Saving Grace… and Face: The 2012 PopMatters Fall Film Preview

It seems like we sing the same song every year. Once again, film seems to have failed us. Winter/spring provides its typical dumping ground of cast-offs, the least considered, and the surprisingly competent. Summer soars, but only slightly, a few tentpoles making up for a myriad of missed opportunities, bad calls, and contractually obligated claptrap. And so we come to fall, and the slow sprint to awards season, in the hope that the artform we love redeems itself. Now, granted, 2012 was a little better than most. January through April gave us Chronicle and The Cabin in the Woods, along with foreign action sleeper The Raid: Redemption. May through August was equally impressive, giving us excellent examples of the superhero genre with The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and of course, Christopher Nolan’s dynamite (and divisive) The Dark Knight Rises.

Yet it’s when you go down past the best that September through December has its work cut out for it. There were so many middling to mediocre movies in the last eight months that the final four will have to flourish in order to make up for the morass. Blame Hollywood’s continuing micromanagement of the medium, the gapping divide between the US and international markets, or the overall artistic malaise of the minds behind the scenes, but whatever it is, we just don’t have a lot to look backward on come final “best of” consideration. In the past, we had The Hurt Locker (an Oscar winner), several sensational festival favorites (like A Separation, The Tree of Life, or The Artist) and one or two post-Sundance knockouts. As of today, we’re lost. Few performances are aiming for Academy consideration. In fact, most films and their featured players are just happy to rake in the global lucre and be done with it.

So it’s up to fall to help the heroes find themselves and it looks like September starts us off in the right direction. While there’s lighter fare, such as a Dredd reboot, a couple of keen kiddie flicks, and a number of lesser known entities, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is already riding its “not Scientology” considerations to major critical acclaim. We can also look forward to the latest from Brick/Brothers Bloom maverick Rian Johnson (Looper), as well as a return to the world of [REC] . October adds the necessary pre-Halloween scares with more Paranormal Activity and something Sinister. But there’s also Tim Burton’s highly anticipated return to stop motion (Frankenweenie), the latest from In Bruges‘s Mark McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths) and Ben Affleck (the ’70s set Argo). Still, all pale in comparison to the ambitious, already buzzed about epic from The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas.

November will be known for Robert Zemeckis’ return to live action filmmaking (Flight), Ang Lee’s intriguing adaptation of Life of Pi, and the final (YEAH!) installment in the tepid Twilight series. More importantly, Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln arrives mid-month, star Daniel Day-Lewis already receiving major year-end consideration for his startling resemblance to the 16th President of the United States. December usually decides it all, with entries as intriguing as The Hobbit, Les Miserables (the musical, finally), and Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated Django Unchained. Toss in Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Judd Apatow (This is 40), and The Guilt Trip (with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand as mother and son). Who knows… by the time we are ticking down the last few seconds of 2012, we’ll feel that the year in film has fulfilled our aesthetic desires. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, use this Fall Preview as a means of making up your mind. Naturally, we won’t know anything until the films are actually released. Until then, let the laments rain down…