FILM: The Perks Of Being A Critic

■ by Andrew Behringer

As 2012 finishes its run, my annual craving for Best of the Year lists and awards starts to kick in.  This year however, the films that have affected me the most aren’t getting the recognition that they should.  So instead of trying to make a list of the year’s best all-around films, I will talk briefly about the three films that have most moved me.  They each have elements that make them must-see movies for any filmgoer who appreciates filmmakers who do not play it safe.

◗ Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik’s follow up to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford continues the director’s pattern of subverting genre conventions. Dominik has put a new spin on the gangster movie.  The movie is deliberately slow-paced and filled with conversations that don’t further the plot, but instead focus on developing characters and establishing mood.  Sharp social commentary adds an element of intellect absent from most mob movies.

◗ Amour

Michael Haneke’s latest left me greatly appreciating a European approach to an oft-tackled topic of American cinema. Both the characters and the universe they live in are devoid of the clichés that often accompany movies that explore love. Rather than distract the audience with busy camera work, Haneke frequently lets the camera sit motionless for an entire scene. This encourages the viewer to focus on the subtlety in the acting, which is the driving force behind Amour’s success.

◗ The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Without a doubt this is my favorite movie of the year.  I was surprised by the level of maturity found in the film’s tone, as well as the tremendous performances from the gifted ensemble cast.  Originally a novel, author Stephen Chbosky not only wrote the screenplay, but also directed the film.  One gauge of the success of a novel-to-film adaption is the extent to which the film is able to make the viewer forget the book.  Movie adaptations are often characterized by uneven pacing and rushed character development; these are difficult-to-avoid pitfalls when adapting a long-form novel into a two hour movie. Chbosky has risen to the challenge.  Chbosky does not attempt to clone his novel; he understands the constraints of storytelling in film form, and gives the film a heart of its own. After watching Perks, I feel more authors should learn the art of filmmaking so they can ensure the success of their work across all mediums.

The Ryder, January 2013