The year’s most controversial movie is Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” I find myself among the lonely dissenters on this one. Certainly this film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is smashingly directed, but its torture scenes, and their consequences, are calculatedly deficient in any political context. It’s a timorous movie posing as a courageous one. At least “Argo,” flimsy but enjoyable, didn’t pretend to be some kind of new-style political docudrama.
Some of our biggest directors brought out long-simmering projects, with mixed results. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” had a mysteriously beautiful performance from Daniel Day-Lewis and a few hushed, allusive sequences that captured Lincoln’s grandeur without solemnizing him. But too much of the film felt like a streamlined history lesson in the golden age of Hollywood mold. Quentin Tarantino’s pre-Civil War slave epic “Django Unchained” (opening Christmas) is his latest tasteless (sometimes hilariously so) pop mélange of blood and guts and revisionism. It’s his “Mandingo” redo.
Literary and theatrical adaptations were up and down. “Les Misérables” (also opening Christmas) was a great big fat enjoyable entertainment, with Anne Hathaway sporting what I sincerely hope will not become the new fashion look – shorn hair and hollowed cheeks.