Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Top 12 Movies of 2012

From now on, I've decided that at the end of each year, I'll post a top 10 or top 12. Then at the end of January, post my top 20/25. See, I still have a few movies to get through before I'm 100% finished with 2012. But, I have seen pretty much everything I wanted to see at this point so I feel comfortable making a well-informed list. So, without further ado...

Honorable mentions: 21 Jump Street, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Silver Linings Playbook, Seven Psychopaths, The Deep Blue Sea, Skyfall

12. The Avengers

Looking back at The Avengers now that's it been out for half a year, the film definitely isn't without its problems. It's still very much top notch entertainment in nearly every facet. We waited years for this film to come together and expectations were sky high. Thanks to Joss Whedon and a cast that didn't phone it in, we got just what we paid for and then some.

11. Your Sister's Sister

Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister is a little indie gem. I expected a quirky low budget indie when I went to see it back in the summer, but there's more here than what meets the eye. The way Your Sister's Sister casually unfolds keeps you hooked and engaged all throughout. The cast also helps out plenty: Rosemary Dewitt, Mark Duplass, and Emily Blunt all work well off each other and the film manages to be a perfect blend of comedy and drama without falling into safe territory. If it wasn't for its rather weak ending, it'd be even higher on the list.

10. Rust & Bone

Turning in what was easily one of the best performances of this year was Marion Cotillard in the French-language film "Rust & Bone," directed by Jacques Audiard. After making "A Prophet" back in 2009 (if you haven't seen "A Prophet" yet, stop everything and netflix it now), Audiard comes back with a worthy follow up that explores the relationship between a street fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a whale trainer (Cotillard). Both leads give great performances which are both physically and mentally demanding. But Marion Cotillard is really the one to watch here in this film that examines people that are broken both physically and emotionally, while finding a real connection between each other. Jacques Audiard's film is a healthy blend of melodrama and realism, there's rarely a false moment here.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

 A fitting conclusion to a great, epic trilogy. Christopher Nolan really outdid himself with each film in the Batman trilogy. It's debatable whether or not The Dark Knight Rises is the best of the bunch, but for me, the idea that the third film of this trilogy manages to be this good is an achievement in itself. Nobody could have imagined that a follow-up to The Dark Knight could have wound up this good. Nobody thought any villain could follow what Heath Ledger did as the Joker. Tom Hardy may not be as fun of a villain but he's perfect in that Batman finally has a antagonist that can challenge him on both a physical and mental level. I prefer The Joker's psychological head games, but watching Bane go at it with Batman was definitely fun to watch. The third act may not play out as beautifully or as perfectly as we would have hoped, but you know what? I really don't think there could have been a conclusion that would've fully satisfied all of us. Cheers to Christopher Nolan for thrilling us and doing the caped crusader justice with three excellent films.

8. Lincoln

Slow, deliberate, calculating... Lincoln is all those things. It plods on for 150 minutes, I can admit that. But I like that Steven Spielberg forces us to live and breathe in Lincoln's world for a little while. We watch as he debates with Senators, Representatives, cabinet members. We finally get to see what the man is like, or at least an idea of what he could have been like, thanks to Daniel Day-Lewis's larger than life performance. On the big screen, it's simply remarkable to see how closely DDL resembles Honest Abe. He manages to perfectly embody the man without stealing the show. Nope, instead, veteran actors such as Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field are each given a chance to show that they've still got it. Tommy Lee Jones with his most emotionally revealing performance as Thaddeus Stevens and Sally Field is just as fun to watch as the slightly insane and misunderstood First Lady. This just might also be Steven Spielberg's best directorial effort because he really steps outside himself and lets the performers and the writing do their thing. It's still a visual delight, but never before has a Spielberg film contained such powerhouse performances.

7. Moonrise Kingdom

I consider Moonrise Kingdom to be Wes Anderson's best film. The fact that it's number 7 on this list just goes to show you how strong 2012 has been. Yes, it's still Wes Anderson being Wes Anderson, but finally he manages to utilize his quirky style to create a beautiful, emotionally involving, human film. This isn't simply an exercise in style. Moonrise Kingdom is also an exercise in great storytelling. It also might be Wes Anderson's funniest film. It manages to be a lot of things all at once and yet it's only 90 minutes long. That's an achievement in itself.

6. Django Unchained

By contrast, Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino's longest film. It's QT at his most indulgent and perhaps at his most self-serving. It's topped off by what's perhaps his most laughable and embarrassing cameo appearance yet. All of this can easily be forgiven when he can create such a great story here. Nearly every actor gets their moment to shine whether it's Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Dicaprio, or Samuel L. Jackson. There's also memorable turns from Don Johnson, Walter Goggins, Michael Parks, and even Jonah Hill. There's parts of the film that are flat out hilarious, and there are parts of the film that are brutally violent. Sometimes the film is both brutally violent and hilarious. What Django Unchained never fails to be is entertaining and enjoyable. When we finally get to meet Calvin Candie and watch Leo, Christoph, and Jamie Foxx play off each other for a good hour and a half, it's just beautiful to watch. Even with all of its minor flaws here and there, Quentin Tarantino has succeeded in making the Spaghetti Western epic that he's always wanted to make.

5. Looper

The originality alone is what cements Looper into my top 5 of 2012. It's not just that it's original, it's gleefully inventive and manages to avoid all the pratfalls that a lot of other sci-fi films fall victim to: it never explain why the time travel works, it just works. Rian Johnson is more concerned with creating a futuristic world feasible enough for time travel to exist. He's more concerned with what would happen if your 55 year old self went back in time and met up with your 25 year old self. You normally don't think about the screenplay after watching a great science fiction film, but Rian Johnson has to be commended for creating such a great sci-fi film from scratch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are fun to watch as well. What's most impressive is how smoothly Rian Johnson handles the action elements of the film. It's been a long time since I'd been excited to watch Bruce Willis pick up a machine gun and start killing bad guys. Looper manages to be a lot of fun and yet also has time to make us think about our place in the world and whether or not we could really go back and change ourselves if we had the power to do so.

4. Argo

Perhaps the most tightly constructed film of the bunch, Argo can be compared to the great political thrillers of the '70s such as Three Days of the Condor. Riding high after the critical and financial success of The Town, Ben Affleck follows it up with a film that officially cements his status as a great filmmaker. Not a single frame is wasted here. Watching the US hostages just barely escape Iran as the plane lifts off is as thrilling as anything you'll see all year. Ben Affleck, the performer, is also solid as Tony Mendez, a CIA specialist who comes to Iran to get the job done of getting the hostages out of the country.

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

The most stunning indie debut I've seen in a long time, what Beasts of the Southern Wild manages to do with such a small budget and a group of unknowns is simply amazing. There really is something special about this film. Sometimes a film's secret weapon is for the film to not have a single recognizable face. This helps Beasts be even more other-worldly and out there than it already is. The film has the perfect mix of magical realism and great naturalistic performers which helps to sell it all. But ultimately, at the heart of all of Beasts's magic, is the relationship between Hushpuppy and her father Wink. Wink's health is deteriorating more and more every day and all Hushpuppy can do is watch. We don't know what'll become of Hushpuppy in the end. She could be stuck in that little community forever, in fact, she probably will. For me, it's just fascinating to watch a community of people who live on the fringes of civilized society, making it on their own terms, living on their own accord. There's something poetic and beautiful about the way writer/director Benh Zeitlin portrays this world. It's never patronizing, it never tries to be overly sentimental, it's just real.

2. The Master

I wish I didn't love this film as much as I do because otherwise I wouldn't feel the need to defend it all the time. This is the most misunderstood film of the year. Misunderstood by people who expected more, who can't handle a little ambiguity. This film is as perfect as it gets for me. Paul Thomas Anderson once again raises the bar for himself and while it's just as artistically bold and daring as There Will Be Blood, it's perhaps even more daring since it refuses to have the answers. It's defiantly curious. PT Anderson simply wants to examine the ins and outs of a cult, to understand it better, not to simply criticize it. Thing is, I think The Master is a very critical film of cults like Scientology, it's just not that direct about it. What the film boils down to is a broken man, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), he's confused and in need of love. He's spent his entire post-WWII days drinking, fighting, and getting into trouble. He's lost. He meets Lancaster Dodd, the leader of The Cause, who thinks he can help Freddie. But by his methods, he can't. At the same time, Lancaster and Freddie develop a close relationship between each other. Lancaster loves and is secretly intrigued by Freddie's animalistic nature; Freddie loves Lancaster because he's the first person since the war who has been willing to take care of him, to give him work, a purpose. But this is a relationship that cannot last because Freddie is a person Lancaster can never fix and to be unable to fix Freddie would mean that Lancaster's methods would be illegitimate. All Freddie wants is to be loved and to be taken care of. He'll work for you, he'll defend you, but he needs motherly care. Here's a man who is desperately in need for a woman to take care of him and satisfy all of his needs. He has no use for pseudo-science. When you look at it that way, The Master is absolutely a criticism of cults like Scientology and quite frankly, I'm surprised so many people don't get that.

1. Zero Dark Thirty 

I'm not sure if The Master is better than Zero Dark Thirty or if Zero Dark Thirty is better than The Master, but Zero Dark Thirty is my number one because of just how ballsy and how well Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal pull this off. It's not only a very thorough, careful, and intense examination of the War on Terror and most specifically the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden. Maya is really a combination of a number of different characters, but her presence in this film is a lot more important than people may think. She represents the relentless that it took in order to finally capture Osama Bin Laden, her one and only job in the CIA was to gather as much intelligence as possible in order to find him. And after all that time, after all the constant dead ends, she finally finds him. He's finally dead. Yet, she feels even emptier than she did before. This film so perfectly captures the mood and feel of a nation that became confused, that wanted answers, that took action without really thinking of its repercussions. We all wanted to find the culprit. But it took so damn long and at a certain point it seemed pointless. It never was. It had to be done. When we finally found him, our initial reaction was to celebrate. But we all knew that it didn't really fix anything, that the horror of the past ten years can never be erased. Zero Dark Thirty perfectly captures all of that and it also is a very thrilling and compelling watch from start to finish. It's truly a masterpiece and will be a film worth re-examining again and again for years to come. 

Django Unchained: the birth of a legend

With Inglourious Basterds and now Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino has tapped into a part of himself that we hadn't previously seen until this point: his twisted take on history. What Quentin Tarantino has done with history is unlike anything I've seen from any other filmmaker. Quentin Tarantino isn't interested in making historical films. He wants to go back in time and rewrite the history books, remaking history in whatever genre suits the story. After all, he makes genre films. He's a genre filmmaker. He just never sticks to the same genre.

Goddammit. Quentin Tarantino is so fucking unique; I really do not think we appreciate him as much as he appreciates himself. I don't mean that as a slight. QT is good. He knows he's good. He should be good. He lives and breathes film. His films are as cinematic as humanly possible. It's funny people have criticized him for stealing from other people and yet only he can make the kinds of films that he makes. I have a feeling Quentin Tarantino thinks in genres. His world is a genre. He quit school after the ninth grade and yet makes more insightful films about World War II and American slavery than you would expect. He didn't learn from school, he taught himself. Just like he taught himself how to make films. He's managed to make these last two films as analytical and thoughtful as they are wildly entertaining. You can argue that his first five films were solely meant to entertain and tell interesting stories; they did just that. But his last two films are different. They're the same, yet so different. To Quentin, the way history originally played out just doesn't make any sense. So, he'll rewrite it in a way where it does make sense. At the very least, it'll make sense to him.

He constructs a film like Inglourious Basterds, which features this group of guys getting the job done, killing, scalping Nazis much to our delight. Yet, later on he turns the camera on the audience, on us and the Nazi audience in Shoshanna's movie theater. They laugh, eat popcorn, as they watch Nazi soldiers kill Americans. Then he proceeds to kill Hitler. QT seems to think that almost everyone shares the same visceral feelings and desires: they want to see the bad guys get what's coming to them.

It's presented in Django Unchained too. It's about two hours into the movie, we've been entertained, following along as Django and Dr. Schultz hunt down all these men who have bounties on their heads, kill them, then collect their reward. When we're introduced to Calvin Candie, played deliciously by Leonardo DiCaprio, he's been entertained as well, watching two slaves fight each other to the death. He's having the same kind of visceral enjoyment we are, while sitting on the couch, smoking his cigarette. In that moment, is he that much more different than us? Considerably. Just like the Nazi audience are considerably different than us. Still, in that moment, we have the camera turned on us. We may be on the right side of history, but Quentin Tarantino isn't going to let us enjoy his historical revisions without forcing us to think about some of the implications that may go along with such enjoyment.

It's entertainment with a double-edged sword which makes it thought-provoking. Quentin Tarantino wants to analyze the thought process that goes along with vengeance. When someone gets shot in his films, he buries the point on home. The violence is brutal because violence is brutal. Depending on how it's portrayed, it can be entertaining, but he's never going to make it easy to swallow. I get, perhaps, the same type of reaction that some of you will get when you see these bloody shoot outs take place: it will make you jump a little bit. You may laugh, you may be entertained, but you'll also feel a little uneasy. I honestly think that's what Quentin Tarantino wants. He wants you to be both entertained and to feel uneasy. That just means you're human. If blood wasn't splattering all over the place, it'd be a lot easier to stomach, right? But why? People are still dying on screen in front of you.

Django Unchained really is a remarkable piece of filmmaking. It doesn't quite have the immediate "wow" factor of Inglourious Basterds which had intertwined such a beautiful tale of redemption with the story of Shoshanna that it really elevated the entire picture which was otherwise about a couple of Nazi killers. Django Unchained is simply about... Django, played by Jamie Foxx. He gets freed by a German named Dr. Schultz, a former dentist turned bounty hunter.

The premise is simple enough: Dr. Schultz has a bounty on the Brittle bothers, Django knows what they look like. He wants Django's help in pointing out who they are so that he can catch up, kill them, then collect the reward. In return, feeling responsible for Django's freedom, Dr. Schultz agrees to help Django find his wife Broomhilda.

Broomhilda is often shown being whipped and tortured many different times in the film. It can be tough to watch, but I also think it helps define Django as a character. At the same time, QT refuses to back down on the harsh realities of the time. It may be tough to watch, but of course it's tough to watch, it should be. In witnessing these harsh realities, it helps make us understand how and why Django ultimately becomes the man he is at the end. He's utterly committed to Broomhilda, his true love, and he will do absolutely what it takes to get her back in the end.

The film is nearly three hours long, but I honestly do not think it really ever drags. It's entertaining from start to finish. That said, aside from it developing the relationship between Django and Dr. Schultz, I do feel the film kinda stalls arbitrarily while we wait for the next act to arrive. They find the Brittle brothers, then kill them, and the next thing to do is to find Broomhilda and the movie kinda sits on that plot point for a little while, as Django and Dr. Schultz continue on in the bounty hunting business. The final 90 minutes or so of the film is so damn delicious that it's almost as if Tarantino is teasing us by making us wait a little bit. My basic point here is that the film had moved at such a quick pace that it's kinda jarring the way it slows things down before we meet Calvin Candie. Usually, QT has always constructed his films in a non-linear way which prevented us from getting too caught up in the pacing of the film but since Django Unchained is one long linear story, while it's still thoroughly entertaining, I just think the pacing is a bit rough in the middle.

Other than that, there's really not a single flaw that I can find from when we meet Calvin Candie to the very end. It all plays out so beautifully and contains some of Quentin's finest moments as a writer. He loves these characters and he wants Calvin, Dr. Schultz, and Django to have a good time before they ultimately wind up in a violent conclusion. And boy is Leo so fun to watch here. Leonardo DiCaprio usually plays these tortured souls, it's a thrill to watch him play such a charming villain here. He plays both a lighter and darker side that we haven't really seen before. He can make you laugh one second, then turn crazy the next. It's an unbelievably controlled and skilled performance.

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx are both solid in their roles, Kerry Washington does a fine job although she doesn't really get to do too much. The real treasure is Samuel L. Jackson as Calvin Candie's head slave Stephen. Stephen is an old slave, loyal to Mr. Candie, and it's Sam L. Jackson's best performance in years. While he's still got that usual Samuel L. Jackson edge to him, George plays quite a vital role to the story, always wise to Dr. Schultz and Django's antics. The way it plays out and where Samuel L. Jackson goes with the character is really fun to watch.

As for the filmmaking itself, it's Quentin in heaven. Finally getting to play in his spaghetti western sandbox, Quentin makes some funky use out of the quick zoom, wanting to emulate some of his heroes. It's this part of him that's both endearing and kind of annoying. I think the quick zooms look pretty cool and then add to the whole spaghetti western feel, but is it all that necessary? There are plenty of other elements of the film that makes it of the spaghetti western genre, it adds to the atmosphere of it all, perhaps. To the filmmaking, cinematic spectacle of it, perhaps. But I have mixed feelings on this stylistic choice.

What's best about Django Unchained is its unabashed sense of humor and wit. Quentin Tarantino has never been funnier or more playful than in this film. There's a sequence in the film involving an early version of the KKK that's as funny as anything QT has ever done. Throughout the film, there's so many great lines and it's definitely helped by the actors' enthusiastic deliveries, which includes Christoph Waltz who seems to have opened up a whole new vocabulary and wordplay for Tarantino to explore.

I felt like Inglourious Basterds was able to be the film and genre QT wanted it to be without having to play up its style and to me, that makes it the superior film. Still, Django Unchained is so damn entertaining on many levels and brilliant on other levels that it's easy to forgive QT's indulgences. The bottom line is that the film succeeds in doing exactly what Quentin Tarantino wants to do, whether you like it or not and, considering that, Django Unchained is an absolute, resounding success.

Quentin Tarantino is like Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables, Carrie) if De Palma wrote his own screenplays and wasn't so obsessed with Hitchcock. Those two filmmakers have such a knack for the cinematic, for the over-the-top-ness of it all, the spectacle of it all. When you watch a film by either of those two (that is, by De Palma during the height of his career), you can really feel the love of cinema through their films. It bleeds right through. But Quentin is unique because it starts from the blank page every time, except for Jackie Brown. And now he's rewriting history, examining it, filtering through the genre of his choice. He's a filmmaker who knows what the basic audience wants and knows how to play up to their expectations. There's really no one quite like that.

And I think that he is totally within his right to make this movie, that just so happens to have a strong slavery element to it. He's not going back to these terrible times in history for the fun of it, he has something to say about slavery. He wants us to face it head on, look it right in the eye, while simultaneously crafting an entertaining film around the subject, making that much more difficult to turn away. During the course of things, he creates a legend who goes by the name of Django. Nobody else would dare to ever make a film like this; Quentin just did. And it's glorious. It's nearly perfect.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables: great singing barely outweighs the rest


Les Miserables, Tom Hooper's follow-up film to The King's Speech, the film that won him the Best Director Oscar, is bland filmmaking on an epic scale. The singing is often excellent, save for Russell Crowe. Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Eddie Redmayne do a great job, especially Anne Hathaway who should easily win Best Supporting Actress at next year's Oscars. But they all have to pick up Tom Hooper's slack who doesn't allow the actors any space or room to do anything but sing and mope. The focus is squarely on the singing, and the singing is great, but it takes away from the rest of the film. There's no balance, there's no real sense of style. The King's Speech had a great script, great substance, which made up for its bland style. In a musical? Style is what counts. This was supposed to be an epic musical and it barely crosses the finish line before passing out.

Because the singing is often so good, a lot of the film's problems can mostly be ignored but Russell Crowe's singing voice and performance just feels off the entire time. I want to try to be nice and say that maybe his singing style just doesn't mesh well with Hugh Jackman's, but no, he's awful. There's no way around it. He can't carry a tune. He has big dramatic moments where he's pacing around ledges (ooh! foreshadowing!) and it's completely ruined by such awful singing. His performance alone brings this barely above-average film down a grade for me. One of the worst casting choices I've seen in quite some time.

There are positives, however, and they're largely in the final hour when the film is moreso about the student revolution and the love triangle between Cossette, Eponine, and Marius. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are also admirable in their roles as the innkeepers. They bring necessary comic relief to a film that's heavy on the melodrama. All throughout the film there are just enough things that keeps that film scraping by. At first, it's Hugh Jackman's incredible and tortured performance as the prisoner Jean Valjean, then it's Anne Hathaway's even more incredible and more tortured performance as Fantine. They bring life to a film that's mostly lifeless except for its third act which can often be quite powerful. I can't quite tell if it's because the songs are so good, but I'll give Tom Hooper some credit for staging the battle sequence quite adequately and the film comes to a nice close as Jean Valjean slips away to his death.

Les Miserables has a lot of great songs, it's a great piece of literature, a great piece of art. With $61 million and a top notch cast, it'd be hard to mess this up. Tom Hooper unfortunately does too much fiddling around with the camera and not enough staging of the actors in order to give them some more life. They sing, you feel their pain, but it doesn't go beyond that. The film's best moment is Anne Hathaway singing "I Dreamed a Dream" and the camera just stays on her face the entire time. In that case, it worked 100%, but you can't make an entire musical where the actors are just standing around, singing. "Master of the House" is at least amusingly staged, but that's about it.

Overall, it's a film that is easy to admire, but hard to love. If you're a fan of the musical, you'll love the film because they get the songs right. But as a film on its own, it's just bland. Les Miserables definitely has some high moments and the songs are good enough for it not to be a total disaster, but this was supposed to be Tom Hooper's epic musical masterpiece and Les Miserables is far from that.

Grade: C

Friday, December 21, 2012

This is a This Is 40 review

You can tell Judd Apatow gets a kick out of watching his family act on film. He likes to watch his wife get to stretch out her acting muscles. He likes seeing his kids on screen talk back to their mother and their "father," he likes them as characters on screen and as people. You can tell he cares about his family and wants the best for all of them. Judd Apatow is probably a great, caring father and husband. But this movie isn't as fun to watch for the rest of us. It's not even that it's because it contains his children and his wife; Judd Apatow simply can't get over his own faults: his movies are too long and oftentimes take too long to go from one plot point to the next.

This is 40 is his biggest offender because the plot of the film is razor thin. It's a nice little portrait of an upper middle class American family, but it could always go a little deeper. It may reflect a version of reality, but it could have afforded to get realer. There's plenty of funny moments that can be derived out of anyone's family and Judd gets a lot of that in the film, but it takes too long to get to each moment. There's quite a few of them too. If the movie was shorter, we'd be able to enjoy them more.

I've watched Judd Apatow talk in a lot of different interviews and keeps asking out loud why people make a big deal about a filmmaker portraying his own family on screen. Sometimes it can work. Sometimes a director can create a strong film and his wife/lover is in the lead role. That's been the case dozens of times. I suppose directors can successfully direct their own children on screen as well. But when you're literally trying to recreate what they do in real life and transfer it onto the big screen, there's bound to be some inconsistencies. There's bound to be things you think are amusing, but isn't for the rest of us. I know that must be the case. I know I found my own family very amusing, but I can't guarantee others will find them as amusing. Judd Apatow knows his wife and children more than any of us could ever know. So, what he thinks is funny may not be as funny to us. Therein lies the fault in filming your family on screen.

You can pretty much gather what this film is about: a married couple, with children, going through the "crisis" of turning 40. Certainly there's a lot that can be mined in this territory: kids constantly at each other's throats, perhaps the couple's passion has gotten lost in the shuffle, maybe they're not even sure if they like each other anymore. May have issues with house payments, relatives mooching off you, issues with your folks, other parents at school, etc. Some of This is 40's best moments are when it just gets into the heart of what it's about: a couple that love each other and are in it for the long haul. My favorite sequence was when the two of them go off on their own mini-vacation and just have fun together. They stop the bickering and just enjoy each other's company. There was a lot of funny moments in this sequence and could've probably been made into its own 90 minute movie.

But, like in real life, watching family members bicker at each other constantly is hard to watch after awhile. Maybe making this movie was a great lesson in couples' therapy for Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow, and their kids, but it doesn't necessarily make for a great film. It's enjoyable. At least 100 minutes of it is pretty damn good, but this is a 135 minute film. I admire you Judd Apatow, but for God's sake, you have to start being more critical of yourself in the editing room. You'll be a better filmmaker for it, trust me. This tendency is really starting to get the best of you.

At its best, This Is 40 is an above-average Alexander Payne film (Sideways, The Descendants), at its worst, it enters cheesy James L. Brooks territory (As Good as it Gets, Spanglish). Personally, I admired the effort more than I enjoyed the film. I admire Judd Apatow as a filmmaker and producer  and think he gets a lot of undeserved flack. He's a filmmaker with one glaring problem: the editing. I have hope he'll be able to fix this problem as he makes more films, until then, we're gonna have to settle for this.

Grade: C+

The Place Beyond the Pines trailer

Wow... this looks really good

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

To the Wonder trailer

Comes out in April or May 2013, I believe.

The Hobbit, a short review

I should've wrote this before I saw Zero Dark Thirty as it's currently consuming my thoughts, but I must write about The Hobbit before it really leaves my mind altogether.

That sentence alone may be a good indicator about how I feel about the film. The Hobbit: An Unexpeected Journey marks Peter Jackson's return to the LOTR franchise, this time adapting the novel that marks as a prequel to the LOTR trilogy. I read The Hobbit in 8th grade, one of the first "works of literature" I enjoyed reading. So, I was excited about this film. But, splitting this one novel into three films seems to have created a bit of a problem.

Look, overall, this film isn't really that bad. The acting is as solid as it can be though nobody really stands out, nobody steals the show. There's some great set pieces, but everything kind of feels like "business as usual." The last hour of the film has some great moments, some great action sequences, but it takes so long to get to those moments.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is too long, too plodding. It's too in love with itself and unwilling to share it with those who aren't diehard fans. It's a serviceable first film of a trilogy that really could probably work as two films. Maybe Peter Jackson has more tricks up his sleeves, but this film definitely doesn't really leave much hope for anything great to come out of the next two films.

Grade: C+

Zero Dark Thirty, a review

It took twelve years for Maya to find Osama Bin Laden. Twelve years. Failure was not an option for her. She was sent to the CIA for one mission: find Bin Laden. For twelve years, there were constant dead ends, a constant sense of doom that's lead to close friends dying and billions of wasted dollars. But she found him. She finally found him, in a move that was mostly based on a strong hunch. There was no "definitive" proof that Osama Bin Laden was in Abottabad, but all the information she had gathered over the years, through everything she had learned... it only made sense that he would be there. He had to be there.

Maya is played by an incredibly intense, focused Jessica Chastain who for 160 minutes keeps the ball rolling with no sense that she should stop or quit. You can argue on some of the fine details, argue whether the film is "morally dubious" with the way it portrays, and never shies from, torture. Her involvement in this case took twelve years and when it was finally over, well, what was there? Was it even satisfying? All she could do is sit back and think. Think about what the last twelve years meant for her, stuck thinking about the same thing everyday. Forced to go to work and keep looking for more evidence, more clues. Her whole life revolved around finding Osama Bin Laden, long after many others had decided to quit and forget about it altogether.

The reason why Zero Dark Thirty surpasses other great historical films of this year like Argo and Lincoln is based on Maya's strong, subtly emotional presence. Ben Affleck was solid in Argo, his character got the job done. Lincoln obviously featured a powerhouse performance from Daniel Day-Lewis and Lincoln was relentless in his own conquests. But what Lincoln was trying to do was for the better good. He was the President, a down-to-earth president, but his legacy puts him up on such a pedestal that it's nearly impossible to relate to him. Maya wasn't necessarily hunting for Osama Bin Laden for the better good. She obviously had the feeling that he was still involved in the numerous terrorist attacks that had been occurring, and are portrayed, throughout the film over the course of 10+ years. But her hunt for Osama Bin Laden ultimately became an obsession, an obsession to get the job done. It was something she was sent here to do and she's going to do it no matter how long it takes.

Lincoln never got to live to see the repercussions of his actions. Maya has to live after the hunt is over. Bin Laden is dead, but her life goes on, and for what? Anything she does in the CIA hereafter will not hold the same weight. She practically went from high school to her 30s, obsessed with this case, and now she has to be a normally functioning person? Don't get me wrong, it's not that I feel bad for a person like Maya. Obviously, there have been so many that have suffered, bled, died through all of this. Many people wound up in worse situations than Maya, I don't feel bad for her, but I can absolutely relate to her. So can you.

That's what makes this such a great film. It's relentless for 160 minutes and throws a lot of information at you, but Maya holds it all together. She adds such a strong human element to the film that will make Zero Dark Thirty so rewatchable. You may argue that an event as important as the capturing of Osama Bin Laden shouldn't be about one person's story. But it's not. Her obsession reflects on all of us. I think, in a way, those of us who were affected directly or indirectly by 9/11 felt the same when Osama Bin Laden was finally captured. There may have been an initial feeling of elation, after all, it had to be done. Ultimately though, there had been so much carnage in the 10 years it took to find him that really, there isn't much joy to be found in his capture. Life goes on. Terrorism goes on. War and its destruction goes on. We're still fighting. We're still afraid of potential terrorist threats. Not finding Osama Bin Laden may have made us felt empty, like there had been no closure. But finding Osama Bin Laden wasn't exactly satisfactory in the closure that it brought. It just reminded us of the pain, of the soldiers and civilians that had died.

Zero Dark Thirty manages to be a film that is intense, that thrills, yet it still finds time to make us reflect. I think that's why it's actually a plus that the film came out so soon after the event transpired. It's only been a year and a half since he's been killed. We all are able to reflect on what it means to all of us, whether or not its meaning has any real significance at all. It's a film for the right now and for the ages. Kathryn Bigelow started her comeback with The Hurt Locker and this just blows Hurt Locker out the window. It might just be, dare I say, her masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea (a late review)

The Deep Blue Sea is a film that was released in theaters in the US earlier this year and is now on DVD. I didn't manage to catch it until I saw it via DVD and since it's technically a 2012 film, I feel obligated to review it.

 The Deep Blue Sea is a harrowing and deeply emotional film about a woman, Hester (Rachel Weisz), torn between a passionate affair and a reliable, comfortable marriage. Her marriage to the much older Sir William Collyer gave her stability but not much in the way of happiness. Though Sir William cared for her and looked after her, he could not quite match the strong passion that the much younger Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) can give her. With Freddie, Hester can get the passion she so desperately craves and has been lacking in her life, but when she finally chooses Freddie over Sir William, she loses that stability and reliability as Freddie cannot match the love that Hester has for him.

This film, from director Terence Davies, is emotionally complex and yet simple in its story. Based on the play of the same name by Terence Rattigan, The Deep Blue Sea is about marriages and passionate love affairs gone cold set in the battered post-WWII London of which Terence Davies often chronicles. It can be a gloomy film but it makes great use of flashbacks to give us a better sense of the relationship Hester had with these two men and where they wound up. Overall it's a film dominated by an extremely strong performance from the always-reliable Rachel Weisz. You could argue that this might be her best acting. Tom Hiddleston also gives a great performance as the young lover.

This film can be a bit over-the-top and on-the-nose with its music, which is gorgeous but it practically drowns out the images at times. The images themselves, however, are a marvel. Once again proving there are some things a film camera can do that digital just can't touch, The Deep Blue Sea has this beautiful, classic look to it which really makes the colors and the lights shine through in ways you just don't see as much anymore. This is one gorgeous looking film.

The combination of an assured style and some great acting very much outweighed the rather sullen and gloomy story. Oftentimes though, the films that do best when being adapted from a play, are able to bring something substantial enough to the table to warrant the play being made into the film and I think Terence Davies does the job here. It's not heart-warming or necessarily life-affirming by any stretch of the imagination and the ending could leave you quite cold, but nevertheless, I must say it's still pretty damn good.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Pacific Rim" trailer

If it wasn't for the fact that Guillermo Del Toro directed this... eh... the trailer leaves a lot to be desired. I don't know... the trailer for Pacific Rim is kind of a let down. That said, I'll probably see it anyway.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2013 movies

I've made a previous post about 2013 movies, but that was way back in March.

In the coming weeks and months, kenoncinema will do its best (or really, my best) to be as comprehensive of a guide to movies coming out in 2013 as it possibly can be. I want people to be excited about film every year, as excited as I get because I want more people to show up to the theaters, more specifically, to potentially good movies made by good/great directors. It's important to me.

In the past few years, with 2012 not even being finished, this is how I rank the past five years in terms of movie quality:

1. 2012
2. 2010
3. 2009
4. 2011
5. 2008

2012 is kicking other years right in their ass, and I've talked about this before. It's because there was a perfect alignment of great filmmakers making films in the same year and a lot of them making their best film.

2010 was a great kickoff to the '10s decade, 2011 was kind of a slip in quality, but 2012 really feels like the peak. I still haven't seen Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty, but everything points to those films being good movies at the very least. Les Miserables has a bit more of a mixed view, that one is a wild card at this point. But overall, when you have Spielberg making one of the best movies he's made in years, Paul Thomas Anderson coming back after five years with his best film (in my opinion), Ben Affleck making his best film, a young unknown like Benh Zeitlin coming up with something as wild as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wes Anderson making his best film, Rian Johnson too, Christopher Nolan with a satisfying conclusion to his Batman trilogy. I already think that those things alone makes 2012 one of the best years of film, Tarantino and Bigelow's films would just put things over the top for me. You even got David O. Russell with a solid effort, Martin McDonagh as well. Whit Stillman came back after a 14 year absence. You can't ignore the visual wonder that is Ang Lee's Life of Pi.

A year like that, there's bound to be a dropoff in quality for the year after, but 2013 does have a lot of interesting filmmakers: Jason Reitman, Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Sofia Coppola, Roman Coppola, Noah Baumbach, Terrence Malick, Nicolas Winding Refn, Derek Cianfrance, Edgar Wright, Steve McQueen, Danny Boyle, George Clooney, Spike Jonze, James Gray, Pedro Almodovar, The Coen Brothers, David O. Russell, Lars von Trier, Neill Blomkamp... I mean, when you put it like that? Thing is, all great filmmakers I just listed but with some of them, you don't know exactly what you're gonna get. Sofia Coppola could come out with something as "meh" as Somewhere, Reitman/Clooney/Scorsese could all make good films, but just how good are they? Blomkamp has just made one film altogether. Who knows if he's capable of making something as good as District 9? Roman Coppola is also very much a wild card. Compare that to Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, Tarantino, etc... filmmakers that are a bit more dynamic with their output. The guys I listed, they're all capable of making great films, but it could go either way. 2012 felt much more like a sure thing at this point last year.

We'll see what happens and once it becomes 2013 and these movies come out, we'll know for sure. One thing that's interesting about 2013 is that the first half of the year has a lot of interesting films coming out...

January - Gangster Squad, February - Side Effects... then in the months from March - May, you have The Place Beyond the Pines, To the Wonder, God Only Forgives, Frances Ha... some interesting stuff right there. So, can't sleep on the first few months of 2013, that's for sure. And that's something I like to see. Of course, September-December, all the heavy hitters will come out, but it's nice to have the whole year peppered with an interesting film here and an interesting film there. Makes things more well-rounded. So we'll see what happens, once again. I'll make sure to let you know what's going on.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Director Watchlist last Update of 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson, next film: INHERENT VICE, 2014? (fingers crossed)
Wes Anderson, next film: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" Late 2013/early 2014?
Sofia Coppola, next film: "The Bling Ring" 2013
Quentin Tarantino, next film: "Django Unchained" December 2012
Jason Reitman, next film: "Labor Day" 2013
Alexander Payne, next film: "Nebraska" 2013
Darren Aronofsky, next film: "Noah" March 2014
David O. Russell, next film: "American Bullshit (titled to be changed obviously)" Fall 2013
Nicolas Winding Refn, next film: "Only God Forgives" May 23rd, 2013
Lars von Trier, next film: "Nymphomaniac" 2013 (Cannes?)
The Coen Brothers, next film: "Inside Llewelyn Davis" 2013
Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu, next film: "Birdman" 2013/2014
Alfonso Cuaron, next film: "Gravity" early 2013
Pedro Almodovar, next film: "I'm So Excited" 2013
Steven Soderbergh, next film: "The Bitter Pill"  February 2013
Martin Scorsese, next film: "The Wolf of Wall Street" 2013
Steven Spielberg, next film: "Robopacolypse" Summer 2014
Edgar Wright, next film: "The World's End" October 2013
Judd Apatow, next film: "This is 40" December 2012
Woody Allen, next film: "Untitled Project set in San Francisco" 2013
Terrence Malick, next film: "To the Wonder" April 12, 2013
Noah Baumbach, next project: "Frances Ha" May 2013
Andrew Dominik, next film: "Blonde" 2014
Ridley Scott, next film: "The Counselor" 2013
Steve Mcqueen, next film: "12 Years a Slave" 2013
Guillermo del Toro, next film: "Pacific Rim" July 2013
Danny Boyle, next film: "Trance" early 2013
Neill Blomkamp, next film: "Elysium" August 2013
Peter Jackson, next film: "The Hobbit part I" December 2012
James Cameron, next film: "Avatar 2" 2015
Derek Cianfrance, next film: "The Place Beyond the Pines" March 2013
George Clooney, next film: "Monuments Men" December 2013
James Gray, next film: "Nightingale" 2013
Spike Jonze, next film: "Her" 2013

This is what we're looking at now. The future of film! A lot of interesting 2013 films, in my next post I'll break them down much like I did earlier in the year (or was that the year before, I can't even remember)

SUNDANCE is around the corner!

Interesting list of films coming out. 

These films will be premiering out of competition...

A.C.O.D. / U.S.A. (Director: Stuart Zicherman, Screenwriters: Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman) — Carter is a well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. So he thinks.  When he discovers he was part of a divorce study as a child, it wreaks havoc on his family and forces him to face his chaotic past. Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke.
Before Midnight/ U.S.A. (Director: Richard Linklater, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater— We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Ariane Labed, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick.
Big Sur / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Polish) — Unable to cope with a suddenly demanding public and battling advanced alcoholism, Jack Kerouac seeks respite in three brief sojourns to a cabin in Big Sur, which reveal his mental and physical deterioration. Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Radha Mitchell, Anthony Edwards, Henry Thomas.
Breathe In / U.S.A. (Director: Drake Doremus, Screenwriters: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones) — When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family's relationships and alters their lives forever. Cast: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis.
Don Jon's Addiction / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt) — In Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s charming directorial debut, a selfish modern-day Don Juan attempts to change his ways. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown.
The East / U.S.A. (Director: Zal Batmanglij, Screenwriters: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling) — An operative for an elite private intelligence firm goes into deep cover to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective attacking major corporations.  Bent on apprehending these fugitives, she finds her loyalty tested as her feelings grow for the group's charismatic leader. Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete / U.S.A. (Director: George Tillman Jr., Screenwriter: Michael Starrbury) — Separated from their mothers and facing a summer in the Brooklyn projects alone, two boys hide from police and forage for food, with only each other to trust.  A story of salvation through friendship and two boys against the world. Cast: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright.
jOBS / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Michael Stern, Screenwriter: Matt Whiteley) — The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently. Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
The Look of Love / United Kingdom (Director: Michael Winterbottom, Screenwriter: Matt Greenhalgh) — The true story of British adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur Paul Raymond. A modern day King Midas story, Raymond became one of the richest men in Britain at the cost of losing those closest to him. Cast: Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton.
Lovelace / U.S.A. (Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Screenwriter: Andy Bellin) — Deep Throat, the first pornographic feature film to be a mainstream success, was an international sensation in 1972 and made its star, Linda Lovelace, a media darling. Years later the “poster girl for the sexual revolution” revealed a darker side to her story. Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Sharon Stone.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman / U.S.A. (Director: Fredrik Bond, Screenwriter: Matt Drake) — Traveling abroad, Charlie Countryman falls for Gabi, a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in Nigel, her violent, charismatic ex. As the darkness of Gabi’s past increasingly envelops him, Charlie resolves to win her heart, or die trying. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Til Schweiger.
Prince Avalanche / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Gordon Green) — Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind. Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch.
Stoker / U.S.A. (Director: Park Chan-Wook, Screenwriter: Wentworth Miller) — After India's father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her mother, Evelyn. Soon after his arrival, India suspects that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives but becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Nicole Kidman.
Sweetwater / U.S.A. (Directors: Logan Miller, Noah Miller, Screenwriter: Andrew McKenzie) — In the late 1800s, a fanatical religious leader, a renegade Sheriff, and a former prostitute collide in a blood triangle on the rugged plains of the New Mexico Territory. Cast: Ed Harris, January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Eduardo Noriega, Steven Rude, Amy Madigan.
Top of the Lake / Australia, New Zealand (Directors: Jane Campion, Garth Davis, Screenwriters: Jane Campion, Gerard Lee) — A 12-year-old girl stands chest deep in a frozen lake. She is five months pregnant, and won't say who the father is. Then she disappears. So begins a haunting mystery that consumes a community. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan, David Wenham. This six-hour film will screen once during the Festival.
Two Mothers / Australia, France (Director: Anne Fontaine, Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton) — This gripping tale of love, lust and the power of friendship charts the unconventional and passionate affairs of two lifelong friends who fall in love with each other’s sons. Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frechevile.
Very Good Girls / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Naomi Foner) — In the long, half-naked days of a New York summer, two girls on the brink of becoming women fall for the same guy and find that life isn't as simple or safe as they had thought. Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin.
The Way, Way Back / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash) — Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old, comes into his own over the course of a comedic summer when he forms unlikely friendships with the gregarious manager of a rundown water park and the misfits who work there. Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James.
Renowned filmmakers and films about huge subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries. Each is a world premiere.
ANITA / U.S.A. (Director: Freida Mock) — Anita Hill, an African-American woman, charges Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment in explosive Senate hearings in 1991 – bringing sexual politics into the national consciousness and fueling 20 years of international debate on the issues.
The Crash Reel / U.S.A. (Director: Lucy Walker) — The jaw-dropping story of one unforgettable athlete, Kevin Pearce; one eye-popping sport, snowboarding; and one explosive issue, traumatic brain injury. An epic rivalry between Kevin and Shaun White culminates in a life-changing crash and a comeback story with a difference. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM
History of the Eagles / U.S.A. (Director: Alison Ellwood) — Using never-before-seen home movies, archival footage and new interviews with all current and former members of the Eagles, this documentary provides an intimate look into the history of the band and the legacy of their music.
Linsanity / U.S.A. (Director: Evan Leong) — Jeremy Lin came from a humble background to make an unbelievable run in the NBA. State high school champion, all-Ivy League at Harvard, undrafted by the NBA and unwanted there: his story started long before he landed on Broadway.
Pandora's Promise / U.S.A. (Director: Robert Stone) — A growing number of environmentalists are renouncing decades of antinuclear orthodoxy and have come to believe that the most feared and controversial technology known to mankind is probably our greatest hope.
Running from Crazy / U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple) — Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, strives for a greater understanding of her family history of suicide and mental illness. As tragedies are explored and deeply hidden secrets are revealed, Mariel searches for a way to overcome a similar fate.
Sound City / U.S.A. (Director: Dave Grohl) — Through interviews and performances with the legendary musicians and producers who worked at America's greatest unsung recording studio, Sound City, we explore the human element of music, and the lost art of analog recording in an increasingly digital world.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Gibney) — In 2010, WikiLeaks and its sources used the power of the Internet to usher in what was for some a new era of transparency and for others the beginnings of an information war.

When I Walk / U.S.A., Canada (Director: Jason DaSilva) — At 25, filmmaker and artist Jason DaSilva finds out he has a severe form of multiple sclerosis. This film shares his personal and grueling journey over the next seven years. Along the way, an unlikely miracle changes everything.
Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington / U.S.A. (Director: Sebastian Junger) — Shortly after the release of his documentary Restrepo, photographer Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya. Colleague Sebastian Junger traces Hetherington's work across the world's battlefields to reveal how he transcended the boundaries of image-making to become a luminary in his profession.
The World According to Dick Cheney / U.S.A. (Directors: R.J. Cutler, Greg Finton) — How did Dick Cheney become the single-most-powerful nonpresidential figure in American history? This multi-layered examination of Cheney's life, career, key relationships and controversial worldview features exclusive interviews with the former vice president and his closest allies.

And the competition...

The world premieres of 16 American narrative feature films.
Afternoon Delight / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jill Soloway) —  In this sexy, dark comedy, a lost L.A. housewife puts her idyllic hipster life in jeopardy when she tries to rescue a stripper by taking her in as a live-in nanny. Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine.
Austenland / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Jerusha Hess, Screenwriters: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale) — Thirtysomething, single Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. On a trip to an English resort, her fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman become more real than she ever imagined. Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, James Callis.
C.O.G. / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kyle Patrick Alvarez) — In the first ever film adaptation of David Sedaris' work, a cocky young man travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm. Out of his element, he finds his lifestyle and notions being picked apart by everyone who crosses his path. Cast: Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario.
Concussion / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Stacie Passon) — After a blow to the head, Abby decides she can't do it anymore. Her life just can't be only about the house, the kids and the wife. She needs more: she needs to be Eleanor. Cast: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Julie Fain Lawrence, Emily Kinney, Laila Robins.
Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francesca Gregorini) — Emanuel, a troubled girl, becomes preoccupied with her mysterious, new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. In offering to babysit her newborn, Emanuel unwittingly enters a fragile, fictional world, of which she becomes the gatekeeper. Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina, Frances O'Connor, Jimmi Simpson, Aneurin Barnard.
Fruitvale / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Coogler) — The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.
In a World... / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lake Bell) — An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation. Cast: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed.
Kill Your Darlings / U.S.A. (Director: John Krokidas, Screenwriters: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas) — An untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that led to the birth of an entire generation – their Beat revolution. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHann, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen.
The Lifeguard / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Liz W. Garcia) — A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager. Cast: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, David Lambert.
May in the Summer / U.S.A., Qatar, Jordan (Director and screenwriter: Cherien Dabis) — A bride-to-be is forced to reevaluate her life when she reunites with her family in Jordan and finds herself confronted with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. Cast: Cherien Dabis, Hiam Abbass, Bill Pullman, Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf, Alexander Siddig. DAY ONE FILM
Mother of George / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriter: Darci Picoult) — A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage. Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Anthony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi.
The Spectacular Now / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber) — Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment; Aimee is the introvert he attempts to "save." As their relationship deepens, the lines between right and wrong, friendship and love, and "saving" and corrupting become inextricably blurred. Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler.
Touchy Feely / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.” Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais.
Toy's House / U.S.A. (Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Screenwriter: Chris Galletta) — Three unhappy teenage boys flee to the wilderness where they build a makeshift house and live off the land as masters of their own destiny. Or at least that’s the plan. Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie.
Upstream Color / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shane Carruth) — A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins.
The world premieres of 16 American documentary films.
99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film / U.S.A. (Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Kristic) — The Occupy movement erupted in September 2011, propelling economic inequality into the spotlight. In an unprecedented collaboration, filmmakers across America tell its story, digging into big picture issues as organizers, analysts, participants and critics reveal how it happened and why.
After Tiller / U.S.A. (Directors: Martha Shane, Lana Wilson) — Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, only four doctors in the country provide late-term abortions. With unprecedented access, After Tiller goes inside the lives of these physicians working at the center of the storm.
American Promise / U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.
Blackfish / U.S.A. (Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite) — Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.
Blood Brother / U.S.A. (Director: Steve Hoover) — Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.
Citizen Koch / U.S.A. (Directors: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin) — Wisconsin – birthplace of the Republican Party, government unions, “cheeseheads” and Paul Ryan – becomes a test market in the campaign to buy Democracy, and ground zero in the battle for the future of the GOP.
Cutie and the Boxer / U.S.A. (Director: Zachary Heinzerling) — This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.
Dirty Wars / U.S.A. (Director: Richard Rowley) — Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.
Gideon's Army / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.
God Loves Uganda / U.S.A. (Director: Roger Ross Williams) — A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.
The Good Life / U.S.A. (Directors: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine) — Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns fight to save their only son from Progeria, a rare and fatal disease for which there is no treatment or cure. In less than a decade, their work has led to significant advances.
Inequality for All / U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Kornbluth) — In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy.
Manhunt / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Greg Barker) — This espionage tale goes inside the CIA’s long conflict against Al Qaeda, as revealed by the remarkable women and men whose secret war against Osama bin Laden started nearly a decade before most of us even knew his name.
Narco Cultura / U.S.A. (Director: Shaul Schwarz) — An examination of Mexican drug cartels’ influence in pop culture on both sides of the border as experienced by an LA narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.
Twenty Feet From Stardom / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville) — Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight.  Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead – until now. DAY ONE FILM
Valentine Road / U.S.A. (Director: Marta Cunningham) — In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as its startling aftermath.
Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.
Circles / Serbia, Germany, France, Croatia, Slovenia (Director: Srdan Golubovic, Screenwriters: Srdjan Koljevic, Melina Pota Koljevic) — Five people are affected by a tragic heroic act. Twenty years later, all of them will confront the past through their own crises. Will they overcome guilt, frustration and their urge for revenge? Will they do the right thing, at all costs? Cast: Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Hristina Popovic, Nikola Rakocevic, Vuk Kostic. World Premiere
Crystal Fairy / Chile (Director and screenwriter: Sebastián Silva) — Jamie invites a stranger to join a road trip to Chile. The woman’s free and esoteric nature clashes with Jamie’s acidic, self-absorbed personality as they head into the desert for a Mescaline-fueled psychedelic trip. Cast: Michael Cera, Gabby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM
The Future / Chile, Germany, Italy, Spain (Director and screenwriter: Alicia Scherson) — When their parents die, Bianca starts to smoke and Tomas is still a virgin. The orphans explore the dangerous streets of adulthood until Bianca finds Maciste, a retired Mr. Universe, and enters his dark mansion in search of a future. Cast: Manuela Martelli, Rutger Hauer, Luigi Ciardo, Nicolas Vaporidis, Alessandro Giallocosta. World Premiere
Houston / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Bastian Günther) — Clemens Trunschka is a corporate headhunter and an alcoholic. Drinking increasingly isolates him from his life and leads him away from reality. While searching for a CEO candidate in Houston, his addiction submerges him into his own darkness. Cast: Ulrich Tukur, Garret Dillahunt, Wolfram Koch, Jenny Schily, Jason Douglas, Jens Münchow. World Premiere
Jiseul / South Korea (Director and screenwriter: Muel O) — In 1948, as the Korean government ordered the Communists’ eviction to Jeju Island, the military invaded a calm and peaceful village. Townsfolk took sanctuary in a cave and debated moving to a higher mountain. Cast: Min-chul SUNG, Jung-won YANG, Young-soon OH, Soon-dong PARK, Suk-bum MOON, Kyung-sub JANG. International Premiere
Lasting / Poland, Spain (Director and screenwriter: Jacek Borcuch) — An emotional love story about two Polish students who fall in love with each other while working summer jobs in Spain. An unexpected nightmare interrupts their carefree time in the heavenly landscape and throws their lives into chaos. Cast: Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus, Angela Molina. World Premiere
Metro Manila / United Kingdom, Philippines (Director: Sean Ellis, Screenwriters: Sean Ellis, Frank E. Flowers) — Seeking a better life, Oscar and his family move from the poverty-stricken rice fields to the big city of Manila, where they fall victim to various inhabitants whose manipulative ways are a daily part of city survival. Cast: Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, Althea Vega. World Premiere
Shopping / New Zealand (Directors: Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland, Screenwriters: Louis Sutherland, Mark Albiston) — New Zealand, 1981: Seduced by a charismatic career criminal, teenager Willie must choose where his loyalty lies – with a family of shoplifters or his own blood. Cast: Kevin Paulo, Julian Dennison, Jacek Koman, Alistair Browning. World Premiere
Soldate Jeannette / Austria (Director: Daniel Hoesl) — Fanni has had enough of money and leaves to buy a tent. Anna has had enough of pigs and leaves a needle in the hay. Cars crash and money burns to shape their mutual journey toward a rising liberty. Cast: Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg, Christina Reichsthaler, Josef Kleindienst, Aurelia Burckhardt, Julia Schranz, Ines Rössl. World Premiere
There Will Come a Day / Italy, France (Director: Giorgio Diritti, Screenwriters: Giorgio Diritti, Fredo Valla, Tania Pedroni) — Painful issues push Augusta, a young Italian woman, to doubt the certainties on which she has built her existence. On a small boat in the immensity of the Amazon rain forest, she faces the adventure of searching for herself. Cast: Jasmine Trinca, Anne Alvaro, Pia Engleberth. World Premiere
Wajma (An Afghan Love Story) / Afghanistan (Director and screenwriter: Barmak Akram) — A young man in Kabul seduces a girl. When she tells him she’s pregnant, he questions having taken her virginity. Then her father arrives, and a timeless, archaic violence erupts – possibly leading to a crime, and even a sacrifice. Cast: Wajma Bahar, Mustafa Abdulsatar, Haji Gul, Breshna Bahar. World Premiere
What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love / Indonesia (Director and screenwriter: Mouly Surya) — Mouly Surya’s film explores the odds of love and deception among the blind, the deaf and the unlucky sighted people at a high school for the visually impaired. Cast: Nicholas Saputra, Ayushita Nugraha, Karina Salim, Anggun Priambodo, Lupita Jennifer. World Premiere
Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmakers working today.
Fallen City / China (Director: Qi Zhao) — Fallen City spans four years to reveal how three families who survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to embark on a journey searching for hope, purpose, identity, and to rebuild their lives in a new China torn between tradition and modernity. North American Premiere
Fire in the Blood / India (Director: Dylan Mohan Gray) — In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Western governments and pharmaceutical companies blocked low-cost antiretroviral drugs from reaching AIDS-stricken Africa, causing 10 million or more unnecessary deaths. An improbable group of people decided to fight back. North American Premiere
Google and the World Brain / Spain, United Kingdom (Director: Ben Lewis) — In the most ambitious project ever conceived on the Internet, Google has been scanning the world's books for 10 years. They said the intention was to build a giant digital library, but that involved scanning millions of copyrighted works. World Premiere
The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear / Georgia, Germany (Director: Tinatin Gurchiani) — A film director casting a 15-23-year-old protagonist visits villages and cities to meet people who answer her call. She follows those who prove to be interesting enough through various dramatic and funny situations. North American Premiere
The Moo Man / United Kingdom (Directors: Andy Heathcote, Heike Bachelier) — A year in the life of heroic farmer Steve, scene stealing Ida (queen of the herd), and a supporting cast of 55 cows. When Ida falls ill, Steve’s optimism is challenged and their whole way of life is at stake. World Premiere
Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer / Russian Federation, United Kingdom (Directors: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial: the three young artists or the society they live in? World Premiere
A River Changes Course / Cambodia, U.S.A. (Director: Kalyanee Mam) — Three young Cambodians struggle to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing, and overwhelming debt in this devastatingly beautiful story of a country reeling from the tragedies of war and rushing to keep pace with a rapidly expanding world. World Premiere
Salma / United Kingdom, India (Director: Kim Longinotto) — When Salma, a young girl in South India, reached puberty, her parents locked her away. Millions of girls all over the world share the same fate. Twenty-five years later, Salma has fought her way back to the outside world. World Premiere
The Square (El Midan) / Egypt, U.S.A. (Director: Jehane Noujaim) — What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation? World Premiere
The Stuart Hall Project / United Kingdom (Director: John Akomfrah) — Antinuclear campaigner, New Left activist and founding father of Cultural Studies, this documentary interweaves 70 years of Stuart Hall’s film, radio and television appearances, and material from his private archive to document a memorable life and construct a portrait of Britain’s foremost radical intellectual. World Premiere
The Summit / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Nick Ryan) — Twenty-four climbers converged at the last stop before summiting the most dangerous mountain on Earth. Forty-eight hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished. Had one, Ger McDonnell, stuck to the climbers' code, he might still be alive. International Premiere
Who is Dayani Cristal? / United Kingdom (Director: Marc Silver) — An anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for its identity leads us across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM
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Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity proves the films selected in this section will inform a “greater” next wave in American cinema.
Blue Caprice / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriters: R.F.I Porto, Alexandre Moors) — An abandoned boy is lured to America and drawn into the shadow of a dangerous father figure in this film inspired by the real life events that led to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Cassandra Freeman, Leo Fitzpatrick.
Computer Chess / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Bujalski) — An existential comedy about the brilliant men who taught machines to play chess – back when the machines seemed clumsy and we seemed smart. Cast: Patrick Riester, Myles Paige, James Curry, Robin Schwartz, Gerald Peary, Wiley Wiggins.
Escape from Tomorrow / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Randy Moore) — A postmodern, surreal voyage into the bowels of "family" entertainment; an epic battle begins when an unemployed, middle-aged father loses his sanity during a close encounter with two teenage girls on holiday. Cast: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, Alison Lees-Taylor.
I Used to Be Darker / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Porterfield, Screenwriters: Amy Belk, Matthew Porterfield) — A runaway seeks refuge with her aunt and uncle in Baltimore, only to find their marriage ending and her cousin in crisis. In the days that follow, the family struggles to let go while searching for things to sustain them. Cast: Deragh Campbell, Hannah Gross, Kim Taylor, Ned Oldham, Geoff Grace, Nick Petr.
It Felt Like Love / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman) — On the outskirts of Brooklyn, a 14-year-old girl’s sexual quest takes a dangerous turn when she pursues an older guy and tests the boundaries between obsession and love. Cast: Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Jesse Cordasco, Nick Rosen, Case Prime.
Milkshake / U.S.A. (Director: David Andalman, Screenwriters: David Andalman, Mariko Munro) — In mid-1990's America, we follow the tragic sex life of Jolie Jolson, a wannabe thug (and great-great-grandson of legendary vaudevillian Al Jolson) in suburban DC as he strives to become something he can never be – black. Cast: Tyler Ross, Shareeka Epps, Georgia Ford, Eshan Bay, Leo Fitzpatrick, Danny Burstein.
Newlyweeds / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shaka King) — A Brooklyn repo man and his globetrotting girlfriend forge an unlikely romance. But what should be a match made in stoner heaven turns into a love triangle gone awry in this dark coming-of-age comedy about dependency. Cast: Amari Cheatom, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, Colman Domingo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Adrian Martinez.
Pit Stop / U.S.A. (Director: Yen Tan, Screenwriters: Yen Tan, David Lowery) — Two working-class gay men in a small Texas town and a love that isn't quite out of reach. Cast: Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, John Merriman, Alfredo Maduro, Corby Sullivan.
A Teacher / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hannah Fidell) — A popular young teacher in a wealthy suburban Texas high school has an affair with one of her students. Her life begins to unravel as the relationship comes to an end. Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Jonny Mars, Julie Phillips, Chris Dubeck.
This is Martin Bonner / U.S.A.(Director and screenwriter: Chad Hartigan) — Martin Bonner has just moved to Reno for a new job in prison rehabilitation. Starting over at age 58, he struggles to adapt until an unlikely friendship with an ex-con blossoms, helping him confront the problems he left behind. Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Richmond Arquette, Sam Buchanan, Robert Longstreet, Demetrius Grosse.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Now the National Board of Review has spoken!

NBR is the first big awards-thingy that usually gives a good idea of how the rest of the awards season will shape up. But it doesn't necessarily reflect what the Oscars will think. Gotta love Rian Johnson winning for Best Original Screenplay though. Sucks that The Master hasn't been getting much love so far.

Best Film:  Zero Dark Thirty
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo Dicaprio, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, Compliance
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-it Ralph
Special Achievement In Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, Argo
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, The Impossible
Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis,  Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Best Foreign Language Film:  Amour
Best Documentary: Searching For Sugar Man
William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 Years Of Bond Films
Best Ensemble: Les Misérables
Spotlight Award: John Goodman (Argo, Flight, Paranorman, Trouble With The Curve)
Nbr Freedom Of Expression Award: Central Park Five
Nbr Freedom Of Expression Award: Promised Land

Top Films
(in Alphabetical Order)

Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Promised Land
Silver Linings Playbook

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(in Alphabetical Order)

The Intouchables
The Kid With A Bike
War Witch

Top 5 Documentaries
(in Alphabetical Order)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
The Gatekeepers
The Invisible War
Only The Young

Top 10 Independent Films
(in Alphabetical Order)

End Of Watch
Hello I Must Be Going
Little Birds
Moonrise Kingdom
On The Road
Sleepwalk With Me

December movies

Once again, another year where the month of December is a complete clusterfuck of interesting movies all coming out in the same 2-3 week period. It's ridiculous, this shit needs to stop, and for the most part, it damages more movies than it helps. Some of these films are bound to get lost in the shuffle. First let's look at what we got:

December 14th - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
December 19th (NYC/LA) - Zero Dark Thirty, Amour
December 21st - This is 40, Jack Reacher, The Guilt Trip, The Impossible, On the Road, Not Fade Away
December 25th - Django Unchained, Les Miserables
December 28th - Promised Land

Re-fucking-diculous, am I wrong? Now Zero Dark Thirty is smartly going to just be released in NYC and LA on the 19th and won't have its wide released until the middle of January. That's smart because with The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Jack Reacher, and Les Miserables crowding the theaters, chances are people won't be ready for a sobering 160-minute film like ZDT. As it is, we've got three, count 'em, THREE films going on a wide release that pushes close to a three hour running time: The Hobbit, Django Unchained, and Les Miserables.

So yeah, don't drink too much soda before you see those movies. This is 40, by the way, is 2 hours and 14 minutes.... compared to the others, that's a lightweight.

It's exciting to see a lot of good movies coming out but there are 31 days in December. What's going on for December 7th? Nothing. The most high profiled film this upcoming weekend is Hyde Park on Hudson, the film about FDR which stars Bill Murray. The reviews that film has gotten have been middling at best, considering just how many films are coming out in this month, I have to skip the film so I can save my money on the others. I was sorta looking forward to it, but damn, there's just too many fucking movies to watch. Sorry Bill Murray. I'm not one to necessarily let critics sway me, but in this situation, I have no choice.

I'm gonna make a strong effort to try to see almost all of these movies and review them on this blog. But there's this thing called Christmas and New Year's that's gonna make things difficult. I'll try my best, I'll figure it out.

Overall it's cool to have all these high profile films come out at once, but a film like Promised Land which looks like a decent enough drama starring Matt Damon looks poised to flop. Why force an awards push? Why not release the film in February or March or something? Why do we have to have such a strict release pattern with these films? Why can't January - April have more interesting films? I don't get it. I think it starts with the way films get campaigned for Oscars. If there was a way for films released earlier in the year to have a legitimate shot to campaign for Oscars, I think there wouldn't be such a cluster like there is here.

Although, honestly, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty and maybe Django Unchained are the only films that really look to have a decent chance at Oscar success so is it worth it anyway? Wouldn't it have been worth it to release The Impossible earlier considering it has zero buzz right now? It makes no sense to me.

One film that cannot be forgotten about is Michael Haneke's Amour which comes out on the 19th. I've heard a lot of great things about that film. It's not gonna be one for the faint of heart, but I will definitely be seeing that film right when it comes out. You should too if you have the chance. Gotta support arthouse cinema.