Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cinema Shame- 2012 Edition

As I start to get myself together-- with the full realization that we are already mid-way through the first half of January 2013-- that annual twitchy anxiety yet again rears its ugly head as I formulate the last year of the filmmaking.  The truncated awards season is not helping much, typically there's another week or two to go before Oscar nominations.  Blerg.  I start my annual kvetching, first with something I sure about-- what didn't work.  I'll put aside easy targets that yielded uncomfortable viewing for me this past year-- the like of Wrath of the Titans, Dark Shadows, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, What to Expect When You're Expecting, as well, they all sucked, and further more why venture into half witted commentary on subject not nearly at worthy of it, or of items no one their right minds remember much of anyway.

CLOUD ATLAS (The Waschowskis, Tom Tykwer)- The OMG of worst of filmmaking in 2012 comes from three filmmakers, each of whom perhaps past their prime or novelty, a world class ensemble of movie stars and journeymen, and spans thousands of years in telling six disparate, but interconnected tales of, well something I'm sure.  There's a wealth of ambition, pyrotechnics, prosthetics, and pseudo gravitas, but the film a convoluted, pretentious mind fuck is also cold and insufferable, uneven to to point to be grandly ridiculous and long enough to arouse enough shuffling in ones seat to the point of dehydration and, I'm sure, a litmus of health of risks.  Perhaps that's being mean, but Cloud Atlas, with all its metaphysical daydreaming, is a film that yearns and believes its about everything, and in truth, it's about nothing at all except the brief novelty of a catching a game and rotating chess game of actors dive further into a needless rabbit hole that's head scratching and alternately alienating, confusing, and a bit racist.  Further more, the six strands of inter-connected gobbledygook are less bewitching separately making a product that cannot stand on the sum of it's parts because there's sparsely little their to begin with. 

COSMOPOLIS (David Croenberg)- Imagine spending two hours with the most deathly boring, abhorrent slice of humanity in the back of a limousine in an endless and fatiguing quest to, get this- get a haircut.  That specimen belongs to Robert Pattinson, in an effort for the Teen Beat incarnate of modern vampire romanticism to grow, or perhaps atone, as an actor.  Croenberg's films are always superbly crafted, and while Cosmopolis is certainly ambitious in it's thematic melding of the end of the world foreshadowing with Occupy-like hysteria, the material is so drab, stagey, and moribund that it becomes a draining couple of hours spent in the company of pseudo-intellectual types spewing needless nonsense in the man of art.  Pattinson, it appears, has further atoning to do-- getting a prostate exam in an art film does not equate a great artist.

"THE GRETA GERWIG DOUBLE FEATURE FROM HELL"- Greta Gerwig, the mumblecore romantic heroine, discovered after an appropriately praised performance in the misbegotten Noah Boambach dramedy Greenberg came off age in two headlining 2012 indie comedies, and both were nearly unwatchable.  The first was Whit Stillman's alien and oddly scoped anti-feminist curveball Damsels in Distress, and the second, the stifled and second rate Woody Allen carnival of neurosis in Lola Versus.  Coincidentally, Gerwig was also featured in To Rome With Love-- read below.  I still find myself interested in this unlikely movie star, whose slanted off-kilter line readings and cadences are certainly different and hopefully a right fit for some filmmaker, but this was not the coming out party for her this year.

HITCHCOCK (Sasha Gervasi)- The gloves deserve to come off so to speak in this ungracious, ever looking for a tone film that teases with early-Hollywood allure with insight into the making of Psycho and the genius behind itSomething for the movie geeks to pine at, and at first, I was willing to take the bait, until I realized what a silly, barely together slight of hand truly on hand from director Sasha Gervasi, and nagging, winking portrait by Anthony Hopkins.  Replacing the fun, gentile ride with behind the scenes dirt on the making of one of the most savory pieces of filmmaking of time, with a dull scenes from a marriage burst the cinematic bubble, and dared to turn a subject so fascinating and gleefully alive into something so downtrodden and slow.  Hitchcock at once makes a fool of its subjects and moreso of it's actors-- especially Helen Mirren, the sprightliest of Dames reduced to second hand material and a particularly dull backstory, likely juiced just to woo her in the first place.  What's left is not fun, more so, it's quite deadly.

TO ROME WITH LOVE (Woody Allen)- The reasons for returning to the yearly ritual of a Woody Allen film are partly because the romanticism of his necessary work (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah & Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo) is enough to take part-- Allen's very best will eternally play in a wonderful loop in head.  Also, even in the recent hit and miss, keep going run of his modern work, there's a surprise to behold every so often in the sea of Curse of the Jade Scorpion missteps.  Last years Midnight in Paris holds that to be true, as does the small pleasures of trifles like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match PointTo Rome With Love is an epic blunder, however, a half-assed Euro bit of cheese, with neither any filling nor topping.  The boring and trite unconnected stories that make up Allen's Italian vacation harvest neither wit nor pleasure, but instead bore with barely cobbled together ruminations of celebrity, romance, sex and opera singing in the shower?- whatever-ness.  Any of which are things Allen has done better thousands of times, and without any bombast, nor an exceeding running time-- okay, it's barely a two hour film, but it felt like ten dull hours in half-wit Allen mode.  The briefest respite comes from Judy Davis, whose heavenly line readings offer the solace in one of Allen's worst.

And a special award to:

LEE DANIELS, writer and director of THE PAPERBOY
Cast aside after it's embarrassing showing at this years Cannes Film Festival, and cemented as the novelty freak show where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron, The Paperboy-- despite some top talent involved including Matthew McConaughey (a blip on his unmatched year), John Cusack, Macy Gray and Nicole Kidman, to one who almost manages to get ahead of this stinking trainwreck-- this thundering piece of cinematic shame begs the question on which may be the worst follow-up in history to an Oscar-winning success story.  Daniels rightfully earned praise for Precious, but The Paperboy, with it's rote and pretentious style, flow and dirty energy may prove a top contender for that prize.  Ugly, unsubtle, and only wannabe-gritty, The Paperboy was handily the trashiest piece of filmmaking of 2012, but decorated in the veneer of laudable art project.  Daniels wastes the abundant talents of his cast and crew, and the time of the poor suckers spent in the auditorium of this filth.

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