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The Big Send-Off: A Year of Movies 2012

The Big Send-Off: A Year of Movies 2012

Here I am once again, landing just past the sell-by date for
final considerations of the year in movies past, when all the Oscar hype and
grist for the mill of 10-best lists everywhere gets recycled into enthusiasm,
or lack thereof, for next year’s offerings and some burning incense to ward off
the faint whiff of defeat in the air already in the wake of the year’s early
offerings. (Who’s got “Identity Thief” and “A Good Day to Die Hard” already
penciled in on that best-of list for 2013?) One more day, and no one will
officially care about, much less even remember who won all those awards
everybody’s been in a twist about since October (or earlier), to say nothing of
all the sorry also-rans coming soon to a Netflix queue near you.

And whether or not you are surprised to hear it, many of the
winners, but even more of those also-rans, were worth talking about in 2012. If
my own list of movie pleasures means anything, it’s a signifier of the
gratitude I feel that any one of the creations found below came along during
the calendar year. I find it ridiculously difficult to seriously complain in
general about the relative quality of any movie year which brought me the
ecstatic highs of “Holy Motors,” the blissful cinematic catharsis ofLife of Pi,” the humanizing outrage of How to Survive a Plague,” the blasts of transgressive
shock and choking laughter of Killer Joe,” the disorienting joys and fears of “Cloud Atlas,” the almost hallucinatory clarity of Looper,” the overwhelming quiet
of “The Secret World of Arriety” and, speaking of quiet, the welcome return of an
atmosphere of artfully conjured dread in “The Pact.” 

Much ink has been spilled
and many pixels have been electronically designated this past year in service
to hand-wringing about the End of Cinema As We Know It.  But the presence of these movies, as readily
available (and I’ll get to that notion of that availability in a second)
alternatives to the usual menu of aggressively marketed sound and fury that
gluts the American Cineplex on a weekly basis, the fact that they’ve somehow
managed to bubble up through the cracks in the armor of corporate controlled
pop culture, is in itself a healthy dose of encouragement.

The difference is that even in major metropolitan areas many
of these movies only play theatrically for a couple of weeks, if that — “Holy
was around for about a month, in dribs and drabs, here in Los Angeles,
and another movie on my list, Perfect Sense,” didn’t run in the movie capital of
the world theatrically at all, only managing to secure one week on one tiny
screen in New York City. But if you’re not in a major urban center and you
hanker to see even a relatively high-profile foreign language movie like Amour,
odds are you probably won’t get the chance to see it or anything other than the
most heavily marketed fare on a big screen. 

So while the mere against-all-odds
existence of demographically uncharted movies like the ones Leos Carax or
Terrence Davies or the Dardenne brothers make would seem to be evidence that
cinema is doing perhaps better than expected in a world where it ain’t really a
movie unless it’s got a Happy Meal or a YA book tie-in, it’s the cinemas
themselves where these films could be shown that might in fact be dying.

The picture is even bleaker for small-town theaters which
live and breathe on only the most broadly appealing Hollywood fare, home-owned
and operated businesses which can’t sustain more than one screen and/or can’t
afford to pay for the costly conversion to digital that the studios are basically
forcing upon them. For places like the town where I grew up, which has had its
own keen, if perpetually rundown little art deco movie palace since about 1940,
the coming year brings with it the distinct possibility of those doors being
shuttered once and for all, signifying the end of seeing movies the way they
were always meant to be seen for whoever is left there that might actually want
to go out to see a movie.

Read the rest of this article here. Our TOH! Best Films of 2012 is here, with our Worst Films of 2012 here.

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