Monday, December 31, 2012

Let Me Tell the Story of the Year of Movies Telling Stories

Storytelling, the nature of storytelling and the worth of storytelling, seemed to be the most recurrent theme of the 16 movies I saw out of the hundreds released in 2012. I ranked them below, so you can know at last who won.

16. Berserk Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King (ベルセルク 黄金時代篇) (Wikipedia entry, my review)

Congratulations, "Guts", you were in the worst movie I saw from this year. Whoa, hey, calm down.

15. Snow White and the Huntsman (Wikipedia entry, my review)

"Wait, I like totally know this. It's an . . . ackle? Dude, shut up." Good visuals and supporting performances couldn't save this movie from a central character both poorly written and poorly performed.

14. Ted (Wikipedia entry, my review)

I'm still not convinced we're meant to take this as a real movie, which may make it the most post-modern movie ever made.

13. The Avengers (Wikipedia entry, my review)

Joss Whedon returns to themes previously explored in his television series', mainly Angel, this time with famous comic book characters. The performances are really good and characters play well off each other thanks to Whedon's good ear for character dynamics, it's only too bad so much rested on the soulless Agent Coulson. I'm honestly not saying that just to piss people off, my brain just reads him as a guy trying to sell me something.

12. Cloud Atlas (Wikipedia entry, my review)

A slickly made, entertaining adventure film and a nice comment on how generations influence one another.

11. The Dark Knight Rises (Wikipedia entry, my review)

Not half as good as The Dark Knight, but features an interesting return to the idea of Batman influencing justice as idea, or story, more than he does manually. It also featured an incredibly hot Catwoman in Anne Hathaway.

10. A Letter to Momo (ももへの手紙) (Wikipedia entry, my review is coming soon)

I've never seen a non-Studio Ghibli anime movie more influenced by Studio Ghibli anime movies. It falls short of even the non-Miyazaki features, but I.G. is certainly no slouch when it comes to animation and this is a charming tale of a young girl coping with her father's death with the help of storybook gods brought to life.

9. Life of Pi (Wikipedia entry, my review)

A fascinating portrait of the human need to organise life into story and the insight and comfort they take from doing so.

8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Wikipedia entry, my review)

Its central idea of those without a home seeking the comforts of home as well as friendship in the face of cold avatars of violence is delivering by truly great performances with visuals that rise above its 3d.

7. Moonrise Kingdom (Wikipedia entry, my review)

A couple of children guilelessly patterning their behaviour on stories and innocent confrontations of their needs and desires, beautifully shot.

6. Kahaani (imdb entry [the Wikipedia enty has too many spoilers], my review)

A satisfying portrait of the ways in which memes and imbedded cultural narratives exert control over people, and how an individual can engineer a story to defeat the socially prevailing ones.

5. Barbara (Wikipedia entry, my review)

Human needs inevitably and beautifully expressed in spite of and even because of enforced propaganda and cruel modes of living.

4. The Borrower Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ) (Wikipedia entry, my review)

A story of how traditional ways of thinking can deprive people unjustly, and how the young can overcome old ideas. A common enough story, but animated with extraordinary beauty.

3. Cosmopolis (Wikipedia entry, my review)

A digestion of the recklessly cynical nature of the world economy in the person of Robert Pattinson. Cronenberg effectively uses Pattinson's shallow performance as a centre for a society increasingly lost and frustrated by a soullessness eroding the world both physically and spiritually.

2. Prometheus (Wikipedia entry, my review)

This film's impressively intricate visuals are exceeded by the impressively intricate weaving of themes and resonant stories. Fantastically performed characters, most notably the android played by Michael Fassbender, carry a good superficial plot of interstellar exploration and anthropological curiosity as well as serving the extraordinarily rich fabric of ideas present.

1. Django Unchained (Wikipedia entry, my review)

It's breathtaking the way this movie bucks Hollywood convention and paranoid delusions about how to tell a story safely. In its references to German myths of Brunnhilde, it emphasises the power and use of heroic stories in order to confront and digest the demons underneath the social bedrock. Wild and brilliantly realised characters and situations playing off each other help make this film an improbably pure shot to the human soul.

Twitter Sonnet #462

Dice change hands under an old tanned femur.
Innocent dots wash the white cubes for fate.
Blistered plastic contracts in a glamour.
Queens continue past an ignored checkmate.
Alternate Richards distribute no heirs.
Tudor horsemen disintegrate at dusk.
Dark nose hairs change race unawares.
Jar Jar valleys become alien dust.
Chinless skeletons stood in the old lab.
Green glows drizzled through printed gasps fading.
Black veins grew over the forgotten cab.
Oil strips clink with a clean coal padding.
Cylindrical bricks look like dynamite.
A stack of clay is no reason to fight.

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