Last year I explained (at some length) why I still love the Oscars, even though they are pretentious, predictable, overlong, and frequently delusional in ways that make me want to kill myself. This year, I'm going to skip the preamble and get right to the wrong-minded opinions and prognostications: my choices for what films will win, what films should win, and what films must not, in the name of all that is holy, be allowed to win at the 85th Academy Awards. (The actual order of the presentations is a big secret—why, I have no idea—so I've taken an educated guess.)
Oscar Night is this Sunday, February 24th. My invitation seems to have been lost in the mail, so I'll be live-tweeting the Red Carpet and ceremony from home, alongside my partner N., The Unenthusiastic Critic (whose interest will flag noticeably after the focus turns from pretty dresses to awards). Follow me on Twitter to get all the despair, snark, curses, and detailed explanations about why host Seth Macfarlane is bad for humanity.
And now, the envelopes please… Continue reading
If you'd asked me six weeks ago, I'd have told you 2012 was a mediocre year for movies. This is, of course, partially the fault of the studios—which save all of their best movies for the last few weeks of the year, so they can be fresh in the minds of award-voters (and idiots like me who write "Best of the Year" lists)—but it's mostly my own fault. In my secret identity I have the kind of job that gets really busy when things like presidential elections happen, and so for much of the year I had to let a lot of really good stuff pass me by, unviewed and unreviewed. (If you're wondering why there are so many films on this list that I didn't even bother to review when they came out: that's why.) In the past six weeks I've gone on a binge of make-up movie-watching, catching up with as many goodies as I could. I haven't seen everything, but I've now seen over 80 films from 2012, and at this point I'm prepared to say it was a very good year indeed. Continue reading
Last year I didn't attempt to do a year-end round-up of performances. Ranking any artistic achievement is always an arbitrary exercise of questionable worth, and I find comparing the apples and oranges of various films difficult enough; comparing individual performances is like comparing apples and accordions, or aardvarks and oranges, or something equally nonsensical. Continue reading
I don't do a "Worst Movies of the Year" list, mostly because I do everything in my power, throughout the year, to avoid seeing the worst movies. I tend to give a wide berth to any film, for example, in which Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, or Tyler Perry play single or multiple roles, in drag or out of drag; I avoid any film in which Nicholas Cage plays a super-hero, John Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe, or 3D piranhas consume DD breasts. (If you're curious, I'd say the worst movies I saw all year were—in no particular order—John Carter, Hyde Park on Hudson, Hitchcock, To Rome with Love, and The Hobbit, though sheer disappointment and contempt for pretension make me want to throw Prometheus in there as well.)
So my annual delivery of year-end bile is reserved for films that—in my humble opinion—other critics and award-bestowers are valuing far beyond their worth. They are not, necessarily, bad films; some of them may even be good films. (There is nothing here as bad as, say, The Descendants or The Help, both of which made my list in 2011—and then, of course, went on to win Oscars.) These are films, however, that deserve to be brought down a peg or two, and I'm just the unlicensed internet hack to do it. Continue reading
In my review of Django Unchained, I mostly take the position that the movie doesn't really work as a movie, and that therefore the cultural debate taking place around it lends it a significance it doesn't really deserve. I still think this, but the review felt incomplete somehow. So I'm bringing in The Unenthusiastic Critic.
Spoiler Level: Low
Since so much controversy has sprung up around the new Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, I want to be absolutely clear about where I'm coming from on this. Continue reading
Spoiler Level: I'm reviewing an adaptation of a 30-year-old musical based on a 150-year-old book. Nonetheless, I'll do what I can.
Les Misérables, the new film version of the highly successful stage musical, is nearly three hours long.
It feels longer.
Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, on which the musical was based, is about 1,400 pages long.
The film feels longer.
The story covered by Les Misérables takes place over a period of roughly 17 years.
The experience of watching it all play out feels—you guessed it—even longer still.
Mere weeks ago, I dreamed a dream in which The Hobbit would be the most unendurable Hell I would face in a movie theater this year, but director Tom Hooper's overly literal, excessively bombastic, painfully tone-deaf film has killed that dream—along with three hours of my life, my love of musicals, and a good portion of my will to live.
There are dreams that cannot be, there are storms we cannot weather, and there are films—like Les Misérables—we simply cannot endure. Continue reading
Spoiler Level: Nothing you don't get from the trailer.
It's estimated that a quarter of a million people lost their lives when, on December 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered a massive tsunami that impacted 14 countries. Indonesia was the hardest hit—with upwards of 160,000 deaths—but thousands also died in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and other nations. Millions of people across South Asia—many already living in abject poverty—lost their homes, lost their livelihoods, lost access to food and clean drinking water; hundreds of thousands more would face death from resulting infectious diseases. Measured in lives lost, it was one of the 10 most devastating earthquakes ever recorded, and the deadliest tsunami in history.
And so—forgive me for being blunt—why do I give a fuck about one family of wealthy European tourists who survived? Continue reading
In one of his stand-up routines, comedian Louis CK explains his pessimistic view of falling in love: no matter how nicely it begins, he explains, "it's going to lead to shit." You may have a couple of good dates, and then she'll stop calling you back. Or you'll date for a long time, and then someone will cheat. Or you'll get married, and it won't work out, and you'll get divorced. "Or," he says, "you'll meet the perfect person, who you love infinitely, and you even argue well, and you grow together, and you have children, and you grow old together—and then she's going to die. That's the best-case scenario: that you're going to lose your best friend…"
Like all the best comedy, it's funny because it's true: follow every love story to its logical conclusion, and no one gets a happy ending. This is why nearly every movie is careful to stop well before its characters reach that point, but Amour, the new film from Michael Haneke, begins there, chronicling an example of Louis CK's last, best-case scenario with unremitting precision and unflinching honesty. It should come as no surprise that the provocative director of Funny Games has delivered a film that is, at times, as harrowing as any horror film. What is remarkable is that Amour earns every emotional beat, and—without a single false step or the faintest patina of sentimentality—reminds us that each difficult moment in this end-of-life tale is the culmination, and celebration, of a long and passionate affair. Simple, succinct, and devastating, Amour is a masterpiece of filmmaking and—as its title suggests—a beautiful and haunting treatise on the nature of love. Continue reading
Spoiler Level: High, I suppose, but there's really very little worth spoiling.
My least favorite type of movie is the one I walk out of saying, "What the hell was the point of that?" Movies that succeed in realizing their goals are preferable, of course, but there's something perfectly honorable about failure: I don't really mind any movie that tries to say something, even if it crashes and burns spectacularly in the attempt. But even the simplest full-length feature costs exorbitant amounts of money, demands months or years of effort from hundreds of talented people, and—worst of all—requires several hours of my life to watch. There should, at the very least, be some sign of why anyone thought the end result—win or lose—might turn out to be worth all that trouble.
As you've probably guessed my now, no such vision or purpose is evident in Hyde Park on Hudson, which is as pure an example of cinematic pointlessness as I've experienced all year. Continue reading