You know what an audience-friendly film is. It tells a story that engages you about characters you can like and root for. Yet those films -- movies that seek to tell a story that uplifts or inspires -- often get short shrift from critics for that reason alone.
These films are all very good if not great. Either they didn't quite make my 'favorite of the year' list or they aren't the kind of thing that belongs on a traditional best-of-year list (you'll see which ones I'm referring to).
While studios did have a stellar year, the bests came from the independent and international films this year, with career highs, autueristic re-enforcers, welcome cinematic returns and new visionaries. Here's my round-up of the 10 best films released in 2012.
While The Master, like 2001, has meditative and metaphysical leanings -- areas that tend to unnerve audiences -- it was greeted, unlike 2001, by many rapturous reviews describing its wondrous surprises and consummate craftsmanship.
Five weeks ago, most Oscar experts polled by Gold Derby believed Silver Linings Playbook was out front to win Best Picture, followed by Lincoln in second place. Since then, the forecasts have changed radically.
The Avengers. Joss Whedon deserves some kind of award for turning what could have been the clunkiest superhero-supergroup spectacle since Fantastic Four into a razor-sharp, bullet-fast fun-fest, but they don't give Oscars for that.
When the kids were little, the phrase "don't bite the hand that feeds you" was in fact quite literal. I know you really want the Cheerios and you want to show off your choppers, but don't bite my arm as I put them on your plate.
The dividing lines have already been drawn -- and continue to be drawn -- about what should or shouldn't be among the year-end awards contenders. And the biggest line, of course, has to do with The Master.
While many want The Master to be an assault on what they see as a kooky and possibly dangerous cult, I'm not convinced that The Master is or has to be about more than its two main characters struggling and ultimately failing to make themselves whole.
We can choose to believe that everything and everyone is dumbing down. But I don't buy that. And I think a lot of others also don't want to be told what to think. People who -- if it's smart and sturdy -- will come, and sit still for as long as it takes.
The Master, while also ponderous, complex, intriguing and likely to win Oscars, stands out as a profound, artistic saga brought to seething life by performances so startling they stayed with me for days afterwards.
The director offers up some odd ensemble scene where Hoffman does a cutesy song and dance routine before a group of sycophants where most of the women are completely naked, making one wonder how they were motivated to strip while the men remain modestly clothed.
This is not a feel-good movie. But it is a master class in acting. It is a haunting fictional story that is all too true. As with great writing, it takes us into the labyrinth of human nature, rife with emotional hunger, desperation and rage.