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The Film Issue

Looking back on the year in movies, and what's coming in 2012.

Harvey Weinstein

After many rounds of layoffs at the company that bears his name and a failed 2010 bid to buy back Miramax, we can safely call 2011 Harvey's comeback, even though he has been here for years: Weinstein began 2011 by ending a nearly decade-long Oscar slump with a Best Picture win (and perhaps more controversially, a Best Director win) for The King's Speech. He was back to his old buying ways by Cannes, where he picked up current Best Picture frontrunner The Artist. And as distributor of both The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher) and My Week With Marilyn (Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe), he almost certainly stands to benefit from an expected impersonation race in the Best Actress field. The only thing missing from Weinstein's 2011 has been a media scandal. For that, we turn to... (KL)

Scott Rudin

Take Shelter: tough to sit through, but worth it.
© 2011 - Sony Pictures Classics
Take Shelter: tough to sit through, but worth it.
Anna Paquin gives the performance of the year in Margaret.
© 2011 - Fox Searchlight
Anna Paquin gives the performance of the year in Margaret.

If Weinstein is the mogul return-to-form story of the year, super-producer Rudin gets points for building on what was already a pretty great 2010, when both The Social Network and True Grit finished big with critics and audiences. This year, in addition to the Broadway smash The Book of Mormon and the three Rudin productions now vying in the year-end glory sweepstakes (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball), Rudin is also wrapped up in the season's three critical hullabaloos: the controversy surrounding the pitiful barely-release of the Rudin-produced film Margaret, the absence of Incredibly Loud screenings for most critics and The New Yorker's embargo-breaking review of David Fincher's Dragon Tattoo. While he has remained mum about Margaret, Rudin so publicly battled the embargo-defying critic David Denby that, while inside baseball to the extreme, the whole exchange could be seen as some kind of genius PR setup. Contrived or not, it worked, steering public opinion away from the journalist and toward the massive corporation (Sony) and some of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Net win? (KL)

Lars von Trier

Leave it to Lars von Trier to make a film that finds favor even with his legion of detractors, only to undermine his own achievement with a publicity gambit gone way wrong. Such was the case with Melancholia — a film that turns depression into a literal apocalypse as a meteor hurtles toward Earth — and the director's subsequent self-destruction in front of an international Cannes press corps that found him answering a question about aesthetics by tying himself into a rhetorical knot and then unraveling it with the world's worst punch line: "Okay, I'm a Nazi." A filmmaker of astonishing technical mastery in service of a prankster's impudence and a darkly vulnerable soul, von Trier is like his own mismatched-roommates sitcom all in one person — That's Our Lars! (MO)

Woody Allen

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris was received largely as a playful travelogue and nostalgia piece, a waxworks tour through the cultural history of Paris as Owen Wilson brushed shoulders with Zelda, F. Scott and Ernest, Gauguin and Degas. But Allen's sucker-punch is to conclude that rather than fetishize the past, one should cherish their present tense most of all. Coming from a man who still uses a manual typewriter, this was a counter-intuitively radical notion. And an unexpectedly popular one, leading to Allen's biggest box-office hit since 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters. (MO)

Andrew Haigh

Writer-director Andrew Haigh's award-winning quasi-documentary Greek Pete completed its gay film festival run in 2009, then quietly vanished. No one could have predicted that his follow-up would win raves that most directors spend a lifetime chasing. Haigh's Weekend is a smart, erotic, melancholy chamber piece about what happens when a one-night stand between two British men stretches into a weekend of conversation, tackling everything from the soft homophobia of "enlightened" straight friends to the ways gay men cripple themselves in relationships. It swept awards at gay and mainstream film festivals around the world, won gushing reviews from mainstream outlets (it has a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), grossed half a million dollars in extremely limited run and quietly but forcefully broadened the definition of what makes a romantic leading man. (EH)

Michael Fassbender

He turned in flawless performances in four wildly different films this year, starring as the young Magneto in Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class, Rochester in Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method and spiritually hollow sex addict Brandon in Steve McQueen's art-house scold, Shame. The 34-year-old actor, who has been pegged the thinking cinephile's sex symbol, is still not a household name. Next year's roles in a Steven Soderbergh thriller and a Ridley Scott sci-fi should quickly fix that. (EH)

10 FOR 2012
BY KARINA LONGWORTH

We know — you're excited about The Dark Knight Rises. And The Avengers. And The Hunger Games. So are we. We're also excited about a lot of other movies whose marketing campaigns have not inundated us with white noise (yet). Allow us to suggest a few more films to put on your 2012 watch list.

Red Tails

Remember back in 2005, when George Lucas was making the press rounds to promote Revenge of the Sith, and he was all, "Now I can finally make those experimental movies I've been talking about making for 30 years but for whatever reason have never actually made"? Instead of following through with that promise/threat, he financed Red Tails, an action period piece about the Tuskegee Airmen starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard. In development since the '80s, in production since 2009 under director Anthony Hemingway (Lucas reportedly directed reshoots himself due to Hemingway's Treme commitments) and set for release January 20, Red Tails will either benefit from or be overshadowed by Lucasfilm's other 2012 project, the 3-D re-releases of the Star Wars films, beginning with The Phantom Menace on February 10.

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