Films of the Year 2012 (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Underrated Films of 2012:

  • John Carter (more fun and alive, and taking place in a more real world than anything in pulpy sci-fi since Flash Gordon)
  • The Hunger Games (surprisingly thoughtful engagement with the myth of sacrifice to absorb oppression)
  • The Three Stooges (touching and hilarious – but maybe it helps to see it on a plane)
  • Men in Black 3 (some may hate me for saying this, but in terms of his approach to time and visual imagery, Barry Sonenfeld has a Godardian imagination)
  • Jack Reacher (whose politics are more nuanced than you’d expect)

Over-rated Films of 2012:

  • Searching for Sugarman – a lovely story, but way too long, and felt a little too much of an attempt to shoe-horn a mystery trope into a narrative whose makers clearly already knew the ending before they started filming
  • Arbitrage – along with Les Miserables, less than the sum of its shiny parts
  • Argo – which tells about 40% of the story that deserved to be told: just once I hoped for a Hollywood treatment of Iran that would seek to do the Iranian people justice, rather than one in which a white savior rescues his own people (not an inappropriate companion piece to The Last King of Scotland, which was at least honest enough to have its hero flee Uganda and look guilty about it)
  • Wreck-It Ralph – a beautiful world, with hilarious grace notes, but a derivative story and ‘evil sissy’ homo/bi/transphobic stereotype for a villain (though I’ve agreed to see it again in case I’m missing something)

Worst films of 2012:

  • Man on a Ledge – offensively stupid
  • This Means War – offensively boring
  • Mirror Mirror – offensively psychopathic
  • Rock of Ages – offensively bland
  • Dark Shadows – offensively pet-projecty to the point of being of no interest to anyone not called Tim Burton
  • Prometheus – lacking even the appearance of an attempt at philosophical substance or narrative coherence
  • Ted – which made me laugh but whose gender politics are embarrassing
  • (Thus far I’ve only been able to sustain the first hour of The Hobbit, which I found interminably boring, but that doesn’t constitute a review.  I’ll see the rest of it and report when I’ve given Bela Tarr and David Cronenberg their due.)

Second best of 2012: 

  • Under African Skies
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Killer Joe
  • Robot & Frank
  • Anna Karenina
  • Skyfall
  • A Late Quartet
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Killing Them Softly
  • Life of Pi

Best re-releases:

  • Titanic: magnificent epic filmmaking with a pro-feminist stance
  • Lawrence of Arabia – an anti-war movie about the human soul
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – an anti-patriotic film about the human soul

Best of the year, if only for one thing:

  • The Dictator (for the speech on democracy); Prometheus (for its visual design and actionist ambition – and for being the best-worst/worst-best movie-movie out there this year)
  • 360 (a monotonous and distancing film, but worth it for Anthony Hopkins’ remarkable AA contribution)
  • Hope Springs (for two wonderful central performances reflecting on aging and sex)
  • Flight (for a relatively honest depiction of alcoholism and the beginnings of recovery)

Part 3 later today – the 15 films of the year.  Not calling them ‘best’ or ‘favorite’, but these are the movies that I admired or loved the most.

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