Though the level of activity here on Fear of a Ghost Planet may not have always reflected it, 2012 was a particularly busy year at the theatre for me. I saw over eighty films and reviewed 50 of them, ranging from The Master to The Babymakers, Lincoln to FDR: American Badass. Despite the volume of films I’ve seen, a year end list, beyond its entirely arbitrary nature, feels somewhat empty to me: too many unseen films. There are a good many movies I haven’t seen yet that, knowing my taste/the movie in question’s reputation, may have otherwise made the list. Notable unseen movies before the ball drops include Skyfall, Cloud Atlas, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Holy Motors, Argo, Killing Them Softly, and a litany of documentaries and foreign and independent films that time, geography, or personal finance kept me away from. So instead of writing an ordered list, here’s the official Fear of a Ghost Planet guide to the best films of 2012, presented as a series of themed categories. At the end, you will find my three selections for the best film of 2012. With or without numbers, it’d be hard to divine a “better” film among the trio at the top. [Read more…] about The Best Films of 2012
The Dark Knight Rises
I really don’t like writing about politics, so I suppose I’ll start by saying that this won’t be a political post at all. Roger Ebert—a much older, wiser man than I—wrote two different pieces about the major political debate stemming from the shootings in Aurora, Colorado; one in the New York Times, and one on his blog. He introduced the blog post on Facebook with the sentence “I won’t change a single mind,” and he’s right. The “debate” about gun control will continue on as a shouting match with little room for reasoned debate, and the events of July 20 will do little to move people on either side of the fence. Few, if any, shootings have.
When I returned from a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises early Friday morning, I immediately knew what’d happened in Colorado: Both President Obama and Mitt Romney were issuing statements of grief to the tragedy-stricken town, and, on Tumblr, I was witness to a deluge of tribute imagery. The next day, articles began popping up on the internet with titles like “Why ‘The Dark Knight Rises?'” There was talk that major theatre chains were going to ban customers from wearing costumes to midnight showings. A Representative from Texas postulated that the shootings may not have happened in a more god-fearing nation, and he wondered why nobody in the theatre had thought to bring their gun along. As the body count was finalized and the composition of the audience in Aurora became known, a legion of internet warriors took to their soap boxes to shame the parents who’d taken their young child to the new Batman movie, insinuating that violent films practically egg on events like this despite the relatively brief history of violence in movie theatres.
Thousands of midnight screenings of hundreds of hugely hyped films have happened for longer than anybody cares to think about, all without a hint of violence. Heck, thousands of screenings of The Dark Knight Rises happened on the same night as the shooting in Aurora. Why does nobody shame the parents of children who saw a midnight screening of Brave? Had the shooting happened during a different movie, would a blog post titled “Why Ice Age 4: Continental Drift?” be bothered with? (A Slate article helpfully pointed out that the gunman didn’t choose a screening of Happy Feet Two.) If something like this took place during one of many packed midnight showings of Magic Mike, would David Simond’s cartoon above instead depict a chaps-clad Channing Tatum kneeling down to place a bouquet of roses down in front of the movie theatre? Not likely, because none of those films involved Batman. [Read more…] about The National Conversation: What Our Response to Aurora, CO Says About Us
The word “ambitious” has been used to describe Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises, almost as an apologia. In a summer containing superhero epics that’ve conquered the globe through a combination of charm, polish, and weightless fun, a glum, glowing Batman film can’t help but feel like a party-crasher, a mirthless rebuttal to the joyful hedonism proffered by Marvel Studios. It just so happens that Nolan’s third and final Batman film is ambitious. Functioning as a third act, it introduces a slew of new characters, expounds upon ideas Nolan subtly presented behind the smokescreen of Heath Ledger‘s mesmerizing performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, and brings his massive, decade-spanning and character-defining story to a close while leaving the door slightly ajar, suggesting both a Gotham without Batman, and a Gotham that can’t survive without one. It’s an audacious juggling act that’d succeed on the merit of sheer scale were it not for the fact that The Dark Knight Rises is just as successful as its predecessors in painting an only slightly-warped representation of our society, gently nudged to its extremes. If The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man were long on great power, trading in narrative subtly for titanic struggles between Good and Evil, The Dark Knight Rises is a sobering reminder that any struggle, no matter how titanic, is a grey affair, that the people who fight with the greatest power also have the greatest responsibilities and, ultimately, should make the greatest sacrifices. Its ambition is to hold its characters up to the audience as a mirror. [Read more…] about Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)