A year at the movies: the good and the bad, Geeksboro series opens Jan. 8

by Mark Burger

The only reason I didn’t include my selections for 2012’s best films in last week’s yearend round-up is for the simple reason that I hadn’t yet seen all of the big holiday releases. Indeed, a few I still haven’t seen — including Zero Dark Thirty, which won’t open here until later this month.

So many films have  been released in the last month that it’s been difficult to catch up with every one. At least most of them were good!

It should also be remembered that Slumdog Millionaire didn’t in Winston- Salem’s RiverRun Film Festival until after it won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. Fortunately, I’d seen it earlier and could therefore include it as one of that year’s best films.

Despite some inroads in recent years, only the highest-profile independents tend to enjoy theatrical release in the region, and many more never show up — including some that were tentatively scheduled. (I first realized that Nadine Labaki’s award-winning Where Do We Go Now? — which I’d seen in advance — wasn’t going to open theatrically when I received the press release for the DVD release.)

This also marks the first time since I’ve been reviewing films — I was 13 when I started (no joke) — that I don’t have a single film that I would give my highest four-star rating. There were a number of very good films, more than enough for a 10 Best list, but none I would consider a fourstar

film. (Conversely, I had four last year… so maybe this is payback.)

The best: Flight Argo Lincoln The Dark Knight Rises Les Miserables Skyfall Silver Linings Playbook Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted The Master Footnote

There were also more than enough films to fill a 10 Worst list, about which no more need be said and no further attention given.

The Devil Inside Silent Hill: Revelation The Guilt Trip The Collection Chernobyl Diaries Act of Valor The Apparition Silent House The Lucky One Trishna

With the major studios releasing fewer  and fewer movies — while spending more and more to produce and promote the ones they do — little wonder that the independents often dominate awards consideration, but I think we’ve come to the point where a studio would rather count box-office loot than awards, even the coveted Oscar. It’s true that movies are getting bigger, but are they getting better as a result?

I’ll be the judge of that.

There’s no question about the quality of movies being screened during the upcoming “Criterion Tuesdays” film series at the Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema (2134 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro.)

Celebrating the 29th anniversary of the Criterion Collection, which has released a series of spectacular special editions of important films — just check out my DVD column this week — since its inception in 1984, back in the good old VHS days.

“Portraits of Youth” is the theme of the series, which kicks off Jan. 8 and continues throughout the entire month of January. The series is programmed and hosted by UNCG student and cinema devotee Shelley Osborne. Tickets are $6 (general admission) and $5 (with student ID), and admission includes a complimentary beer, soda or coffee. (It is a coffeehouse, after all!) The series opens with George Washington, the award-winning 2000 drama that marked the feature debut for writer/ director and UNCSA School of Filmmaking David Gordon Green, which was filmed throughout the Piedmont Triad — a lot of those Winston-Salem locations look awfully familiar to this day!

Jiri Menzel’s 1966 adaptation of Closely Watched Trains (Ostre Sledovane Vlaky), which won the 1968 Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film, is scheduled for Jan. 15 (in Czech with English subtitles), followed by Francois Truffaut’s 1959 feature debut, the semi-autobiographical drama The 400 Blows (Les Quatres Cents Coups), which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and will be screened Jan. 22 (in French with English subtitles). The series concludes with Victor Erice’s 1973 drama The Spirit of the Beehive (El Espiritu de la Colmena) which will be screened Jan. 29 (in Spanish with English subtitles).

For more information, call 336.355.7180 or 336.662.5961 or e-mail To get the inside scoop about all the goings-on at the Geeksboro Coffeehouse, check out the official Facebook page: Geeksboro.