Top 10 of 2012


2012 Top 10

It is almost a given that any film critic worth their salt is going to do a year-end list of the best films of the year. It’s de rigueur; it’s expected; it’s standard; you don’t get to wear the film critics t-shirt unless you do one. As I’m particularly fond of mine, I guess I’d better go ahead and give it a shot.

Some critics have a kind of scientific method that they use to determine their list. Me, I’m much less formal. I look back over my ratings and choose the movies I gave 10s to at the top, ranking them basically by how I’m feeling about them now. Next comes the 9s, then the 8s if it comes to that (and this year it didn’t). I ignore the half points, so you might see a 9 ranked above a 9.5. I don’t stand on ceremony as you can see.

The story of 2012 is that there were three movies that were at the top of my charts basically the entire second half of the year – nothing that came out in the fall really challenged the top three. The thing is, none of the three really stood out head and shoulders among the others; you could say it’s a three way tie for first. I have ranked them from one to three for the purposes of this list but throughout the year I’ve generally waffled as to what order that I’ve placed them in. I’ve shuffled, re-shuffled and changed my mind a million times. Each one of them has been my favorite movie of the year at various times throughout the year.

In fact, the list (as most lists do) has a highly fluid quality to it. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the ten movies on the list and I don’t think I’d change any of the movies on it, but you never know. For now, these are the top ten movies of 2012, although ask me again tomorrow and the order might change completely but I think you’d find all ten of these movies on the list.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late plus many films are being released on VOD concurrently to their limited theatrical release, although none of those are on the top ten at the moment. For those whose interests are piqued about the movies from the snippets I publish here, click on the movie’s title to see my original review and if you’d like to find out more, click on the picture above the review to be taken to the film’s official website when available.

As with any list, I guarantee mine will differ with yours significantly. Although I don’t think anyone has ever taken issue (at least publically) with my list, feel free to leave a comment as to why I know nothing about movies and which movies should have been on it, or not on it. Why make a list after all if you’re not going to disagree with it?

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

Craigslist Joe, Renee, Arbitrage, Argo, Headhunters, Turn Me On Dammit, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Bully, Thin Ice, God Bless America, Brave, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, The Salt of Life, Skyfall, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Bernie, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, Girl Model, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, A Late Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me, Goon, Life of Pi, The Sessions, A Bag of Hammers, Paul Williams: Still Alive, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, Seven Psychopaths, Ted, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey10. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

(New Line) Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and a cast of thousands. Directed by Peter Jackson

Released December 16, 2012 After years of being held up by MGM’s financial issues, the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien finally made it to the screen and in typical Hollywood fashion, the shortest of his novels will now be three films by itself. Still, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a license to print money for WB so you know it was inevitable that they’d milk it for all it’s worth. We’ll be seeing another Hobbit movie every year through 2015. After that, Silmarillion anyone?
WHY IT IS HERE: An epic adventure on a grand scale. Jackson has made Middle Earth come to life, living and breathing and he does so once again here. Using high frame rate technology, the Shire never looked so beautiful or Rivendell so serene. While it didn’t impress me at the level of the first trilogy, this is still a very good movie.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: At Rivendell, Gandalf and Galadriel communicate telepathically, both revealing hidden secrets as they discuss the dwarf mission to Erebor and the presence of the Hobbit. Two great actors do almost the entire scene with just their eyes and body language while the dialogue is read voice over. Magnificent.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $267.9 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $830.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

The Dark Knight Rises9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Released July 20, 2012 We knew in advance this would be Christopher Nolan’s last foray into Gotham and probably Christian Bale’s as well. After the major success that was The Dark Knight there was a great deal of anticipation although the inevitable backlash that comes after that kind of success was certainly lurking. The box office surely didn’t disappoint although one wonders if the competition from The Avengers didn’t keep this one from going a bit higher.
WHY IT IS HERE: A fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan pulls out all the stops with multiple villains, new gadgets and potential nuclear holocaust. The action was as good if not better than The Avengers and we get to see Batman at his most heroic.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces down a group of cops on a bridge with the lives of a bus load of kids hanging in the balance.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $448.1 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $1.1 billion total.
BUDGET: $250 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster.

The Intouchables8. THE INTOUCHABLES

(Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Released May 25, 2012 This was a box office record setter in France, capturing the imagination of French audiences as well as critical acclaim and major awards (including a Cleo for Sy as best actor). While overly sensitive politically correct American critics took pot shots at the relationship between Driss and Phillippe (white paraplegic employer, black attendant) it was based on an inspirational true story.
WHY IT IS HERE: I dare anyone to watch this all the way through and not feel better about life and the universe we live in. Da Queen will tell you I was in a terrible mood when I went to see this; when we left the theater I was a decent human being again. This should be mandatory viewing for depressives.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When Driss gets to drive Philippe’s Mazerati for the first time. Priceless.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $420.8M total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on March 5.

Monsieur Lazhar7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR

(Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Released April 13, 2012 As with the last feature on the top ten list, this was presented here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. It was, like the previous film, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film. The similarity stops there however; this is a much darker and dramatic film than the uplifting Intouchables.
WHY IT IS HERE: This deals with grief in several different ways, from the grief of children to the grief of adults. The snowy white Montreal backdrop gives the film a sense of insulation that is both warm and cold at once; it is no accident that the action begins in the winter and concludes in the spring. Fellag gives the kind of performance which would have attracted much more notice had he been working for a major distributor or for an American-made film. It’s a hard, hard film to watch at times but by the time it’s over chances are you’ll have learned something about yourself.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The courtroom scene in which Lazhar relives the tragic incident that drove him to Canada.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $6.6M total..
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Netflix/iTunes.

Cloud Atlas6. CLOUD ATLAS

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Brody Nicholas Lee, Raevan Lee Hanan, Alistair Petrie. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Released October 26, 2012 This is based on the David Mitchell novel that was widely thought to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis engaged their close friend Tykwer with each directing half of the sequences. Despite the all-star cast, marketing this epic work turned out to be nearly impossible and the movie made almost no box office impact whatsoever here in the States.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that talks about repression and personal responsibility in ways that we’re often not used to it. It shows that the ability of one human to force another to end to their will is timeless; so is the ability of one human to stand up and say no. There is an epic scope in each of the different segments – each set in a different era in history, three in the past, one in the present and two in the future. Cerebral science fiction, when done well can be as stimulating as any genre of movie extant but sadly, it isn’t generally cost-effective. This was overlooked by a lot of critics and granted, there were some flaws but such was its ambition that one can overlook them when admiring the whole.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Timothy Cavendish’ s break-out from the nuthatch in the 2012 sequence.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $27.1 million domestic (as of 1/19/13), $71.2 million total.
BUDGET: $102 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in May 2013. It may still be seen in second-run theaters.

Chasing Ice5. CHASING ICE

(Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Released November 16, 2012 The growing climate change has become an issue everywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there is oddly no dialogue, unless it is to ridicule Al Gore for his attempts to bring it to the attention of Americans. This movie was an attempt by one of the world’s most passionate and respected nature photographers to document the erosion of the world’s glaciers. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song but oddly, not for Best Documentary Feature.
WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary shows graphically the importance of glaciers to the global eco-system, the potentially catastrophic consequences of their continued erosion and shows measurably that it is happening right now. The movie is eerily beautiful as it terrifies.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scenes near the end of the film where the erosion of the glaciers is graphically shown. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $970,721 domestic (as of 1/19/13), $970,721 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in April 2013.

Lincoln4. LINCOLN

(DreamWorks) Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie, Gloria Reuben. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Released November 9, 2012 This biography of America’s 16th (and perhaps best) president had long been in gestation as Spielberg meticulously researched his life and times, recreating his office down to the wallpaper. It has been something of a surprise hit, with Day-Lewis up to his usual standards of performance, garnering an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win to add to his trophy collection.
WHY IT IS HERE: This really gives you a sense of the man behind the majesty, a man who has carried the weight of a bloody civil war on his broad shoulders and is beginning to buckle. This Honest Abe is not above political chicanery and is not above shouting at his subordinates to get this vote done. And the great Mr. Lincoln drove the people around him crazy with his stories, like the long-winded uncle everyone avoids at family reunions. Not that I have a long-winded uncle.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is gripping even though most Americans who know their history know how it turns out.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $156.6 million domestic (as of 1/18/13), $156.6 million total.
BUDGET: $65 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Cabin in the Woods3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

Released April 13, 2012 This was a pretty good year for Joss Whedon who not only directed the biggest blockbuster of the year but produced this film as well. The movie actually had been languishing in the vaults of MGM during its bankruptcy woes and was picked up by Lionsgate who were sadly never really able to get across to the public what a great ride this movie is.
WHY IT IS HERE: Those who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (which itself is being remade later this year) are going to love this. Part horror spoof, part action flick, part Lovecraftian gorefest, part conspiracy flick and all of it fun, we get a solid cast, put them in a playground and watch them get mind raped. It has been a rare thing that I’ve had this much fun at a movie and although it starts off a bit slow, when it gets going it REALLY takes off! Just keep asking yourself this: Am I on speaker phone?
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The elevator ride down into the bowels of the complex.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $42.1 million domestic (as of 1/20/13), $66.5 million total.
BUDGET: $30 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Lady2. THE LADY

(Cohen Media Group) Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Flint Bangkok, William Hope, Victoria Sanvalli, Danny Toeng, Nay Myo Thant. Directed by Luc Besson

Released April 11, 2012 This biopic of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was my favorite film from last year’s Florida Film Festival and a very real contender for my favorite of the year period. Oddly, it got extremely disappointing reviews which I found incomprehensible – but the box office figures were far more disappointing than the reviews.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that shows how resilient the human spirit is. Suu Kyi is one of the most courageous people of our time and yet her story is largely unknown in the West. Michelle Yeoh gives a performance that in a just world would have been considered for an Oscar – it’s at least on par with favorite Jessica Chastain’s. However because of the almost non-existent theatrical release and the critical shellacking it received, most people will never get a chance to see it.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aung proudly listens to her son Alexander give the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize, the ceremony for which she was unable to attend.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Domestic box office figures unavailable (as of 1/23/12), $3.4 million total.
BUDGET: $29.4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel1. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillette Dubey, Sid Makkar, Seema Azmi, Diana Hardcastle, Lucy Robinson, Paul Bhattacharjee. Directed by John Madden

Released May 4, 2012 General movie audiences notoriously find movies about the elderly to be anathema. It’s not hard to figure out why – moviegoers are mostly teens and young adults; that demographic doesn’t really care about the elderly and their issues because they simply aren’t there yet. This one, however, struck a chord with audiences of all age groups.
WHY IT IS HERE: I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting India for most of my life. I’d heard about the noise, the smell, the crowded conditions and the heat – it didn’t sound like my particular cup of tea. That all changed after I saw this movie and saw India from a completely different viewpoint. Besides that, this is a movie about aging and living as an “old person.” You might look at aging differently when you see this.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tom Wilkinson’s strolls through town were always full of joy.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $46.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $134.4 million total.
BUDGET: $10 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes.

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The 2012 Florida Film Festival


Well, the Florida Film Festival is over for another year and this one was by all accounts a good one. With record-setting ticket sales as well as the most movies ever presented by the Festival, it’s just an indication as to the general growth in popularity of film festivals nationwide and of this one in particular. Those looking for alternatives to the wide Hollywood releases in the same multiplexes are finding themselves drawn to the film festival environment.

Although the festival is over officially, here on Cinema365 it will continue on indefinitely. I will continue to review movies screened at the festival this year, including some I saw at the festival (as I await their release date to print their full review) and each one will be accompanied by the Florida Film Festival banner as you see above. Also for those films I missed seeing at the Festival as they appear here in Orlando I will review those as well; and for those I see on DVD or stream from wherever those will also receive the FFF/Cinema365 treatment.

There were some amazing films here at the festival this year, some of which have already been reviewed. My favorites were in this order;

The Lady
Monsieur Lazhar
Renee
The Intouchables
Headhunters
The Salt of Life
Turn Me On, Dammit
God Bless America
Where Do We Go Now?
Girl Model
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Lovely Molly
Eye of the Hurricane

Look for coverage of the Festival to continue throughout the year. I’m already looking for the 2013 edition, which Cinema365 will once again be covering in depth.

In the meantime, our newest special feature is coming this weekend. It’s called Offshoring and will be our own mini-film festival of all non-American films. We’ll have movies from Israel, Norway, China, France and India during six days of global cinema coverage that will serve to celebrate the diversity and quality of films from all over the planet. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did watching and reviewing these films; I intend it to be a regular post-Florida Film Festival feature annually.

Look for our new American Experience mini-festival of movies celebrating the uniqueness of American life coming around the July 4th Holiday, and at the end of this week our annual summer movie preview. It’s busy around here at Cinema365 World HQ but it’s worth it as we gear up to further bring to you our passion for films of both the summer blockbuster and independent and foreign cinematic variety. Hope you like what you read!

Renee


Renee

Not your typical fairy godmother.

(2009) True Life Drama (Two Streets) Kat Dennings, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend, Mark Saul, Juliana Harkavy, Corbin Bleu, William Peltz, Brian Patrick Clark, Rus Blackwell, J. LaRose, Ylian Alfaro Snyder, Kristi Engelmann, Brad Benedict, Rachael Yamagata. Directed by Nathan Frankowski

 

Drug addiction, self-mutilation, sexual predators, clueless parents – all of these things are issues our teenage girls face in the war that growing up has become. Fortunately, they don’t have to necessarily go out into battle alone.

However, that’s exactly what Renee Yohe (Dennings) did. An independently-minded teen from a comfortably middle class family in suburban Orlando, she and her inseparable mates Dylan (Saul), a budding musician and her BFF Jessie (Harkavy) navigate the party scene with the courage and innocence that comes with being a teen.

Renee has always had a thing for fairy tales, seeing beautiful gardens when life got messy. No garden can save her however when she falls in among the wrong crowd. She is hooked on drugs and abandons her friends and family, living in a drug culture cared for only by downtown pedi-cab driver Mackey (Bleu) who can’t protect her from a sinister looking druggie who has designs on her body.

She escapes from the drug house that she was in and calls Dylan. He is working as an (unpaid) intern for an agent for musicians, David McKenna (Friend) who is a former addict himself and does motivational speeches at churches and schools throughout Central Florida. He agrees to help her get into a rehab program but the director tells him that since Renee still has drugs in her system, they can’t accept her since they don’t have the facilities to help her through detox. She’s going to have to wait five days for her system to cleanse itself of the drugs before she’ll be allowed in.

After a fruitless attempt to convince her parents to let her crash at home, McKenna reluctantly decides to take her in where Jessie and Dylan can keep an eye on her. This is news to his roommate Jamie Tworkowski (Murray) who is impressed by Renee’s straightforward nature and her courage to tackle sobriety. It’s no easy thing for Renee to get sober, particularly with all the temptations around her including a downtown music festival, ghosts from the past and David’s own fragile sobriety.

While Renee finally makes the recovery clinic, Jamie is inspired to write Renee’s story. This leads to him founding a non-profit organization to help kids like Renee. That organization is To Write Love on Her Arms, which would become a respected and acclaimed agency  that helps kids get the treatment they need to get through their drug addiction.

This is based on the true story of Renee and the agency that she helped inspire. Frankowski nicely accents the gritty realistic tone of the film with flights of fancy, many depicting the fairy tale quality of Renee’s imagination. That makes for a lovely juxtaposition which offers some relief from what would be a grim fairy tale indeed.

Dennings, known more for comic roles, shines here. Renee isn’t always the most reliable of people and she doesn’t do the right thing all the time. She can be far from sympathetic in her actions until you remember what she’s been through and as you watch the story unfold as a child from an essentially loving environment makes such horribly self-destructive choices. It’s heart-breaking at times and yet Renee isn’t one to apologize or feel sorry for herself. Those qualities shine through in Dennings’ portrayal of her and creates an unforgettable character who’ll stay with you long after the movie is over. I don’t know if the real Renee Yohe is anything like how Dennings portrays her but if she is, she’s someone I wouldn’t mind meeting someday.

Denning has some pretty good support here too. Friend brings out the torment in McKenna’s soul, making him a stand-up guy who is a lot less strong than he appears to be. It’s a spot-on perfect of a recovering addict that Dr. Drew would no doubt approve of.

In fact, there’s a lot about this movie that Dr. Drew might praise. For one, Renee’s release from rehab isn’t the end of her journey but more like the beginning. She realizes, even if those around her don’t, that she is far from recovered and is very much at risk. She also knows that this will be a lifelong fight for her. I don’t know if the real Renee has remained clean and sober – I’d like to think she has – but realistically speaking the odds are far greater that she’s relapsed at some time. This is true for any addict, not just her – kicking drugs isn’t the kind of thing that can be really covered in a 90 minute movie adequately. You don’t get the sense of how it is an insidious disease that rears its ugly head whenever it isn’t wanted or needed.

The power of this movie is very evident. The local Orlando filmmaking community can take a lot of pride that a movie of this quality has come out of it and hopefully it will pave the way for more movies this accomplished. As for Renee, you will leave as I did rooting for her to make it and find that elusive happiness that is hard enough to find when we’re sober. You would also do well to remember – as I’m sure she’d be the first to tell you – that she is just one of many such stories, and there are probably some being written a lot closer to you than you might think.

REASONS TO GO: Enormously emotional with some excellent performances from Dennings and Friend. Realistic and “non-Hollywood” view at addiction.

REASONS TO STAY: Choppy pacing at times. Rape scenes may be too intense for sensitive souls or survivors of the crime.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some graphic depictions of drug use, plenty of foul language, a little bit of violence and sexuality including rape.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Much of the crew came from the primary film schools in Central Florida – the University of Central Florida, Full Sail University and Valencia College.

CRITICAL MASS: Not available.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Crutch

ORLANDO LOVERS: The movie was shot around downtown Orlando and features the parts of the city that people who just visit the theme parks never see.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

TOMORROW: Eye of the Hurricane

Florida Film Festival 2012


That time of year is upon us as the Florida Film Festival will return for its 21st year on April 13th through April 22nd. The FFF’s unique combination of exciting films, delicious food and fun make it one of the most laid-back, enjoyable film festivals anywhere. It is also one of the best-curated – two out of the last three years the movie I chose as best of the year was one I saw right here at the Florida Film Festival. That gives you an idea of the quality of the films selected year after year.

Why go to a film festival? Aren’t they for film snobs so they can get together and watch subtitled and indie films while looking down their noses at mainstream movies? Maybe at some festivals but not this one. The people who attend the Florida Film Festival are film lovers; their only criterion is that the movie have something to offer. Sure, they might turn up their noses at movies that aren’t made well or don’t have anything in particular to say but for the most part the people who are regular attendees at the FFF are people who see a lot of movies, mainstream as well as independent.

And these aren’t all movies about 20-something hipsters in complicated relationships while living in lofts in New York City; at the FFF you’ll find children’s films, horror movies, classic films, action films, hysterically funny shorts, compelling documentaries and musicals. There is literally something for every taste in movies and every kind of story imaginable. If you are a little open-minded and like to have a good time, this is the party you’re missing and trust me, it’s one you want to go to.

There are special food events where celebrity chefs show off their skills; there are movies that take special pride in our Florida home as Florida-bred filmmakers show why this area is rapidly becoming a spawning ground for great filmmakers. There are midnight movies showing the best in genre filmmaking from around the world. There are short films from around the world and around the corner, both animated and live action (and just for the record, the most recent winner of the Oscar for Animated Short Subject was screened at last year’s Florida Film Festival).

So what do they have in store for us this year? A wealth of great movies – over 170 features will be screened during this year’s Festival. Some of the ones I’m looking forward to are Renee, the locally made film covering the story of Renee Yohe, the inspiration for the charity group To Write Love On Her Arms (it is also the opening night film) and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary covering the world’s only three Michelin star-rated sushi chef. There’s also the latest horror film from Don Coscarelli (auteur of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep) called John Dies in the End. There’s the Norwegian sexual coming of age film Turn Me On, Dammit! and the Canadian schoolroom drama Monsieur Lazhar (which was also nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar this year although it didn’t win), not to mention the Paul Simon documentary Under African Skies and the sophisticated animated feature A Cat in Paris.

Some that I’m planning to see (among most of the ones above as well) include Salt of the Earth (the sequel to Mid-August Lunch), the thriller Headhunters, Luc Besson’s biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi (the pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate under house arrest in Myanmar) The Lady and the French box office record breaker The Intouchables. Those whose tastes lean towards classic movies will be thrilled to hear that among those classics screening this year include Marriage Italian Style, To Kill a Mockingbird, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Liberty Heights.

Of note is the Rick Springfield documentary Affair of the Heart. Made by local documentary director Sylvia Caminer, it set a Florida Film Festival record by selling out it’s Thursday night screening in less than an hour (it doesn’t hurt that Springfield will be making an appearance at the screening). There are a few tickets left for the Saturday noon screening on April 14th if you’re still looking to see it – it’s supposed to be an amazing documentary and from the clips I’ve seen it is going to appeal to his fans and non-fans alike.

And I could go on and on – but you get the point. There are some really good movies, several of which are most likely destined for my year-end top ten. There is the good food not only at the Enzian and Eden Bar but also at events hosted by Luma of Winter Park, Whole Foods Market and of course the Opening Night Party, featuring food from some of the best restaurants in Central Florida. There are great venues including the Enzian itself, The Regal in Winter Park Village and Central Park in downtown Winter Park. You can find more ticket information for the Festival and information about all the movies and shorts being screened at their website here.

So keep an eye on Cinema365 for more information about upcoming celebrity appearances at the Festival, reviews of the movies being screened and further preview information about the Festival. This year looks to be bigger and better than ever and we wouldn’t want you to miss a thing.

Tickets for individual films run at $10 apiece (once they go on sale – see website for details) and packages start as low as $50 (and usually include goodies like posters or programs) or you can go whole hog and get yourself a pass which gets you into any and/or all screenings. Those start at $450 and go up to $1000 a pass (for the film lover who has everything – and wants more). So yeah, ten bucks a ticket isn’t all that bad and even if you just pick a single film to see, you’ll be hooked for life. There’s nothing quite like a film festival and there are none quite like the Florida Film Festival. See for yourself – you’ll be thanking me for it later.