The Best of BlackBook’s 2012 Film Coverage

2012 was an interesting year for cinema—whether it be Hollywood franchise blockbusters, independent stage-play-turned-comedies , or haunting and heartbreaking foreign dramas. In the first half of the year, we saw young filmmakers such as a Brit Marling, Benh Zeitlin, and Leslye Headland debut their innovative and fresh take on modern stories, with films that established them as unique new voices of independent American cinema. Hollywood staples David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Whit Stillman once again pleased audiences and won critical praise for their idiosyncratic features. And then there were the beautifully guttural foreign films from Michael Haneke, Miguel Gomes, and Leos Carax that constantly reinvent, not only what film can be, but the experiential nature of cinema as well. 

So as the year draws to a close and we begin to anticipate next year’s film slate, here’s the best in BlackBook’s film coverage of the past twelve months—highlighting our favorite films of 2012 that will linger on in history and the one’s to breakout next year’s biggest stars.

Holy Motors
Silver Linings Playbook

Damsels in Distress

Django Unchained

Moonrise Kingdom
The Deep Blue Sea
The Queen of Versailles
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Sound of My Voice
Wuthering Heights

The Loneliest Planet
Sleepwalk with Me

Beware of Mr. Baker
Anna Karenina
The Imposter

The Snowtown Murders
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Andrea Arnold’s New Adaptation of ‘Wuthering Heights’ Finally Gets It Right

Nothing is as convincing an argument for books over celluloid than adaptations of mid-19th century classics. Bonnets and heaving bosoms are much better imagined than seen. Yet from William Wyler’s 1939 adaptation to Luis Buñuel’s surreal 1954 version to the Ralph Fiennes tearjerker, Wuthering Heights has been made and remade. Heathcliff howls through the years. Cathy weeps through the ages. And now comes another, the eighteenth adaptation of the novel, by Andrea Arnold.

Arnold avoids that Tom Hardy-sized pit into which so many previous attempts have fallen. Emily Brontë tells us Heathcliff is dark and brooding and that love’s a pain, and yet there’s more gauze and tenderness in the typical adaptation than in a burn unit. Not so in Arnold’s film. “When I wrote the script, I wept on a daily basis—a lot. It’s so awful what happens to him,” she says. “And that was a real feeling, coming from a real place.” Highly regarded for her 2003 Oscar-winning short film, Wasp, and her 2009 dark drama, Fish Tank, Arnold’s métier is grim and gritty tales of lost youths struggling for something beyond their grasp.

And so, in this Wuthering Heights, she completely elides the second half of the novel. Instead, she focuses on the childhood relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff and their tumultuous young adult years. “There’s something in all of us that longs for our childhood,” she explains of the radical choice. “That’s the place where Heathcliff was able to make a connection to someone and, when he loses that, it is to that place he must return.”

Oh yeah, and Heathcliff is black. Though that might seem equally radical, in fact, it hews closer to the original text than, say, Ralph Fiennes. “As I read Emily Brontë’s description of Heathcliff,” says Arnold, “it made me realize that he wasn’t necessarily white.” In casting newcomers Solomon Glave and James Howson as her Heathcliffs, young and older, Arnold cannily embodies his exoticism. “Emily Brontë felt different from her society, and, since Heathcliff is Emily, I wanted him to embody that truth as well.”

Though Cathy (played by Shannon Beer and Kaya Scodelario) and Heathcliff are still in the throes of puberty—or perhaps because they’re in the throes of puberty—there is little talking and a lot of hanging out, all with an undercurrent of sexual tension. Heathcliff sniffs Cathy’s hair longingly as he holds her while they ride through the country on horseback. She licks his wounds after her thuggish brother, Hindley, beats him up. But Cathy can be tough. When she meets Heathcliff she spits on him. “She’s actually quite cruel,” says Arnold, “but they make this connection and even though everything was harsh, he had her.”

It’s not all roses on the moor, and Wuthering Heights at its heart is as harrowing as Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird or D.M. Thomas’ The White Hotel. Arnold’s version brings you into the gloaming, where pain, love, and longing are hard to tell apart.

Chuck Bass to Scale ‘Wuthering Heights’

Because moviemakers the world over have mauled, mutilated, and basically wrung every last drop of integrity from Jane Austen’s repertoire dry, it’s nice to see them turning their beady eyes on another classic novelstress, and preying on her life’s work for sustenance instead. And in such a survey, it’s natural for one’s gaze to turn to the Brontë sisters. More specifically, to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. A filmic adaptation of the novel has cast, of all people, Gossip Girl‘s Chuck Bass, as its lead.

Such a role will probably find Ed Westwick relishing the chance to actually act. Because his guttural intonations on GG in between swigs of apple juice malt scotch while abstractly contemplating societal ills isn’t probably what Westwick visaged his craft would look like. To prepare for what will probably be his most challenging role to date, Chuck Bass should most definitely listen to Kate Bush’s tune of the same name — and work on comparable choreography. Bond girl Gemma Arterton co-stars. Anticipate a rip-roaring chat with the late Brontë on the terrors of turning books into films if she consents to a séance.