2012 ~ The Year in Film

Admittedly, I didn’t see a great many “films” theatrically in 2012. I spent a decent portion of 2011 ingesting a glut of films for free at a theater that still used the actual medium of film, but in 2012, I daresay I saw perhaps only one legitimate “film.”

The Master
Enigmatic. Surreal. Mesmerizing. Discomforting.

That film, was The Master. By no means an endearing experience, it is nonetheless an unshakeable one. This film springs from a dusty, high, forgotten shelf of cinema  where a few peers may reside. Perhaps Aguirre: The Wrath of God? Perhaps The Thin Red Line? I don’t know what else to compare it to.  It’s just… extant. Great performances all around, but the connection between the film’s titular character and Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard is tenuous and oblique. P.T. Anderson seems to have something to say about the apparent futility of soul-searching in a world replete with charlatans who employ technology as a means of enlightenment, but I’ll be darned if I know what it is.

Balin & Dwalin
Dwarf Lords from Under the Mountain

Now I am brought to my top 10 list of movies from 2012. The #1 spot is taken by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, unsurprisingly. I have been a Tolkien fan since my youth, and originally read The Hobbit from an illustrated version that my mother bought for my cousin. Gollum’s cave is etched deeply into my remembered childhood imagination. Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth is at once triumphant, cataclysmic, and like the arrival of a dear, old friend on your doorstep.

Jack Black’s greatest role.

My second favorite film came as something of a surprise. I had known of Richard Linklater’s new(er) film, Bernie, for a while. Strictly speaking, the film was completed back in 2011, but it didn’t see the light of day as far as a distributor until 2012. Why on earth it took me so long to finally watch it, I cannot say. I do know I will NOT miss out on Linklater’s next project, a third entry in the Before Sunrise series, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I digress. Jack Black does something amazing, here. He inhabits the entire length, breadth, and width of his idiosyncratic, real-life character’s personality traits and proclivities, delivering a performance that is so bizarre and true, it could not have ever been invented. Read that last sentence aloud, without taking any breaths. Sorry about that.

And the list goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.

  1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  2. Bernie
  3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  4. Moonrise Kingdom
  5. Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Secret World of Arrietty)
  6. Looper
  7. The Avengers
  8. Les Misérables
  9. The Master
  10. The Dark Knight Rises

Here is a list of ALL 2012 releases which I have seen, specifically. An all-time low: total number equaling 18. I aim to do a little better in 2013.

  • Brave – theatrical
  • Les Misérables – theatrical
  • The Master – theatrical (film!)
  • Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Secret World of Arrietty) – theatrical
  • The Avengers – theatrical
  • The Dark Knight Rises – theatrical
  • The Hunger Games – theatrical
  • Skyfall – theatrical
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – theatrical
  • Prometheus – theatrical
  • John Carter – theatrical
  • Looper – theatrical
  • Chronicle – theatrical
  • Moonrise Kingdom – RedBox
  • Bernie – Netflix
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Netflix
  • Take This Waltz – On-demand
  • The Innkeepers – DVD

Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is a more fitting and visceral third act than any other superhero series hitherto created. I believe it will be successful and popular, though I also believe it will be open to rather broad interpretations by the audience.

I did not prepare for this viewing by re-watching the first two films. In point of fact, several years have elapsed since I last viewed Christopher Nolan’s second entry in his Batman saga, The Dark Knight. I watched it in true 15/70 IMAX in the theater on Navy Pier, Chicago, a place which was also one of the picture’s physical filming locations. The experience was one of titanic, mesmerizing awe. The Dark Knight Rises meets and/or exceeds this level of stunning grandeur in multiple ways.

Batman Begins was all about exploring the conditions and choices that lead Bruce Wayne to consider becoming the Batman. One of the core themes of the film is overcoming intense fear. “And why do we fall, Bruce?” is the memorable line delivered by Linus Roache, the actor who played Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

The Dark Knight was about ratcheting up the tension by confronting Batman with a chaotic force of evil, personified in Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker, a villain so incomprehensible, even his own ‘explanations’ for his existence are laced with obvious falsehoods. Batman does battle with purposeful, wicked villains, and then he must deflect, and somehow diffuse, the chaos The Joker induces as well. By the end of The Dark Knight, Batman himself has become even more vilified by the city he is trying to protect, and suffers profound personal loss.

I’m not a huge Batman buff, meaning I haven’t obsessively read all of the comics, watched the television programs, and I didn’t grow up with the absurd, live action cartoons that Tim Burton directed, nor the two follow-up duds that killed the character’s Hollywood potential for a spell. Therefore, I cannot attest to the purity of these films’ vision concerning the translation of essential threads from the massive corpus of Batman stories that exist. What I can say is that Christopher Nolan has crafted a nuanced, layered, and thoroughly complete arc for Batman’s character in these three films. I find this to be a terrific achievement, and one that is likely more important and more astounding than many people presently realize (and it sure seems like a lot of people are in Nolan’s corner).

The completion of this trilogy is satisfying, contains tremendous action sequences, and exudes a richness in layers of subtext to be discovered and debated. And that is all I will say on the film.