The Invisible War (Kirby Dick, 2012). Nominated for a Best Feature Documentary Oscar, this tells the story of the prevalence of rape in the U.S. military, offering the very personal experiences of several soldiers blended with interviews of experts. The title explains the film makers’ approach: make the hidden visible. Dick and his team don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out why this kind of abuse happens in the military, which is unfortunate, since The Invisible War is advocacy filmmaking, and it could use more analysis. But the film is very successful at letting us see what has traditionally been invisible. It’s an uncomfortable film to watch, and it should be. The survivors deserve credit and respect for being willing to tell their stories. 8/10.
Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012). A few weeks ago, I ended up watching an episode of American Dad, one of Seth MacFarlane’s hit TV animated comedies, and I laughed more than I expected. I mention this because now I’ve seen MacFarlane’s first movie feature, and I laughed more than I expected this time, as well. I never understand why I’ll find one modern comedy enjoyable when so many of them miss me entirely. In the case of Ted, I’m guessing that part of my enjoyment came from the pop-culture references, particularly an extended riff on the 1980 film Flash Gordon that includes Sam J. Jones as himself. A lot of the humor is disgusting, of course, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The sweetness that grounds the film isn’t sappy, but rather comes from likable performances by the reliable Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis as the girlfriend. There’s a subplot featuring Giovanni Ribisi that doesn’t work … this is far from a perfect movie. But it’s definitely better than you might think (although a lot of people seem to already know this … Ted is the highest-grossing R-rated non-sequel comedy of all time, taking in more than $500 million on a $50 million budget). It even got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, which is nice since MacFarlane will be hosting the ceremonies this year. And I haven’t even mentioned Norah Jones. 7/10.
Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012). 8/10.