In theaters right now, apart from The Belcourt's Hitchcock retrospective, it's that brief lull between the widening releases of year-end awards contenders and January's typical early-season megaplex cannon fodder. Taking a moment to catch their breath and rest their eyes, contributing Scene film writers Lance Conzett, Craig D. Lindsey, Jim Ridley, Jason Shawhan and Sam Smith perused a few questions about the departing movie year 2012. Below, their responses.
What was your favorite movie of 2012?
JR: Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, a movie whose vividly imagined world and lovingly depicted characters lived up to its wonderful title. Apart from that remarkable rogue's gallery in Lincoln, no movie this year had a richer ensemble.
SS: It's always a three-or-four-horse race, so The Master, Holy Motors and Amour are all up there, but I can't see any way to argue that the supreme achievement in filmmaking in 2012 wasn't Samsara, Ron Fricke's 70mm meditation on earth's cultures and our spirituality. It's not as thematically taut as the Qatsi films that inspired Fricke, but it weaves its own more free-formed narrative with some of the most stunning moving images you'll ever have seen. That said, if a single scene could somehow earn a film a No. 1 slot I would have to give it to The Turin Horse, whose opening shot swallowed me whole and sunk me into its deep dark abyss.
JS: Cloud Atlas and Holy Motors. They mesh magnificently.
LC: Favorite? Cabin in the Woods. Best? Moonrise Kingdom.
CDL: Moonrise Kingdom — so good, the old people sitting next to me talking didn't even bother me.
What movie, performance or other element surprised you most this year, good or bad?
JR: That Steven Spielberg made the 147-year-old passage of the 13th Amendment seem surprising was in itself a surprise. But nothing reaffirmed the joy of communal moviegoing more this year than the deafening outraged shriek that greeted [SPOILER] in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 on opening night. Other big surprises from the movie year 2012: the huge turnout for The Belcourt's retrospectives of Bresson and Studio Ghibli; Salma Hayek's fabulous telenovela-worthy diva trip in Oliver Stone's Savages; Joaquin Phoenix trumping I'm Still Here for exposed-nerve daredevil soul-baring in The Master. Also, from Paul Williams: Still Alive: that Paul Williams is still alive.
SS: Not loving movies I thought I would love, like the childlike and imaginative Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised that Ang Lee turned out such a soulful adaptation of Life of Pi. But Lee is a great filmmaker, so perhaps I shouldn't have been. I've just been conditioned to assume that Hollywood would ruin a book that's set on a boat, stars non-white people and explores contradictory, complex issues of spirituality.
JS: I was kind of staggered by how terrified ostensibly free-thinking Southerners were by The Paperboy and Django Unchained. Also, Nina Hoss in Barbara was the performance of the year.
LC: The fact that Battleship even exists is still so baffling to me that it hurts to think about. Not only is Battleship a movie, but the filmmakers had the unchecked hubris to tack on post-credits sequel bait like it's Iron Man or something. Baffling!
CDL: At the moment, I'm surprised by how Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen convincingly passed for mother and son in The Guilt Trip.
So ... how'd you like that 48fps?
JS: It gave me Fulci eyes.
LC: Remember when Peter Jackson's innovations in filmmaking were all about how to best make zombie intestines strangle his actors? I miss those days. I don't know what universe Peter Jackson is living in where he thinks that making movies look like those episodes of The Twilight Zone that were shot on video is the future of movies, but I'm pretty sure it's covered in Dante's Inferno.
SS: From the earliest fanboy reports I knew that I wasn't interested in an aesthetic that pushed us even further into the digital "hyper-real" realm. Coupled with the decision to turn Tolkien's brisk children's story into a three-part franchise, come winter 2012 I just wasn't interested in The Hobbit at all anymore. For a lover of the original trilogy (a familiar phrase that seems sadly appropriate), that's something I never thought I'd be saying.
CDL: Personally, I'm more unnerved by how much The Hobbit didn't piss me off. I must be losing my edge.
JR: It was made for viewers whose life's dream is to count the hairs on a hobbit's foot.
What pattern or motif did you notice in this year's movies, whether good or evil?
SS: Riding through surreal landscapes in the back of a luxury limousine as a metaphor for life.
CDL: I was thrown off by the whole found-footage boom. It's like all the movies that were supposed to come out after The Blair Witch Project finally arrived in 2012.
LC: Maybe this happens every year and I don't notice, but 2012 was something of a dumping ground for long-shelved movies. On one hand, it meant the release of Cabin in the Woods. On the other, we were beset upon by a remake of Red Dawn and the Eddie Murphy stinker A Thousand Words. Was it worth it? Maybe, but only for the whiteboard scene in Cabin.
JR: It's more an outside trend than a movie component, but it was cool to see studios slapped awake by the ticket-buying power of seniors. Also great to see this year: more visiting filmmakers in Nashville, from Amy Berg at Belcourt and Natalia Almada at Watkins to Olivia Wyatt at Third Man Records; and steadier work for our local film/TV industry and crew base.
What film(s), if any, did you walk out of this year? Or wish you had?
SS: Bailing halfway through The Paperboy would have been a good idea in retrospect.
CDL: I didn't walk out of anything, but I SO wish I walked out on all the movies that starred Taylor Kitsch.
LC: I spent all 93 minutes of Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie clutching my car keys, but I managed to stick through the whole thing.
JR: Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie was the most depressing screening I attended all year. As the energy and anticipation leaked out of the sold-out room, it was like being inside a whoopee cushion as it slowly, silently deflates. Whereas the glibly corrupt movie of The Lorax just made me want to go frack something.
What's the best old movie you saw on the big screen this year?
CDL: The Last Waltz, at a theater in Raleigh. Still the best concert movie ever.
JS: Play It As It Lays, Deep Red, and Heaven's Gate (NYC), Quatermass and the Pit, Phantom of the Paradise, Possession, The Long Day Closes, Laura, Xanadu, The Black Cat, The Magnificent Ambersons and Werckmeister Harmonies (Nashville).
LC: Every single moment of The Belcourt's Studio Ghibli series was totally perfect, though Badlands, Grand Illusion and Miami Connection are definitely up there.
JR: Wow, where to begin — where to stop? Celine and Julie Go Boating, The Long Day Closes, Society, Possession, the original Django, Werckmeister Harmonies, Daisies, Phantom of the Paradise, the uncut Intruder, and a pair of Belcourt midnight movies for the ages: Miami Connection and Army of Darkness.
SS: It has to go to Robert Bresson, who got a class-act retrospective courtesy of The Belcourt this past spring. There I got to discover many films from this master director for the first time, and his L'Argent, a 1983 proto-Haneke exploration of money's evil, left me completely floored.
What movie do you wish more people had seen?
JS: Cloud Atlas, The Paperboy and Cosmopolis. They're not all for everybody, but at least one of them will fix what ails you.
SS: Even Samsara, deserving more than any film to be seen on the big screen, didn't seem to intrigue the growing amount of my peers whose choices seem increasingly limited to what's streamable on Netflix Instant. Also smaller films like Tchoupitoulas, about three young boys wandering around a dreamlike midnight New Orleans.
JR: Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet, a movie I'm going to think about for the rest of my life.
CDL: A toss-up between The Raid: Redemption (best action film of the year) and Killing Them Softly (Harvey Weinstein fucked up the marketing on that movie big-time).
LC: While I didn't love Kill List, I do wish I had more people to talk about its totally bonkers ending with.
Let's discuss Beasts of the Southern Wild for a bit, shall we?
JS: A grand little fairy tale; I like it best as the hypothetical backstory of Aunty Entity from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
JR: No movie this year was more of a class-prejudice Rorschach test. I cherish it as the only apocalypse movie I saw where anybody put up a fight.
SS: Don't use the phrase "live-action Miyazaki" around me unless you mean it. I appreciated a whole lot about this movie, but some of its more crowd-pleasing intentions were too cutesy for me.
CDL: As I said on Twitter when it came out, it's thoughtful and well-made — and that's it. A lot of people on both the pro and con sides need to calm the fuck down.
LC: Can you edit out my ugly sobbing when we do?
Complete this sentence: "If I could go back in time, I would _____."
JR: ... probably get capped by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a cornfield.
LC: ... kill John Connor. Uh. I mean, tell my teenage self that in 2012 there will be a film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and its very existence will make you inconsolable.
SS: ... have seen Cloud Atlas as a 12-year-old.
JR: ... announce a proxy for that 13th Amendment vote: Django.
JS: ... keep Damon Lindelof's involvement on Prometheus restricted to the character of David.
CDL: Let's not do this here.
What film caused the most fights for you in 2012?
CDL: People keep rolling up on me and defending Silver Linings Playbook. It's like they can tell just by looking at me that I thought it was phony. Also, I had a couple of people ready to denounce me on Facebook when I bad-mouthed Ted.
SS: The Dark Knight Rises, because I'm a big enough Batman fan to rationalize an argument against any of its biggest criticisms.
JS: Cosmopolis. Followed closely by The Paperboy and Prometheus. And then Beyond the Black Rainbow.
JR: Nothing so far like the Benjamin Button Battle of 2008 or the 2001 Conflicts of A.I. and Moulin Rouge — but I suspect the War of Django Aggression is coming as soon as more people encounter Tarantino's bleak-humored assault upon the sentimentalized slavery-era South. I love it — and I count two guns.
LC: My continued disdain for Rocky Horror had me on the defensive more times than I'd like to admit this year. Also, my assertion that Prometheus was lame versus people who are wrong.
What was the best use of a piece of music in a film?
JS: Nothing comes close to the way Not Fade Away uses Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth's "Down So Low."
JR: Françoise Hardy in Moonrise Kingdom, the audio equivalent of a fog of clove-cigarette smoke over its young lovers' precocious idyll.
SS: Another one of the best scenes of the year, the intermission of Holy Motors, in which Denis Lavant leads a street parade in a celebratory, accordion-led rendition of RL Burnside's "Let My Baby Ride." Plus a mesmerizing piece by Mihály Víg in that opening of The Turin Horse, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" as heard in Moonrise Kingdom, and Tarantino staging a comeback for Luis Bacalov's original Django theme.
CDL: Everything Jon Brion did in ParaNorman was wonderful.
What, if anything, made you cry in the cinema '12?
CDL: ParaNorman almost got me. (Thanks, Jon Brion.)
JR: Not getting to see Brian De Palma's Passion. Or The Great Silence at The Belcourt, even with the double foreign-language subtitles.
JS: Margaret, Footnote, Porco Rosso, The Master, Fill the Void, Cloud Atlas, Pina, How to Survive a Plague.
Who was the most intriguing person in film this year?
LC: This year, two dudes embarked on separate quests to give under-appreciated movies the time in the spotlight they may or may not deserve. Alamo Drafthouse employee Zack Carlson brought us the wonder that is Miami Connection and should be commended for it. Film student Ben Solovey lovingly restored Manos: The Hands of Fate from a workprint and is clearly a madman. But somehow, I can't help but be transfixed by the amount of work that went into making that steaming cesspit of a movie slightly more watchable.
SS: For their great performances on screen, Joaquin Phoenix, Denis Lavant, Emmanuelle Riva and Rachel Weisz. And Tim Heidecker, whose The Comedy and Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie were the two ballsiest movies of the year.
JS: Producer/distributor Megan Ellison. If only more billionaires had that kind of artistic gumption ...
JR: Megan Ellison is like Howard Hughes with taste. Here's the risk-taking big-baller everybody's longed for — 2012's credits included The Master, Killing Them Softly, Spring Breakers and Zero Dark Thirty, and this year's include the new Spike Jonze and Wong Kar-wai. She may prove to be something rare as a unicorn: an aesthete with money, sense and a gambler's spirit. As for actors — holy motors, Denis Lavant! Also, Lincoln was a natural playing himself.
CDL: It's funny how some colleagues don't want to admit that Channing Tatum deserves his success. Did they even see 21 Jump Street?
What are you most looking forward to in 2013?
SS: Jonathan Glazer's long-awaited Birth follow-up, Under the Skin. Plus Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, and two new animated features by Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
LC: As intrigued as I am by the prospects of a Malickian Superman and Tom Lennon's horror-comedy Hellbaby, I expect that the upcoming Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg joint, The World's End, will be my favorite of the year.
JR: Those amazing Otto Preminger, Nouvelle Vague, experimental, gangster and grindhouse retrospectives The Belcourt hasn't programmed yet.
JS: Gravity. Nymphomaniac. Spring Breakers. I Want Your Love. The World's End.
CDL: You know that movie, that end-of-the-world movie with Seth Rogen and James Franco? Yeah, that one.