Many ethnographic filmmakers are – and always have been-- content to record and educate. Since the early silent film days, factual films of this sort have captured a straight-forward view of the lifestyles, rituals, and customs of isolated people from far-away places.
Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, a host of films-- which now are acknowledged classics-- literally changed the tenor of American filmmaking. And in retrospect, they serve as mirrors of their time. Films like THE GRADUATE and FIVE EASY PIECES, which helped establish Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson as major stars and which are as fresh and invigorating today as when first released, spotlight characters who are alone, confused, and alienated, and are drifting aimlessly through life.
Two different but not unrelated documentaries recently have come to DVD, courtesy of Kino Lorber and Kino Classics. One is current, and in fact is a Best Documentary Academy Award nominee. The other was made 43 years ago.
These days, movie-going can be an expensive proposition-- and I would hate to have to plunk down some hard-earned money in the hope of finding relaxation in a darkened movie theater and end up sitting through a comedy that is crass and unfunny or a thriller that simply is not thrilling, not to mention the very real possibility that the person sitting next to me will be yapping away on his or her cellphone while I am trying to soak in all the on-screen dialogue.
Not all of the top films of 2012 are big-budget, and high-profile. Indeed, quite a few are low-budget. They are independently produced American films, or they are foreign language titles. And so here is a sampling of some of the year’s outstanding under-the-radar titles.
Two of the year’s very best films-- and these are must-see items-- are arriving in movie theaters at the tail-end of 2012. They are Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED and Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, and they are as different as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and a Hope-and-Crosby road picture. But DJANGO UNCHAINED and ZERO DARK THIRTY are not the only must-see films released during the year. Some also are big-budget items that feature A-list directors and major stars. Others are more modest independent titles or foreign films.
Each year, so many downright awful movies make it into theaters. If you set out to compile a list of the ten-best films of a given year, you easily might cite the 25 worst films... or the 35... or the 50. And unfortunately, 2012 was no different.
As this interminably long political season threatens to heat up with the Democratic and Republican Party conventions, and so forth and so on, it is appropriate to cite a new film that lampoons the one-note sniping that has become so much a part of politics, American style. That film, of course, is THE CAMPAIGN, which features Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as candidates who comically butt heads while facing off in a North Carolina congressional race.