If movies, as per William Goldman, are essentially either reassuring or unsettling, 2012 surely skewed to the reassuring side.
Screenwriters recalled the power of teamwork, whether by Hollywood wiseguys (Chris Terrio’s “Argo”); elite Navy Seals (Mark Boal’s “Zero Dark Thirty”); principled townspeople (John Krasinski, Matt Damon and Dave Eggers’ “Promised Land”); a pilot’s loyal friends (John Gatins’ “Flight”); a family in extremis (Sergio G. Sanchez’s “The Impossible”); or a peculiar married couple (John J. McLaughlin’s “Hitchcock”).
Ol Parker, Vanessa Taylor and Richard Nelson reminded us that sex isn’t just for the young in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Hope Springs” and “Hyde Park on Hudson,” respectively. Indeed, 2012’s scribes affirmed the universally healing power of unbridled passion. The moonstruck campers of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”; the med-crossed lovers of David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”; Vronsky and “Anna Karenina” via Tom Stoppard; and writers, whether with a sex surrogate (Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions”) or an imaginary inamorata (Zoe Kazan’s “Ruby Sparks”): All learn the age-old lesson as sung in William Nicholson’s “Les Miserables”: “To love another person/Is to see the face of God.”
God’s face is manifest in three dimensions in David Magee’s “Life of Pi,” thrumming on the soundtrack of Ronald Harwood’s “Quartet” and elusive but palpable in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” Love transcends death in Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” Even at life’s most desperate, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” acknowledges some divinity shaping, or at least gracing, our ends.
In the recent past, cinema’s norm was the cynical credo in Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly”: “This world is just shit. We’re all just on our own.”
How much more in tune with the zeitgeist is Tony Kushner’s “Lincoln” script, celebrating the American political system’s fundamental soundness while gently inviting us to bind up our wounds, with malice toward none and charity for all. Maybe there’s something to this hope and change thing, after all.