Yes, I know. This is now an irregular blog. It happens. The marriage grew stale, what can I say? Say what I can. Life, other things, interests, goofing off on the internet or with books and movies or making glorious pun-sex to my real-life wife. Things have kept me away from this blog, not least of which directing one movie, producing another, and producing a comedy TV pilot (a lot of those things don't actually take up TOO much time, just enough so I can exaggerate things a bit).
But I HAVE seen movies this year, a good many, and once again I have been thinking about what the 'Out-of-Time' moments are of the year, those scenes that left an impression, whether the film was great, very good, okay, not so good, or just downright terrible. I have a bunch. Some are from movies I haven't reviewed at all - except in my brain...
So yeah, a rough list, with a little explanation of stuff here and there:
1) CONSUMING SPIRITS - an animated film unlike any other this year, one that befuddled me, bored me at times, but picked up with a fully emotionally grounded third act (or is it 4th and 5th) that drew me in closer into its idiosyncratic, paper-machete/Gumby-production-designed landscape. A moment out of this time would be seeing an old (animated) woman, stark naked, mumbling about this or that Dr. Katz style, and her daughter (only looking marginally different) trying to get her back to being sane again.
2) PROMETHEUS - Michael Fassbender's David watches Lawrence of Arabia like it hasn't already gone out of style. He watches Peter O'Toole be graceful and priggish on a screen so wide and digital it adds a 7th dimension in the frame. He may be an android, but do androids dream of lovingly-performed homage? "Nothing is written." Sure. And "Big things have small beginnings."
3) FLIGHT - Robert Zemeckis has a shot in the middle of a very frantic, heart-pounding, I'm-gonna-top-what-I-did-in-Cast-Away plane peril sequence, Denzel Washington's captain with a little booze and coke (hey, why not?) awakened from his cat-nap by the plane dropping, and then taking charge to do something very unconventional... another woman is being taken away on a gurney by paramedics from a heroin overdose. Right above them, a plan flies upside down. Same shot, unbroken, WHOOSH. Instead of flying through the air as Zemeckis is wont to do, he has someone else look up at the flying
*(a runner-up, which is more like a Travolta 'Staying Alive' bit but with no loss of irony, is Washington walking down a hallway, twice in the film, in a sharp suit and tie and aviator sunglasses to 'Feeling Alright' by Joe Cocker. Who's the drunk-ass motherfucker who will find morality through his own pain and trial and error? DENZEL! (You got it))
4) FRIENDS WITH KIDS - Jon Hamm gets drunk, argues, raises the ire of Adam Scott, which should be hard to do, and Kristin Wiig does her best dramatic acting without barely saying a word. Who knew one could slip an uncomfortable Mad-Men-esque scene into the middle of a romantic dramedy? (Well, a little Hamm goes a long way)
5) GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE - NIC CAGE SKULL ON FIRE COMING TO KILL YOUR FUCKING ASS! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!!
6) CHRONICLE - A son finally faces up to his somewhat cartoonish and yet painfully real abusive drunk father (damn, a lot of drunks here so far), and it's done in such a way where you could almost picture it like "Magneto - the Early Years", minus the Nazis. And then the shit's on...
7) BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW - A young woman gets out of the lab, and a shot becomes wider and wider to reveal her in the middle of a field. There's so much WORLD out there to see and explore now, no longer in the confines of tight corridors and colored lights, not to mention the stare of an acid-fuckhead scientist.
8) THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - And suddenly Batman reveals not only does he have the capability to return (with some new toys like 'The Bat', which comes in black, fulfilling a childish request from nine years before for young Mr. Wayne), he can in the midst of a high-speed pursuit of a mumble-mouthed warlord change things from day to night with, uh... hey, how did that happen? Cool chase and all, but, uh... continuity girl, you're fired.
*(runner up would be a mis-remembered moment in the film: when I first saw it in theaters, I thought when Bane is standing in the middle of the city giving his monologue to the cameras/Blackgate prison, he exclaimed "I HAVE A LETTA FROM JIM GORDON!!" which was the very line, the very moment, when I put my hands up in the air and said out loud 'what the fuck?' which continued much of the way through the rest of the film. As it turns out, on second viewing on DVD, Bane didn't quite say the line that way, but even with showing how Bane got the letter from Gordon just before he escapes down the river of the sewers, it was still fucking stupid. By the way, his real name is Robin ::facepalm::)
9) HOLY MOTORS - ALL OF IT! This movie, much like a David Lynch film or last year's Tree of Life, is a collection of out-of-time moments and scenes, and especially as it is about the oddball-risk-taking art of performance, of playing characters in some sort of sub-reality we can recognize. So many I could pick - the CGI running-and-then-sexcapade set with motion-capture suits in a black background; Denis Levant revealing with little couth his little-big Denis in a cave.
But I'll narrow it to two: Levant, whether it's a performance or just the 'intermission' I don't know, he plays an accordion in a big cathedral, and suddenly other people join in on this song which builds and builds. It's like that musical set-piece in Southland Tales with Timberlake that for a few minutes makes the movie magical, only better cause it's with accordion. And the second is another musical scene, with Kylie Minogue (who we also hear, coincidentally?, playing at a party that Levant's not-daughter is at from street level). She sings a song with these words starting off: "Who were we, who were we, who we were when we were back then..." and it's the most heartbreaking thing I've heard all year - two performers wondering, briefly, what the fuck they're doing with their lives. I *think* that's what they're going for anyway.
*(runner up - the very last scene of course, which suddenly makes the film into a Thomas and the Tank Engine bit or something, and to which it left me happy as a pig in slop)
10) DJANGO UNCHAINED - Django feels doubt, just for a beat, maybe the only real time, as he and King Schultz look down at a bounty on a farm. Do you shoot the guy while his kid is down there? Who cares? Bam, dead, now you get to keep this warrant poster you were able to read a moment ago, and don't lose it, it's your first bounty poster after all...
*(runner up, quick flashes of a man being ripped apart by dogs while a man awaits what may or may not be his end listening to Beethoven plucked at a harp)
11) BRAVE - A witch leaves a bunch of messages in a cauldron. Don't you just hate it when you're given the automatic voice messaging prophecies?
12) LINCOLN - So many words throughout, so much Euclid, but when Honest Abe visits a field of dead soldiers, only somber John Williams can chime in.
13) ARGO - As a group of actors in full regalia, looking like they're somewhere between Flash Gordon and Dune, do a table read of a script that won't actually be a movie, people in front of cameras in Iran tell of the troubles facing them, or rather giving their demands and their own 'performance' to the cameras. Whose more of the actor, the actor or the one who doesn't see he/she is it? It may not even be *that* deep, but it affected me, as one who lives to look at reality and fantasy as they intertwine (and it almost feels like the climax of the film, by the way, is SO far into excess, mostly as the terrorists chase a plane that can't really be taken down by that point, that it becomes it's own "movie" in the reality of this movie. The only way it could me more meta is if Alan Arkin came off the screen to belittle me)
14) BERNIE - Sing along with Bernie: "LOVE LIFTED MEEEEEEEEE!" (I don't even have any significance with this, it just stuck out in my brain all summer, and... ah, there it is again. Catchier than anything Tenacious D could put out)
15) HAYWIRE - Forget having 'sex', Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender, let Steven Soderbergh shoot your long fight scene like it IS a sex scene. And at the end, after so many not-too-long shots full of 'holy shit did they actually DO that without doubles??', instead of a cigarette a bullet to the face over a pillow will do fine.
16) RED HOOK SUMMER - A preacher, accused of and likely guilty of sexually molesting a boy years earlier, hasn't been arrested (statute of limitations and all that), but following a beatdown by some local thugs in his own ministry, wobbles back to his apartment - all in one long take, passing by people who may or may not be actors at this apartment complex - all to "Help me see my faith in God" chanted on the soundtrack. As a couple of cops say later in the movie (a flawed but undeniably worthwhile Spike Lee joint): "The Hook." "Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit."
17) KILLER JOE - Wherein a blowjob on a fried chicken drumstick very likely earns a motion picture by the MPAA an NC-17. But hey, sometimes a man has gotta get off on those 11 herbs and spices.
18) THE MASTER - That goofy smile we are fascinated by goes dark as the 'processing' gets more and more intense, and DON'T BLINK, that's the suspense of it... and then close your eyes and think of someone you knew... "I wrote my mother, I wrote my father..." somebody Freddie used to know, when things were maybe, kinda, sorta, not really innocent.
19) MOONRISE KINGDOM - One of those moments where I slightly changed my mind about something I thought didn't quite work - as young Sam is running from the scout group in the field during a particularly egregious thunderstorm, and following a shot that has some splendid triangulation for a chase, Sam is STRUCK BY LIGHTNING! And he's fine, and runs along and the chase continues. The first time I saw this scene, it took me out of the movie: up until then Anderson has been crafting this little world of this island and young lovers on the run with whimsy and delicacy to the innocence and tragedy interwoven in the comedy, but it's still felt like it was in the 'real' world to an extent.
And yet the second time, maybe it was the narrative devices (i.e. Bob Balaban, serving little function except being fantastic at delivering exposition in dangerous locales), or getting more into the young-adult-fantasy-book feel of the thing, but I didn't mind it so much. Maybe too it's because I knew what would come after, with the climax on the rooftop of the church, and it felt just a little more... right in a way. Maybe if it were animated it would be perfect. But, yeah, a moment I came around to not minding so much, and even having a big laugh at the absurdity of it all.
20) HAVANA IN BUSHWICK - Yes, this is a short film, and yes it only played oen film festival (which I went to, with some flawed results in my book), but it was one of the more striking and inventive shorts in recent memory. It's about a guy, who don't talk too much, who goes to a party, meets a Cuban Muse (this is after the party if my memory serves), and then is taken to some sort of fantasy space. Suddenly, the man is given a paintbrush, and he paints across the screen as fabulous guitar music strums behind him. And then there's later a Russian muse (why have her? hey, why not? it's Dasha Kittredge people!), and a lovely, singing Audrey Lorea as Claudia, a muse in her own right. It's just this little moment, where fantasy adds on another dimension, a truly fun cartoon moment in real life, that overloads with whimsy and surreal fancy.
21) RUST AND BONE - A woman who had her legs amuputated by the sheer will/natural nature of a killer whale, goes along with a guy down to a beach. She's in a wheelchair, and watches him swim rigorously in the ocean, and then decides she needs a swim too (Cotillard's eyes and face in this scene, so good). She goes in the water after discreetly shedding her pants (half redundant of course anyway), and while in the water, which is giving her a rebirth in a small (or big) way, she sheds the shirt too. Bare-breasted, she finally, for the first since discovering her lost apendages, gets a good solid swim. As someone who finds swimming the most satisfying form of physical exercise, this struck me very emotionally, even if it wasn't a very long scene. That she needs a little help at the end brings the characters together organically as she clings to his back tenaciously. Suddenly a bond is established, which leads more or less through the rest of the picture. But it's just this one bit in the ocean that makes something so quiet but profound for this character's coming to terms with her drastic physical change (and if you want to look it, you googley-eyed men and women in the world of the internet, it's out there in stills).
*(runner up: a scene that could be in a Wong Kar Wai film, Cotillard dances a bit to love-shack in her wheelchair, then wheels herself to the bathroom - no matter how much fun she can have, for a moment, it can be over just as quickly)
22) COMIC CON: EPISODE IV - A FAN'S HOPE - This somewhat little-seen doc from earlier this year, one more feather in Joss Whedon's cinematic cap for 2012, where he came into his own with a handful of remarkable films, chronicles the 2011 San Diego Comic Con from the POV's of a dealer, a cosplayer, two artists, and most touchingly two nerdy kids in love. The guy wants to propose marriage, and through a series of misadventures needs to get away from his adorably clingy girlfriend so he can get the ring to propose at just the right time: during the Kevin Smith panel at the con. This moment, when he finally gets to propose, made me about as happy as I've been at the movies all year. You almost aren't sure if he'll put it off - perhaps this is director Morgan Spurlock amping up the drama/comedy where there wasn't as much - but the pay-off is so glorious, not to mention tinged with genuine admiration (and genuinely funny jokes) from Kevin Smith that it seems so larger than life. The only thing that could top it is if Mewes came out with a 'Snoooogans!' right behind their seats.
23) SKYFALL - Javier Bardem makes an entrance as a Bond villain. BOY DOES HE EVER! One long shot, almost a minute and a half, two minutes, barely moving camera until a minute into it, as the subject moves down a hall surrounded by computers and a million wires. A mini-masterpiece by Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins. Imposition while telling a story of rats. Something about villains and rats - Costello in The Departed, Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds - brings out the real chill/holy-fuck factor, don't it?
24) COSMOPOLIS - Robert Pattinson, while engaged in the only halfway interesting conversation in the whole film with Paul Giamatti, shoots his hand. Does he feel it? Do we? What about that haircut?
25) SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS - And at the end, a moment of understanding, with just the way Colin Farrell says 'Fine' to Tom Waits' threats to come over and kill him for a lack of screen credit in his movie, Seven Psychopaths. "You've had it rough?" "A little." "Hmm... yeah, Tuesday's no good for me." And it's back to protecting the bunny.
26) LIFE OF PI - And suddenly, in the middle of the ocean as Pi continues his game of wits with a tiger, HUNDREDS OF FLYING FISH come their way, in 3D! WITH ASPECT RATIO CHANGE! Somehow I picture Lou Zealand from the Muppets on a ship instigating this on them.
27) CLOUD ATLAS - Tom Hanks, in a movie where he gives a myriad of performances, some very good (a man speaking not much English, a scientist who may do the right thing), some not so much (a doctor on a ship), there is by FAR his worst performance of his career: a cockney English gangster at a book party, threatening Jim Broadbent's good-hearted but old book editor. What the fuck were they thinking? AND YET! Hanks throws a guy out the window - cause, you know, that's what Cockney English gangsters do - and for a big moment, I laugh out of disbelief. Even in the worst, head-scratching moments, entertainment, however unlikely, results.
28) SAMSARA - chicken death. That's all, no comment, see it for yourself. For a few minutes, if you're not a vegetarian, you will be.
29) THE CABIN IN THE WOODS - Bradley Whitford gets his wish, in the worst possible way. MERMAN! (I just thought of that word in Derek Zoolander's voice. hehe)
30) BRANDED - The narrator of this attrocious piece of shit is revealed: a female cow constellation, who tells us in the final shot: "And a new era begins now." Um... check please?