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Is 2012 The Year of Divisiveness?

Hello, loves. Beau here, considering something I've been knocking around in my head for the past week. There has yet to be a film that's been released this year that has garnered widespread acclaim from all viewers (critics, audiences, and bloggers alike). At this point last year, we had a few already that we could point to: Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids, Harry Potter had all done beaucoups bucks at the box office, and garnered more than respectable responses from the general public and critics alike. But this year... what?


The Hunger Games, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have made the most, but each inspired a heated dialogue about some element of the filmmaking. Examples: The Hunger Games 'should not have been PG-13'; 'bland, dull, watered-down'; The Avengers 'fan-fiction cum brand/merchandising cash cow' and 'Didn't move the genre forward'; The Dark Knight Rises 'nowhere near as good as The Dark Knight'; and 'WTF with the Bane sound design? the politics?')

Prometheus was enormously divisive, and Brave was widely regarded with a shrug. The critical darling Beasts of the Southern Wild didn't quite crossover. It's made $10 million so far but it's a fairly straightforward narrative, however poetically delivered, that elicits warm feelings and it made less than something as abstract, obscure and strange as Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. (The latter had the advantage of starring Brad Pitt, but even so, people don't always follow the movie stars - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford made a paltry $4 million back in 2007 as well.)  More... 

Even my cause celebre of the year, Bachelorette, which I've written about and defended enough right here, barely made a dent in the box office last weekend. It didn't help that it was only released on a couple dozen screens. (It's a film that could have topped the charts had it been handled properly!) Critically, it's also proven to be one of the more dissentious films of the year. The New York Times' Stephen Holden gave it a rave, while Reelviews James Berardinelli gave it a 0 on Metacritic. A 0! It's an opinion that I strongly - vehemently, even - disagree with, but it exists nonetheless. And several other opinions surf the scale.)

Isla don't mind. She'll just shrug it off...

Yes, the fall films are on their way. And no film will ever be universally loved, or completely trashed. We've already seen divisions in fresh festival buzz for Cloud Atlas, The Impossible, and Silver Linings Playbook. That's the nature of the beast. But shouldn't we have something to write home about already? It's September, for Pete's sake, and you can hardly find a film to discuss with friends without someone dismissing it either casually or fervently, or praising it to hog heaven? Where's the solidarity? Where's the grand slam? Where's the punching bag of punching bags?

'Dear Oscar and Loyal Followers: I am on my way. When I manifest, our work begins.' - Annie

Do you agree that this is a particularly divisive year in film or am I being too dramatic? Do you feel it's warranted? Are you hopeful for the crop of films being released this fall?  Theorize away for me. Throw ideas out there. This year's got me puzzled.

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Reader Comments (29)

Where did you find bad reviews of Silver Linings Playbook? I've read nothing but raves.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Btw, I strongly disagree that Bachelorette would have topped the charts with better handling. No way! Sorry to say, it's not a movie that many people love...especially after the success of Bridesmaids. To me (and many others), it just doesn't hold up to that standard. I know you disagree, but it's the facts (just look at the RT and metacritic scores).

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Ok, i gotta say you are pretty right, but in all truthfullness(nessnessness) most of the movies this year have had both fantastic pluses, but also a lot of things that either seemed rushed, or failed to deliver anything new/edgy. I'm gonna just state the obvious here and say that most films this year were great ( in my own opinion) but none really seemed to sparcle with originality. The Dark Knight Rises (a movie i LOVED) , great movie, good message, emotional, great action sequences and acting, but the story all in all felt like it had like 2-3 cliched ideas mixed up with 2-3 original ones. Avengers was all out popcornguzlin' , beerchuggin', mainstream flick, a great movie if you take it as what it is, but again nothing new and i could keep doing this for 9999 more words or untill someone from the damn near future would use a wormhole to get to my room and just bash my head.

I think you're nitpicking, Nat. Hunger Games, Avengers, and Dark Knight Rises: all three were hits in every category. The only divisiveness found might be with the bloggers, but they're always divided. You internet writers are too jaded for your own good. You all are worse than traditional critics at this point.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthatone

thatone, Nat didn't write this post.

But I agree with Squasher, most notices for Silver Linings were flat-out raves.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Just me, thatone. Not Nat who wrote the article. ;)

It was something I was curious about. And those criticisms were primarily from friends from work, (around 200+ people!) so I felt like it was something intriguing.

Re: Bachelorette - I don't know, perhaps I'm blinded to its faults (it happens to all of us ;) ) but I feel that a film featuring all those actors could have been marketed accordingly and on a weekend like this last one? Could have easily nailed it. But again, that's just me. :)

Silver Linings hasn't been officially released, of course, but I am excited by everything I'm hearing from Toronto. Love the J.Law. LOVE HER.

September 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterBeau McCoy

What about Moonrise Kingdom? I think that was a complete success with critics, bloggers and at the box office too.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Moonrise is the closest I've seen to a knockout film all year. It did great at the box office, kicked ass with critics and audiences, but I still felt as though more people just weren't aware of it. His aesthetic is becoming a selling point in and of itself (which isn't to discredit his obvious talents as a director), and I know it's just a matter of time before the masses embrace him as well. And they should.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Bachelorette appears derivative of Bridesmaids. You think likability is a stupid concept but it wins people Oscars, endears characters to the public, and unlikable people populate our daily life, which means going to the movies is about escaping them as our protagonist.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I have a thing with "Bad Teacher" similar to yours with "Bachelorette" - though I haven't seen it. I just think this year has generally just not been great. I also know many people who hated "Midnight in Paris." 2008 was also a pretty crappy year, following a stellar year in 2007. Is it a four year cycle?

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

Maybe so. I don't know; I just feel that I haven't wanted to rush out to as many movies as I have in years past. That bothers me. Is it a dearth of quality? Maybe just feeling too critical, I'm not sure!

I just feel like this year more than others feels like there's so little to agree on in the way of films. Jenna! Maybe it's only election years??? LOL.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Yes beau you could be right about election years!

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

@4rtful: I guess I just didn't consider the characters in Bachelorette unlikeable. At least no more so than the teens in Project X, Shia LaBeouf in Lawless, etc. ;)

I just really empathized with them. I get what you mean in terms of likeability as a selling point (for yourself and the film in general); I suppose I'm just an odd duck in that I got them. I felt deeply for each of them.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Beau, I haven't seen the movie just the trailer. I keep delaying seeing certain films because there's always something that seems more important to watch before it, but, I have to be in the mood to watch, most things, it has gotten that bad.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I understand that COMPLETELY. It's interesting in that, I'm digging for classic films (after the BFI announcements) and while all of them are readily available, I just can't seem to bring myself to watch them. I've been revisiting Woody Allen films from the 70's, catching what's available on VOD, or re-watching old favorites more than anything.

My brother had to drag me to Lawless, which he shouldn't have had to considering it had Chastain and Hardy and Oldman in the cast.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Opening up the pig trough for Best Picture was the worst rule change the Academy ever made. Expanding to 10 slots for the prize made no sense--not only does it dilute the prestige of the award, it necessitates the inclusion of the most undeserving cinematic drivel--I mean, The Blind Side and District 9 being up for Best Picture? Really? Word on the street is the rule change was precipitated by the outrage over The Dark Knight's snub for top film. I feel The Dark Knight Rises deserves to be nommed as well in this category (first time I was ever at a three-hour movie and wouldn't leave my seat). Ironically, if it is included, we'll never know whether it is because it's worthy or if the nominators just needed to fill out the slots.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

It will depend on how the rest of the this season's crop fares. If you were to ask me three months ago if I thought Moonrise had a shot in hell of getting into the Best Pictures nominees, I would have said NOPE. But as the year has gone along? It's looking more and more likely.

Which I personally have no issue with; it's a beautiful little picture. I was grinning ear to ear throughout.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

You guys need to be patient. There is so much to look forward to! I'm practically counting down the days until Argo, Les Mis, Silver Linings, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, Zero Dark Thirty, Django, The Hobbit...the list goes on and on.

I'm pretty sure the presence of The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers pushed back a lot of stuff until the end of the year. If I was the head of a studio, that's exactly what I would do. Wouldn't want to be anywhere near those films' release dates.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

I think you're underestimating Beasts of the Southern Wild. It'll be brought back for another run and it sounds like it will outgross The Hurt Locker if it does. And a straightforward narrative told poetically sounds like Oscar to me.

Moonrise Kingdom will be a factor, but maybe just for Screenplay. The action films will get a solid tech showing. Everything else is yet to come. I won't be surprised if Beasts competes for or even wins BP though. It just needs the right touch when the year is wrapping up.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

thatone -- what are traditional critics at this point? the field has changed so much. everyone who is in print is also writing on the internet. and fewer and fewer people are in print.

everyone -- silver linings is mostly raves but there's some people unimpressed on twitter. and i even got an email before it screened at toronto from an industry insider that thought it was pandering and "too commercial" ... so i highly doubt there will be no dissenters. but we'll see.

September 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

4rtful -- but opening weekends are almost never about whether people like a movie. they're almost always about marketing. it's second weeks that are about likeability

September 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Beau, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris and Harry Potter also had their detractors, and some very vocal ones. I remember there was a time when I couldn't visit the Bridesmaids message board on IMDB without seeing a topic where someone panned the movie. One could argue that Bridesmaids was just not funny enough for some people, or too gross for other people or marketed for the Apatow crowd who expected something more like that and got something deeper. A lot of people accused Midnight in Paris of being too slight or too shallow or coming to some very easy conclusions, being about a premise that added very little substance. And, Harry Potter, a lot of people said it was about time this series finished or that the film was too serious in tone, and of course there were the book purists who wouldn't let any of the changes go.

Every film has detractors, but I still think reactions to films like The Hnger Games, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild are mostly positive. Every movie you see will have its detractors and some very vocal ones, so you could say that almost year is pretty divisive (plus, any film that gets raves when it's released is due for a backlash later in the year, so maybe it's better that they don't get raves right off the bat)....

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Films will always be divisive. Totally get that.

My point was that this was an odd year in the sense that by this point, it doesn't seem like something has been released that has captured EVERYONE's attention. The Avengers did incredible B.O., as did Hunger Games, but critics were more lukewarm. By this time each year, I feel like there's something nearly everyone can agree on. And I just haven't gotten that sense so far.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I think divisive might be the wrong word to describe the year as a whole. It does seem like there's been an oddly lukewarm response to some of the big films, with a real lack of anything to grab onto. Though I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Beau - Apart from The Dark Knight, I really don't know what you could be referring to, re: films of previous years that have "captured EVERYONE'S attention." And even The Dark Knight has its fair share of vocal detractors - Jim Emerson and A. D. Jameson come immediately to mind. So if no film of any given year can achieve total consensus, and if this year is like any other year in that respect, then I simply don't see the point you're trying to make.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Haha! Sorry, Victoria; I think I could have been more clear in my writing. :) In reviewing the comments on here, I don't think I was able to properly articulate my feelings...

A better way of putting it I think might be this: every year, I feel that there's a film by this point that has captured the attention of the nation, seeped into the zeitgeist so to speak, so that it's almost inescapable. All at once timely, prescient, and relatable. Something that speaks volumes (loudly or quietly) about where we are as a culture, a generation, a world.

There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, The Social Network, Up, Wall-E, The Dark Knight, even (yes) Midnight in Paris and Bridesmaids had something that captured our collective imagination and spread like wildfire. Some people loved these films, others hated them, but it was almost impossible to ignore the fact that they had something to say that struck a chord with us.

I guess I just haven't felt like any film has lit a spark like that this year. That's not to discredit the quality of these films, some of which are very good...

I just haven't felt any fire yet.

I hope this makes more sense! :0)

September 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterBeau McCoy

And how about The Intouchables? I think almost everyone loved this movie. Even box office (worldwide) is one of the best this year so far.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrandom visitor

"Bachelorette appears derivative of Bridesmaids." operative word being "appears".

This year has been high on solid, strong titles, but nothing has garnered an A from me yet.

I guess it's been a divisive year, but I think that's just a common part of the world now. The internet breeds many voices. I will say that the Hunger Games/Battle Royale thing pissed me off to no end. They're similar in only the most basic of ways, and Battle Royale wasn't even the first of its kind. Blatant foreign film wanking going on there.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

everyone -- silver linings is mostly raves but there's some people unimpressed on twitter. and i even got an email before it screened at toronto from an industry insider that thought it was pandering and "too commercial" ... so i highly doubt there will be no dissenters. but we'll see.


There will be always a few people who don't like a film. As of now, I wouldn't call SLP divisive. If that's the case every film is divisive.lol

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
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