New-to-Me Films of 2012
585 8.1 8.2366. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
1400 7.8 8365. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
1214 7.2 7.6364. The Omen (1976)
3578 7.4 8363. The Exorcist (1973)
156 6.6 6.4362. Night of the Comet (1984)
111 6.8 6.8361. House of Tolerance (2011)
34 8.5 7360. Who's Camus Anyway? (2005)
416 7.7 7.7359. Detachment (2011)
144 7.8 7.8358. Indie Game: The Movie (2012)
345 6.6 6.9357. The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
77 7 7.2356. Penny Serenade (1941)
206 7.1 7.6355. White Christmas (1954)
113 6.8 7.6354. Viy or Spirit of Evil (1967)
693 6.3 6.3353. The Good Son (1993)
395 5.7 6.2352. Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
156 6 5.8351. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
3752 7.2 7.7350. Love Actually (2003)
348 8.3 8.2349. Ugetsu (1953)
Ugetsu tells the story of two couples living in Japan during a time of civil war, and the nightmares that occur from blindly aiming toward their individual dreams and aspirations. Much influence seems to stem from traditional Japanese folklore and ghost stories, adding an additional aura of eeriness to the tale (also aided by its innovative use of fog and shadows). On the surface, it does seem almost like a polar opposite to Kurosawa's films of this era, though they all are both emotionally and spiritually captivating in their own ways.
3823 7.7 8.1348. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam succeeds at a solid sci-fi mystery thriller. Its convoluted time structure is perplexing, but never bothersome, and lends a hand to the aura of impending doom that hovers over the characters. Though the film's concept is generously borrowed from the French film La jetée, the similarities don't often seem copied, as the director adds his unique surrealist touch and takes the narrative in a different direction. It isn't a magnificent film, but well worth a watch.
1804 7.7 8.1347. Dogville (2003)
I can definitely see how others would find merit in a film like Dogville; unfortunately, I cannot relate. I enjoyed it up to a certain point, where somewhere after the halfway mark, all firm ties of character and plot development are dropped to create a story of pure loathing and bleak contempt. Moreover, the purpose behind its peculiar stage-like settings were never even subtly explained; it seemed that the director wanted to insert his own trademark, however useless it is. I felt no life behind this attempt at critique of humanity, only coldness, and that isn't something I can willingly embrace.
28 8.4 8.3346. It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
All three segments of Don Hertfeldt's "Bill trilogy" are edited together to create It's Such a Beautiful Day. It is pieced together with various fragments and memories of its protagonist's fleeting life, some of which are quite trivial. The simplicity of the animation, erratic tendencies of its editing, and pervading voice-over narration create a tale of an existential crisis, one that is surprisingly universal and often hard-hitting. These traits, combined with the animator's absurd sense of humor, make this an undoubtedly ambitious, truly beautiful compilation.
397 8.1 8.1345. Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
Through a Glass Darkly examines the angst and disillusionment that are present in a collection of individuals, who are striving to get a grasp on the lingering mystery of spirituality. The atmosphere, through all its simplicity, is laden with despair, disturbance, and utter bleakness. All four actors effectively convey the spiritual and emotional isolation that so permeates in each of their lives. Bergman is a master at taking such harrowing philosophical notions and sculpting it into a beautiful, glimmering work of art, and this film exemplifies that skill perfectly.
143 7.8 7.9344. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Throughout this documentary, occasional parallels are made between music and sushi-making. Indeed, the tone and pace of Jiro Dreams of Sushi works in a way that somehow mimics a detailed symphony. The moments that may seem the most simple - such as the preparation of the fish - are filmed in such a meticulous manner, treating the concepts like a true art form. Jiro himself is the pivot around which the events occur, and represents a true model of perseverance and constant motivation to make the most out of ones opportunities. A very compelling documentary.
1317 6.9 7.2343. The Descent (2005)
The first half of the Descent is truly gripping. Almost like a Heart of Darkness of horror movies, it combines extreme claustrophobia and a fear of the unknown to create a genuinely scary atmosphere. Though the second half is still rather frightening, it does become quite self-indulgent at many points; this isn't further helped by the quick editing, which seemed more contrived than anything else. Overall, a rather fulfilling, terrifying flick.
808 7.6 7.8342. Happiness (1998)
Happiness comes across as a rather twisted version of Magnolia. Using a multi-faceted storyline, viewers are introduced to an array of characters who really aren't happy with their lives at all. I'm surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this film, considering very few characters are genuinely likable. Some parts are rather uninteresting, but for the most part, its dark humor and in-your-face cynicism seem to work. An uncomfortable comedy that is worth the watch.
172 7.4 7.4341. The Story of Adele H. (1975)
A tragic film about a beautiful, talented, love-stricken young woman, and her slow descent into madness. Drawing out its slow pace carefully, Truffaut's directorial abilities are effectively manipulated to make this an excellent period piece of unrequited love. Lovely and fantastical, at all the right moments. The impact of the film as a whole, however, is undoubtedly made by Isabelle Adjani, who portrays the titular character with heartbreaking realism and just a tinge of melodrama.
249 5.4 5.5340. The Innkeepers (2011)
I love when horror films can convey its terror through a progressive build-up of a tense atmosphere. However, it can become a problem when this tensity turns into tedium; The Innkeepers, unfortunately, suffers from this problem. Its overall composition is great, but it severely lacks in focus and purpose. When the scares do come along, they are unoriginal and - dare I say - predictable. It isn't a terrible horror movie, but there are definitely much better ones out there.
46 7.8 7.7339. The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Anthony Asquith's telling of the Oscar Wilde play is just exactly that. With minimal camera movements and settings, it has the look and feel of a recorded theater play. Fortunately, the cast is great, as each performer offers their unique manner of charm and wit. The overall mood did seem to be a bit off at times, but the story's most humorous moments are portrayed excellently. All of this is further propelled by the absolutely beautiful, colorful costumes and set pieces.
104 6.5 6.7338. Matinee (1993)
Part coming-of-age comedy, part political satire, part homage of the sci-fi genre. It's apparent that Joe Dante really had fun with Matinee; its brilliant combination of Cold War fear and monster movies never wanes in effectivity. While it isn't exceptional by any means, it makes good use of its creative premise and charming script, really painting an ideal portrait of its era. Major respects goes to John Goodman, whose great performance makes me wish he really were a B-movie director. Mant!
27 8.6 8.5337. The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (1975)
Irony of Fate is one corny film. The characters are never very properly developed. Moments of silly farce often clash clumsily with instances of sentimentality. Many ties are introduced, and then annoyingly left hanging. It’s not a movie that I personally could have seen myself enjoying... yet I absolutely adored it. The atmosphere of this Soviet classic is deceptively charming, and while it does have its setbacks, the combination of these qualities make this film the compelling jewel it is. Moreover, it has some of the best random musical interludes I’ve ever seen anywhere. All in all, it really succeeds at what it’s trying to do, and ultimately, that is the definition of cinematic perfection.
If you are looking for an innovative, life-changing, philosophical spectacle, turn away now. However, if a good-natured, “gives you the warm fuzzies” type of romantic comedy sounds like fun, Irony of Fate is just the remedy.
252 6.8 6.8336. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Absolutely corny, yet undeniably fun. Night of the Creeps is pretty much every horror convention - from zombies to aliens to rabid dogs, cats, and leeches - packed into one film. Throw in an abundance of overacting, cheesy dialogue, 80's cultural atmosphere, and some sweet (yet subtle) gore effects, and you've got one hilarious horror spoof. The tone does make an awkward shift around the final third, but provides good-natured entertainment all throughout. "Thrill me."
389 7.6 7.7335. Santa Sangre (1989)
Santa Sangre is a special breed of horror film that could only come from the deranged mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Packed with powerful imagery and psychological themes, this film is an experience that is truly hard to forget. It is often very surreal and sometimes exploitative, but it never takes its reputation of horror to a distasteful extreme. Painted like a work of art, with plenty of twists and turns along the way, Santa Sangre is a masterwork from a completely original, unconquerable filmmaker.
124 6.2 6.9334. 101 Reykjavík (2000)
A film that emerges with a very sloppy start, and somehow gets progressively worse. No real conflict comes into the picture until around the end of the second third. Even so, the events of the story seem simply scattered around the narrative, with no strong moment of connection to its characters or even a decent resolution. I'm not exactly sure what kind of message this film is trying to get across, but its crude humor and pessimism doesn't really make it any more cohesive.
58 6.5 5.9333. I Drink Your Blood (1970)
Tasteless, bloody, random, exploitative - these are just a few ways to describe I Drink Your Blood. In essence, its plot is made up of Satanic hippies taking drugs and doing violent things. It doesn't achieve much more depth than this; actually, it is very genuinely mean-spirited in many cases. Some unintentional humor can be found in its kooky dialogue and terrible over-acting, but this is hardly a recompense. A violent, boring bloodfest that doesn't bring much to the table.
253 7.7 7.5332. Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
Bad Boy Bubby is a rather disturbing film that handles basically every taboo subject possible. Its playful attitude and pitch-black humor, though appropriate in many instances, is just plain awkward in others. After the first third, which is particularly unsettling, the narrative explodes into a whirlwind of predicaments, which really serve little purpose and rarely gives insight into its protagonist. It would actually be a rather tragic film, if the atmosphere was not so unpleasantly condescending. From a technical standpoint, the sound design is great.
14 8.8 8.8331. Father of a Soldier (Jariskatsis mama) (1965)
Father of a Soldier is yet another shining example of the technical efficiency of Soviet cinema. It is a war film that abstains from portraying its elements in strict propagandistic stereotypes, and instead presents a sentimental story of honesty, morality, and tradition. Combined with magnificently-filmed war scenes and some surprising bits of comedy, this film is quite an impacting achievement that, for some reason, doesn't seem to be very pronounced in the canon of classic Soviet works.
2008 7.2 7.5330. A History of Violence (2005)
This film is a rather good presentation of the repercussions that result from a single family man's act of violence. Though the film does a decent job at showing the hidden dark core of its associating characters, I did feel that its uneven pacing resulted in a loss of bite, making it not as impacting as it potentially could have been. Nonetheless, A History of Violence is quite an effective - sometimes surreal - watch, emitting Cronenberg's directorial prowess at its peak.
1144 7.3 7.5329. Cloud Atlas (2012)
It's hard to say in which department - visuals or narrative - Cloud Atlas is the most ambitious. Somehow, it manages to effectively balance the weight of each storyline, making them all just as important to the overall picture (although I personally loved the Neo-Seoul sequences the most). The settings and atmospheres are magnificent, though never overbearing. There are some traits regarding its storytelling that I don't quite agree with; moreover, it chooses to simply tell its philosophy throughout, rather than show it off in creative ways, which I found rather lazy. However in the long run, these weaknesses were rather minuscule, as the experience in itself is absolutely wonderful.
1300 7.5 7.8328. Argo (2012)
Argo is a generally satisfying film that takes on many different moods - from political thriller to Hollywood satire. Ben Affleck does a good job at directing such changes in tone, avoiding unruly spontaneity. The editing is also rather clever, juxtaposing moments of calm and chaos in rather interesting ways. Despite these positive traits, however, the film plays it safe and never reaches anything further than that of a decent high-budget work. Certain elements are merely glossed over, never given its time to shine, and by the end, I couldn't help but feel that the result could have been much more than how it chose to be.
349 6.9 7.1327. 3 Extremes (Three Extremes) (2004)
3 Extremes is a stylish horror anthology film, each sequence differing slightly in tone, but all carrying similar macabre themes. Dumplings (Fruit Chan) is grotesquely twisted, with squirm-inducing scenes at every corner; a true spectacle of horror. Cut (Park Chan-wook) has an interesting premise, but comes off as more contrived and artificial than inventive. Box (Takashi Miike) progresses much more slowly than the others, but also contains some of the most beautiful series of images in horror cinema. An overall satisfying work that fully embraces the art of its violence.
480 7 7326. Bright Star (2009)
Much like the poetry of John Keats, Bright Star brims with an natural artistic sensibility unmatched by other movies of its type. The atmosphere of the film partially relies on its visual composition, pieced together with beautiful 19th century-style costumes and settings; not exactly extravagant, but never pretentious. The romance presented in its storyline is one of genuine emotion and sensibility, fierce adoration with an exquisite tinge of sadness. Though an obvious choice of wording, “poetic” would be the best way to describe this film.
3792 6.9 7.7325. Saw (2004)
Saw starts off interesting enough, presenting an terror-filled storyline with a narrative that explores the natures of the characters presented. Around the middle of the film, however, it starts to get very messy and unfocused. The filmmakers seem to inject a forced sentimentality and characterization into this film, making it uneven in flow and progression. Moreover, the acting is unpalatable and many sequences are completely drowned in its visual over-stylization. An unfortunate result of genuinely good intention.
302 7 7.3324. Sexy Beast (2000)
A unique heist film with effective pacing and enough action to stay interesting throughout its duration. Its most prominent characteristic is its very dark humor, seen in many clever bits of dialogue. Ben Kingsley is especially remarkable here. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast fails to follow suit, and there are many moments throughout the film that just fall very flat. Despite these shortcomings, Sexy Beast is surely worth the watch.
522 7.4 7.7323. The Player (1992)
An inventive, clever satire of the Hollywood screenwriting industry. From the very onset of its beginning seven-minute tracking shot, The Player is a film that is laden with pure cinematic artsy goodness. Within its narrative, dialogue, aesthetics, and even its acting performances, traces of classic Hollywood convention can be found, sometimes as an homage, other times as a parody. Full of wit, with a surprising level of depth and morality; not to mention a seemingly endless amount of celebrity cameos. Lots of fun for any cinephile.
42 8 7.8322. The Children Are Watching Us (1944)
Vittorio De Sica's masterpiece shows a painfully intimate portrayal of a small family’s slow disintegration. Much of the story’s content is shown through the perspective of the young son, which makes the distancing and ambiguity of the situation all the more effective. With elite symbolism and intricate narrative composition, a deeply personal portrait of this downfall is presented, escalating to a truly tragic finish. Tissues are recommended.
903 7.7 7.7321. Blow-Up (1966)
Antonioni's Blowup follows a day in the life of a British fashion photographer. The sudden inclusion of its mysterious subplot gives this slow-paced film a sense of intrigue, even suspense at times. Soon, more is revealed about the protagonist than is initially apparent. Moreover, the aesthetic composition of each and every shot is so, so lovely. Blowup isn't a conventionally exciting film, but offers much more to the table than viewers may realize.
738 7.3 7.3320. Caché
I've recently grown quite fond of Michael Haneke's work, highlighted by his signature bleak atmosphere coupled with true technical prowess. Both of these traits are present in Caché, but the film's story itself is unusually flat and uninteresting. It becomes especially problematic in the final third; I did not like the direction it took there, and the resulting resolution came off as drab and pointless. Definitely not one of the director's stronger works.
359 7.5 7.1319. Holy Motors (2012)
Through the imagination of director Léos Carax comes Holy Motors, a film that is completely unique in its cinematic experience. Exploiting the narrative in truly creative ways, it plays upon the conventions of acting and a vast array of genre. It sequences are sometimes beautiful, sometimes humorous, often very absurd and surreal. Nonetheless, each scene is very memorable, taking full advantage of the cinema as an art form, consistently blurring the line between fantasy and reality. It couldn't be further from the truth to say that I completely understood it; however, I think the film itself is less about its symbolism than it is about the unbridled submergence into its artistic qualities. For these reasons, I would immediately place Holy Motors as my favorite film to emerge from 2012.
122 7.1 7.3317. Female Trouble (1974)
We can always count on John Waters to make such a trashy, filthy, absurd comedy as Female Trouble so exemplifies. Peppered with some surprisingly sharp bits of dialogue, this film is not as overtly shocking as the more famous Pink Flamingos, but it is, in some respects, just as low in sentiments. Worth watching at least once, but definitely not for everyone’s enjoyment.
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