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article imageOp-Ed: The five most overrated movies of 2012

By Jeff Cottrill     Jan 31, 2013 in Entertainment
It's awards season again in Hollywood. Every year about this time, there's a certain select group of films you've been hearing about, with all kinds of nominations. It's up to the discriminating moviegoer to ask: Which are the least deserving?
Just to show that this isn't all about snark and contrarianism, I'll admit that the past year did have some wonderful films going for it. Amour, Lincoln, Life of Pi, The Master... these are great movies that have earned the laurels they've been getting. Django Unchained, while overlong and lacking in restraint (even for Tarantino), is a terrific ride if you're psyched for it. Even The Hunger Games was better than I expected, and Brave is another worthy entry on Pixar's stellar track record.
Although I'm not a James Bond fan, I was impressed with the artistry that Sam Mendes put into Skyfall. And Zero Dark Thirty is a tightly crafted, gripping and gritty thriller that's received a response more shrill than it deserves. (The best remark I've heard about the reactions to its torture depictions came from a Twitter response to Michael Moore: “I wish there had been this much controversy about real-life torture instead of this movie.”)
But let's forget the genuine high-quality stuff for a moment, and focus on a few movies to which critics or audiences may have given a tad bigger self-esteem boost than they were worth.
Now, bear in mind than when I call a movie “overrated”, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad movie or even that I disliked it (although the latter is definitely the case with my top two choices). In some cases, I use the term when I kind of liked something but can't understand why the rest of the world is all so gaga over it. Or when I feel a little let down by something that stellar reviews led me to check out. Like when you've been told that your blind date is a Jon Hamm clone with George Clooney's charm and Oscar Wilde's wit, and then he turns out to be, say, me.
With that revolting image in mind, here are 2012's Five Most Overrated Movies:
5. The Dark Knight Rises
It's the year's most pre-sold blockbuster, and I'd be a liar if I said it isn't great fun to watch. But why was there so much universal hype and fuss over what's essentially just another big-budget superhero spectacle? And one with a villain, Tom Hardy's Bane, who comes off as bland and cheesy when compared to Heath Ledger's Joker in the predecessor. I find it amusingly ironic that despite high praise from certain critics, Rises didn't get an Oscar nod for Best Picture – since The Dark Knight was the reason why the number of nominated films was increased beyond five in the first place.
4. Argo
It doesn't bother me too much that Ben Affleck takes an Oliver Stone-like approach to historical accuracy; I don't expect more than that from Hollywood. The arguably racist elements in the story didn't shock me either, although maybe they should have. Argo is a tight, entertaining thriller about the rescue of the Iran hostages in the early 1980s, and the true elements (like the fake-sci-fi-movie cover) are actually far more interesting than the made-up bits. On the whole, though, it's an easily forgettable movie. It doesn't have the emotional depth or originality to stand up under repeat viewings. Sorry, Roger Ebert.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
All of Wes Anderson's live-action films should be retitled Quirky Folks Who Do Quirky Things Full of Quirky Quirkiosity. It wouldn't be so bad if Anderson wasn't always trying so hard to show off how offbeat he is, as opposed to actually being offbeat. He stylizes every shot, every set and every character to the point that his movies have almost no feeling of spontaneity; there's a clear, innate filmmaking talent at work, so you want to like his movies more, but they end up leaving you cold instead. That goes equally for what could have been a charming little childhood-romance story here. With a game cast, Moonrise Kingdom is a cute, sometimes funny, but ultimately empty film.
2. Silver Linings Playbook
It's well documented that David O. Russell isn't the most emotionally stable of people, so maybe that makes him the perfect choice to helm a movie about people with mental-health issues. And the movie does start off well, as an intriguing dramedy about a young man struggling with bipolar disorder. The acting is excellent, especially that of Jennifer Lawrence as a short-fused, recovering sex addict. But the screenplay eventually gets lost in its own contrived subplots about football bets and dance competitions, all leading to the final, predictable romantic hookup between the leads, a payoff that doesn't feel earned or believable.
I can't put my finger on exactly why this movie bothered me. Maybe because I felt no strong identification with the characters? Or maybe because I just couldn't buy that Bradley Cooper's character's ex-wife would voluntarily be in the same room with him, or even reply to his written communications, after he beat another man nearly to death right in front of her. In my experience, people aren't that easily forgiving. It's as if the movie wants to justify his foolish violations of the restraining order against him, rather than have him learn from his missteps.
1. Les Misérables
The stage version of Les Misérables comes from a modern tradition of mega-musicals in which lyrics tend to convey every thought the characters have, openly, in the most literal and unimaginative language. The long-awaited movie adaptation changes none of this. “This desperate man whom I have hunted / He gave me my life / He gave me freedom / I should have perished by his hand / It was his right,” Russell Crowe's Javert sings just before his suicide. Instead of feeling for the character, you roll your eyes and wish he'd jump into the Seine already, just so he'll stop telling you things you already know. All you can do is yearn for the wit and poetry of Sondheim, or Lerner, or Hammerstein, or even Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (of Avenue Q fame).
Yes, there's a great performance by Anne Hathaway, a stellar one by Hugh Jackman and nice comic turns by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. They'd have been just as good, maybe better, without the blunt over-exposition in the songs.
But that's nothing compared to how cinematically ugly this film is. Why in the name of Gregg Toland's Ghost is ninety percent of the movie shot in claustrophobic, hand-held close-ups? Watching it on the big screen is a harrowing experience – it's like letting Crowe force his morning breath down your throat for two hours. If I hadn't already seen The King's Speech, I'd swear that director Tom Hooper (or cinematographer Danny Cohen) had yet to learn the basics of how to frame a camera shot.
My advice: Go to the library and check out Victor Hugo's original novel. It's way better and, although five hundred pages, doesn't seem nearly as long.
So those are my picks. Now it's your turn to rant about why I'm wrong.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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