Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino. What many don’t realize is that Lee is still quite a prolific filmmaker in his own right, even if few of his most recent efforts have sparked ire and admiration similar to his decades-old masterpiece Do the Right Thing. His most recent film, promoted as a semi-sequel to Right Thing, suffered a rather lukewarm reception critically and theatrically – it played in my own town for roughly twenty minutes – but I am beginning to see the movie included on many “Best of 2012” lists of critics and bloggers I admire, which hints to me that Spike Lee might have delivered yet another cult favorite, and that he likely still has something worthwhile to say about race in America. This one is also available on Netflix.