Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bests of 2012

Happy New Year!

There are still a few items on my 2012-viewing short list that I expect to see in the next week or two, most notably Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone and Amour.

In addition, at some point I need to track down several films that never seemed to come my way, like This Is Not a Film, The Turin Horse and The Color Wheel.

And then there are movies that I let slip by but still hope to catch up with, like The Imposter, End of Watch and The Loneliest Planet.

All of that said, here's my look back at the year in film, which included viewings of about 60 new releases, most of which are included below, in some fashion or another.

Best Animation: Frankenweenie

Best Animated Movie: Brave

Best Classic Cinema Allusion: The chanting Oreo ("Orrr-EEEE-oh") guards in Wreck-It Ralph

Best Impression of a Classic Cinema Character: Michael Fassebender as David as Lawrence of Arabia's title character in Prometheus

Best Impression of Walter Matthau Doing an Impression of Sean Connery While Stuck Inside an Air Duct: Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

Best Actor: Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street and Magic Mike)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: James Gandolfini in Killing Them Softly

Best All-Too-Easily-Overlooked Performance: Simon Russell Beale as heartbroken husband Sir William Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea

Best Use of Sound: Ray Liotta's Markie takes a vicious beating in Killing Them Softly

Best Original Score: The Grey by Marc Streitenfeld

Best Musical Performance: The accordion and percussion jam of "Let My Baby Ride" in Holy Motors

Best Song, Individual: Anne Hathaway's one-shot "I Dreamed a Dream" as Fantine in Les Miserables

Best Song, Ensemble: London's various economic classes sing "Molly Malone" to wait out an air raid in The Deep Blue Sea

Best Use of a Pop Song: The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" in Take This Waltz

Best Soundtrack as Apparently Recommended by iTunes Genius: The painfully on-the-nose selections of Flight

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises and Les Miserables)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises

Best Costume and Makeup: Suzy as a raven in Moonrise Kingdom

Best Facial Hair, Individual: Wes Bentley's Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games

Best Facial Hair, Ensemble: Lincoln

Best Commentary on Cinema: 21 Jump Street

Best Commentary on Criticism: Room 237

Best Journalism: The Invisible War

Best Journalist: Astute and articulate New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer in The Central Park Five

Best Reason to Leave the Theater Early: Compliance

Best Indication the 1% Can't Relate to the 99%: This Is 40

Best Film With the Magic of M. Night Shyamalan (But Not Really): Safety Not Guaranteed

Best Evidence M. Night Shyamalan Can Succeed Making M. Night Shyamalan Movies Provided They Aren't Utter Crap: Looper

Best Totally Ludicrous Movie That Kind of Works Anyway: Your Sister's Sister

Best Throwback: Argo

Best Time Capsule: Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary: Samsara

Best Musical: Les Miserables (only musical of the year?)

Best Musical Staging: Anna Karenina

Best Cameo: Martin Sheen in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Best Verification That Eva Green Is Terrific in Anything: Dark Shadows

Best Confirmation That Women Are Unequal to Men in Hollywood: The frequent and mostly unnecessary nudity of Helen Hunt versus the absent and yet comparatively essential nudity of John Hawkes in The Sessions

Best Nudity: The contrasted bodies in the shower in Take This Waltz

Best Black Comedy: Killer Joe

Best Surgical Procedure: Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw performs an abortion in Prometheus

Best Comedic Action Outburst in an Otherwise Unfunny, Unexciting Action Comedy: The Hulk swings Loki like a ragdoll in The Avengers

Best CGI Animal: Richard Parker the Bengal tiger in Life of Pi

Best Use of Practical/Analog Effects: Hogs as Maurice Sendak's wild things as aurochs in Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Plane Crash: The Grey

Best Disaster: The tsunami in The Impossible

Best Reminder That Tom Hooper's Cinematography Could Be Worse: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Extended Take: Lancaster Dodd "processes" Freddie Quell in The Master

Best Hyperedited Sequence: Sam and Suzy exchange letters in Moonrise Kingdom

Best Wide Shot: The president shuffles out of the telegraph room in Lincoln

Best Sequence We'd Be Going Apeshit About If It Appeared in a Feature Film by a Name Director: All 5:40 of Quik by Colin Kennedy with Austyn Gillette

Best Casting: Richard Gere as the smooth yet desperate, likeable yet detestable, caring yet aloof, cunning yet in-over-his-head Robert Miller in Arbitrage

Best Miscasting: Hugh Grant as a face-paint-wearing cannibal in Cloud Atlas

Best Marriage of Myth and Man: Daniel Day-Lewis' Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln

Best Humanization of a President: Bill Murray's Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson

Best Biopic: Bernie

Best Performance by a Graduate of the 'Kevin Costner School of Accents': Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant in Lincoln

Best Primal Scream: Batman, at the end of himself, fighting Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

Best Line, Deadpan: "You absolutely reek of sexual discharge." — Sarah Gadon's Elise to her husband in Cosmopolis

Best Line, Triumphant: "Fuck you, science!" — Channing Tatum's Jenko completes a scientific equation of his own invention while tripping on HFS in 21 Jump Street

Best Line Delivery: Asked by his science geek friend, who is an unwitting accomplice to an undercover investigation, if there's any urgency to testing the illegal wiretap they set up together, Channing Tatum's thick-headed Jenko tilts his head in search of an answer and responds with a hint of "been here before" frustration, "Not that I can think of that would make sense," in 21 Jump Street

Best Threat: "I'm going to start beating the shit out of you in the next five seconds, and you're going to swallow a lot of blood for a fucking billfold." — Liam Neeson's Ottway to Frank Grillo's Diaz in The Grey

Best Come-on: "No, I said: What kind of a bird are you." — Jared Gilman's Sam to Kara Hayward's Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom

Best Heart: Steve Carell's Dodge in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Best Fragility: Bradley Cooper's Pat and Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook

Best Sensuality: Naomie Harris' Eve gives Daniel Craig's Bond a shave in Skyfall

Best Sorrow: Liam Neeson in The Grey

Best Self-consciousness: Logan Lerman's Charlie in Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Narrator: Bob Balaban in Moonrise Kingdom

Best Storyteller: Christoph Waltz's Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained

Best Villain: Charlize Theron's Ravenna in Snow White and the Hunstmen

Best Antivillain: Matthew McConaughey's Killer Joe Cooper in Killer Joe

Best Shootout: The mostly imagined bloodbath when Bruce Willis' Joe goes looking for Jeff Daniels' Abe in Looper

Best Execution: Gina Carano's Mallory uses her legs to squeeze Michael Fassbinder's Paul into an unconscious state before finishing him off with a gunshot through a pillow in Haywire

Best Absurd Image in an Absurd Movie: The little train that can in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Best Use of Color: Skyfall

Best Landscapes: The Hunter

Best Images, Documented: Samsara

Best Images, Dramatized: Skyfall

Best Sequence: A snooping suspicious husband is spied via a makeup mirror; a nervous lover's pounding heart is suggested by the rapid flutter of her fan; horses thunder across a stage; a racer and his horse tumble to the ground; and with a cheating wife's scream there are no secrets anymore, in Anna Karenina

Best Final Shot: Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet is renamed in Moonrise Kingdom

Best Picture: Moonrise Kingdom

OK, your turn. What are some of the bests of 2012?


Michael S said...

In a year with Girl Walk // All Day, Anna Karenina, and Step Up Revolution, while all are not "traditional" examples of the genre, there is no way Les Miserables is the only musical of the year.

The Minogue/Stevens segments of Holy Motors and Damsels in Distress on their own are worth putting above Hooper's thing, and then there's also music videos if you really want to look for the dancing/singing combination.

I saw you praise that skateboarding video, which I really can't understand the appreciation for, but if that deserves attention, then MVs like Shinee's Dance Version of Sherlock and Infinite's The Chaser, to name just two, while similarly not pieces of "cinema," possess part of the extraordinary pleasure of the musical.

Kevin J. Olson said...

I was hoping for a "Pig Fuck!" mention when you were going over Best Lines. I always look forward to your year-end lists which is easily my favorite kind of list to read at this time of the year.

I'll have to think about what some of the bests are. Two that we're in total agreement on: the unseen effects of the shootout in Looper and Neeson's threat to the dude wanting to lift a wallet off of a dead man. Perfection.

Back with more later...

Richard Bellamy said...

Well done! You have a great memory for a year's best moments, and I like how you have multiple imaginative ways of categorizing a best (or worst) moment - like Best Absurd Image in an Absurd Movie.

I agree on a lot of your picks here.

Love Fassbender's impersonation of O'Toole's Lawrence.

Funny you should mention Tom Hardy's voice of Bane. With nothing better to do a couple of days before school got out for Christmas, a bunch of senior guys were trying to imitate that voice using a tube. One of them said he had nailed it, but I told him it needed work.

Speaking of voices, I like your pick of Ravenna for Best Villain. I was having tea with a former student of mine, majoring in theater, and we were imitating Theron's, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall," as an example of how some actors need to be directed to pronounce words more roundly. Theron's delivery of that line is my favorite movie line of the year.

Also for Snow White and the Huntsman: Most Awkward Costume: Kristen Stewart in Armor

Yes, it was Channing Tatum's year.

Phoenix is amazing.

As much as I find Gandolfini irritating, I have to say he was wonderful in the excellent, underrated Killing Them Softly.


Richard Bellamy said...

Part 2.

I would have no problem with Michelle Williams as Best Actress - even if I hadn't seen Take This Waltz - though I did finally get to see it.

Best Comedic Action - all of The Avengers was pretty comedic.

Agreed on the miscasting of Hugh Grant. In my opinion, he's going to be miscast in any movie because they don't make those witty Brit rom-coms anymore.

Love the exchange of letters in the enchanting Moonrise Kingdom. Also for this one, Best Use of Bob Balaban.

The Haywire fight is pretty intense. The walls in that hotel must be super-soundproofed.

Also for Haywire: Best Surprise Roadkill

Great pick for Best Picture.

Roderick Allmanson said...

Dig the love for 21 Jump Street, by far the funniest flick of the year, and as you say, the best commentary on cinema - this was a great read all in all, nicely done, sir

jake said...

I love this list, it's fantastic.

Thank you for mentioning "Bernie," which seemed like Most Weirdly Overlooked winner to me. It made my top 10 this year.

But I gotta ask...did you seriously like "21 Jumpstreet?" I can't tell from your 'nominations' whether or not you're giving it genuine praise or just poking fun at it.

I'm all for the occasional dumb comedy (ala "Bridesmaids" or "Knocked Up" or "Ted" or whatever), but I thought this one was just so far below bad that I really, really struggled to stay in my seat. It just seemed to be pandering so hard to the college frat boy crowd. The jokes were so predictable and disposable...

What gives? I checked to see if you ever reviewed it and it looks like you didn't.

Just your flavor of dumb comedy?

Either way, can't wait to read your next review, keep it up!

Unknown said...

You actually managed to pick out the two aspects of PROMETHEUS that I can still remember. While I liked FLIGHT more than you did, I wish Robert Zemeckis would swap iPods with Jonathan Demme. Here are a few of mine:

Best Performance by Actor Who I've Only Recently Discovered: Frank Grillo, The Grey

Best Performance by an Actor I Wrote Off Long Ago: (tie) Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe & Jack Black, Bernie

Best All-Around Skeevy-Looking Cast: (tie) Killing Them Softly & Killer Joe

Best Movie About Movies: Seven Psychopaths

Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Best Performance by an Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Performance by an Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best Films to Inspire Artists: (tie) Searching for Sugar Man & Al Weiwei: Never Sorry

Best Special Effects: Rust & Bone

Best Reason to Turn Down the Bass in the Sound Mix: The Dark Knight Rises

Best Casting of a Mediocre Actor: Robert Pattinson playing a hollow man in "Cosmopolis"

Best Mad-Libs Mashup of "12 Monkeys" and "The Fury" That No One Asked For: Looper

Best Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Appropriation of a Kubrick Sequence: Sam's fellow scouts marching in line trying to find him with weapons brandished is the same sequence of shots of the armies marching in the field in "Barry Lyndon".

Best Reasons for Screenwriters to Cut Half of the Words from their Screenplays: (tie) Cosmopolis & The Dark Knight Rises

Best Words of Wisdom from a Film: "Psychopaths get tiring after awhile." Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths"

Craig said...

I'll do this as "Leasts" and "Mosts":

Most acting: Joaquin Phoenix in THE MASTER.

Least acting: Robert Pattinson in COSMOPOLIS.

Most sex: ON THE ROAD.

Most sexy: the motion-capture copulation in HOLY MOTORS.

Least sexy: the feral dwarf junk-shot featuring Eva Mendes in a burka in HOLY MOTORS.

Least interesting depiction of sex by an intellectual: Soderbergh's MAGIC MIKE.

Most interesting depiction of action by an intellectual: Soderbergh's HAYWIRE.

Most strained allegory for the Occupy Movement: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Least strained allegory for the Occupy Movement: COSMOPOLIS.

Most impression: Coogan and Bryden doing Michael Caine in THE TRIP.

Least impression: Alex Pettyfer doing Ahnold in MAGIC MIKE.

Most passion: Rachel Weisz in THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

Least passion: Amy Adams offering marital advice in THE MASTER.

Most Dignified Exit: Liam Neeson in THE GREY.

Most Dignified Exit from an Undignified Character: Frank Grillo in THE GREY.

Least Convincing Stupidity: Samantha, the prescient, hyperalert adult guardian in THE KID WITH A BIKE, inexplicably neglecting to buy the kid a combination lock.

Most Convincing Stupidity: Blake Lively in SAVAGES.


Least Coherent Scheme: Schultz's plan to buy Broomhilda in DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Most Cliches: everything in the airport in ARGO.

Most Surprising Act of Violence: the lefty scissors scene in MOONRISE KINGDOM.

Least Surprising Act of Violence (Because I'd Unfortunately Read About It): Jack Black in BERNIE.



Also, there's plenty of funny stuff in THE AVENGERS. You just hate Joss Whedon like you do silent movies!

Unknown said...

I wrote mine so fast, I forgot to indicate the appropriation of a Kubrick sequence was from "Moonrise Kingdom", in case you couldn't tell already.

Jason Bellamy said...

Thanks, all! At last, some time to respond to these.

* Michael S: I cited the musical staging of ANNA KARENINA. But, you know, no music. Kind of a deal breaker. I've seen part of GIRL WALK // ALL DAY. That's close enough. As for QUIK (more than a "skateboarding video" in my opinion), I'm going to review that one soon, to explain my appreciation.

* Kevin: I considered a catch phrase category and thus considered "Pig Fuck" at the top of the list. But I think my enjoyment of that line was dampened a bit by the way it exploded amongst critics before its release. I drank that milkshake long before I saw the movie its opening weekend in DC, so to speak. Please come back with more later!

* Hokahey: I love that Theron went all-in. That was a villain worthy of a better movie. As for Hugh Grant: to be clear, I LOVED him as that cannibal. LOVED HIM. It's just absurd for him to have face paint like that. But where you had to grimace your way through some of Hanks' parts, I couldn't stop smiling watching Grant in that role. Probably my favorite part of CLOUD ATLAS (for whatever that's worth). I must admit, HAYWIRE bored me -- even that fight scene, although the end of that scene is superb.

* B.C. and Jake: To be clear, 21 JUMP STREET is in my top 10 of 2012. And while some parts are stupid funny and other parts are stupid, it's there because I think most of its humor is incredibly smart, and the acting terrific. Indeed, I didn't write it up. But by the end of February, I promise some sort of post on 21 JUMP STREET.

* Steven: Grillo is wonderful in WARRIOR, too, my No. 3 movie of 2011. I like the "Inspire Artists" category! And I'm just back from seeing RUST AND BONE and can second your praise of its effects. As for MOONRISE and Kubrick, I followed that: is the sequence a perfect match, or just very close? Gotta look at that!

* Craig: Your stupidity categories are MOST pleasing. And your rankings for THE HOBBIT. I'm really kicking myself for not coming up with the cliches one for ARGO. Damn you, Simpson! Oh, and glad I knew nothing about BERNIE. That helped! You and I were opposed in our hot/cold reactions to Soderbergh this year. And I'm not sure I'd call what Pattinson does "Least Acting" so much as "Least To Do." I'd be happy never to see that movie again, but I thought he was very well cast and did a fine job (no sarcasm in that whatsoever).

* Keep 'em coming!

Craig said...

Forget who said it, but somebody said that Pattinson was "exploited" effectively. I think that's fairly accurate. Some people don't have to be good actors in certain roles, as long as they're well used.

>>Your stupidity categories are MOST pleasing.<< Sounds like something out of COSMOPOLIS. I plan to use that as this year's pickup line!

Helen said...

"Best Soundtrack as Apparently Recommended by iTunes Genius: The painfully on-the-nose selections of Flight"

So, so true. Less irritating but in the same ballpark: the greatest hits of the '70s soundtrack to ARGO

Best fight on top of a train: SKYFALL (admittedly not a lot of competition in this category, but a good fight on top of a train demands recognition)

Best pet: Polly the dodo in THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS

Most realistic married couple: the parents in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Worst rally the troops speech: Snow White as Joan of Arc interpreted by Kristen Stewart

Reina said...

Holy hell that was a lot of awards.
Ha, the 'best disaster' category is quite the oxymoron.

I LOVED Moonrise Kingdom.

Haven't seen Les Mis yet but I agree with the President in his saying that Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle is the best part The Dark Knight Rises (which I LOVED. Joseph Gorden-Levitt's character was fabulous also). FAVORITE line of her is "why honey? wanna hold my hand?" and then she cartwheels as breaks the prisoner's wrist or hand. PERFECTION.

I have the HUGEST girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence and think she had a pretty good year, morphing into a beautiful version of Katniss and really leading the movie. Silver Linnings Playbook was spectacular and I only went to see it because of her. Haven't seen Zero Dark Thirty yet so I can't say which one of the two (JLaw or Jessica Chastain) I think should win. Whatever the case, I think Jennifer is headed in the direction of a whole lot more Oscar noms and wins.