Cinema Of The World: Best Of 2012 Part III
Silver Linings Playbook
After the Oscar winner ‘The Fighter’, David O Russell returns with a romantic comedy about a mentally-unstable young man and a young widow, and turns into a comedy of manners and a musical, both at the same time, with Robert De Nero as the obsessive patriarch, his best role in years, and how he relishes it. The film establishes ‘The Hangover’ star Bradley Copper as a serious actor and give us a facet of the ubiquitous Jennifer Lawrence we haven’t seen before; yes she can also play vulnerable and emotional, unlike her other famous on-screen personas. Also features Anupam Kher as a psychiatrist.
The Deep Blue Sea
British legend Terrence Davis, after ‘The House of Mirth’, tells a doomed love story set in the past; War-time London never looked so ravishing and so real. As usual, Rachel Weisz is first-rate as the Anna Karenina figure; an extra-marital affair never ends well, but the film has a rare understanding.
Oslo, August 31st
Norwegian auteur Lars von Trier’s son Joachim not only lives up to his father’s legacy but attempts to overshadow the senior Trier in this dispassionate, yet heartbreaking study of drug addiction, as the film follows a young man, out of the rehab for a day in the place mentioned in the title; a cycle ride never looked so exhilarating!
One word: Quentin Tarantino. And he does it again: Rewrite history, this time slavery in America. He turns to a Spaghetti Western and makes a delicious shoot ‘em up, with dollops of irony and Tarantino’s original dramatic flourish, with Leonardo Di Caprio as the film’s antagonist. You don’t take the history seriously, but the ride with fantastic as long as you know what to expect: As Jamie Foxx’s title character explains: “It’s Django, the ‘d’ is silent.”
The new David Cronenberg, and he collaborates with teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson, to adopt the Don DeLillo novel on the economic turmoil, as the Pattinson’s rich man character commutes in a stretch limousine to get a haircut, as the city around him begins to crumple in anarchy. It’s almost a doomsday films as characters appear and disappear along the way while Paul Giamatti’s hit man waits for him at the destination. A little talky perhaps, but a shearing and honest portrayal of the time of the Occupy movement, el. al.
A first rate time-travel, but not a sci-fi thriller, on the lines of Twelve Monkey’; this one too stars Bruce Willis who appears to overshadow a first-rate Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who channels Willis mannerisms so subtly and wears a Willis makeup so convincingly, until a 10-year-old boy appears in the second half and steals the film from everyone, even from the screenwriter-director Rian Johnson, who is forced to turn his thriller of the protagonist’s younger self trying to kill his older self, into a mediation on child rearing, and into a manifesto of hope. And Cid, the child, who may or may not turn out to be the vicious Rainmaker, lifts the film to the level of a masterpiece.
The Loneliest Planet
Gael Garcia Bernal; with this and the Chilean film ‘No’, the well known Mexican actor does some of his best works this year. The film tells the story of a couple in a backpacking trip to the Eastern European country of Georgia and how a stray incident mars the trust between this very-much-in-love couple. Haunting.
Life of Pi
Perhaps the best 3D film since the technology was invented; this is saying a lot since the director, the great Ang Lee, had so little to work with, an ‘un-filmable’ novel about an Indian boy and a Bengal tiger in the middle of the sea. Lee turns into a spectacle with such depth; the best Indian film of the year, made in Hollywood, of course.
The year when rom-com veteran Mathew McConaughey (‘anyone remembers ‘Failure to Launch’?) turns into an actor of such varied range. He is the Killer Joe in a film where each of the character is worse than the next one, a study of American depravity, where a son hire a killer to kill his mother for the insurance money.
The other Mathew McConaughey picture, who, as Dallas, a promoter of a male stripping club, and a stripper himself, steals the film so effectively from its protagonist, Channing Tatum, which was supposed to be based on his life as a stripper before he became a movie star. Above all, it’s a Steven Soderbergh film about various other things, like economic downturn, work place and masculinity, among other. All these do not mean that it cannot be funny either.
The Cabin in The Woods
‘The Avenges’ director Joss Whedon writes this horror film which takes one of Hollywood’s oldest horror clichés, the cabin in the wood, visited by a bunch of horny teen-agers before they are killed, one by one, by a depraved killer, Jason, for example, and turns it in its head, makes it high-tech and gives it a psychological depth missing in the clichés it was inspired from.
Take This Waltz
Canadian actor turned director Sarah Polley’s second feature after the majestic ‘Away with Her’ with Julie Christie, another story of Anna Karenina-like extra-marital affair where Michelle Williams’ young wife must choose between the cookbook writing husband and the hunky lover, not dazzling like Wright’s ‘Anna Karenina’ or Devis’ ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, but sympathetic to the idea of female desire.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, and Oscar winner Sam Mandes gives us the highest-grossing Bond film in the history, and perhaps also the best looking, while it also dismisses many of the traditional Bond troupes, like Martini, shaken not stirred; here he drinks beer, bumps off Dench’s M, and introduces a younger M, and most importantly gives Bond a back-story, and a mansion in Scotland. The future bodes well.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Perhaps the first gay young adult rom-com, not the description isn’t accurate; it’s a film about growing up being an outsider and finding friends and finding art, and love. Emma Watson leaves the magic world of Harry Potter and comes to her own.
Nominated for best foreign language film Oscar last year, this Israeli film about a father and a son, both Talmud experts vying for a prestigious award, which becomes a source of tension in the family, is much more fun than it sounds; the film takes its scholarship seriously, so does the art of telling a story.
Keep the Lights On
The ‘gay’ picture of the year, Ira Sachs' semi-autobiographical, ‘the portrait of the gay man as a sad loser’, is devastating and demands patience from the audience; above all it’s a love story irrespective of the gender which was doomed by drug abuse and misplaced misunderstanding; a honest and sad saga of a young filmmaker's lose of great love; it happens to everyone, the long it takes the more you suffer.
Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos' another absurdist take on the possibilities of the human kind, after 'Dogtooth', tells the story of an esoteric group of healers who calls themselves Alps, and who visit the relatives of the dead and offer to play the dead person for them. If this sounds sadistic, the film opens up other ways of inflicting violence.
4:44 Last Day on Earth
In the year when the world was supposed to end, according to the Mayan calendar, here’s another end-of-world film (and this one doesn’t go looking for a friend, with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley); in the Abel Ferrara (‘The Bad Lieutenant’ among other films) version of things a man and a woman meets and does something interesting before it all ends.
A male documentary filmmaker trains his eyes on the sex workers of three distinctly different places, with its distinct culture and religion and assess their lives; it’s after all a business, the oldest business — "In Thailand, women wait for clients behind glass panes, staring at reflections of themselves. In Bangladesh, men go to a ghetto of love to satisfy their unfulfilled desires on indentured girls. And in Mexico, women pray to a female death to avoid facing their own reality."
After Irish actor Liam Nesson became a bona-fide actor hero after the surprising success of ‘Taken’ a few years ago, he did a number of such roles, in films like ‘A-List’ and ‘Unknown’, and this year, a sequel to ‘Taken’. But, nowhere his action hero persona found the actor within (he was Rob Roy, Oscar Schindler, remember) than here, a man vs wolf thriller set among the snowbound mountains, where the Nesson character becomes the de-fecto leader of a group of survivors who must also fight a pack of hungry wolves. It’s not the standard Hollywood survival drama, yet life-affirming.
The other Steven Steven Soderbergh picture after ‘Magic Mike’. This one fails to achieve the greatness of the striptease comedy, and it was never meant to be. It’s a martial arts/ action hotchpotch starring Gina Carano, a mixed martial artist and a host of Hollywood leading men pitched against her. Ass-kicking, as Soderbergh studies woman empowerment in his own whimsical way, as he did in ‘The Girlfriend Experience’.
Farewell, My Queen
How many films can you make on the life of French queen of that famous cake quote, Marie Antoinette; apparently several. This one is not anything life the Sofia Coppola biopic. This tells the story of an educated young girl who reads to the queen and becomes her lover before as the French Revolution breaks out.
TO BE CONTINUED...