That's My Boy notwithstanding, 2012 was, as it has been iterated by numerous critics, a wonderful year at the movies. William “Bibbs” Bibbiani and I spent the last episode of The B-Movies Podcast, celebrating a proud 100 episodes of being high on meths, long-windedly discussing the best and worst films of the year, and brought up, oh, about fifty titles that came out during the year that were worthy of note, either because they were entertaining, astonishing, or had the word “Oogieloves” in the title. We finished the episode with a brief and only mildly sappy reminiscence about the 100 episodes we have been so happily been a part of. To our loyal listeners, I give you the most humble of thanks, and, if I could, I would give attentive foot rubs to each and every one of you.
To keep the look-backs a-rolling, Bibbs and I have decided to write about our favorite movie moments of 2012. That is to say: not a mere look back at our favorite movies of the year, per se, but the wondrous little film-related moments that took place in or around movie theaters. Part of the cinema experience is, after all, going to the movies, being amongst a community, and enjoying (or loathing) a common experience in the dark. These little movie moments may also involve meeting a celebrity, or, in our case, working with them. They may also just be discovering or re-discovering an older film on home video. Maybe it will be testing a new film technology. In short, going to the movies can involve so much more than just the movies.
I had several blissful and wonderful movie moments in 2012. Indulge me, won't you, in my halcyon end-of-the-year flashback to some of my favorite magical film-related experiences of the year.
Our Special Guests
The B-Movies Podcast is not only a conduit for the latest movie news, reviews, and whatnot. We also occasionally, as you have noticed, had special guests on the show. Whenever we have a special guest, I always feel humbled, honored, and totally out of my league. Some wonderful people have deigned to speak with Bibbs and I over the course of the year, and I was thrilled to talk to each of them. I extend the expected special thanks to the following people for tolerating me. Rena Riffel was a bubbly and wonderful guest who talked with us about Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven. She signed a poster for me, and I have it proudly hanging on my wall. B-movie luminary Brian Trenchard-Smith was kind enough to give us the stories of working on Frog Dreaming, Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits, and several others. Richard Elfman not only deigned to speak with us, but actually invited us into his home, and cackled wickedly for us. Joe Dante did his Tasmanian Devil impersonation. It's hard to describe the influence that man has had on people my age. Heck, even Jay Chandrasekhar was a class act.
As some of you may or may not know, I am also the author of a regular feature on CraveOnline called The Series Project, wherein I watch entire franchises of movies, and then write about them as a single unit, analyzing the notion of inter-film continuity, and the way filmmakers tend to approach a film when it is part of a franchise. I kicked off 2012 with my most ambitious Series Project to date with The Series Project: James Bond. That means over the course of six weeks I watched 24 James Bond movies, and wrote about every single one of them. When Skyfall came out, I wrote a seventh installment. Watching so many James Bond films in such a condensed period was a somewhat transformative experience. I wasn't just watching a long string of high-profile action films, I felt like I was filling in a vital piece of my pop culture education. Many of the films I saw for the first time. I'm certainly not as much a James Bond expert as some out there, but as an ambitious viewer who has seen them all, I now feel like I can match with some of them.
Mashups and Musicals
Contemplating how Hollywood works is always fun, but writing satires of how Hollywood works is funner. Of all the articles I wrote for CraveOnline, I had an amazingly fun time with two. One was a musing on the pretty fun revisionist action flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and inspired Bibbs and I to come up with our own bizarro literary mashups. Looking back over the article, I realize that I would love to see any of those films. I was also especially proud of my post-Rock of Ages article about jukebox musicals. In it, I pitched six potential movie stories that could each be tied to a respective subgenre of pop music. Looking over my pitches for imaginary movies, I realize that I could – were I a working screenwriter – possibly be the worst thing imaginable for Hollywood.
The All-Night Horror-Thon
For the past seven Halloweens, The Aero theater (part of The American Cinematheque) plays host to an all-night horror movie marathon for die-hard gorehound true believers. The marathon typically starts at about 7:30pm, and runs until the sun is up. The experience is truly a test of stamina and gluteal might. Large amounts of caffeine are consumed at such an event, and free pizza is typically served. 2012 was the first year I was able to attend such an event. I was, it must be reported, a total lightweight at this event, as I only lasted through three movies before calling it quits. What's more, the programmers left enormous intermissions in between films, which is hardly ideal for an audience relying on constant horror thrills to stay awake. Nonetheless, there was a fun sense of community at this event. A kind of blood-soaked bonhomie. It was, in short, the biggest slumber party I ever had the honor of attending. I wish the program moved at a more jaunty clip, and that I had the stamina to last longer, but it was still a new and very fun experience.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Something similar occurred when I watched The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2. Most films that we critics see, I should remind you, are typically shown in screening rooms with other film critics. Only occasionally do we get to see films with the public at large. I was able to see the fifth and final of the Twilight movies (which I was also researching for a Series Project in a public theater, surrounded by some of the most passionate fans of Stephenie Meyer's angsty vampire romance. While the film itself is campy and odd and frequently laughable, seeing it in a theater was transcendent. I got the feeling that even the fans realized how campy some of this was, but they loved it all openly nonetheless. Fans cheered, stamped their feet, and made open comments in full voice in the theater. I'm not a huge fan of the Twilight movies, but being with the huge fans kind of made me feel part of something fun.
I cherish my drive-in theater experiences. There are few drive-ins remaining in this grand country of ours, and my wife and I have made it a point to seek them out from time to time, just to be part of that long-running, lightly seedy, picnic-like cinematic experience which brought so much joy and so much schlock to the world in days of yore. In 2012, I went to more than one drive-in, and I had a great, great time eating in the car, talking out loud, and sprinting across the parking lot to the ancient snack bar in just enough time to see the B-feature. I sense that the drive-in experience has not changed much in the last 40 years. I'm glad.
A fellow named John Pavlich hosts a podcast called The Sofa Dogs Podcast, which provides weekly audio commentary tracks for feature films, intended to be synched up with your viewing of them. I have always felt that DVD commentary tracks are much more interesting when provided by film scholars, rather than by stars and directors who typically spend mess time analyzing their films, and more time talking about what the weather was like on the set that day. Pavlich, I think, is trying to provide somewhat analytical commentaries for all his favorite movies. I was honored to be asked to provide commentary tracks for some films in 2012, including a commentary for Hellraiser, a 1987 horror film that was very important to me for many year, and John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, a sloppy 1995 cheapie that, in its own way, set me on my path toward movie obsession. I had never recorded a commentary track before 2012, and now I feel like an honored scholar who can chatter on incessantly and wax pseudo-intellectual with the best of them.
From the Desk of William Bibbiani:
When I suggested we cover our most memorable moments from 2012 for this week’s B-Movies Extended, in the back of my head I imagined a list of unforgettable movie moments, like the horrifying handjob scene in Hyde Park on Hudson or, on a more positive note, that incredible final action sequence in The Avengers. Witney, bless him, took my vague suggestion and transformed it into something more personal. That’s why I love him. That, and he keeps giving me these meths.
It’s been a pretty magical year for me, movie-wise, and not just because we had some truly stellar cinema in 2012. Some of my favorite moments of the year have already been well covered by my comrade in arms, particularly all our wonderful guests on The B-Movies Podcast and the delicious squeals of agony gurgling forth from Twihards in the wake of Breaking Dawn, Part 2’s ingenious finale. If you didn’t see the last Twilight film in theaters, I actually pity you. No, it wasn’t particularly good, but it was the kind of sumptuous schadenfreude that you only get to experience once or twice in a decade. By now the cat’s out of the bag, and the odds of anyone watching Breaking Dawn, Part 2 with a full audience completely unprepared for its surprises are practically nil. You missed out. That’s all I’m saying.
What follows are a cross-section of the moments, incidents and adventures from 2012 that I will take to my deathbed, even if nobody else cares. I’ll try to share my experience to the best of my abilities. I hope that each and every one of you had your own one-of-a-kind experiences over the past year, and have even more incredible journeys ahead of you in 2013.
The Trailer Hitch
In the last quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, Witney and I produced, wrote and starred in The Trailer Hitch, a web series here at CraveOnline in which we riffed on movie trailers new and old. Yes, it was inspired by “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” as some folks cleverly pointed out. But “Mystery Science Theater 3000” was inspired by lazy nights in front of the TV, and by Robert Benchley’s own commentary in Road to Utopia, dating all the way back to 1946. Whatever. We had a lot of fun with this series, wrote some jokes that still make me laugh (Witney’s “Monty Python” reference in the Battleship episode kills me every time), and in the ten months since The Trailer Hitch’s cancellation I’ve received lots of requests to bring the show back from the dead, which touches my heart. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank to everyone who watched the show and then asked for more. Maybe we’ll get to that. Maybe soon…
The Avengers Was Actually Worth the Wait
As I was sitting in traffic en route to The Avengers, I suddenly realized that I was about to see a movie I’d been dreaming about since I was in grade school. I’d been so wrapped up in work and personal matters in the months preceding the premiere that I had completely forgotten to get excited. The sudden rush of enthusiasm filled me from top to bottom and I was a little kid all over again, just plain excited to see a movie that I’d been picturing in my head for as long as I could remember. Then the movie actually began and, while it wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, it actually worked. Joss Whedon made an ensemble superhero movie in which all the characters were done right (well, maybe not Hawkeye so much), the action was thrilling and the writing was clever and soulful. The Avengers, I suspect, will go down as one of the best summer blockbusters ever made. I got everything I’d been hoping for since I learned how to read through Marvel Comics. I’m giddy just thinking about it now.
"Here's Your Goat!"
I get sent a lot of stuff in my position as a film critic. Usually it’s DVDs, but sometimes it’s a weird little curio. For instance, my Blu-ray of the moonshine drama Lawless came with a little mason jar. That was amusing. But the folks behind The Dictator really went above and beyond in 2012 when they sent me a small platoon of attractive women wearing fatigues, carrying with them a live goat. It was a somewhat embarrassing experience (what, exactly, did they expect me to “do” with the goat, anyhow… or the women?), and no, I didn’t get to keep the little guy. I did take a few pictures though. I have a deeply, deeply weird job.
Vertigo is Now the “The Best Movie Ever Made”
This took me completely by surprise. Since the 1950s, Sight and Sound has released a rather comprehensive list of “The Best Movies Ever Made,” voted on by film critics around the world and then, later, also a collection of worthy filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Aki Kaurismaki and Martin Scorsese. The pedigree of the participants makes the Sight and Sound poll, arguably, the only “Top Ten” list that actually matters, at least from the perspective of posterity. Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane had topped the list since 1962, cementing its status for fifty years as “The Best Movie Ever Made,” but in 2012, the critical tide shifted, albeit slightly, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo supplanted Kane as the most critically lauded motion picture in the world. (Citizen Kane is now #2.) I’ve gone on record on The B-Movies Podcast as disagreeing with this assessment, even though Vertigo is undeniably a classic piece of filmmaking, but that’s neither here nor there. The landscape of critical opinion has been altered, and being forced to acknowledge this was a strange and unexpected experience that I’ll just have to deal with, at least until the next poll in 2022.
They Sent Me to Skywalker Ranch
I get to travel to some neat places in my line of work. This year alone I resisted the advances of porn stars in Las Vegas, visited the desert vistas of New Mexico for the John Carter junket, and then, this past summer, I got to go to the fabled Skywalker Ranch and explore the archives of the Indiana Jones movies. The costumes, the props, the original production art and more were splayed out before me and my colleagues in their warehouse and, while we couldn’t touch, we were allowed to take copious amounts of pictures. Yes, that’s the “real” Ark of the Covenant. Shield your eyes, because I’m about to pop that sucker’s lid for realz.
George Lucas Gave Up Star Wars
I’ve already written about this at considerable length, so I will try to be brief here. In 2012, movie fandom changed. Star Wars, right alongside the original King Kong, was a watershed for the art form. It represented a new world of endless possibilities for the medium, in part due to the visual effects, but more importantly thanks to the depths of its imagination and ability to convey that fancifulness with genuine dramatic power. But over the last decade-plus, Star Wars had – sadly – come to represent a somewhat heartless corporate product, maintained by a filmmaker (who admittedly created the danged thing) whose vision for the series seemed significantly less vibrant than the vision of those whom it inspired over the years. Many of us had given up on Star Wars being relevant anymore, or at least worthy of genuine fanboy excitement. Then, on October 30, 2012, he gave it all away. Sure, he gave it to Disney – a corporation that protects its products with a fervor Lucas could only dream of – but Disney has at least decided to give the film franchise to creative individuals who, at least, have the possibility of making Star Wars seem extemporaneous again. Over the past two months fans who had completely written off the series have been genuinely excited for the future of the series, whereas previously all hope had been dashed.
As for George Lucas, he donated most of the $4 billion-plus he made from the sale to charity. Seriously, good for him. For film lovers, this was the biggest news story in years.
The Spider-Man Commentaries
As the Spider Totem is my witness, I swear I tried to like Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man. Even as a fan of the Sam Raimi movies, I had an open mind, since we’re going to be stuck with this interpretation for a while and, if nothing else, I might as well find something to like in it. My reaction… was mostly disappointment and confusion. Disappointment that the film was loaded with plot holes and represented what appears, to me at least, to be a radical misunderstanding of the character at a fundamental level, and confusion that everyone else likes The Amazing Spider-Man so much that they’ve started tearing apart the previous films like “they” were the ones insulting the character.
So it came to pass that John Pavlich of Sofa Dogs and I teamed up to complete an epic series of four commentary tracks for every theatrically released Spider-Man movie ever made. There were surprising discoveries in each one, and I hope you give them a listen. Spider-Man, we determined, may actually be the best film in the franchise. Spider-Man 2 may not be the classic you remember. Spider-Man 3, though undeniably flawed, may be one of the most ambitious – and not entirely unsuccessful – superhero epics ever made. And The Amazing Spider-Man, despite the box office bonanza, may merely be an interesting film that made one distinct choice that divided fandom… and it’s probably not the choice you’re thinking of. It was a fascinating critical exercise that dominated a month of my life, and I was proud to be a part of it.
Those are the moments I’m hanging on to from 2012. So now tell us, Cravies… What were yours?