2012: A REVOLUTIONARY YEAR IN FILM?

The Reel Deal

2012: A REVOLUTIONARY YEAR IN FILM?

An Argument as to Why 2012 Might Just Be One of the Best Years in Film

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

November 2011

Every year in film is not created equal. Some years, by chance or by fate or by design, happen to contain within them a certain magic. These are revolutionary years in cinema, when not only are there lots of great movies released, but often cinema itself emerges as an artform transformed. 1939 was perhaps the first of these cinematic anni mirabiles; a year where Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, and many other films now considered classics, were released. That year is often considered the apogee of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is sometimes granted the distinction of being called “the greatest year in Hollywood history.”

Another great year was 1967. That was the year of The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The Jungle Book, Ulysses, Cool Hand Luke, In the Heat of the Night, Mouchette, and Dont Look Back, just to name a few. It was this year that marked the emergence of what became known as New Hollywood (a young, more avant garde Hollywood that emerged from the carrion of what was left of the so-called Studio System, and which was influenced and inspired by much of what was going on in European cinema, especially the French New Wave).

My favorite year in film is undoubtedly 1999, another undeniably great year. In that year, two of my top ten favorite films were released: Magnolia and Being John Malkovich. In addition to these two, there were countless other phenomenal films: Fight Club, American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut, The Virgin Suicides, All About My Mother, Toy Story 2, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Run Lola Run, Man on the Moon, The Matrix, Titus, Three Kings, Election, The Limey, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, etc. There were, in fact, so many revolutionary films in 1999 that Entertainment Weekly christened it “The Year That Changed Movies.”

I have good news for all you cinephiles out there: 2012 may be another of these revolutionary years in movies. 2012 may be the next 1999, the next year that changes movies. We haven’t had this many promising films coming out since that time over a decade ago. So in order to get other people to be as excited as I am about the cinema of 2012, I decided to make a “Top 25 Movies of 2012 I’m Most Excited For” list.

Let’s start at 25 and work our way down to the movie I’m most excited for at the number 1 spot…

25. Dark Shadows – Dir. Tim Burton
Why am I excited for a new Tim Burton movie? I’ve asked myself this over and over again because year after year he disappoints. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. He used to be one of my favorite directors. What happened to the Tim Burton that created Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice and Batman? I hope he’s back in the directing chair when this Burton-Depp collaboration begins filming, because we don’t need another film from the guy who brought us last year’s Alice in Wonderland (which was an abomination, a terrible adaptation of one of the greatest books ever written). The material he’s working with here is worrisome. Do we really need to make a movie out of a campy supernatural soap opera? Isn’t that what Twilight already is? I mean, it definitely plays into the Burton aesthetic, but what can he possibly do with it to make it anything other than ridiculous camp? I mean, Mars Attacks! was fun and all, but it’s problem was it was pure camp and nothing else–no depth. Sometimes Burton gets a little too caught up in the campiness, and obsessed with the look of a film, and forgets about things like…well, story…or whether the audience will even care about the characters. But I’m ever-hopeful for a return-to-form from Burton, so I’ll go in with an open mind.

24. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Dir. Peter Jackson
The Lord of the Rings is back–with two more films (one in 2012 and one in 2013). Who knows if the magic will be there or not, but either way, this is undeniably one of the most anticipated films of 2012, and for good reason. With Peter Jackson back at the helm, and most of the actors signed back on, it will be interesting to see the completion of the world Jackson brought to life and have it done by Jackson himself.

23. The Bourne Legacy – Dir. Tony Gilroy
A Bourne movie without Jason Bourne (or Matt Damon) leaves me dubious, but the fact that the Bourne movies have only gotten better as time goes on (Identity < Supremacy < Ultimatum), leaves me hoping that there could still be something left in the franchise. And the hope isn’t completely unfounded, after all Tony Gilroy, who wrote all three Bourne films, is now helming the fourth (as both writer and director). And it’s not like he hasn’t proven himself as a director (his film Michael Clayton was quite good). So while I don’t think it has a chance of topping The Bourne Ultimatum, and continuing the trend of this franchise just getting better and better, The Bourne Legacy may just be next Summer’s enjoyable action flick. And there’s nothing wrong with that…

22. Life Of Pi – Ang Lee
The fact that Ang Lee is directing this film in 3D worries me, or else it would be higher up on the list. Why is 3D needed here? It’s a story, based on Yann Martel’s award-winning novel, about an Indian boy who survives a shipwreck, and is stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger. It should be an interesting film, for even Lee’s failures manage to be at least intriguing in their faults. Fingers crossed that it is better than Taking Woodstock though. Either way, I can promise you I won’t be wasting the cash and seeing this in 3D, I’ll be purchasing a normal overpriced ticket and not the super overpriced 3D ticket. (Sidenote: You know what’d be another revolutionary thing 2012 could add to its repertoire? If it managed to be the year that finally put the kibosh on this stupid 3D trend.)

21. The Dictator – Dir. Larry Charles
Supposedly based on both Charlie Chaplin’s cinematic masterpiece The Great Dictator and Saddam Hussein’s literary not-so-masterpiece Zabibah and the King, this new Sacha Baron Cohen star-vehicle seems like it won’t just be another rehash of Borat in the guise of a different character (as his last film Bruno had been). The by-line of this film is supposedly: “the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.” How can you not love that?

20. Lincoln – Dir. Stephen Spielberg
I am not the biggest Spielberg fan except when he makes popcorn films. Whereas others praise Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, I think they’re both a bit too melodramatic for my tastes. Each needed a lighter tough. But Spielberg’s touch is not light, for, in my estimation, he has no sense of subtlety. This makes it difficult to direct serious dramas. Yet he is perfectly capable of, and indeed wonderful at, directing rip-roaring fun-time Summer blockbuster-style films because a movie like Jurassic Park or Jaws doesn’t need subtlety, it just needs awesomeness. My worry is that Lincoln obviously will require more subtlety than awesomeness, and more subtlety than Spielberg has proven capable of, but let’s hope Spielberg can pull it off because he’ll be directing one of the world’s most talented actors (Daniel Day-Lewis) in the part of one of the world’s most famous historical figures (Abraham Lincoln).

19. StokerDir. Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook, one of Asia’s cinema greats, will be directing this film–his first in the English language. It will star Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, from a screenplay by Wentworth Miller. Miller said that “the jumping off point is actually Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. So, that’s where we begin, and then we take it in a very, very different direction.” Shadow of a Doubt sounds like a good jumping off point to me, and thus my interests are sufficiently piqued.

18. Prometheus – Dir. Ridley Scott
The rumor mill has been abuzz for a couple years now about Ridley Scott’s proposed prequel to Alien. That’s what Prometheus originally was supposed to be. As the film’s production progressed, it has apparently morphed a bit, and now Scott is backing away from calling this a prequel. This set fans off in online forums, obviously, with some for and some against the move away from the world of Alien. Michael Fassbender though, who will star in the film with Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace and Idris Elba, said towards the end of 2010, “Prometheus is absolutely connected to Alien…There’s a definite connecting vein.” So the tempers have cooled, and all is well in fanboydom, while many eagerly await perhaps not the prequel to Alien, but at least one which takes place in the same world as that sci-fi masterpiece.

17. The Avengers – Dir. Joss Whedon
While I admit that this could be somewhat of a disappointment when it finally comes out (if it follows in the footsteps of Iron Man 2 and Thor), it could also be a triumph (like the original Iron Man and, more recently, Captain America). I’m actually hoping, perhaps misguidedly, that it may even be better than all the individual hero movies in the recent Marvel Universe. I really like that Marvel has been working up to this film for the past number of years. All the films that Marvel Studios has put out, starting with 2008′s Iron Man, have been directed towards this culmination. Those of us who are comic book nerds, have been waiting for the Avengers to assemble, and now they’re about to. Will it be good? Who knows? But it will have an all-star cast: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. The tough part will be merging all these individual heroes’ worlds–some which are more based on science, others which are more based on magic, and some which are slightly more serious, others which are relatively campy.

16. Bond 23 – Dir. Sam Mendes
This Bond film has had some trouble getting off the ground. There was even some press a while back wondering if the Bond franchise as a whole was done for. (Though who really believed that was an option? Hollywood give up on a moneymaking franchise? Never!) While I’m still on the fence about the Daniel Craig Bond reboot, I am not on the fence whatsoever about Sam Mendes helming the picture. There has recently been internet buzz that the title might be Skyfall, because MGM registered that name as an internet domain, and I can’t say I’m too in love with the name (if that’s actually it), but that which we call a rose by any other name, right? With Sam Mendes at the helm, here’s hoping t’would smell as sweet

15. Cosmopolis – Dir. David Cronenberg
I haven’t read the Don DeLillo novel on which this is based. The book revolves around a day in the life of one man, Eric Packer, a 28-year-old billionaire, who is making a trek across Manhattan in a stretch limo to get a haircut. Admittedly, it did not get the best book reviews, but I trust Cronenberg, and am interested to see what he’ll do, for he is as good at converting difficult-to-film literature into praiseworthy cinema as anyone out there. (For proof of this: just see what he did with William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which had oft been considered unfilmable before he made it into a movie masterpiece).

14. Looper – Dir. Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson has directed two great features thus far (the highly-praised high school noir Brick and the woefully underrated but no less brilliant Brothers Bloom), so there’s no reason to doubt that his third film will be any different. Looper is a time-travel-oriented sci-fi film about a killer who works for a mob in the future, and kills people who are sent from the future, but when he recognizes his future self as one of his intended victims, complications arise. It’s an interesting concept, and it has an interesting cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Paul Dano. Time travel films can be difficult to keep together logically–just see the abysmal Deja Vu if you want to witness one which starts out intelligently but degenerates into idiocy–but I think Johnson has the skill to pull it off.

13. Nero Fiddled – Dir. Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris this year was a return-to-form for the master filmmaker. It may or may not have lived up to some of his better known classics–that’s still up for debate–but it not only showed there’s still a heart pumping blood into Allen’s veins, it also showed that he is still commercially viable (did you know that Midnight in Paris became his highest grossing film?). Nero Fiddled will hopefully keep the filmmaker moving forward. Originally titled The Bop Decameron, the film’s name was recently changed because, Allen was sad to discover, most people don’t know what The Decameron is. I say: Well then fuck most people! But, then, obviously, he may not be as commercially viable. That said, I still think he should have kept the original title, as Nero Fiddled just doesn’t have the same punch. Nonetheless, whatever the title may be, I’m thoroughly excited for this film, which consists of four vignettes starring actors such as Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig, and Woody Allen himself in his first acting role in 5 years.

12. Django Unchained – Dir. Quentin Tarantino
This would be higher up on the list if it weren’t for Jamie Foxx, who I have gone on the record as not a fan of. That said, Tarantino has made a career out of taking unlikeable, untalented, forgotten or otherwise out-of-work actors and forcing them to shine. Maybe this will finally give me something besides Ray to like Jamie Foxx in? The odds are looking good since Tarantino’s misses still usually manage to be homeruns. Love him or hate him, he’s undeniably one of the great cinematic auteurs of his generation of filmmakers, and if there’s one thing you can say about him: he’s never boring. So expect a wildly entertaining and revolutionary revisionist Western about a freed slave (Foxx) who treks across the country, German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) in tow, to save his wife (Kerry Washington) from an evil Plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

11. Midnight’s ChildrenDir. Deepa Mehta
Finally award-winning and world-renowned novelist Salman Rushdie, the revolutionary writer I was lucky enough to interview elsewhere in this magazine this month, will have one of his novels adapted to the silver screen. I’ve been wondering why it’s taken so longer for one his stories to make its way to the cineplex seeing as he’s universally regarded as one of the greatest living writers. I always assumed it was because the movie studios were afraid of the fatwa on him, but he explained in the interview that it really had to do with his books being perceived as difficult, and also because there aren’t any parts “for the likes of Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts.” Whatever the reason for the wait, I’m glad to say the wait is over, and with Rushdie, a self-proclaimed cinephile, writing the script himself, I think it’s safe to say that the material is in good hands.

10. Untitled Star Trek Sequel – Dir. J. J. Abrams
2009′s Star Trek was a surprise hit with both audiences and critics. Whether you liked the TV show or not, or even if you had no familiarity with it at all, you still could easily find a way to enjoy what J. J. Abrams did in recreating Gene Roddenberry’s world (and viewing it through the looking glass). I’m happy to say that I am eagerly awaiting the sequel which is set to hit theaters next Summer. Of course, they could mess it all up (as sequels sometimes do), but here’s hoping they Wrath of Khan it. (And by that I mean here’s hoping that they make a great sequel, and also here’s hoping that they utilize the character Khan. I’ll be fine if they don’t use Khan, so long as it’s great, but fingers-crossed that they use him, as he is what made the original franchise’s second film so great.)

9. The Burial – Dir. Terrence Malick
What is going on with Terrence Malick? It took him 32 years to make his first four movies (1973′s Badlands, 1978′s Days of Heaven, 1998′s The Thin Red Line and 2005′s The New World), and then he came out with his fifth this year (The Tree of Life), which will be followed by his sixth next year (The Burial), and a seventh film in 2013. So 32 years to make four movies, and then only three years to make his next three. He must feel the weight of getting old–he’s 67–or else maybe he just suddenly has a lot to say? Either way, no cinephile is complaining, because Malick is often considered one of the cinema’s most philosophical poets. So keep ‘em coming Malick…

8. The Amazing Spider-Man – Dir. Marc Webb
Did we really need to reboot the Spider-Man franchise so soon after it just ended? Probably not. But Spider-Man is one of the most interesting and complex superheroes ever created, and I must admit to being happy about the possibility of a fresh take on the character. I like where Raimi started, but the third of his Spider-Man films was, let’s face it, pretty unwatchable. I’m not sure if The Lizard (who will be Spidey’s nemesis in this film) is the most interesting villain to start out with, but he was one of Spider-Man’s first adversaries (making his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #6), and at least it is a villain that went unused in the previous trilogy, which will add to the freshness of this new take. But can I request Mysterio for the bad guy in the inevitable sequel? I really don’t need them to keep going back to the tired Green Goblin plot.

7. Moonrise Kingdom – Dir. Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson is another of the great auteurs of his generation. Some people love him, and some hate him–who knows why?–but it is undeniable that he has a unique style and vision, which I’m sure he’ll bring to his new film Moonrise Kingdom, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and a boatload of others. The film, set in the 60s, centers on a pair of young lovers who flee their New England town. Who knows where Anderson will take it, but you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there on opening night to find out.

6. The Great Gatsby – Dir. Baz Luhrmann
Baz Luhrmann reunites with Leonardo Dicaprio, who starred in Luhrmann’s brilliant William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and takes on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. The Great Gatsby is such an iconic book–one of the obvious contenders for that elusive title of “The Great American Novel”–so Luhrmann has his work cut for him. He managed to make Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet not only his but also Shakespeare’s–and struck a nice balance between the demands of a fresh new take in a visual medium and a fidelity to the source material. Who knows if he’ll be able to manage the same for Fitzgerald? Let’s just hope his Great Gatsby is more Moulin Rouge! and less Australia. I guess we’ll see–because it certainly won’t just be the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg watching.

5. Cogan’s Trade – Dir. Andrew Dominik
Though Andrew Dominik has only made two films, he has gained quite a gang of devoted followers (I count myself among them). He has often been called “the next Terrence Malick” (partly because of his films’ Malickian flourishes and partly because of his taking his sweet time between films). His second film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is, in my humble opinion, one of the best films of the last decade. I have been eagerly awaiting his follow-up which is finally upon us: Cogan’s Trade, which stars Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, and is about a professional enforcer, Jackie Cogan (Pitt), who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

4. The End – Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
Though it is still uncertain whether this film will hit American theaters in 2012 or not until 2013, I decided to include it here simply because my excitement level is unreasonably high. I’m hoping that America doesn’t wait so long to release it (as they sometimes tend to do with artsy foreign films). There’s a reason why revolutionary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has said that “film begins with D. W. Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami,” or that Martin Scorsese has said that Kiarostami “represents the highest level of artistry in the cinema,” and that reason is Abbas Kiarostami is a true cinematic revolutionary. His film Certified Copy, which was released in America in February, is without question my favorite film thus far this year (and there’s only two months left for another film to oust it from its position). The End, which he will be filming in Japan, is set to be “something of a continuation of Certified Copy,” which pleases me to no end.

3. Gravity – Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Earlier this year, director Guillermo Del Toro visited the set of Cuarón’s Gravity, and came back calling it “completely mind-blowing.” He went on to say: “What is incredible about what they did is, they talked to David Fincher, they talked to Jim Cameron, I connected Jim and Alfonso for that. And what Alfonso is trying is so insane. And Jim said, ‘Well, look, you’re about five years into the future, it’s too early to try anything that crazy.’ And they did it!” What’s so crazy that Cuarón and his team have done? The film has been kept mostly under wraps, but we do know that the plot revolves around some astronauts who, after satellite debris destroys their space station, are forced to fight for survival and find a way home. I guess we’ll find out what is so mind-blowing about it when it comes out, or perhaps in the marketing campaign leading up to the release. But going off Del Toro’s hype, it is safe to say that this is definitely one of the films that seems most probable to blow our collective minds and revolutionize cinema.

2. The Dark Knight Rises – Dir. Christopher Nolan
The Dark Knight Rises is probably one of the most anticipated films of all-time. After the success of The Dark Knight, which is to me not only the best comic book / superhero film, but also generally just one of the greatest films of the last decade, there are few people in the world not wondering how the hell Christopher Nolan plans on topping (or even equaling) that movie’s brilliance. It won’t be easy. And I’m admittedly a little worried about the two villains: Catwoman and Bane (neither of which are as interesting as half of the other villains in Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery, i.e. The Riddler, The Mad Hatter, The Ventriloquist, Poison Ivy, etc.). And with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman? These kind of choices worry me. But, let us not forget, how many people thought that Heath Ledger could never top Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and that he was a terrible choice for the character. Oh, how wrong they were! Heath Ledger’s Joker is now one of the greatest portrayals of a villain ever to be on the silver screen. So though I’m hesitant, I’ll give Christopher Nolan the benefit of the doubt. Also, with Bane as the villain, I have an inkling as to how the film might end (if you’re interested in spoilers, check out Knightfall on wikipedia and you’ll see where I’m assuming the film might go). Regardless of what happens, and even if it is nowhere near as good as The Dark Knight, I can’t imagine this film turning out to be a dud (as Nolan has yet to make one of those).

1. The Master – Dir. P. T. Anderson
P. T. Anderson is my favorite director so obviously his new movie is my most anticipated film of 2012. But here’s why it should be near the top of your list too: He’s made five films to date, all of which are phenomenal. In other words, he’s one of the few directors with a perfect batting average. There Will Be Blood, his most recent film, showed him going in a completely new direction–straying from the more dialogue-heavy, ensemble cast fare that he made his name on (Magnolia and Boogie Nights), and moving into a sort of meditative poetry. His new film The Master will, like There Will Be Blood, be a character study: this time the character is loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard who came back from World War II and decided to create a religion (“Scientology” in real life, “The Cause” in the world of the film). Because it takes on Scientology, which is a no-no in most of Hollywood, it had trouble getting financed, but was earlier this year finally green lit and will be in a theater near you towards the end of next year. With an all-star cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern, I absolutely cannot wait to see what the master P. T. Anderson does with The Master.

Is that not enough for you? Well, don’t think these 25 are the only films set to turn 2012 into an all-star year in cinema. These are just the 25 I’m personally most excited about.

Here are some others which may excite you if my Top 25 didn’t work: Tom Hooper is following up The King’s Speech with an adaptation of the musical Les Misérables. Jim Jarmusch has an untitled vampire film coming out. Steven Soderbergh has three films that are supposed to be released in 2012: Haywire, Magic Mike and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Wong Kar Wai is making his first martial arts film, about Yip Man, the martial artist who taught Bruce Lee. Kathryn Bigelow is hard at work with screenwriter Mark Boal (who wrote her film The Hurt Locker) on a movie about the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Miloš Forman has an upcoming 2012 film titled The Ghost of Munich. Pedro Almodóvar will release Mina, a film about the Italian/Spanish singer whose name makes up the film’s title. Oliver Stone’s adaptation of Don Winslow’s Savages is set to be released as well. Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke will be releasing a film called Love. Martin McDonagh has an upcoming film about a screenwriter who gets caught up in his pal’s dog-kidnapping plot that is titled Seven Psychopaths. Noah Baumbach will be reuniting with the stars of his two previous films, Ben Stiller and Jesse Eisenberg, for his new film While We’re Young. The bestselling books The Hunger Games and World War Z are also being turned into a film. Another adaptation: the acclaimed Cloud Atlas will make its way to the screen thanks to both Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis. And in addition to the Spielberg Lincoln film I listed above, there will be an adaptation of the book Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. There is a remake of Total Recall in the works, and one of Frankenweenie (Tim Burton is actually remaking his own movie, as a full-length stop-motion animation extravaganza). The Farrelly Brothers are finally making that Three Stooges movie that’s been in the works years. Bryan Singer will be releasing a live-action version of the fairytale Jack the Giant Killer. And speaking of fairytales, there are two unrelated Snow White movies in production. And a new fairytale is being hatched, Pixar’s Brave will be released in 2012 and is being touted as Pixar’s first fairytale. Pixar director Brad Bird, who will make his live-action debut next month with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, will be filming another live-action film set during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, aptly titled 1906. His fellow Pixar alumnus Andrew Stanton will also be venturing into live-action film with an adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories about John Carter. And let us not forget Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane who will also be coming out with his live-action comedy debut Ted. Oh, and there’s also: Men In Black III–yeah, that’s right, for better or worse, there’s going to be a Men In Black III. So, as you can imagine, it’s gonna be a weird, wild 2012. But it’s good to know that if the Aztecs were right and the world ends in December of 2012, hey, at least we’ll go out with some great films

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