There are two films which must be considered contenders for my favor I haven’t seen yet. Three, actually, counting “Zero Dark Thirty,” which hasn’t opened nationwide yet and has been seen so far only by Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott, Stephanie Zacharek and maybe three or four other “big time movie critic poobahs.”
Haven’t seen “Les Mis,” but if it displaces one of the ten listed here, you’ll be the first to know. (Here me now and believe me later. It ain’t gonna happen. I know Victor Hugo, and Les Mis ain’t no Victor Hugo, the presence of Anne Hathaway notwithstanding.)
Then there’s that one that I can’t think the name of, the one about a writer who is writing a love novel and it starts to come true in his own life. If he writes it, it happens to him. Geez, I wish I could remember the title. Anyway, I must have seen the trailer several times, but never saw the flick. It might have played here, and I just missed it.
Or, as sometimes happens — more often than you’d expect — the previews ran but the movie never opened.
Besides, if I see a film in 2013, how can it be on a list for 2012? I’m kind of obsessive about such matters.
Bottom line: I’m not going to let the failure to see these flicks get in the way of making my list, checking it twice and passing it along for your bemusement.
Anyway, enough ado. Here are my 10 favorite ’12 flicks. In alphabetical order.
AKA Doc Pomus
If you don’t remember seeing this one in the listings, don’t fret. It never played Louisville. It has played a few festivals and one and done showings around NY. An old college pal, as addled about rock & roll as I am, saw a screening a few months back and couldn’t stop raving.
So, I contacted the company that made it, threw my credentials as a movie critic at them (such as they are), got on my knees and begged for a review copy. It worked.
So, most of you are probably asking, who the hell is Doc Pomus?
He’s arguably the greatest rock & roll song writer, a Brill Building guy. He wrote or co-wrote: “Young Blood,” “Teenager In Love,” “Surrender,” “Little Sister,” “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Fame,” “Suspicion,” “Hushabye,” “Lonely Avenue,” “This Magic Moment,” “Turn Me Loose,” “Viva Las Vegas,” etc, etc, etc. You should get the picture. There are hundreds more that you’ve danced to or used as background music while making out.
I didn’t mention “Save The Last Dance For Me.” In some ways, it’s the centerpiece of the film, and of Pomus’s life. He was paralyzed by polio as a kid. He wrote that song right after his first marriage when he urged his wife to dance with others, because he couldn’t.
Jerome Felder’s story — that’s his real name — is that of the music biz in the nascent days of rock & roll, and simultaneously a unique tale
, given the fellow’s personality and persistence.
How big was he? Well, Dylan came to him to help out with some lyrics. John Lennon made sure they were seated together at some big time awards dinner. Dr. John sang at his funeral.
His life was a roller coaster, a fascinating ride.
Anyway this adoring but incisive documentary tells his story.
There’s only a slim chance it will ever play here. The Jewish Film Festival considered making it part of the upcoming festival, but passed. (Guess I need to get back on that committee.) The Louisville Film Society is considering a showing, but no deal’s been struck.
Don’t know if they have it at Wild & Wooly. But they ought to. Which leaves Netflix.
Hope you get a chance to view it. It’s easily in my Top Ten.
We love escape flicks, right? Even before the eerily compelling “Shawshank Redemption.” Like, you know, Steve McQueen jumping that fence on his motorcycle in the aptly titled “The Great Escape.”
Ben Affleck has completed the rejuvenation of his career with his direction and star turn in this based-on-a-true-tale of the improbable rescue some American diplomats, holed in the the home of Canada’s ambassador, during the Iran hostage crisis.
What’s truly unique at this moment in our culture is that the CIA is the hero. For the last decade or so, that American spy agency has replaced the Nazis as the villain in a lot of flicks. Here’s they’re the good guys, going to severe lengths to get this group safely out of Iran.
Even though we know the outcome, Affleck keeps the movie taut and suspenseful. The brilliance comes in the counterpoint of humor. Alan Arkin and John Goodman provide plenty as a Hollywoodland producer and screenwriter, who are part of the escape plot.
This is simply very enjoyable, well crafted mainstream movie entertainment. And it’s true . . . more or less.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
I daresay there’s never been a film character quite as compelling, lovable and resonant as Hushpuppy, played by five year old non-actress, Quvenzhané Wallis, who narrates this tale of how society’s underbelly survived the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
Dwight Henry, another acting neophyte, cunningly plays her flawed father.
This was filmed in 16mm by a bunch of folks who hadn’t made a movie before. Benh Zeitlin directed and wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar. Though it may come off as hyperbole, this may be the best first film since that Welles fellow did “Citizen Kane.” And without big studio backing either.
The movie melds stark reality with fantasy in a seamless fashion. We experience an American sub-culture, alien to most, beautifully and brilliantly presented with flaws-exposed compassion.
Yes, it is violent. Though most of that is cartoonish.
Yes, the word “nigger” is heard time and time and time and time again. To great affect, one guy’s opinion.
Yes, there is a grisly Mandingo scene that is hard to watch, where two slaves fight to the death in Leo DeCaprio’s parlor for his entertainment.
Yes, there’s so much blood splatter, it makes the opening scene of Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” look like an episode of “The Smurfs.”
Which is not to mention the torture, Ku Klux Klan and other loathsome moments.
But, as I write, I cannot get the smile off my face.
This is quintessential Quentin Tarantino, who here does for racism in the plantation culture what he did to the Nazis in “Inglourious Basterds.” He makes movies to entertain, reality and political correctitude be damned.
If Tarantino is your cup o’ meat, “Django Unchained” is mighty portion.
If I give you the plot of this one in a sentence or two, you’re liable to say, “What ‘s the big deal? How could this possibly be interesting?’ I shall nonetheless.
Father and son are academics. They are renown in the same arcane discipline. Tension and adulthood-long rivalry ensues.
See, I knew many of you would turn up your nose at the basis of this Oscar nominated foreign film. Well, don’t be a fool. Don’t be dissuaded. See if they’ve got it at Wild & Wooly? If not, put it in your Netflix cue.
If only for the hilarious, claustrophobic scene in which an academic committee is meeting in a room way too small and too filled with repressed jealousy. It’s the best such moment in film since the stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ “Night At The Opera.”
Shlomo Bar Aba is father. Lior Ashkenazi is son. They are magnificent. Understated, yet intense.
Now I will admit there’s a personal reason why this resonated with me. The father’s claim to fame is a footnote mention in research by THE scholar in his and his son’s academic field. It is the highlight of his life, that which validates his work in his chosen field.
You see, I’ve go a footnote too. Ace rock & roll historian Peter Guralnick needed some research for his bio of Sam Cooke, relating to the soul singer’s close relationship with Muhammed Ali, whom he first met a few weeks after then Cassius Clay returned from Rome with his gold medal. For confirming that through research, Guralnick gave me credit in the book.
I’m not quite as obsessed about that as the father in “Footnote.” But, I sure did use this opportunity to brag about it with you, didn’t I?