As usual, the Academy Awards are poised to make some very wrong decisions this year. So as usual, I am prematurely correcting them by releasing my Top Ten of the year.
That year is 2012, of course — real film critics release such lists at the end of December or beginning of January, but since I have numerous other obligations, you get it in late February, once I’ve had a chance to catch up with nearly all eligible films.
Four score and seven years ago, it was 1925. That’s not really relevant, but it seems difficult to write a review of Lincoln without including the man’s most famous phrase, even if not that many people even know how many years “four score” is, and even if that’s the least important aspect of his Gettysburg address (and yet the most enduring).
So then, with that out of the way, let’s talk about a movie that is only partially about the events of 1864-1865, at least on a subtextual level. Technically, there’s no reason Steven Spielberg couldn’t have directed Lincoln a decade ago, in exactly the same way. But it wouldn’t have been the same movie — not by a long shot. Lincoln is a curious thing — a movie that takes place 150 years ago that might be more relevant now than it ever could have been before.
Movies are a place where anything can and does happen, so it feels like we’ve seen it all. Time travel. Doppelgangers. Dystopias galore.
Is anything in Rian Johnson’s Looper a particular revelation? Not exactly. How could it be? Time travel is a familiar concept to moviegoers, in comedy (Back To The Future) and action (Terminator) and more, and while the specifics may change somewhat, the overall conceit is that what happens in the past can alter the future. Since we’ve usually seen that future, the stakes are high. People can be wiped out, the entire world could be changed by one small act. That’s true in Looper, too.
Yet, while watching it, I had the feeling that I was seeing something new. You can tell Looper wasn’t just cobbled together from pieces of other movies. It’s not following any formula. Rian Johnson clearly put a lot of thought into how looping might actually work, and what our world will be like thirty or so years in the future. And that’s golden. Most movies can be easily categorized by genre, follow a certain prototype, with recurring motifs and iconography. But there’s no part of Looper that’s there just because other time travel movies have it, too, or because the sci-fi genre required it to be. Every piece of Looper is here because it’s a part of this specific story. That’s rare. As someone who sees a hell of a lot of movies, it’s exciting to still be so surprised by one.
I like a guy who puts on a cape and cowl and goes out into the night to fight crime. I like the colorful, often kooky villains who bring mayhem to Gotham City. I’ve heard some say they like Spider-Man because Peter Parker is a nerdy everyman they can relate to, but not me. I like Bruce Wayne, the broody billionaire. I like the Tim Burton Batman films best of all, because they’re just the right amount of campy without going full-throttle (I am, of course, looking at you, Mr. Schumacher). A superhero story like this should be fun, after all… right?
Continuing my retrospective Top 10 lists. Keep in mind, this list is from awards season 2010… and I don’t necessarily stand behind every one of these choices anymore…
Okay, so this was the year the Oscars got on my nerves for announcing ten Best Picture nominees. (And judging by what was included in those ten, I think we can all agree that I was right to be irked, which is some vindication, at least.)
It’s a brand new year, which means brand new movies. Largely, 2012 promises more of the same — more sequels, more comic book adaptations, more prestigious literary adaptations, more zombies and vampires. But at least a few motion pictures look to break the mold this year.