It’s been a great year, but not all of them can be winners
COSMOPOLIS – I’m a huge Cronenberg fan; even in his weakest effort up until now (A DANGEROUS METHOD) there were things to love even if the movie itself didn’t work. In COSMOPOLIS, the director is so obsessed with his own themes and imagery that the film sort of implodes in an incoherent, maddeningly pretentious mess. Also, Pattinson is far from the weakest link here, but he sure isn’t making a case for his own stardom.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – This is probably my favorite film on this list, but it’s still a huge letdown. It has its moments, and Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are excellent, but for the most part, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is a manic and ultimately hollow experience, failing to capture even a bit of what made McDonagh’s IN BRUGES so good.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – Look, I know. I desperately wanted to like this movie. I looked forward to it ever since it premiered at Sundance. But despite an innovative score and a couple of good non-professional performances, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is mawkish, cheap, and not half as involving as Zeitlin & co would like to have us believe. I’ll admit that the stab at magical realism is ambitious and done with the best of intentions, but this one really left me hanging.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – While this is by no means a bad film, it is incredibly disheartening. An indie grad of Sundance, this picture seems intent not on forging new paths or establishing a distinct voice in indie cinema but instead proving that the kind of manipulative, conventional studio fare so common at the multiplex can be made a little quirkier and for a lot less money.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Cheap, irritatingly shallow, and just generally irritating, this woefully inessential film has garnered a ridiculous amount of critical attention, but I’ve yet to read a good, thoughtful defense of it. While the film does have some pros – De Niro, and a justly acclaimed performance from Jennifer Lawrence – its cons heavily outweigh them. The plot is ridiculous (the big football game is on the same day as the big dance competition), but that would be easy to overlook if there was some other charm or nuance to this movie. Unfortunately, Russell weirdly subscribes to the same kind of neuroses as his characters, and his reliance on cheap plot machinations serve only to reveal how superficial this film is.
ARGO – While I generally support what the movie is – a mid-budgeted studio developed film aimed at discerning adult audience, the actual result is underwhelming. When it’s not a straight-up brown panic movie, it simply acts as an industry pat on the back. The characters could all be described as “lovable rogues”, which is ridiculous for a movie that bills itself as an “ensemble piece”. Supporting players John Goodman and Alan Arkin have received a lot of buzz, but their written characters amount to little more than “John Goodman” and “Alan Arkin” respectively, and neither seem particularly interested in working much to change that.
SAVAGES – There are so many things wrong with this film it’s ridiculous. Everything from the camerawork, which looks like its biggest influence was someone’s Instagram feed to the charisma-free leads is laughably bad in this absurd gringo fantasy.
THE PAPERBOY – This may be sort of like beating a dead horse, but this one deserves the extra punishment. In every frame, Daniels finds a way to show off every terrible directorial decision; his sense for mise-en-scene is bad to nonexistent. And the film’s politics (or lack thereof) are pretty head-slapping too; the film tackles Southern racial politics only for our director to realize that he would much rather film Zac Efron in his tighty-whities.
BACHELORETTE – Painfully unfunny and borderline unwatchable, this is sort of like BRIDESMAIDS’s naively cynical cousin. It is not a feminist film; it only proves that women can be written as soulless, spineless assholes too.
MAN ON A LEDGE – This truly rivals SAVAGES as the most mind-bogglingly stupid film of the year. Woefully miscast (Elizabeth Banks as a hard-drinking, burned out cop?) and terribly paced, every beat seems cheap and undeserved, this is the kind of bad movie that leaves a rancid aftertaste.Read less