Most moviegoers, myself included, watch films for the most part to escape the daily grind, to be transported to another world, or to watch the world we know get set right by this or that hero, super or otherwise. This is the traditional role of the cinema, and great movies like THE AVENGERS and less great movies like THE HOBBIT, Part 1, filled this year's bill more than adequately, if box office success is any indication.
In the last few years, however, popular entertainment has begun to have the courage to take us out of our comfort zone, creating what I call the “feel-bad action movie.” Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES explores both the appeal and danger of fascism within a comic book movie conceit, just as his earlier THE DARK KNIGHT gave terrorism a charismatic face in the form of the Joker, the ultimate agent of chaos.
The year’s best movies by and large failed to provide escape. Instead they demanded our attention to dark, uncomfortable areas of our present, past and future. ZERO DARK THIRTY asked that we look at our (both individual and societal) responses to the concept of just (as in righteous) revenge and consider the moral consequence of said justice. DJANGO UNCHAINED allowed us to wallow in revenge to the point of absurdity, forcing us to ponder the bloody road down which self-righteousness and intractability invariably leads. LOOPER showed us the bitter price of revenge and wondered whether we have the courage to deny its immediate gratification in exchange for an elusive but more durable path of human compassion. And these are just the movies about revenge.
The year’s best movies also had us confront the indignities of aging (AMOUR), the harsh realities of extreme poverty (BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD), the messy imperfections of our political system (LINCOLN), the infuriating limitations of our legal system (WEST OF MEMPHIS), and the tragic and near-tragic limitations of love and marriage (ANNA KARENINA and THE DEEP BLUE SEA). There is no escape from reality in this year’s crop of films, and that is all to the good.
In the remaining few days before the Academy Awards® I will be putting forward my list of favorite and least favorite movies of 2012 for your perusal and comment. I will also provide my best guesses as to who I think should and will win in the various Oscar® categories. My confidence level is fairly low this year, so please refrain from shooting the messenger should I steer you wrong. However, if I help you win your office or Oscar® party pool, please feel free to credit my sagacity far and wide.
Also, for the last couple of years Michael Musa and I have hosted a Facebook group (this year called Zero Pope Thirty, last year called Tinker Tailor Soldier Pope). In an effort to recreate the live show that we had done the Saturday before the Oscars® in years past, we will both be live on Facebook this Sunday at 12 noon PST to present my predictions and talk freely (within the confines of Facebook) about the movies, the Oscars®, and other tangential subjects. During this hour (or so) we will announce the Rosary Award winners in the eight major categories, for which participants in the group vote on who they would like to win. If you are on Facebook and interested in participating, please request to join the group, and we will happily oblige. And remember to tune in to the group page on Sunday, February 24, at 12 noon PST.
Note for the group (both present and future members) on the Rosary Awards: the ballot survey will appear on the group’s page in the next day or so. Please vote early and vote often.
Finally, I must thank some people. Thank you, Mr. Musa, for your friendship, your knowledge of good dive bars, your persistence, and your technical expertise, especially with regard to the Facebook page. Thank you, Nina Berry, for your friendship and for setting a high writing standard. Thank you, John Mark Godocik, for your friendship and for keeping me honest. Thank you, Pilar Alessandra, for your friendship and for allowing me to babble about Oscar®-nominated screenplays on your On the Page® podcast (which should be available this Friday, February 22). Thank you, Kurt Ramschissel, for your friendship and for contributing every year to Pope’s Picks Live in all its mutations. And thank you, gentle and not-so-gentle readers, for taking the time to read my reviews and to comment thoughtfully on them. I’d mention you individually, but I fear I’d inadvertently forget some of you.
Finally, thanks and love to MKH. You know what for.
Brian PopeFebruary 20, 2013