After the power went out last night I decided to just postpone writing my Top 5, but here there are, just like I planned I did my reviews for the movies of 2012 before the end of January just like I hoped. Now to stop reviewing things for a while cause my brain is tired.
5. Award for Best Soft Science Fiction: "Looper" (Trailer)
Time travel movies are a pain in the ass from a scripting/plotting position. By their very nature they are trying to express a metaphor for life without coming out and saying it, but people get so bogged down in the details of the mechanics (and really that is part of the fun) that they miss the point.
Take "Back to the Future" (Trailer), a big thrust of that Franchise is how the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are restaurants catering to nostalgia; there are campaign vans doing announcements; in each movie there are similar instances of the main character, Marty confronting bullies, in the 1950's he soundly defeats them, in 2015 he barely gets away unscathed, in 1885 he is nearly murdered. The point is to illustrate how certain world views would come into conflict in different eras, but there is a sense of repetition and contrast.
"Looper" has a very different message, one that has to do with the cyclical nature of one's decisions and how they affect others. If you could go into the past to kill your hated enemy as a child, would you try to change the path your younger self is on, and how would seeing what you eventually become change your view on the world. There is a lot that can be said about trying to kill your own future self, not just through bad decision making but by actually trying to shoot him/you.
4. Award for Best Horror Movie, and Arguably Best Comedy: "Cabin in the Woods" (Trailer)
I am the first to argue that Horror as a genre needs some fresh perspectives on itself. They (as well as much of Hollywood) have begun the horrific act of self cannibalism as they reuse old franchises, old tropes, and haven't gotten anything "new" in recent time outside of going more and more extreme with violence.
And I understand why, it is hard to come up with a new idea, design it, produce it, and then sell it. Even making something classic well is difficult because trying to put a new spin on something like vampires or werewolves isn't possible because they have been run so far into the ground.
"Cabin in the Woods" is the ultimate destination for horror, and I would go so far as to say that it kind of broke the whole genre down to its core. It vivisects the idea of people being in the middle of nowhere under assault by monsters. "Cabin" addresses the soulless machine that produces the movies, it addresses the audiences, it addresses the element of escalation. This movie is great.
Let me leave with this, at one point the heroes are cornered, and they concoct a plan. Logically what happens would require slightly more effort but I don't think anybody should care. This movie gets to a point in which you do not think it can go any more insane, and then they hit (what I will call) THE AWESOME BUTTON and the whole thing just takes off into new levels of HOLY-SHIT.
3. Award for Most Awesome Dystopia: "Dredd" (Trailer)
I like dystopias, they are some of my favorite social commentaries as they mostly just reductio ad absurdum a current trend in the modern world. "Blade Runner" (a movie I do not really like) in which you can buy and sell androids that are more human than human, leaving the audience to question what happened to the dumb masses as they are literally buying people. "1984" was the totalitarian regime of history re-writing fascists, a world in which... well, I guess we can all debate which political ideology won the Cold War in that universe, in my opinion it could have been anyone. Or "Mad Max" when the world is slowly creeping toward depletion and nobody has a way of making civilization sustainable again.
"Dredd" is a simpler commentary than that, it is about the escalating nature of the war on crime, the problems that a future of urban sink will cause, and the possible necessity of much more draconian police work. Whoo-boy is this movie fun: violence is not toned down, a guy's head is melted in the cold opener, numerous people are burned to death, skinned, shot, exploded, or die choking on their own crushed throat bones, frequently this violence is shown in slow motion, and the slow motion is not gratuitous, but is actually a plot point. This is the sort of violent dystopia that "The Hunger Games" (Trailer) was supposed to be, and couldn't attain because of its market.
I pray to Metztli this movie sells enough on DVD to get its sequel because the theater release was not strong enough even in 3D. When this thing hits 15$ I think I will snap it up because it really needs to be bought and supported, like its brother in arms, "Kick-Ass". (Trailer)
2. Award for Most Cathartic Violence: "Django Unchained" (Trailer)
While "Dredd" has violence against criminals that are law breakers and violent monsters in many cases, and the violence feels good when it is exacted on the bad guys, the truth is, "Dredd" is commenting on a future that has not happened yet and uses its style to explore a very strange and dark future that is rather easy to avoid. "Django Unchained" is a very clever and powerful exploration of an era in history that already happened.
The violence in "Django" is not against law breakers and crooks, it is against the plutocrats that have grown rich and fat off a monstrous civilization wide failure. The villains have their own twisted perspectives, they have their own beliefs, they have there own families and histories, they love and hate different things, in short, the bad guys are more human and believable, and as such their monstrous behavior ending in a chaotic over the top explosion of violence on the part of the hero feels good on a deeper level.
"Django" has smart dialogue, human characters, powerful scenes, and a full and dark exploration of slavery that juxtaposes so well with the almost cartoon like levels of violence to produce a very rich and thought provoking movie that is so worth the time to watch it.
1. Award for best Realization of my Dreams to Date: "Avengers" (Trailer)
I like superheroes. This is no secret, I have written more than 50 blog entries on the topic of comic book super heroes (of which I have only migrated 3 onto this particular blog, but that is really more of a house keeping issue than a strike against my favorite hobby), I have hundreds of comic books, I have read probably more than a thousand (I have never really put together a good estimate) I have created my own characters since I was a kid, and I have had any number of contacts with the genre of superheroes my whole life because I love it.
"Avengers" rocked my socks. Yes there are little things in it that don't make sense (except most of the ones people cite do make sense if you think about things from the perspective of the character doing the action) but those are few and don't matter. Things build and build and then release in the best action scene of the year. The whole movie is filled with good dialogue and interesting characters interacting. The thing is just excitement and fun and it makes me feel like a kid watching the characters I treasure so much come to life to fight a villain that I really like and understand and feel somewhat sorry for. This is the stuff young Josh would have loved to get growing up and the idea that it exists for current Josh to appreciate and that more of the things I love will come to life in time makes me feel good about the cultural future I get to be a part of. We collectively are looking up to big heroes and big ideas and in the long run that is important, we should think big, we should dream big, and that should be what our biggest and best movies should be.