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So what if the pop­corn ti­tans rode roughshod through the mul­ti­plexes? It was also a year to savour a wide range of stealth crit­i­cal wows, writes Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM 2012 -

NOT LONG be­fore she died, Pauline Kael had sec­ond thoughts re­gard­ing her com­mend­ably dogged and in­verted cin­ema snob­bery. You’ve likely stum­bled across the rel­e­vant quo­ta­tion be­fore, it’s the one that goes: “When we cham­pi­oned trash cul­ture we had no idea it would be­come the only cul­ture.”

The con­tem­po­rary critic might well ask the same ques­tion about pop­corn movies. 2012 was brought to you by and in as­so­ci­a­tion with the big- league fran­chises. Bond, Bat­man, and Bella Swan all sailed to­ward (and some­times past) eight-digit box-of­fice booty and Dis­ney con­tin­ued to max out the credit cards on Lu­cas­Film. In the year when Uni­ver­sal and Para­mount cel­e­brated 100 years of busi­ness, one can’t help but won­der how cin­ema got so in­fan­tile.

Plus ça change? Maybe. Pop­corn has long played over­lord in the moviev­erse, but it’s rarely felt quite so Or­wellian. Es­pe­cially for a food­stuff. Years into the con­tin­u­ing march of the tent-poles, we’ve learned to trans­late the flu­ent newspeak of most film writ­ing into proper English: “Ex­clu­sive Set Visit” means “There’s No Way in Hell This Movie Will Be Screened for Re­view Pur­poses”; “Col­lec­tor’s Edi­tion” means the ad­ver­tis­ing de­part­ment have done ster­ling work; “Five Unique Col­lec­tor Edi­tions” means “Sucker”.

When we cham­pi­oned pop­corn movies should we have known we would end up with even more pop­corn movies? Per­haps, but there’s not much the in­creas­ingly marginalised crit­i­cal sec­tor can do about it.

Nowa­days crit­ics only make a dent when the rel­e­vant re­lease is in­die or art­house or for­eign lan­guage. It’s a dwin­dling and doomed pro­fes­sion. Its fu­ture, ul­ti­mately, is the Fi­bonacci se­quence in re­verse and cease­lessly on to­ward zero.

Yet it still counts for some­thing when it isn’t pop­corn.

Hap­pily for our bit­ter lit­tle guild and for film gen­er­ally, 2012 was also a year of stealth crit­i­cal wows. You see all th­ese nominations? We’ve got more. Way more. If you’ve got a cat­e­gory, we’ve got the short­list.

We’re still twid­dling our thumbs wait­ing on the the­atri­cal re­leases of four of the year’s best Ir­ish ti­tles – Ci­tadel, Pil­grim Hill, Good Vi­bra­tions, Earth­bound – to pre­miere at July’s Gal­way Film Fleadh. It’s good they’re in the bag; 2012 was far from be­ing vin­tage year on the home front. Glenn Close ve­hi­cle Al­bert Nobbs did enough to se­cure an Os­car nod for its lead­ing lady but not enough to per­suade crit­ics and au­di­ences. Grab­bers made for a lively genre en­try but flopped at the box of­fice. The Last Fur­long was re­leased

with­out warn­ing or a press show. Char­lie Casanova made a splash in the me­dia yet not at the mul­ti­plex.

And what’s go­ing on with our in­ter­na­tional co-pro­duc­tions? Baby­girl, Iz­tam­bul, Won­der­land, Ap­ples of Golan, We Went to War? Might we see them in cinemas some­time? We did get Soder­bergh’s Hay­wire re­plete with Dublin­based beat-em-up ac­tion. And hap­pily, Lenny Abra­ham­son can al­ways be re­lied upon to turn in some­thing spe­cial. Roll on, Frank ...

Docs were strong this year but you had to seek them out. Dis­count­ing Bill Cun­ning­ham’s epic seven-week stint at the Light House, the­atri­cal runs were short and sweet. Best Mu­sic Doc­u­men­taries: Blank City, Mar­ley, Some­thing from Noth­ing: The Art of Rap, Mis­sion to Lars, and Search­ing for Su­gar­man. Best Cam­paign­ing Doc­u­men­taries: Call Me Kuchu, Ai Wei­wei: Never Sorry, Khodor­kovsky, 5 Bro­ken Cam­eras and The Is­land Pres­i­dent.

Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion Best Break­through Per­for­mance was all about the girls – Me­ga­lyn Echikun­woke for Damsels in Dis­tress, Julie Sokolowski for Hadewjich, Caity Lotz for The Pact, Tara Lynne for God Bless Amer­ica and Dane DeHaan, the only male to make the cut, for Chron­i­cle.

The hard­est cat­e­gory to call was Best Cine­matog­ra­phy, but here goes: Stéphane Fon­taine for Rust and Bone, Sea­mus McGar­vey for Anna Karen­ina, Ron Fricke for Sam­sara, Ben Richard­son for Beasts of the South­ern Wild.

We can’t fault this year’s Palm Dog jury se­lec­tion ( Sight­seers) and we’re not go­ing to ar­gue: Best Screen Dog Who Isn’t Ug­gie in The Artist: Laika in Le Havre, Fanny in The Hunt, Smurf in Sight­seers, Snoopy in Moon­rise King­dom and, damn it any­way, Ug­gie in The Cam­paign. We thought about Rowdy from The Lucky One but were con­cerned that his in­clu­sion would make the Best Dog cat­e­gory too com­mer­cial.

Best Fake An­i­mals – al­ways a safer op­tion, Mr Jack­son – were found in The Grey and War Horse. We’re pleased to an­nounce ad­di­tional non-pho­to­re­al­is­tic nods for the swan pedalo from Swandown and Miss Piggy.

It might sound churl­ish to com­plain in a year wherein half of the planet’s Great­est Liv­ing Direc­tors – Guy Maddin, Alexandr Suko­rov, Bruno Dumont, An­drey Zvyag­int­sev, Béla Tarr, Paul Thomas An­der­son, Jacques Au­di­ard – had new films out. But com­plain we shall.

Best Films Re­leased In the UK But Not In Ire­land: Richard Bates Jr’s Ex­ci­sion, Zal Bat­man­glij and Brit Mar­ling’s Sound of my Voice, Yi Se­ung-jun’s Planet of Snail, Makoto Shinkai’s Chil­dren Who Chase Lost Voices and Alek­sandr Sokurov’s mad­den­ing, mag­nif­i­cent Faust.

Best Reis­sues Not Reis­sued Here: Vin­cente Min­nelli’s The Bad and the Beau­ti­ful; Rainer Werner Fass­binder’s De­spair, Nic Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, Stu­art Schul­berg’s Nurem­berg, and Yoshi­aki Kawajiri’s Ninja Scroll.

Mean­while, at the low­est of the low end of the spec­trum we find the Worst Fe­male Characters and Great­est Bechdel Test Fails – The Watch, What To Ex­pect When You’re Ex­pect­ing, Wrath of the Ti­tans, Sky­fall and Ch­er­nobyl Di­aries.

Let’s not even bother with the Bad Sex Award short­list; let’s just men­tion the se­men tears in House of Tol­er­ance and move swiftly and qui­etly on to

2013.

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