(Academic) Year-End Wrap-Up 2012/13

            This academic year has been an interesting one for movies. The last quarter of 2012 saw the nick-of-time release of some of the biggest Oscar contenders, including Les Miserables, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo, as well as a slew of lesser pictures. 2013 has gotten off to a sputtering start, film-wise, with Texas Chainsaw 3D, the atrocious Movie 43, and Stephenie Meyer’s latest turd, The Host. Here, Otwo looks back on the good and bad from month to month.

            September kicked the school year off with a salvo of audience exploitation, seeing the (at the time) latest in a long line of 3D cartoon re-releases with Finding Nemo paddling crookedly back into our hearts (or is it back into our crooked hearts?). The best actor of all time, Nicolas Cage, jumped into the Taken trend with Stolen, teaming up once again with Con Air director Simon West. The iconic Sylvester Stallone dystopia, Judge Dredd, was remade as simply Dredd, and in 3D, because why not? Perhaps worst of all, Rian Johnson’s Looper took an excellent premise and intriguing story and tacked on such a sentimental ending that the film ruined not only itself, but time travel flicks for years to come. That is not to say September was a complete failure, with The Master and Amour reminding us that art still happens once in a great while on the silver screen.

            October was again a mix of good and bad. The usual Halloweentime horror of the scary-bad Paranormal Activity 4, the umpteenth Silent Hill, the disappointing Taken 2 and the unmentionably-terrible Here Comes the Boom accounted for the bad, while Argo and Skyfall both achieved that rare combination of near-universal critical acclaim and massive profits. November might have been the biggest month of 2012, with Oscar fodder Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi as well as box office juggernaut Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 all being released in an intense three-week period. November’s success was tempered by the troubling racism and overall awfulness of the Red Dawn remake and the didactic last half-hour of Flight (for which, in any other year, Denzel Washington would have won the Oscar easily). 2012 ended with a whimper, as the over-hyped The Hobbit (which also debuted still-unproven High Frame-Rate cinematography, shooting at twice the normal speed), This is 40, and Les Miserables all failed to be half as good as their marketing would have you believe. The torture-porn just this side of Hostel that was Zero Dark Thirty also received plenty of acclaim that was as troubling as it was unwarranted. The lone bright spot was the equally-controversial Django Unchained.

            2013, as mentioned above, got off to a slow start. 3D refuses to die (Texas Chainsaw), as does Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand). Interestingly though, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s latest release, The Grandmaster, initially released in China on January 8th, has been getting some international attention and, while it’s unclear right now whether a martial arts revival is on its way, the spirit of those films, it seems, is not dead after all. January also brought the release of Gangster Squad which, like The Grandmaster, was a stylized revival of an old genre, this time 1930s Hollywood gangster films. While Gangster Squad had its problems, such as flat characters, forced diversity, and Sean Penn’s accent, it was nevertheless an entertaining flick that knew exactly what it was doing and did that well.

            Two more careers escaped the icy grip of death in February, with Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head) and Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard) both releasing new pictures. Though “new”, in this case, refers only to chronology, for both were (shockingly) desperate rehashes of past glory. The film world lost one of its greatest scholars that month too, as Donald Richie passed away at the age of 88, having done much to bridge the divide between the cultures of Japan and the West. Speaking of tragedies, Top Gun was re-released in 3D and Uncle Vernon died.

            Though 2013 has had a rocky start as far as new films are concerned, it might be picking up steam, as March saw the release of I’m So Excited and Spring Breakers, new, challenging features from Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar and American indie weirdo Harmony Korine, respectively. Likewise, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem hit theatres here in April and we can look forward to Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Great Gatsby (kind of) in May. Of course, you’re on your own if you go see Pain & Gain this month or May’s trilogy of stupid, Tyler Perry Presents Peeples, Fast and Furious 6 (SIX?!), and The Hangover Part III.

            I hope everyone has enjoyed going to the movies this school year as much as I have. Even though there’s been plenty of good and even more bad, movies are still, as ever, vitally important to our society and culture. Directly or indirectly, They show us who we are, who we think we are, and who we could be. Entertainment is great and, of course, has its utility for society. But it’s also important to remember that, from the most esoteric art picture to the most innocuous explosion-festival, each and every movie is a window into the culture, hearts, and minds of both those who made it and those who watch it.

It’s been real, UCD. Thanks for reading.

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