That Was The Year, That Was VI
It was a year of fire... a year of great sadness... a year of joy... the year a silent movie won the Best Picture Oscar for the first time in over eighty years... the year the rebel alliance was bought by the evil empire... the year Dame Judi Dench became the first person to drop the F-bomb in a James Bond film. Crikey, eventful or what?
I thought I would make a bit of a break with tradition by doing my review of the year before the year in question is actually finished. Looking back at my notes for 2012, it initially looked like this had been a fairly quiet 12 months, with only 62 new movies on the list, compared to 64 last year. Then I remembered the list only included new-movie-cinema-visits, and thus omitted the three 2012 films I saw for the first time on DVD, along with the five classic revivals I very much enjoyed as well (Touch of Evil, RoboCop, Plague of the Zombies, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Lawrence of Arabia, if you were wondering). So this puts us on 70 films for the year, a much more respectable total.
Anyway, the now traditional alphabetical list of films runs thusly:
About Elly..., Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Argo, The Artist, The Avengers, Battleship, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Berberian Sound Studio, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Bourne Legacy, Breaking Dawn - Part 2, The Cabin in the Woods, Chronicle, Coriolanus, Damsels in Distress, The Dark Knight Rises, The Descendants, Dredd, The Expendables 2, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Haywire, Headhunters, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hunger Games, The Imposter, The Iron Lady, Iron Sky, Jackpot, John Carter of Mars, Juan of the Dead, Lockout, Looper, Marcy Martha May Marlene, Marley, The Master, Men in Black 3, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Muppets, Nostalgia for the Light, The Phantom Menace in 3D, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, Prometheus, The Raid, Red Lights, Ruby Sparks, Rust and Bone, Safe, Samsara, Searching for Sugar Man, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Seven Psychopaths, Shadow Dancer, Sightseers, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, Storage 24, This Must Be The Place, To Rome with Love, Total Recall, W.E., The Wicker Tree, The Woman in Black, and Woody Allen: A Documentary.
A perennial problem is how to keep this kind of round-up fresh and engaging, after many years of either handing out Lassie Awards for (e.g.) Best Jason Statham Film (this year: Safe, I reckon) or doing a top ten rundown of the best films of the year. For a bit of a change let's look at 2012 month by month and see if we can discern any trends.
January: Much fuss about The Iron Lady for its (perceived) bias both for and against horrible old Thatcher, and also The Artist, for the (perceived) hype it received from reviewers. I enjoyed them both, though the latter more than the former. Other notable films from around this time included Ralph Fiennes' ambitious Coriolanus (I had a go at reviewing this in iambic pentameter somewhere else – needless to say the results weren't pretty), Soderbergh's pro-celebrity cage-fighting romp Haywire, and the easily-underestimated Descendants.
February: An unwelcome blast from the past in the form of The Phantom Menace 3D, but two welcome ones, in the form of the charming and joyful new film from the Muppets and the first bona fide hit movie for Hammer Films since at least the early 1970s, in the form of The Woman in Black. Another notable genre success was Chronicle, while Marvel had an atypical wobble with the slightly peculiar Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Hmmm.
March: The big story of the month was the absolute bath taken by the makers of John Carter of Mars, which could surely have been at least a decent hit with a big-name star and a sensible budget, as it's certainly no worse than the average Transformers movie. But there were some good films around too, particularly Martha Marcy May Marlene.
April: Out at the beginning of the month was The Hunger Games, which seemed to me to be pulling its punches in the name of Box Office, though Jennifer Lawrence was customarily good in it. Sure enough, blockbuster season was upon us with the unreasonably entertaining The Avengers and the just plain unreasonable Battleship both out before the end of the month. Finding itself a creditable spot was Cabin in the Woods, possibly the cleverest new film of the year.
May: Ooh, me neck! Ooh, me ribs! Ooh, me everything! A bit of an action frenzy settled upon the cinema with a new film from Mr Statham where he plays New York's most dangerous homeless bin man, and the utterly exhausting The Raid. Those of a gentler disposition could enjoy the off-the-wall pleasures of Damsels in Distress (whimsical college girls improve the world via a new dance craze) and This Must Be The Place (middle-aged Goth rock star becomes Nazi hunter).
June: One of the year's more divisive releases, Prometheus, came out amidst massive hype. I liked this movie more than most people, and more than I expected to – the only real negative to it was that it finally killed off Guillermo del Toro's planned adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. Shame. A fairly undistinguished month otherwise, with a mechanical third Men in Black film doing decent business and some minor genre movies (Red Lights, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter) also showing up.
July: Superhero domination, with Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Knight Rises both just about meeting critical expectations and doing massive business too. Christopher Nolan's film was obviously the superior superhero flick, and the big question now is of exactly what he's going to do next. Is the big chair for the next Bond movie still open? Or would this just not be a big enough challenge for the great man?
August: The joys of counter-programming meant a selection of superior documentaries got a wider release than might otherwise be the case – the pick of a very strong crop, this year, was Searching for Sugar Man, an extraordinary story told with great (but excusable) deviousness. Some more summer movies also plopped out, but none of them were really memorable for the right reasons – yes, The Bourne Legacy and Expendables 2, this means you.
September: turning up late for blockbuster season were a vacuous remake of Total Recall and a full-on new adaptation of Judge Dredd – the latter much, much better than the former. Another strong documentary came along in the shape of The Imposter, and also a properly funny Woody Allen film appeared for the first time in ages.
October: a quiet month in mainstream terms, but at least there were the genre-tastic delights of Looper to savour. I found myself most often down the arthouse, there to enjoy the likes of Berberian Sound Studio. October, of course, concluded with a bang and the (fairly) triumphant return of the Bond franchise in Skyfall, to the relief of practically everyone in the world (or so it seemed).
November: Calmer again, with most attention going to subtler fare like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Rust and Bone, and Silver Linings Playbook, all of which I saw and more-or-less enjoyed. I also had the dubious pleasure of being taken to see Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which was one of the most memorable experiences of the year, but not in any way a positive one.
December: In early December one got a distinct sense of decks being cleared and hatches battened down, with Seven Psychopaths finally getting a UK release, for example. This was of course due to the release of the latest Tolkien-inspired juggernaut, which I wasn't much impressed with on first sight – however, a second viewing turned out to be a much more pleasant experience. End of the year releases included Jack Reacher and Life of Pi, neither of which I have managed to catch yet. Watch this space.
So what does 2013 promise? Well, after a year with the Avengers, Batman, and Spider-Man all getting big new movies, together with a new Bond and a new (sort of) Alien film, you would be forgiven for expecting a year with fewer massive releases. But in another twelve months the second Hobbit will be in cinemas, while before then we can look forward to Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, and The Wolverine – and those are just the major comic book movies.
Which films am I personally looking forward to this year? Well, the following promise to at least be interesting: the 300 sequel, After Earth, Ender's Game, The Great Gatsby, Kick-Ass 2, The Lone Ranger, Oblivion, Postman Pat - The Movie (only kidding – but the film is real), Star Trek Into Darkness, The Tomb, World War Z and The World's End.
Ahead of all those come Les Miserables, which I am planning to see with a musical-hating friend just to monitor his responses, and – of course – Parker, which promises the sight of Jason Statham in a Stetson giving us his attempt at a Texan accent.
If that's not a good omen for the year to come, I don't know what is. See you there.