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Best Films: Superheroes, super stories

The best in 2012 film according to some of the best local filmmakers

"DEAD DRIFT": Ken Carlson's sci-fi series will hit the Internet this spring. Courtesy photo

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Let's review: So what did you get accomplished in 2012? Some of you graduated from high school/college, some welcomed a bouncing baby boy/girl into the world, still others found/lost that perfect job. (My condolences to the latter.) As for me, just another typical year fighting my future self while rising to save Gotham from a wheezy tyrant. Then I found myself in a little skirmish on the high seas involving aliens and battleships, but that story seems to bore folks.

There I go again, confusing reality with the movies I saw this year. Must work on that. But before that I'll work on catching up on the hundreds of releases I didn't watch yet. Panning mountains of cinematic sludge for some see-worthy nuggets may take a while, so I've enlisted the help of a few good men, local filmmakers who personally know a thing about crafting silver screen magic.

As far as tastes go, writer/director/self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades Ken Carlson of Olympia happily admits his preference for the Hollywood blockbuster over what he calls the "touching triumph-of-the-human-spirit story." Last summer's selection left this sci-fi and comic book fan plenty satisfied. His 2012 recommendations include The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, the latter in particular for the might of its Marvel-ous storytelling.

In Carlson's opinion, "More than anyone else that I can think of (co-writer and director Joss Whedon) is really able to pull off the ensemble cast."

Carlson even comes to the defense of several movies panned by both critics and the public for plots considered lackluster (Total Recall) or just confusing as hell (Prometheus). He literally looked past poorly written characters to see the cinematic image as a whole, and praised these films' "immersive" set designs.

Art direction is on his brain a lot these days, since he currently oversees the building of spaceship models for Dead Drift, a comedic web series (sci-fi, in case you wondered) he's written with Matt Burdick. The Facebook page describes the concept as "kinda like Red Dwarf meets YouTube. Look for the first episode in spring 2013.

Like Carlson, Tacoma's Ron Lagman got his Dark Knight fix in 2012 and loved the experience. Not many can dispute the meticulous craftsmanship found in a Christopher Nolan picture, least of all Lagman. His fragmented piecing together of time and space in Tapat Sa Pangako (Committed) evokes Nolan's Memento.

"I try my best to pay homage to him as much as I can ... in my films," he says.

His short had a good run this year, playing at festivals in Tacoma, Seattle, even abroad. Lagman and his wife travelled to France to see Committed's inclusion in the Cannes Short Film Corner, an honor that made "this year ... very special for me." He's committed this work to its final resting place, a swell little corner of the Internet for all to see: I recommend it.

Lagman caps 2012 with a public screening of his latest, the short documentary Lolo, at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, on The Evergreen State College Tacoma campus (1210 6th Ave, Room 218).

Talk about commitment. Ticket prices be damned, Jordan Rhone of Tacoma still makes it a point to see at least one new release in a theater each month. He gave me a quick rundown of some of his 2012 picks: the vividness of Life of Pi ("It felt more like an experience than a movie") and The Avengers and the ecstasy ("The story is something I would have dreamed up as a kid").

He enjoys a good flick like anyone else, but as a filmmaker, part of him doubts his talent when confronted with the high-quality work of Hollywood's best. Then a more optimistic inner voice chimes in, the side of Rhone that wants to someday join a crew helming something as fun as Avengers. That keeps him going. Watch his past works on Youtube.

Nonetheless, he's taken the past six months off from making movies, wisely restraining his passion from turning into a chore. While recharging he studies films, most recently sitting through the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy to break down its mammoth story structure.

This coming year should see Rhone make his triumphant return behind the camera. And it seems his optimistic side has emerged victorious: "The next film I put out ... (will) be the best I've ever done."

Let's hope all South Sound filmmakers make this their common mantra next year.   

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