Oscar Watkins looks at last year’s film landscape
For the last 20 years, the film industry has been making leaps and bounds in technological innovation and revamping its consumer experience. From gimmicky attempts at 3D cinema, to the projection of on demand media directly into the home theatre, it would appear that movies are once again in the hands of the viewer. On top of this, the cost of filmmaking (particularly docufilm features) has, for the most part, dropped. 2012 was a veritable manifestation of these trends, with politically charged documentaries coming to the fore, and consumer driven films very much in vogue. Here are some of the year’s highs and lows.
The beginning of the year saw the release of a number of documentaries; The Invisible War, Marley, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and Searching for Sugarman to name a few. Kevin Macdonald’s Marley, in particular, plucked the heartstrings of the politically conscious, and enwrapped the country in Rastafarian fever, at least briefly. Though, at times, giddily idealistic the film was touching and transcendently apt in a period of seemingly unparalleled austerity. What was most effective about Marley was the transparent and simple message it conveyed. Perhaps more complex, was Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Alison Klayman’s debut success, despite being overshadowed in the UK by its blockbuster competitors, is a philosophical and stimulating visual masterpiece. Ai Weiwei, arguably the heart and soul of the film, is represented faithfully and unabashedly in this challengingly simple commentary on the changes within and future of Chinese society and tradition. By contrast, the blockbuster hits of 2012 were unashamedly lavish.
Marvel’s The Avengers, successfully navigated the tricky task of bringing together an ensemble cast, breaking box office records and satisfying die hard comic fan boys/girls. And they were lucky the film didn’t flop, with a production cost totalling over 220 million US$ and the future success of four major series’ in the balance. Under the guidance of Joss Whedon, the films success was almost fated, and without faux pas or inane action packed nonsense. Full of accessible wit, and exploring the humanistic fallibilities of superheroes, the film well and truly raised the bar for Marvel at the movies.
The awards season films were perhaps some of the best in years. With Argo, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook and many more, all vying for the dodgy collective approval of the Academy. These films were a brilliant move forwards for Hollywood, with the distillation of a multitude of genres successfully proving that the yanks can still produce great cinema (even if they do need British Actors to take the lead).