Another New Year’s, another “Best Of” list. And the buffet of 2012′s selections was not Old Country stuff, but a marvelous and maddening assortment where there’s simply too much rich and succulent entrees and appetizers to fit into a single meal. A Top 10 list is inadequate, but a Top 15, 20, or 25 pesters me the same because those lower-ranked pictures would do just as well at the top.
I’m not rejecting the notions of David Denby or David Thomson, that the movies don’t really have a future. Denby might have a point about the evaporation of the mature mainstream Hollywood drama, and you can observe the dwindling of “middle class” releases, as things are either huge blockbusters or small-scale indies that can barely scratch by a $5 million gross (if a fraction of that). I wonder if the fine Richard Gere thriller Arbitrage, for example, would have been more widely exhibited 10 or 15 years ago, or if Rian Johnson’s sometimes spectacular and always inventive sci-fi opus Looper would have at least cracked that zone of $80 million, as it deserves ($70-100 million has become an odd No Man’s Land). But to give an indication of how fine a year it was, I would spend a lot of time, words, and thought examining – and defending – films like Silver Linings Playbook, The Dark Knight Rises, Steven Soderbergh’s Occupy-Era double feature of Haywire and Magic Mike, Killer Joe, Killing Them Softly, The Grey, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, and Django Unchained, and these would all fail to crack my top 10. Damn, I even wrote a column investigating the subtext in Argo, and I don’t think that would even make my top 30 (Roger Ebert and Ben Affleck’s inevitable Oscar be damned). I could cheat (having two films count as one, for instance listing Dark Knight with Cosmopolis, as two differently scaled films that both thematically deal with a technological acceleration scrambling clarity in an uneven economy), but I won’t.
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