My 10 Favorite Films of 2012

February 13, 2013 2 comments

As Cheech Marin says in Ghostbusters II, “Well… better late than never.” It has taken me much longer to compile my top ten list of favorite films for 2012 than I originally anticipated. A combination of laziness, missing a couple movies here and there, and more laziness led me to this tardiness, but I think I’ve finally landed on a list of movies that I’m happy with.

I can’t quite gauge the general feeling most people have about the films from 2012. I’ve heard many praise it as a year of thought-provoking indie films and fun, substantive blockbusters. I’ve heard others condemn it as an utter borefest full of bloated, self-indulgent art films and overblown, idiotic popcorn tripe. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I certainly didn’t get to every movie that came out last year, but I definitely saw more than most people get to. It was a year like most– some good, some bad. Many were forgettable and a couple were brilliant. I think that’s a pretty constant trend.

My list this year differs somewhat from last year. My 10 Favorite Films of 2011 were relatively low-profile. Sure, Midnight in Paris was a surprise hit and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had a lot of buzz, but most of my favorites were little seen. To my surprise, I picked several popular hits this Read more…

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My Thoughts on ‘Amour’

December 10, 2012 5 comments

'Amour' opens in limited release on Dec. 19th, 2012.

‘Amour’ opens in limited release on Dec. 19th, 2012. (image via awardsdaily.com)

I’m a pretty devoted fan of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke at this point. With previous films like the The White RibbonThe Piano TeacherFunny Games (both of them), and Caché, he’s more than solidified his spot on a short list of all-time great writer-directors. The talented auteur’s latest offering is Amour, and although it’s less violent and obviously shocking than the aforementioned movies, it’s nevertheless a devastating and emotionally gripping experience that may be the most respectful and forthright film about marriage that I’ve ever seen.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an elderly couple who seem to live a quiet, comfortable life in their Paris apartment. They clearly share a comfortableness with one another that only decades of closeness can create.  Their foundation is shaken, however, when Anne begins to experience some debilitating medical issues that leave her in a wheelchair, which is apparently similar to something that Haneke experienced with a family member in real life. I won’t go into great detail in an effort to stay spoiler free, but I will say that watching Anne’s struggle with her new circumstances is painful to watch, as is Georges’ efforts to keep her well.

That’s really all you need to know about the film’s story because what unfolds over the course of 127 minute running time needs to experienced, not explained. The bulk of relationship films that show a couple struggling Read more…

‘Django Unchained’ is Right Around the Corner

November 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, Christmas is almost here, and so is the greatest gift anyone can ask for: Django Unchained. The release is less than a month away and now all that’s left to do is wait. Quentin Tarantino’s epic Western that deals with subjects like slavery and revenge is kicking the marketing campaign into high gear, and the latest trailer continues to show a great deal of promise (watch it here).

There are definitely a few naysayers out there who are offended by the idea of such a film being made– although I suspect those same people just like to be offended by anything race related— but the buzz and anticipation seems to be very positive so far. One very good sign is that I hear The Weinstein Company is making a big push to campaign for Christoph Waltz for another Oscar. The studio certainly does not seem to be swayed by the more controversial elements of the film, Read more…

Films to Fight Off the Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Fatigue

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is a pretty great holiday. You don’t have to buy gifts or send cards and there are no awkward Thanksgiving office parties. The food is always good– even if you don’t like turkey there’s probably ham or pie or something– and there’s typically a hearty supply of alcohol for those who choose to imbibe.

Christmas brings the hassle of dead trees, crowded airports, mall Santas, and annoying do-gooders (there are Thanksgiving do-gooders as well, but they get far more aggressive at Christmas time). There are, however, quintessential Christmas films that are so ingrained in our popular culture that we don’t even have to think about watching them because they’re always on TV: It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas StoryNational Lampoon’s Christmas VacationA Miracle on 34th Street, etc. Thanksgiving-set films are bountiful (sorry), but there aren’t Read more…

My Thoughts on ‘Hitchcock’

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Alfred Hitchcock was a true cinematic genius and he is arguably my favorite director, so I’m sort of biased to like any movie about the man. Recently, I went to an early screening of Sacha Gervasi’s new film, Hitchcock, at the Los Angeles County of Museum of Art. I liked it… mostly.

Anthony Hopkins stars as the legendary filmmaker who is fresh off the success of North By Northwest. He wants to return to his earlier days of lower budgets and less glamour, so he lands on a horror novel that’s based on the real-life exploits of notorious serial killer Ed Gein called Psycho. With a slight bit of convincing, his loyal and talented wife, Alma, who is played beautifully by Helen Mirren, throws her support behind his tawdry and controversial new project.

Now, before I saw the film and before I even saw the trailer, I had a good feeling of what type of film Hitchcock would Read more…

The Stanley Kubrick Exhibit is a Treat for Fans

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The entrance to the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA

The extensive Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opens to the public on November 1st, but I had the sincere pleasure of visiting the show a little early. As a  LACMA member, I enjoyed a relatively uncrowded stroll through the museum’s presentation of Kubrick’s career in film. This is the first showing of the exhibit in the United States and I’m thrilled that Los Angeles is its first stop.

Kubrick has long been one of my favorite filmmakers (perhaps my absolute favorite if you pressed me to choose). His distinct vision and obvious obsession with perfection led to countless unforgettable film moments over the course of only a handful of projects. Each of his movies are given some time and space at the show, though obviously his more recognizable and important works take up the most real estate in the museum. In addition to myriad costumes, props, photos, scripts, letters, notes, and equipment, multiple screens are set up throughout the museum that offer various clips from his films and interviews about his work.

Kubrick was quite dismissive of his first film, Fear and Desire, as well as his follow up, Killer’s Kiss, so these are given relatively little attention with only a few photographs and some notes, although themes from both films would carry over into his later career. Where the showcase really kicks into gear is with the director’s first classic, The KillingStarting with that film from 1956, the exhibit forms something of a maze, leading patrons Read more…

Megan Ellison is Good for Movies, I Promise

October 18, 2012 3 comments

It’s well-known by this point how difficult it is to produce an original story with major movie studios. If it isn’t a sequel, a comic book, or part of a long standing franchise, they want no part. So why when a rich, ambitious, creative young producer with balls to spare comes along would someone criticize him/her for financing original, thought-provoking movies?

Sharon Waxman of the entertainment news site The Wrap wrote a very direct and rather outrageous piece entitled “Why Well-Meaning Billionaires Like Megan Ellison May Ruin The Movie Business.” Jesus. For any of you who don’t know, Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, is a film producer and financier who has been making a serious splash on the Hollywood scene as of late. Her company, Annapurna Pictures, is still in its infancy, but it’s been putting out interesting fare thus far and has many new and exciting projects on the horizon from top-notch directors and writers.

Waxman seems to think, however, that Ellison’s funding of films like The Master  is bad idea. With a budget of $35 million, she writes that The Master will not make money and is therefore a failure. She similarly criticizes the approximately $45 million budget of the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty, a portrayal of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. “Spending so much on these arthouse films almost guarantees they will be money losers, and that is bad for the movie business altogether […] Certainly no established movie studio is going to choose to make movies with these filmmakers at those prices, which also is not a healthy Read more…