All of you P.C.H.A. devotees out there know that since our founding nearly three years (wow, time flies when you’re avoiding writing posts) the film landscape has been pretty barren. While there were some cinematic bright spots, in general they were few and far between. To wit, our Top Ten films last year included Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol and The Adjustment Bureau; in 2010, Greenberg and Shutter Island made the list. Nothing against any of those films, but they aren’t evidence of a banner year. And it isn’t just us. The Best Picture Oscars of the P.C.H.A. era have so far gone to The King’s Speech and The Artist.
However, this year has at least offered a sense of promise that we haven’t had in some time. With a few exceptions (Martin Scorsese and Spike Jonze come to mind), most of today’s best known and most interesting directors have released films in 2012 (or will in the next six weeks). Throughout the year, we’ve at least been able to look forward to seeing top-notch talent add to their oeuvre.
So how’ve they done (and what do we have to still look forward to)? Let’s take a look.
Steven Soderburgh – Haywire (January) & Magic Mike (June)
It’s hard to imagine a more convoluted career arc than Soderburgh’s. From indie darling to indie has-been to Oscar winner to Ocean’s trilogy to Ritalin rampage. It seems that he’s one of the rare cases in any walk of life when someone has achieved the heights of their profession and actually decided to do whatever the fuck they want and not worry about it. In the five years since the last Ocean’s he’s released eight movies (with two more on the way next year), ranging from comedy (The Informant!) to biopic (Che) to thriller (Contagion) to documentary (And Everything Was Doing Fine). How were this year’s efforts? No idea… like most of his recent work, they came and went.
David Wain – Wanderlust (January)
Since his classic Wet Hot American Summer, Wain hasn’t released anything worth noting. So it was encouraging to see Wanderlust, which while nowhere near the height of W.H.A.S. was a solid effort that made the most of its leads Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.
Whit Stillman – Damsels In Distress (April)
Remember the good ol’ days, when we could lament that Stillman hadn’t released anything since the criminally underrated The Last Days Of Disco? Damsels was the Chinese Democracy of film… massively anticipated, long overdue, completely insipid and easily forgotten.
Tim Burton – Dark Shadows (May) & Frankenweenie (October)
As much as it pains me to say this, given that his last decent movie (Big Fish) was a decade ago and that he’s now just a whimsical remake machine, this may be the last time Burton will be on a list like this.
Wes Anderson – Moonrise Kingdom (May)
His best effort since The Royal Tennenbaums. As my partner The Dilemma pointed out, Anderson has reached a point where you know what you’re going to get, but it’s always welcome. Acting aside, he’s this generation’s Woody Allen, churning out similar, high-quality, personal films that appeal to small but loyal following.
Ridley Scott – Prometheus (June)
Scott returns to the sci-fi terrain where he made his name with this Alien prequel. While the beautiful visuals can get weighted down by the dark seriousness (there’s a direct line from Scott to Christopher Nolan), few other directors consistently build worlds that you can sink into for a couple of hours. It’s just too bad that Scott doesn’t sometimes exhibit his brother’s ability to fly by the seat of his pants (too soon?)
Woody Allen – To Rome With Love (June)
Woody’s European Vacation (London to Barcelona to Paris to Rome) continues. Next stop, Bratislava. Still, it beats another overheated paean to New York.
Oliver Stone – Savages (July)
While heavily into Burton territory (his last great movie was Nixon from 1995), the small-time storytelling of Savages serves as a promising sign that Stone is ready to move away from making the Big Statement, which led to such disasters as Alexander and Wall Street 2.
Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises (July)
We blogged about this at length. To summarize: a decent job at a difficult task.
Ben Affleck – Argo (October)
Yup, after three solid directorial efforts, Affleck belongs on here. Like his other two movies, Argo is a built on suspense. And, like his other two movies, it shows that Affleck has both the skill and the inclination to make the kind of movies that make people so nostalgic for ’70s cinema.
Sam Mendes – Skyfall (October)
The director of melodramatic fare like American Beauty and Revolution Road may seem like an odd choice for a Bond movie, but Skyfall really works until the end when it weirdly borrows from Home Alone (seriously). It has all the action pieces and style of classic Bond updated for today’s Nolan-centric world (although enough with the origin stories already Hollywood).
Still To Come:
And plenty of big guns have held their fire until Oscar season, ensuring that this won’t be another year we’re searching for something worthwhile to watch.
Note: Some of these came out a little while ago, but we either live in Peru or have a newborn, so give us a fucking break.
Paul Thomas Anderson – The Master (September)
The Wachowskis & Tom Twyker – Cloud Atlas (October)
Robert Zemeckis – Flight (November)
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln (November)
Ang Lee – Life Of Pi (November)
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook (November)
Peter Jackson – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December)
Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty (December)
Judd Apatow – This Is 40 (December)
David Chase – Not Fade Away (December)
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained (December)
Tom Hooper – Les Miserables (December)
Gus Van Sant – Promised Land (December)