These are the years of radical cinema in all directions-extremely idiosyncratic efforts both in the lower-budget realms of independent filmmaking and in the mercantile reaches of franchise films-and 2012 has been a wild ride, even as, in "awards season," much of the wildest work around gets pushed to the sidelines and surprisingly unsurprising films of mild invention but ostensibly important content rush to the forefront of critical appreciation.
Most of the best Hollywood films came out early-long before the gate was lifted on the quasi-officially titled batch of Oscarizables that will slug it out between now and February, pumped like Rock'em Sock'em Robots by the pushes and tugs and twitches and exhortations of the studios and publicists that send them to do battle. The movie year is divided more or less in two-the first ten months (with a little give at the end) and the home stretch-and it's like a relay race in which those who pass the baton are competing less against each other than against those to whom they pass it and are therefore out of the running in advance. It's a silly system that works only because members of the Academy have demonstrated that they can be swayed by the ballyhoo. The Oscars may be, in effect, Hollywood's ideal self-image, the celebration of what its insiders want to be celebrated for, but, with awards translating into dollars-and vice versa-it's also an unintended reflection of the industry's practicalities.
A few of the late-year entries, however, are notable, even excellent. 2012 has been a good year for Hollywood and off-Hollywood. Note, once more, the remarkable Hollywood nexus of the Gotham and Independent Spirit nominees, as the path of independent financing becomes ever more significant for filmmakers whose work doesn't fit into franchise formatting. And that's a good thing, from the perspective of filmmaking-whether it means that directors and actors share producers' risks in getting their work made, or that complicit producers give a director's vision free rein. But the latter notion makes some critics uneasy. There's an undercurrent of thought-one rooted in an antiquated and nostalgic vision of a halcyon classic Hollywood that supposedly both reached the masses and made modest and un-self-conscious art-that looks to producers to restrain the idiosyncrasies of directors and fit them into a readily marketable package of popular appeal. These critics yearn for the adversarial relationship of producer and director, seeing the producer as the supporter of democratic values and the director as a sort of egomaniacal ?litist who, unrestrained, would spend someone else's money frivolously to make a movie that would please himself and his friends. However all movies of 2012 are important in the movies industry.
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