2012 In Review

Criticwire posted a great roundup of their favorite film criticism of the year. The only one I’d already read was Lili Loofbourow on Brave. I’m missing all the good articles on new films because they’re published when the movie opens then forgotten when I get around to seeing it a month later – need to start bookmarking interesting-looking articles and catching up on weekly sites. Then again, I have a job, and can’t be reading every article on the internet, so maybe the end-of-year roundup is where I’ll leave it.

Sheila O’Malley on Once Upon a Time in Anatolia:
She opens with a phrase I’ve never liked, calling Anatolia “the main character in the film,” but then she actually backs that up with great evidence, giving the film new dimensions.

Glenn Kenny on Cosmopolis: “the story of watching the end of the world from inside your clean room of a limo while you’re also causing that end. … [Cronenberg] examines irrationality with the unflinching precision of a diamond cutter, and the results are as hilarious as they are shocking.”

I liked The Master alright but dismissed its #1 placement on all the year-end lists because its story never seemed to end up anywhere, but now I’m reconsidering its value after reading this in the AV Club: “Phoenix’s performance calls to mind James Dean and the other Method actors who transformed the tone of movies in the ’50s. The era The Master covers, from roughly 1945 to 1952, was a tumultuous one in American culture. It was the age of film noir and psychological realism, but also a time when the suburban placidity for which the ’50s is remembered took root. All of that looms in Anderson’s movie, which deals with human impulses that run counter to the clean, composed America the corporate PR machine was selling.”

The next day I read Kent Jones’ The Master review in Film Comment, where he expands on this idea significantly.

With There Will Be Blood, he unveiled a genuine and immersive fascination with American history: every detail and choice resulted from a dogged pursuit of what it felt like to live in a lonely world of earth, stone, wood, and metal. Anderson drops us into times and places with their own rules and social structures, which we are invited to puzzle out, imparted through a careful deployment of settings, physical stances, and vocal timbres. In The Master, we are plummeted into the humming world of mid-century urban America, with its top-down organization of class, its smoothly managed department stores and amateur musicales in turn-of-the century mansions, its intimations of orgiastic abandon behind closed doors, its peculiar notions of the unconventional. It’s a moment at which the lowly sociopath and the genteel society matron are both in search of a liberator, who may or may not have arrived in the form of “theoretical philosopher” desperate to gain a foothold in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Matt Singer wrote an article about film franchises using The Simpsons’ Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show as a framework, hilarious.

David Cairns on The Hobbit:
“Maybe Jackson should have shot at 24 and projected at 48, thereby making the film half as long?”

from patheos.com on Holy Motors:
“It makes you wonder if the green-screen work for Avatar might be more compelling than the final animated production.”

Cairns again:
“I’m told that McKellen had to act his scene at the dinner table with a bunch of paper cut-out heads on sticks, with light bulbs that flashed on to signal when each character was speaking so he could look in the right direction. I would, on the whole, far rather see that version of the scene.”

Of course his Shadowplay blog and David Hudson’s Keyframe Daily are currently the only film sites I read daily, following links from within when needed. I’ve come up with a list of ten more to check weekly – we’ll see how long that lasts.

Things I didn’t read: what anyone thought of the new Batman movie or the Sight & Sound list, any conversations on whether movies/film/digital are dead or dying. But despite its “film is dead”-sounding title, I greatly enjoyed Dave Kehr’s book of movie reviews, When Movies Mattered, and I’m currently enjoying J. Hoberman’s slightly more optimistically-titled Film After Film.

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