List: Top 30 Favorite Films of 2012 (#15-1)

Here you go! My top 15 films of 2012. I hope everyone has enjoyed my year-in-review in list form.
Part One (#30-16):
Top 25 Performances and Top 10 Song Usages:
The Top Fives in 2012 Film:
What I’ll Remember About The Films of 2012: A Personal Sampling:
The 10 Worst Films I Saw:
10 of the Worst Film Posters:
Top 20 Film Posters:

This is Not a Film15. This is Not a Film (Iran, Panahi)

“The immediate affinity that we feel for Panahi somehow heightens this already heartbreaking human rights issue. He comes off as kind, mild, realistic and emotionally beaten down by his circumstances (though this work’s existence proves him as anything but). We immediately care for him, beyond the empathy inherent in the situation. To say this film should be seen is an understatement; it must be seen. This statement has been made many times in relation to this film but I make it again; if you care about cinema, about the right we have to tell stories and why we tell them, and about human rights, you must seek out This Is Not a Film.”

Full Review:

Rust and Bone

14. Rust and Bone (France, Audiard)

Can’t get enough Jacques Audiard. Another triumph from him which sees the French director known for combining auteur arthouse with genre backbone challenge himself with a ludicrous sounding plot. What would have been sentimental puddy in other hands becomes a raw and erotic character-driven story about the cold hard fact of physicality in all its damaging scarred forms.


13. The Secret World of Arrietty (Japan, Yonebayashi)

This is one of the Studio Ghibli films that falls into the category of relaxed. So many kids films today are bursting with structured story; places to go, people to see, villains to defeat and conflicts to be resolved. There is something about Ghibli films that, even when those plot elements are front and center, hardly ever seems in a hurry. We get a chance to take in the sights, sounds and characters; to breathe in their world for a little while. Most considered this to be minor Ghibli (based on its under-the-radar resonance), but its tranquility, reliably minute attention to everyday objects and the conflicting attitudes of its two young protagonists left me full of warmth and gratitude.


12. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (USA, Chbosky)

High school movies pretty much suck now. Let’s face it. I read ‘Perks’ several years ago and liked it enough despite wishing I had read it as an adolescent. Stephen Chobsky’s adaptation of his own novel threw me for a loop with its depiction of teenage angst with an honest light-shedding evocation. Logan Lerman is a revelation, taking a character that could have been portrayed as a typical shy kid and making his anxiety both palpable and justifiably crippling. Ezra Miller, in a complete 180 from his character in last year’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, continues to display his near-freakish amount of assured talent. Using the same soundtrack listed in the novel and keeping the early 90’s setting only makes things better. By the end I was crying quite freely and was feeling a lot at once. I was moved by the lived-in group dynamic of these friends as each went their separate way. I was thinking a lot of time past and regrets of my own. Finally, I was moved by how substantial Chbosky had made his own story.


11. The Imposter (UK, Layton)

“In the end, we return to Frederic Bourdin, whose manipulative scheming brought us into this mess with no answers. Ending with transfixing footage of a younger Bourdin dancing, as Layton inserts Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, an image that visual representative of how bizarre these real-life events were. Yet it all starts with the actual disappearance of 13-year old Nicholas Barclay, a child whose unknowable fate looms over us. The Imposter is a stranger than fiction tale that will have you aghast on the edge-of-your-seat; it is truly mind-boggling to watch unfold.”

Full review:


10. Alps (Greece, Lanthimos)

My love affair with Giorgos Lanthimos continues. He’s offbeat and batshit nutty with his high concepts, interested in the inanity of details and ritual as an emotionless made-up structure. What happens when you break the rules, question what you’ve learned and been taught, construct your own reality? With his second feature Alps he looks at elaborate and hollow role-playing and the role grief plays in our lives. How far do simple factoids contribute to identity? What do memories mean to us? Does something as literal as meticulous reenactments ultimately mean the same thing as what remains in our heads? Lanthimos also wheels and deals in many off-kilter framing or scenes that can almost always exist as separate performance pieces that one cannot look away from. And if every film of his can please star Aggeliki Papoulia, this fan would be very grateful.

Sister Meier

9. Sister (Switzerland/France, Meier)

Earns its comparison to Dardenne Brothers, but this is entirely its own work. Ursula Meier’s second film (I’ll be sure to see her first) is a heartbreaking story dealing with an incredibly complex familial bond amidst the glacial whites of the ski resort and the murky brown-blues of the town below. Kacey Mottet Klein stuns. Between this and Farewell, My Queen, Lea Seydoux is one of my new favorite actresses.

How to Survive a Plague

8. How to Survive a Plague (USA, France)

One of the best magnanimous uses of archival footage to be seen in a documentary and an invaluably important film. ‘Plague’ recounts the long-term efforts and struggle of the ACT UP and TAG coalitions during the raging years of the AIDS epidemic. Based almost entirely around archival footage from throughout the years, a narrative unfolds that demonstrates their place in history but also functions as a blueprint of effective activism. You feel and see the desperation, frustration and looming death everywhere you look as the nation failed to take proper care or measure. Thankfully, the doc portrays the activists as human beings and not necessarily saints though they are unspeakably heroic. There were mistakes made and split factions and we get a sense of that as well. It covers many years within two hours and functions as a treasure-trove history capsule of what feels like an apocalypse for the minority that literally puts you in the center of it all.


7. Moonrise Kingdom (USA, Anderson)

“Taking on the children’s perspective also allows Anderson to indulge in the ways we expect him to. These include our titular slow-motion sequence, French New-Wavy touches, Bob Balaban’s narrator who deals in geographical factoids with a this-is-where-it-all-went-down resolve. One could go on and on and on. For example, what would a Wes Anderson movie be without something like Suzy carrying around a Francoise Hardy record in her suitcase?”

“Anderson and Coppola never confirm or deny the permanence of Sam and Suzy as a pair. They seem very likely to move onto other phases and people in their lives. It never dampens the occasion though because all that matters to the filmmakers is the ‘present’ moment and what matters to the characters within the timeframe of the film. Moonrise Kingdom is as enchanting as one of Suzy’s fantasy tales and a triumph both within the scope of Anderson’s career thus far and outside of it.”

Full Review:

The Kid with a BIke

6. The Kid with a Bike (Belgium/France/Italy, Dardenne Brothers)

Speaking of the Dardenne Brothers…I saw The Kid with a Bike in theaters back in March and its depiction of parental abandonment has since embedded itself in me. It gets a Criterion Collection release in February. Young Cyril just wants answers and for things to go back to the way they were, rejecting anything that isn’t what once was. He thinks he can get both from his dad (Jeremie Renier really has a knack for playing shitty fathers) but he can’t. He is fighting for a domestic haven that no longer exists, and seemingly never existed, but he is too young to see the hopelessness of his want. In Samantha the hairdresser Cyril has someone who has taken him under his wing, but he clings to the past and searches for an older male figure no matter who it is. The Kid with a Bike is about what it might take to newly ground a young boy stuck in an underpass of denial and indignation. Is Cecile de France’s Samantha up to the task?


5. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012, Hertzfeldt)

Terrence Malick with stick figures; this is often how Don Hertzfeldt’s existential trilogy of Everything will Be OK, I Am So Proud of You and It’s Such a Beautiful Day is described. They aren’t wrong. Us fans of the innovative animator had been waiting for this final installment and he delivers a profound wrap-up to a profound trilogy. The title here refers to all three which screened together as It’s Such a Beautiful Day. I don’t even know how to go about describing Hertzfeldt’s work here except that the man is making strides in animation experimentation that most can only dream of; and all on his own to boot. That Bill is an everyman only increases the universality of it. He is getting at something that you feel in your gut. Through the beauty, use of classical music, morbid humor, deadpan yet wandering narration and jumpy structure he is getting to the heart of something (yeah I’ll use the word yet again here) profound.


4. Oslo August 31st (Norway, Trier)

My top four this year are all on the same tier. I went back and forth, back and forth between what to put where and in the end, the rankings are even more arbitrary than usual.

“What makes Oslo stand apart from other ‘drug addiction’ films is that it is not about the struggle to stay clean. It is about what one is left with after the fact and questioning the point of continuing. Anders has money, friends, family, looks and talent. But when addiction comes to define and ruin, at the end of the day, what is left when a layer of disconnect invades him, his former haunts and his interactions with others? That ever-palpable ‘why bother’ and the honesty with which it ponders this question is what stood out for me most in Trier’s sophomore triumph.”

Full Review:


3. The Master (USA, Anderson)

Just to warn you, in case you haven’t figured it out, the top of my list follows the pack as far as many critics and film buffs go. Remarkably more divisive than anyone ever expected, The Master works for me because of how badly I itch to dig into its opaqueness. It explicitly juggles many themes in its post-war setting but its cyclical inconclusiveness has perplexed many. That inconclusiveness seems to be a statement within itself and it roots its wandering narrative into the push-pull dichotomous relationship between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Entirely their own characters even as they represent two opposing abstractions of a whole, these two cock their heads and wonder about the other. What can he do for me? Can I fix him? Can he fix himself? There is a lot that Paul Thomas Anderson muses with his latest and while it feels more intrinsic than deliberate, that is the very thing that lends it an endless curiosity. At any stage of his career, Anderson’s films feel like nobody else’s from every standpoint. Where else will you ever see a performance like Joaquin Phoenix’s? I cherish everyone’s contributions to this work like the lucky recipient I am. Yes indeed, blind cultish worship is my drink of choice.

Holy Motors

2. Holy Motors (France/Germany, Carax)

Giddy. Holy Motors made me giddy like a kid in an ever-varied candy store. It manages to be everything at once, mixing and melding genres for brief interludes before moving onto the next. All of this is under the guise of the science-fiction world Carax creates that sees ‘Monsieur Oscar’ (Denis Lavant) taking on different personas over the course of one day. The film hovers over reality like a hawk, zeroing in for flashes before resuming its place in the fantastical ether. Its pretext reads as a statement on the nature of cinema itself but what makes Holy Motors the wonder it is is that it filters this statement in a way that never approaches self-seriousness. It alternates between tones that are touching, bonkers, gently sad, bonkers, morbidly funny and let’s not forget bonkers. There’s a moment towards the end that is the height of hilarity and simultaneous sadness, a genuinely shocking moment the likes of which I have never seen. I cannot get Holy Motors out of my head. It is deliriously entertaining at times, providing me with the rare thrill of having no idea where I’d be taken next.


1. Amour (Austria/France/Germany, Haneke)

When I first heard Michael Haneke’s next film was called Amour I laughed out loud. Was this a joke? Haneke? Love? Surely the title is ironic. But no. The Austrian provocateur matches his clinical and icy detachment to a compassionate and uncompromising story of the slow process of disintegration and death. This is a masterpiece and it is no hyperbole that it has etched itself into the essential canon in no time at all. It feels permanent. It feels vital. Films about old age are often saccharine. This is wholly unsentimental yet filled with feeling. This is a delicate beautiful script with impeccable framing. The low-key lighting houses these two in a comforting warmth as Anne drifts away. It has two performances for the ages. Brave doesn’t begin to cover the places Emmanuelle Riva goes.

Assuming we make it to old age, we’re all headed here folks. Whether you have your loved one supporting you or not. This is what the end is like. This is about seeing the person you’ve spent your life with slipping away from you in mind and body. This is about losing all dignity and sense of self. This is about seeing yourself become a wisp. This is about losing all control. But it is also about the love and devotion that goes hand in hand with the suffering.

This was the most difficult film I watched all year. Haneke’s eye makes for a brutal but honest and earnest viewing experience. I spent the last half hour in various states of hyperventilation. No, seriously. It gave me a minor panic attack. I was having trouble breathing. At a certain point it just overwhelms because it feels so definitive.

Films Seen This Year: Haywire, The Woman in Black, Gerhard Richter Painting, The Secret World of Arietty, Found Memories, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, The Raid: Redemption, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Miss Bala, Cabin in the Woods, The Imposter, 2 Days in New York, Wuthering Heights, Paul Williams Still Alive, Damsels in Distress, The Queen of Versailles, The Avengers, Beauty is Embarrassing, This is Not a Film, The Kid with a Bike, Take This Waltz, Polisse, Prometheus, The Grey, Headhunters, Brave, Moonrise Kingdom, The Intouchables, Chronicle, Mirror Mirror, The Deep Blue Sea, Bullhead, Shut Up and Play the Hits, John Carter, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunter, Oslo, August 31st, Bachelorette, The Moth Diaries, Bernie, Indie Game: The Movie, V/H/S, Side by Side, Kill List, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Attenberg, Snow White and the Huntsmen, God Bless America, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Master, Silent House, The Innkeepers, Dark Shadows, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper, Frankenweenie, ATM, The Tall Man, Argo, The Sound of My Voice, Girl Model, Seven Psychopaths, Red Lights, Klown, The Woman in the Fifth, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Michael, Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Girl, Cloud Atlas, Elena, Monsieur Lazhar, Holy Motors, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, Lincoln, Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present, Alps, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Cosmopolis, Sound of Noise, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Girl Walk//All Day, Your Sister’s Sister, The Invisible War, The Central Park Five, The Loneliest Planet, Killer Joe, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, A Royal Affair, Sleepwalk with Me, Compliance, Searching for Sugar Man, Farewell, My Queen, Sleep Tight, Barbara, The Paperboy, Dredd, Sister, Lawless, In Another Country, The Day He Arrives, Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone, I Wish, Amour

List: Top 30 Favorite Films of 2012 (#30-16)

Finally! Almost the end of the month and I’m shipping out the list of my thirty favorite films of the year. At the end of this and the next post, I will have a list of all the films I watched this year that were up for a spot. I always hate the idea of a Top Ten list. It seems far too exclusive and unfair to narrow down a year in film to only ten films. I like to celebrate the year with more love all around. Same goes for ‘best’. I prefer favorite. The films I did not get to see that I most would have liked to, but I really just maxed out on motivation towards the end, were Tabu, The Turin Horse, Goodbye First Love, Wreck-It-Ralph and Life of Pi among others. So! I present to you the first half of my 30 Favorite Films of 2012 list.


30. Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, USA)

The achievement of Zero Dark Thirty is its towing the line. By prioritizing painstaking scrupulousness, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal neither glorify nor condemn anything we see. The result is a complex procedural led by the single-minded Jessica Chastain that burrows in the grey.


29. The Invisible War (Dick, USA)

The first of seven documentaries on here, The Invisible War sees Kirby Dick taking a mature step up from the addicting but intrusive This Film is Not Yet Rated. Here, he shines a light on the ongoing atrocities of sexual assault committed against women within the United States Armed Forces. Even worse than the trauma is the unconscionable treatment of victims who attempt to get justice. Between the women being told to ‘suck it up’, that it was their fault, getting discharged and their cases getting lost in very quick dead ends, you will find yourself crying and wringing your hands in fury up to the gods at the self-serving impartial justice system depicted.


28. Girl Model (USA, Redmon & Sabin)

“Girl Model takes a cinema vérité approach, which just happens to be my favorite kind of documentary. It may have a distance that prevents a true excavation of the issue at hand, but the tip-of-the-iceberg strategy works better because of the narrow first-hand look that we do get. We don’t have to be geniuses to conclude that these are not regionally restricted issues and that the river runs deeper.”

“The Ashley Arbaugh figure is a fascinating one, not for the reasons she would hope for, making a living lying through her teeth to others and herself. What makes her even more of an oddity is the way she evidently thinks her present-day confessionals reek of honesty, when in fact they just read as an ever-contradicting headspace of self-justification. Hell, she can’t even face the cameras at any point in the film, always obliquely looking off into space, talking herself out of moral quandaries.”

My full review here:


27. Beyond the Black Rainbow (Canada, Cosmatos)

The best executed pastiche piece these eyes have seen in a while. A head trip of the first order, this take-off of similarly demented sci-fi/horror sources from the minds of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter is destined for underground fame. Its plot is thin as a whistle, merely an excuse for a fuzzy wandering logic that feels like a combination of being half asleep and also on drugs. Mixing and matching monochromatic palettes and a meticulous sound design to get under your skin, this retro lo-fi mock-acid outing is one genre film that demands to be seen.


26. Looper (USA, Johnson)

Rian Johnson’s third film sees a repairing of the director with now bona-fide star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This time, they take on sci-fi, using high concept to ask questions about cycles, or loops if you will, of violence, selfishness and stepping outside routine monotony to look at who we have become and the choices we make. While there are problems that emerged for me upon reflection, the unpredictability of most of the film was thrilling. It is a sensation that does not come around often, that sense of not knowing where a film is going. There are a couple of sequences that took me by such surprise that I felt like a kid in a candy store. There are moments when Looper had me gleaming. This and Beyond the Black Rainbow were the two sci-fi films of note this year.

Full Review:


25. Farewell, My Queen (France, Jacquot)

Historical witness films can be really hit-or-miss. The key is that if the bogus ‘witness’ isn’t compelling, you are often left with history porn that only lights up when the icon of choice appears onscreen. Luckily, Lea Seydoux’s Madame Laborde fits the bill. It is hard to tell what is going on behind those doting saucers since she favors the colder side of demeanor and her absorbing ambiguity make her worthy. She is more than our gateway. With one foot dipped into Marie Antoinette’s quarters and the other one steeped into the whispers of massive impending change downstairs, the film covers all angles well without making too much explicit. What I love about Farewell, My Queen are little touches; the one costume that Seydoux wears, the fact that she ungracefully falls twice, the rat-infested conditions below, etc.  And Diane Kruger makes a great Marie.

Gerhard Richter Painting documentary 3

24. Gerhard Richter Painting (Germany, Belz)

“Gerhard Richter Painting explores the universality of creation and the individualistic relationships between artists and their visions, process and products. It confirms that these individualistic relationships belong only to the artist. As gratifying as the insight that Belz gets and gives us is, neither a witnessing camera, nor words from the creator himself can truly represent the process of creating. What Belz and her marvelous film assert is that it makes being a bystander to the process is no less meaningful, and that our own individual relationships and responses to any work of art are no less essential.”

Full Review:


23. 21 Jump Street (USA, Lord & Miller)

“21 Jump Street remains self-aware throughout, acknowledging its own lack of originality. But it never allows that one-joke gimmick to define the film; far from it. This is a mostly great comedy (and how few comedies can even be defined as ‘mostly great’ these days?) that thrives on being hilarious and sincere in equal measure. The rocky road the central friendship takes is clearly just as important to the filmmakers and actors as the laughs. Only time will tell, but I predict that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum will go down as one of the best onscreen pairings of our time. Yep. I said it.”

Full Review:

Jiro Dreams

22. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (USA, Gelb)

Jiro, the elderly shokunin, has devoted his entire lengthy life to perfecting the art of sushi. While we will never get to taste it, David Gelb intoxicates us with the slippery and shiny just-so imagery of Jiro’s creations. More than just food porn, although it certainly is that, this is a look into someone who at eighty-five and better at his craft than anyone in the world. And he is still striving for perfection. His unwavering policy on life is something to behold. Insights into the pressure put on his sons, the process by which fish are chosen and more make this a must-see portraiture.

Anna Karenina

21. Anna Karenina (UK, Wright)

I walked out of Anna Karenina just a little let down. I had just read the Tolstoy monolith and despite going in with an understanding that Cliff Notes were to be expected, the second half was streamlined even in the most basic sense and Knightley’s Anna felt like it was played a bit broad. Surely twenty more minutes to the length would have been doable.

Yet Anna Karenina stuck with me in a big way. Its meta-spectacle was the most visually entrancing of the year taking the theatricality of Russian aristocracy and literalizing it to the hilt. All the visual aspects from Jacqueline Durran’s costume design to Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography to Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer’s production design are flawless. The passion between Anna and Vronsky was palpable and handled beautifully as well as the juxtaposition of also-protagonist Levin. Jude Law and Matthew McFadyen are stand-outs. It is a majestic film and one I have the urge to get to know more than almost any other this year. It will leave you awe-struck.


20. Compliance (USA, Zobel)

Compliance gets a lot of its mileage out of the ‘this really happened’ gimmick. And that mileage goes a long way. This is a tough and unpleasant watch and Craig Zobel leaves us with a resignedly depressing take on humanity as judged by this chamber piece. How did a prank call turn into sexual assault? Zobel ponders these questions while giving us a very matter-of-fact imagined version of the scenario playing out. The material is handled admirably. It is disturbing but never feels exploitative. Zobel knows how to frame his shots and when to cut so that it remains harrowing but never unnecessarily lingering. Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker have two of the toughest acting jobs of the year and both excel. The director takes the disbelief of the story as a narrowing challenge, using his script to try and get inside the heads of the people, environment and dynamics that came to be that day. Becky is outspoken against the orders of her cell phone being taken away early on but by the time we get to the end she is like a zombie, wholly resigned to the most heinous of acts. A voice over the phone had control over an entire room for a day for no other reason than falsely representing himself as an authority figure. A simple click would have ended the trauma. This really did happen.


19. Skyfall (UK, Mendes)

And now for my favorite franchise film of the year; who knew I would ever become a fan of Bond? Bond is and never will be my thing. The sexual politics get old even in the most dated kitschy sense very quickly, and I have never seen drawn to the character. He’s a male fantasy after all. But with Casino Royale and now Skyfall, I find myself hooked. This one got almost everything right. Focusing on M made for a more engaging and stakes-ridden plot. Sam Mendes opens the film with a rousing multi-stage chase sequence. Javier Bardem, onscreen far too little, commands with his cubist-face. Ben Whishaw geeks the joint up with his tech savvy, glasses and cardigan. Adele’s theme song is a home-run. Last but not least is Roger Deakins and his cinematography, my favorite of the year outside of Mihai Malăimare, Jr. for The Master. I spent a decent chunk of this film with my jaw hanging open because of his imagery. In short, I can forgive that the draggy final act is a rip-off of Home Alone and the handling of Bérénice Marlohe for all the other riches.


18. Cabin in the Woods (USA, Goddard)

“To simply label Cabin in the Woods as meta is reductive. The film works on several different levels, fully committing to its ideas with an admirable audacity. It carries a fondness for its underdeveloped characters; an immediate deviation from the norm. It refuses to conform; every time you think it has, director/writer Goddard and producer/writer Whedon have another trick up their sleeves. Every cliché it takes on serves the film’s larger purpose. It places an additional layer of onlookers/stakeholders who are central to the story (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, and the incomparable Amy Acker) between us and the victims, forcing the audience to dissect how we interact with horror films and what we really get out of them. It does all of this without the false sense of superiority Michael Haneke insists on seeping into every frame of Funny Games (huge fan of the director though I am, as this list will later reveal). Goddard and Whedon fully implicate themselves into the genuine curiosities the film ponders.”

Full Review:


17. Your Sister’s Sister (USA, Shelton)

Watching Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt sit around and talk, fight, spar and banter with each other is a cherished delights of this year. I bought, and more importantly felt, that Duplass and Blunt were best friends and that Blunt and DeWitt were sisters. They had a rare lived-in quality. This is a fresh indie that, save for a guitar-strumming montage towards the end of people contemplating LIFE, had me at hello. Or rather, it had me at the moment when Duplass’ Jack cuts into Mike Birbiglia’s speech at the one-year anniversary of his brother’s death. Meanwhile, DeWitt manages to somehow sell a really appalling decision her character makes and all three actors give exceptional performances.


16. ParaNorman (USA, Butler & Fell)

Visuals that excel in the details, a snappy pacing and a cast of characters that feels instantly familiar, even iconic. ParaNorman is one of the best times I had watching a film this year. It reeks of imagination and hits high notes of all kinds throughout. The animation is top-notch, an always morphing scape of ideas and the depiction of the supernatural. The Judge Hopkins character alone; you feel the centuries of regret within him through the character design and voicework. The villain ends up having a bittersweet backstory with no easy solutions. The group dynamic of the main characters is so fun that I wanted to spend hours watching them get into risky situations. Or better yet, a TV series! I kid you not; the connection was that instantaneous. And of course, Jon Brion’s reliably wonderful score.

Films Seen This Year: Haywire, The Woman in Black, Gerhard Richter Painting, The Secret World of Arietty, Found Memories, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, The Raid: Redemption, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Miss Bala, Cabin in the Woods, The Imposter, 2 Days in New York, Wuthering Heights, Paul Williams Still Alive, Damsels in Distress, The Queen of Versailles, The Avengers, Beauty is Embarrassing, This is Not a Film, The Kid with a Bike, Take This Waltz, Polisse, Prometheus, The Grey, Headhunters, Brave, Moonrise Kingdom, The Intouchables, Chronicle, Mirror Mirror, The Deep Blue Sea, Bullhead, Shut Up and Play the Hits, John Carter, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunter, Oslo, August 31st, Bachelorette, The Moth Diaries, Bernie, Indie Game: The Movie, V/H/S, Side by Side, Kill List, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Attenberg, Snow White and the Huntsmen, God Bless America, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Master, Silent House, The Innkeepers, Dark Shadows, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looper, Frankenweenie, ATM, The Tall Man, Argo, The Sound of My Voice, Girl Model, Seven Psychopaths, Red Lights, Klown, The Woman in the Fifth, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Michael, Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Girl, Cloud Atlas, Elena, Monsieur Lazhar, Holy Motors, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina, Lincoln, Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present, Alps, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Cosmopolis, Sound of Noise, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Girl Walk//All Day, Your Sister’s Sister, The Invisible War, The Central Park Five, The Loneliest Planet, Killer Joe, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, A Royal Affair, Sleepwalk with Me, Compliance, Searching for Sugar Man, Farewell, My Queen, Sleep Tight, Barbara, The Paperboy, Dredd, Sister, Lawless, In Another Country, The Day He Arrives, Zero Dark Thirty, Rust and Bone, I Wish, Amour

Lists: Top 25 Performances and Top 10 Song Usages from 2012 Film

After this, all that’s left is my Top 30 Films of the Year. Now, to pay homage to the acting and use of music in this year’s films. As far as songs go, the criteria are that use of instrumental score composed for the film does not count nor do songs from musicals. Otherwise Anna and Vronsky’s dance scene from Anna Karenina and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables would have made it.

As for the performances, 10-25 are listed alphabetically and the top 10 are listed alphabetically. It feels even weirder to outright rank performances than it does films, so I figure putting them in two broad groupings gives some semblance of structure.

There’s nothing better than the inspired application of a song . Here are the ten, in order, that stayed with me most this year.

Top 10 Song Usages

Honorable Mentions: “Ghost Rider” – Suicide – Attenberg, any number of songs in Django Unchained, “Strokin” – Clarence Carter – Killer Joe, “Let It Out” – Girl Talk – Girl Walk//All Day, anything from Shut Up and Play the Hits, Heroes – David Bowie – Perks of Being a Wallflower, etc.

Okay, 11. “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie comes out of his shell to one of the best New Wave songs of all as Patrick and Sam spread their infectious dance-crazed flamboyance.

rust and bone

10. “Firework” – Katy Perry – Rust and Bone
Who knew? A turning point for the character of Stephanie, reclaiming her life as she confronts her former place of employment.


9. “Skyfall” – Adele – Skyfall
Adele channels Shirley Bassey with her momentous throwback Bond song. Her powerful yet calm delivery backed by surrounding strings and brass gives chills.


8.“I Got a Name” – Jim Croce – Django Unchained
Folk floats on in as the budding bounty-hunting friendship between Django and Schultz gets a perfect landscape-filled montage.


7. “Le Temps de l’Amour” – Francoise Hardy – Moonrise Kingdom
Jared Gilman’s flailing inelegance paired with the concentrated smooth of Kara Hayward and Anderson’s slightly hovering straight-on take make this scene an instant classic.

EDIT: Inserting “Revivre” by Gerard Manset in Holy Motors after the fact. Having seen it again reminded me of this scene and how I forgot it for this list is beyond me. Probably still too swept up in “Let My Baby Ride”.


6. “Popcorn” – Hot Butter – Alps
In a final scene that bookends the first, the Gymnast is finally ready for pop music.


5. “Take This Waltz” – Leonard Cohen and “Video Killed the Radiostar – The Buggles’ – Take This Waltz
Technically three usages in one spot as the latter is used twice. Burning desire finally gets released as time passes and cyclical yearning reigns in these two wondrous scenes.

4. “Stand on the Word” – Keedz – Polisse
The employees of the Child Protection Unit let loose  with French rapper Joeystarr as Fred leading everyone in a dance. You can feel the momentary relief of the experience run through as you watch beaming.


3. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – The ImposterA haunting and kitschy end to a film that provides unnerving suggestions about a story with no clear conclusion.

master, the_philip_seymour_hoffman

2. “On a Slow Boat to China” – Frank Loesser (sung by P.S Hoffman) The Master
Transfixing and ever-ambiguous. One of the most beguiling scenes from this year. I could not find a picture from this scene, tried though I did. Instead I chose this frame I’m in love with from an unrelated scene. Loving the color on that suit.


1. “Let My Baby Ride” – R.L Burnside – Holy Motors
“Trois! Douze! Merde!”

Top 25 Performances:

Honorable Mention: Anne Hathaway – Fantine – Les Miserables

25-10 (in alphabetical order)


Marion Cotillard – Stephanie – Rust and Bone
Shattered. Defiant. Physical.

Leonardo DiCaprio – Calvin Candie – Django Unchained
Hammy. Savage. Refreshing.

Thomas Doret – Cyril – The Kid with a Bike
Scrappy. Stubborn. Hurt.

Ann Dowd – Sandra – Compliance
Earnest. Misguided. Astray.


Michael Fassbender – David – Prometheus
Precise. Inquisitive. Blond.

Philip Seymour Hoffman – Lancaster Dodd – The Master
Cloying. Defensive.  Sincere.

Nina Hoss – Barbara – Barbara
Guarded. Austere. Compassionate.

Ezra Miller – Patrick – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Boisterous. Assured. Wounded.


Aggeliki Papoulia – The Nurse –  Alps
Desperate. Stilted. Cipher.

Michael Rogers – Barry Nyle – Beyond the Black Rainbow
Nightmarish. Unstable. Seething.

Lea Seydoux – Agathe Sidonie-Laborde – Farewell, My Queen
Enigmatic. Loyal. Observant.

Channing Tatum – Jenko – 21 Jump Street
Goofy. Atypical. Dependable.


Christopher Walken – Hans – Seven Psychopaths
Collected. Grieved. Soulful.

Dreama Walker – Becky – Compliance
Vulnerable. Simple. Credulous.

Rachel Weisz – Hester – The Deep Blue Sea
Luminous. Fretful. Smoky.

The Top 10 (alphabetical order):


Denis Lavant – Monsieur Oscar and about nine other roles – Holy Motors
Grotesque. Chameleon. Encompassing.

Logan Lerman – Charlie – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Authentic. Sheepish. Damaged.

Daniel Day-Lewis – Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln
Timeless. Wise. Reedy.

Anders Danielsen Lie – Anders – Oslo, August 31st
Haunted. Splintered. Contemplative.

Matthew McConaughey – Joe – Killer Joe
Virile. Smooth. Penetrating.

Sara Paxton – Claire – The Innkeepers
Naturalistic. Singular. Spry.

Joaquin Phoenix – Freddie Quell – The Master
Feral. Externalized. Obscene.

Emmanuelle Riva – Anne – Amour
Lost. Fragile. Deteriorating.

Matthias Schoenaerts – Jacky – Bullhead
Brute. Meaty. Blockaded.

Michelle Williams – Margot – Take This Waltz
Childish. Wistful. Idiosyncratic.

The Top Fives of 2012 Film

Continuing to encapsulate the year in film, I present you with my list of Top Fives. After this, all I’ve got are performances, song usages and finally, my 30 favorite films of the year. I’ll probably end up condensing those first two into one post in an effort to save time and space. I would’ve done scenes, but without keeping track of something like that throughout the year, it becomes impossible to make a scenes list. Suffice it to say, The First Processing Scene from The Master would’ve been my number one. Without further ado…on to the 2nd Annual Cinema Enthusiast Top Five Awards! Being a huge fan of The Film Experience’s Film Bitch Awards, I borrowed a few categories from there. All of these are in order and I tried to make them as accurate as I could considering this is all after the fact.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my choices, what you would’ve put in these categories and if there are any categories I should add for next year!


1. Argo (Storming the embassy)
2. Attenberg
3. Alps
4. Seven Psychopaths
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild


Use of Title Card/Opening Credit Sequences:
1. Skyfall (Title Card/Opening Credits)
2. Bachelorette (Title Card/Opening Credits)
3. Cabin in the Woods (Title Card)
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Title Card)
5. Amour (Title Card)


1. The Grey
2. Holy Motors
3. The Imposter
4. Zero Dark Thirty
5. Alps
Honorable Mentions: Take This Waltz and Monsieur Lazhar


Ensemble Cast:
1. Your Sister’s Sister
2. Django Unchained
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Bachelorette
5. Moonrise Kingdom
Honorable Mentions: Killer Joe, The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Underrated Films:
Films that were critically acclaimed but were forgotten by the end of the year and didn’t get enough attention or films that didn’t get the critical love they deserved. Or, as my number five illustrates,a film that the entire internet invested in minutely taking to task.
1. Gerhard Richter Painting
2. Farewell, My Queen
3. Pirates! Band of Misfits
4. Beyond the Black Rainbow
5. The Dark Knight Rises (yeah, I went there )

wuthering heights

Films That Started Strong But…
1. Wuthering Heights (Older Catherine and Heathcliff are excruciating)
2. Django Unchained (Those last twenty minutes shouldn’t be there, period)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (Don’t buy Pat’s arc once he pieces things together re: the letter)
4. Moonrise Kingdom (The storm made the film lose itself a bit)
5. The Hunger Games (The games just don’t cut it and that climax is laughably bad)
Honorable Mention: Frankenweenie (Turns into chaotic monster movie tribute in last third albeit with fantastic character design work)

Damsels in Distress

1. Damsels in Distress
2. Django Unchained
3. Lawless
4. In Another Country
5. Paul Williams Still Alive
Honorable Mention: Haywire


1. Matthias Schoenearts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone) (Ok, maybe not a newcomer, but this was absolutely his breakout year as far as exposure in the States is concerned)
2. Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
3. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, Lawless)
4. Mikkel Følsgaard (A Royal Affair)
5. Sophie Nélisse (Monsieur Lazhar)
Honorable Mentions: Ariane Labed, Sarah Gadon, Dreama Walker, Hani Furstenberg, Alicia Vikander. Any number of other child actors such as Thomas Doret in The Kid with a Bike and Kacey Mottet Klein in Sister.

The Innkeepers

Underrated Performances: (Again, how do you do this? Everyone I think of putting down, I immediately imagine being called out on my choice)
1. Sara Paxton – The Innkeepers
2. Logan Lerman – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Jude Law – Anna Karenina
4. Dreama Walker – Compliance
5. Christopher Walken – Seven Psychopaths
Honorable Mention: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) (I realize this is in no way an underrated performance. But she’s got a legitimate shot at winning an Oscar for another film, while everyone forgot her work in this. I actually far prefer her work as Katniss)


Bit Parts/Smaller Supporting Roles:
1. Tom Waits – Seven Psychopaths
2. The Embassy Staff (Clea Duvall, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, etc) – Argo
3. Ben Whishaw – Skyfall
4. Liev Schreiber – Goon (Yes, he’s a main cast member, but I don’t recall much screen time)
5. Paul Giamatti – Cosmopolis
Honorable Mention: Garrett Dillahunt – Looper


Worst Performances:
1. Lindsay Lohan – Liz & Dick
2. Chloe Grace-Moretz – Dark Shadows
3. Kaya Scodelario and James Howson – Wuthering Heights
4. Johnny Depp – Dark Shadows
5. Guy Pearce – Prometheus


1. The Master – Jonny Greenwood
2. Moonrise Kingdom – Alexandre Desplat
3. Cloud Atlas – Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild – Dan Romer, Behn Zeitlin
5. Beyond the Black Rainbow – Sinoia Caves

Sara Paxton

1. Claire (Sara Paxton) – The Innkeepers
2. Patrick (Ezra Miller)– Perks of Being a Wallflower
3. Mr. Whiskers – Frankenweenie
4. Oblonsky (Matthew MacFadyen) – Anna Karenina
5. Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) – Django Unchained
Honorable Mentions: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd – The Master

Direct action … Quentin Tarantino on the set of Django Unchained.

The Why Are You Even Here Award?
1. Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
2. Laura Dern – The Master (You have Laura Dern in your film and this is what you do with her PTA? For shame!)
3. Maiwenn- Polisse
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Lincoln
5. Zac Efron – The Paperboy
Honorable Mention: Juno Temple – The Dark Knight Rises


Character Dynamics:
1. Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd (Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) – The Master
2. Driss and Philippe (Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet) – The Intouchables
3. Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) –The Innkeepers
4. Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) – 21 Jump Street
5. Louise and Simon (Lea Seydoux and Kasey Mottet Klein)– Sister
Honorable Mention: Sitterson and Hadley (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) – Cabin in the Woods

Killer Joe

1. Joe (Matthew McConaughey) – Killer Joe
2. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) – Django Unchained
3. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) – Beyond the Black Rainbow
4. Silva (Javier Bardem) – Skyfall
5. Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) – The Raid: Redemption
Honorable Mentions: Aggie – ParaNorman, Lola – The Loved Ones

Rust and Bone

1. Ali and Stephanie (Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard)  – Rust and Bone
2. Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix) – The Master (Not a romance in the traditional sense, but they fit the bill of two people inextricably and inexplicably drawn to each other and I say theirs was a romance ‘of sorts’)
3. Caroline and Johann (Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen)- A Royal Affair
4. Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) – Moonrise Kingdom
5. Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) – Amour
Honorable Mention: Denis Lavant and a certain furry animal – Holy Motors, Anna and Vronsky – Anna Karenina, Barbara and Andre – Barbara

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 2012: A Personal Sampling

My look back at the year in film continues. A newfangled idea was to write a bit about the details, those little specificities that defined the year for me. I’m trying to find a way to display some of the random things that stood out for me and to summarize what I’ll be taking from this year. There will be other lists coming up with which to do that, but I figure this was worth giving a try. Obviously this is just a sampling. Otherwise it would’ve turned into everything I liked and didn’t like about every film I liked and didn’t like. There’s plenty of room in the other lists for everything to get its due recognition.


— Discovering the music of Rodriguez via Searching for Sugar Man

— Liking the big blockbusters that so many others ripped to shreds (Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, by far my favorite of the trilogy)

— The hand-to-hand combat scenes in The Raid: Redemption

Amour causing fits of hyperventilation

don hertzfeldt coolidge corner theatre

— Seeing Don Hertzfeldt at the Coolidge Corner screening of It’s Such a Beautiful Day

— This actually happened! Think about that… (Compliance and Zero Dark Thirty)

— How much does marketing construct our expectations? (Brave and Looper)


— The concoction that is Freddie Quell (The Master)

— Seeing enough of Lea Seydoux, Matthias Schoenaerts, Aggaliki Papoulia, Mads Mikkelsen, Anders Danielsen Lie (who is a medical doctor?!?!?!?!?!) and Sarah Gadon to consider them among my new favorite actors

— Becoming a Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum fan (Killer Joe, Bernie, 21 Jump Street, Haywire)

— The painstaking process of the artist in documentaries (Gerhard Richter Painting, Beauty is Embarassing, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Indie Game: The Movie, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and heartbreakingly in This is Not a Film)

— The first Quentin Tarantino film I didn’t love (Django Unchained)


— Directors feeling the need to distract and/or partially ruin their films with their own presence. I’m looking at you Tarantino and Maiwenn. To the latter; the centralization of your character kept Polisse from being one of my favorites this year.

— The rare thrill of having no idea what will happen next and the absurdist surreal invention that makes up Holy Motors

— The jaw-dropping narrative of The Imposter and getting to experience it with a sold-out audience in a state of collective disbelief at IFFBoston

Take This Waltz and resulting life decisions

— A gay animated character (Paranorman)

Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook leaving me adrift and still conflicted with my thoughts (The former was beautiful and lyrical but also kind of uncomfortable us vs. them poverty porn where the latter was thoroughly entertaining but can’t get away with depicting love as a cure-all for mental illness and having its characters make crucial decisions I don’t buy)

— Docs How to Survive a Plague and The Invisible War shaking, horrifying and moving me to my core

— Jessica Chastain’s wardrobe and lack of wardrobe in Lawless

— Child actors astound everywhere you turn (Moonrise Kingdom, The Kid with a Bike, Sister, Looper, Michael, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Monsieur Lazhar, I Wish, Wuthering Heights)


— The darkly humorous parade of spiraling stupidity (Killer Joe)

— The smorgasbord of Les Miserables (Great songs, distracting Dutch angles and incessant close-ups, me crying at parts but also hating a lot of the final half because Marius/Eponine/Cosette are the worst. My most erratic theatrical experience this year)

— Having the main character in Michael, a pedophile, remind me of Buster Bluth and distracting me for its entire runtime


— The continued mourning of not having gone to LCD Soundsystem’s last show (Shut Up and Play the Hits)

— Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy have better chemistry than you and anyone you know (The Intouchables)

— The pristine detail of the off-kilter black-and-white design of Frankenweenie’s world

— The first prison visit scene in The Paperboy showing me something I’ve never seen before


— Merida’s life-of-its-own red mane (Brave)

— Being reminded that boredom is worse than car-crash bad (Numerous offenders)

— Bringing the moors to muddy naturalistic life (Wuthering Heights)

— Falling for the first half of Wuthering Heights like a lifelong soul mate only to loath the final hour

— Seann William Scott? Giving a good performance? Surely you jest (Goon)


— The META-SPECTACLE of Anna Karenina

— Film vs. digital (Side by Side)

— When it soars, it soars…regarding the best moments of Cloud Atlas

Sinister not giving me a moment’s rest

Nothing better than an excellent costume drama; they’re like porn. (Anna Karenina, A Royal Affair, Farewell, My Queen)


— The bizarre daytime strolls of Attenberg

— Falling in love with Sara Paxton and her character in The Innkeepers more than any in years. She makes slapstick comedy out of taking out the trash.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower filling me with all the bittersweet in the world

— Eiko Ishioka single-handedly getting me through Mirror, Mirror with her whimsical fairy-tale couture

ARRIETTY un film de Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Last but not least, Arietty’s room in The Secret World of Arrietty

Double Features Seen This Year:
This is Not a Film/The Kid with a Bike
Silver Linings Playbook/Anna Karenina
Moonrise Kingdom/The Intouchables
Argo/Girl Model
The Exorcist/The Thing

The Ten Worst Films I Saw from 2012

Of the approximately 120 films I saw from 2012, overall I liked the vast majority of them on at least some level. Almost all of the films considered the worst of the year were not ones I saw so keep in mind the severe absence of countless possible slot-fillers. Here are the ten biggest offenders in my eyes. I tend to be more offended by the dully bad than the fascinatingly bad, so the scale is tipped towards the former and you’ll be seeing lots of ‘lifeless’ reasoning. Hence The Paperboy not being here; it may be awful but it stuck with me.

What do you think were the worst films of 2012?


10. The Moth Diaries

Mary Harron – why and how did you go so wrong? I’m a sucker for boarding-school-for-girls films and am easy to please when it comes to them (example; last year’s Cracks). What could have been a sexy and explorative coming-of-age fable about hormones, the possessiveness of female friendships and vampires is instead dead on arrival. It offends through boredom, lifelessness and the voiceover overkill. Forgettable doesn’t begin to cover this utter dud. Sidenote: I continue to crush on Sarah Gadon.


9. Dark Shadows

The humor has one mode, ‘weren’t the 1970′s funny?’, that proves Dark Shadows inability to commit to anything or handle its identity crisis. The jokes themselves are either corny observations or short exchanges with log-like landings that are delivered half-heartedly and take on the low energy level the pacing dictates. Worst of all, the jokes are bad. Really bad. Smith could have found genuine humor in the fish-out-of-water plot or imbued comic timing with scenarios, situations or in the dynamics between characters. The best he could do are piss-poor kind-of jokes that first and foremost do not compromise the overall non-tone. Since this is how Dark Shadows deals with each genre courting; the result is that the film has no discernible tone at all.

Full review here:

8. Snow White and the Huntsman

Impressive visuals, a campy villainous performance and excellent effects work do not a good film make. One of two revisionist Snow White adaptations in 2012, this one teases that it’ll fill in some backstory and set its sights on Charlize Theron’s evil queen. Once the plot kicks in, all potential washes away and the focus racks onto Stewart’s heroine. Ending in a self-inflated full scale battle reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, the stakes ratchet up without the audience ever feeling it. Stewart does nothing in this role. She tries to emote but it’s too wooden to register. It’s also called Snow White and the Huntsman, and it’s the most lackluster attempt at an onscreen pairing in recent memory. It’s beyond going through the motions; it’s a wispy undeveloped question mark. When they get together, it’s like a twist ending that they ever had any romantic feelings for each other at all.


7. The Woman in the Fifth

A perfect example of artsy-gone-wrong. From the director of the excellent My Summer of Love, this unenticing incomprehensible cloud of nothing cannot drum up any intrigue for the audience. Telling a vague symbolic story means there has to be something keeping our interest whether intuition or feeling or the story-in-the-moment. This has nothing to offer or pull the viewer in so what am I supposed to get out of it?


6. Detachment

Many of these films appear on this list because they are criminally lifeless. One thing Detachment is not is lifeless.

In Detachment, eccentric director Tony Kaye’s examination of the everyday minutiae of an urban high school, picked his form of attack–full-scale assault—and decided that was enough. He crams so much horror and extremity into every scenario he presents that the film has no room to breathe. There is a train-wreck quality that keeps this consistently watchable but not for the reasons Kaye wants. A ‘what will he throw at us next’ pull resides. He uses the guise of the school education system as a cipher for a no holds barred sustained shrill that is always pitched at 11, and unfortunately only cares about being pitched at 11.

Full review here:


5. Silent House

Elizabeth Olsen does a fine job here and there is a craftsmanship to the one-take found footage gimmick (though I’m sure there are hidden cuts in there somewhere). The praise ends there. By focusing with minute precision on Olsen’s unceasing terror, Silent House takes the voyeurism of horror to a pointless and shallow level without exploring the implications of its choices. This would have been thrown on the stack of forgettable horror films if not for a last act twist that felt nauseatingly exploitative. The way it handles the material does nothing to justify itself; it has a cheap and dirty feel to it with no return value.


4. Mirror Mirror

Before going into Mirror Mirror, I heard that it closes with a Bollywood number. My immediate reaction, despite not having seen it at that point, was one of vague irritation. Lo and behold, it ended up being the only few tolerable minutes in this lifeless and obnoxious monstrosity. It is the sole occasion where it musters up any semblance of energy or feeling. As Mirror Mirror death-marched itself to the finishing line, it sunk in that I quite simply hated this film.

Perhaps Mirror Mirror’s biggest snafu is that no flicker of genuine emotion can be found; thus no stakes can be felt and no fun can be had. It creates an immense detachment. The result is to be left with one’s own boredom and aggravation.

Full Review here:


3. ATM

I adore shitty high-concept horror films. They can be such a blast when they go oh-so-wrong, which is why I geared up to watch ATM with giddy excitement. It got bad reviews and the whole thing takes place with three young folks trapped in an ATM kiosk while someone tries to kill them. This sounds hilariously bad! But it was the other kind of bad. Like, bad bad. Ludicrous and boring to boot.


2. Liz and Dick

Yes, I hate-watched it. Yes, it’s as atrocious as you heard. Yes, I understand this is a Lifetime Original Movie and expectations were low. No, I don’t feel like I actually watched a movie. I don’t even know what I watched. And it’s official; Lindsay Lohan cannot even deliver a simple line reading convincingly anymore. Unfortunately, she was like a high school student doing a first read-through for the Spring production. I don’t exaggerate.


1. God Bless America

Atrocious. Beyond hypocritical. Full of itself. Holier than thou. Speechifying. Condescending. Had the opposite effect it was meant to. Instead of rooting for its core concerns which, before watching, had some validity for me, it made me want to watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” just to spite this piece of shit nonsense. Fuck. This. Movie.

Quick Informal Thoughts on the 2013 Oscar Nominations

I actually did pretty damn good on my predictions overall. I’m very pleased. I scored an 81/107 (in my scoring system I count half a point for alternates).

I have to say, even though I prefer 2011 in film to 2012 in film, the Academy Award Nominations are significantly more impressive than last year as a consistent whole. Last year, The Artist, which was merely cute, was primed to sweep, while films like The Help, War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close made the cut. This year, Lincoln seems poised to take the cake and I am totally okay with that. It’s masterful in execution and the Spielberg/Kushner collaboration was a match made in heaven. And while I have light-to-moderate issues with all of the films nominated for Picture (of the six I’ve seen), I don’t dislike any of them. Hell, I’m not even upset about any of the films chosen. Except Django Unchained because so much of it was subpar Tarantino. With the Oscars, it’s all about picking your battles.

And a Michael Haneke film has been nominated for Best Picture and he’s a Director nominee. Who would have ever thought we’d see that? This is an example of why I like the 5+ nominee structure. Amour will get a lot more exposure now because the AMPAS took to it.

The snub heard around the award season world was Ben Affleck and especially Kathryn Bigelow’s shocking absence in the Director. I’ll be seeing Zero Dark Thirty tonight. It’s quite sad that a lock for a female director (when does this ever happen?) was shut out. We just can’t catch a break.

While Zero Dark Thirty and Argo took major hits on that front, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook gained some serious ground. ‘Playbook’ got Russell in for Director and Adapted Screenplay, and for the first time in over three decades, a film received nods in all four acting categories.

The Good and Pleasant Surprises:– Joaquin Phoenix getting in for Best Actor. Really didn’t think it would happen though I had him in my predictions.
– Jacki Weaver for Supporting Actress. Does she deserve it? No. But I adore this woman so much that I’m thrilled for her.
Pirates! Band of Misfits for Animated Film. This was such a treat and I really hope more people, even if only a small chunk, see it now.
– Eiko Ishioka – Costume Design for Mirror, Mirror. The late great garment extraordinaire was rightfully acknowledged for her standout work.
How to Survive a Plague and The Invisible War in for Documentary. Not surprises, but both fully deserving.
No is the first Chilean film nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. I really hope this gets US distribution soon because I want to see it badly.

The Bad and Icky Snubs:
– I get that The Master has severely split people. It is fantastic that the AMPAS was able to recognize the acting as being substantial even if it was within a film that they rejected as a whole. But to shut it out from all other categories? Surely the Cinematography and Score at the very least were technical merits more than deserving of recognition.
– No Perks for Being a Wallflower for Adapted Screenplay or Looper for Original Screenplay. The Academy still hates genre films.
Moonrise Kingdom only gets in for Original Screenplay. Was really hoping this was the year the AMPAS would move beyond throwing Anderson an ‘Original Screenplay’ bone.
– Too much Beasts of the Southern Wild for my taste. Too much of it I say. I still cannot figure out how I feel about this film.
– Very sad that Leonardo DiCaprio couldn’t sneak into Supporting Actor. It’s a 180 from anything he’s ever done and he chews the scenery with such an entertaining relish. To my surprise, I bought him in the role completely. And that Alan Arkin performance is so thankless; what a waste of a spot. But Christoph Waltz’s nomination means I get to look at his face for the next month of awards coverage so silver linings.
– No The Imposter or This is Not a Film in Documentary.
– No Sister in Foreign Language Film. The shocker of crowdpleasing The Intouchables being ignored aside, Sister had a decent but not great chance at a spot in the final five. It’s a remarkable piece of work and I hate that it didn’t get in.
– No Paul Williams: Still Alive for Original Song.

As the years pass I find myself being much more interested in the technical categories than the main ones. Costume Design, Editing, Cinematography and Production Design are honestly my favorite categories.

What did you think of the nominations. Which are you happiest about? Which inclusions or snubs are you angry about? What do you think of this awards season as a whole?


List: 10 of the Worst Film Posters of 2012

Everyone is gearing up for the Oscar nominations tomorrow and while everyone is already pretty much done with their 2012 film lists, I’m just now gearing up to do mine. The next couple of weeks will feature a number of silly little lists that recap what stuck out for me in the year in film.

Coming up with the ten worst posters of the year is a much more difficult task than picking my favorites. For one thing, there are heaps upon heaps of mediocre to terrible movie posters. It becomes challenging to sift through and separate the merely bad to the incomprehensibly terrible especially when bad posters need to make their impression in a split second as there’s a lot to sift through. Any of my choices could very easily be switched out and replaced with something equally worthy of a slot.

I feel like there was a lot more variety with my list last year and a lot less guffaw-worthy picks this year. My choices can be boiled down to trends of overstuffed clutter, dazed and confused faces stacked up next to each other, bland-as-bland-can-be and a general feeling of laziness.

What were your worst posters of the year? Since there are dozens of others as bad as the ten I chose, tell me what stuck out to you as the WORST.

There’s no order to these this year. I didn’t feel like there was a clear number one or two for that matter. So I just shuffled them arbitrarily for your viewing displeasure.


Wrath of the Titans
This Wrath of the Titans poster stands to represent the countless (thousands really) action-epic character posters each year. I chose this one because it managed to somehow ruin the Greek God beauty that is Edgar Ramirez. Look at that! Do you ‘Feel the Wrath’ when you look at his face? He looks like he’s taking a dump.


Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

What I hate-love about this poster is the way the title contrasts with the ensemble cast. Lucy Liu looks radiant and unaffected but everyone else looks skeptical. “Really?” they say. “Someday this pain will be useful to me? Really?” Nobody is convinced. Anything that says ‘from the producers of Life is Beautiful‘ is an automatic fail because fuck that noise.  Random squares of faces on a poster is the standard trope of the ensemble indie drama and I unequivocally hate it. There must be a better way to advertise smaller ensemble dramas. I know the main selling point is the actors but there must be a better way.


Soldiers of FortuneAgain, it’s the faces that do it for me. On the one hand you’ve got James Cromwell, eyes like a hawk, roaring to go snipe some enemy folk. Then you’ve got….everyone else. With the mild exception of Ving Rhames aside, everyone else looks sooo bored. These actors are all contemplating the state of their careers and are coming up blank. “How did it come to this?”, as they half-heartedly shake their heads. These are Soldiers of Fortune? These are “the best” that the tagline refers to?


Stolen looks more like a Taken rip-off than Taken 2 was a Taken rip-off. It’s to be expected, but my God, have you no shame? Stolen is a synonym of Taken! It has the same color orange that was used for the most often seen posters for Taken and Taken 2. It is covered in text explicitly laying out in numbers and cold hard facts that this is the same plot as Taken. The one difference? Instead of Liam Neeson looking down, stoic and determined, we’ve got Nicolas Cage…running away from an upside down exploding car….


Think Like a Man
Let the mind games begin. Because women play mind games. None of the women are looking directly at the camera. All of the men are. Clearly a one-sided take on gender relations, this poster reads as a sympathy plea from the men. The women may be beautiful but the guys facial expressions read as “can you believe what I gotta deal with?” Indeed. I’m sure my issues would lie even more in the actual film than the poster which likely accurately represents the product.


The Babymakers

The jizz is up you guys. The jizz is up. I’m beside myself with laughter. Again with the nondescript faces against nondescript backgrounds against an even more nondescript white poster. Are these supposed to be facial expressions of various surprise? A baby is coming! There is nothing appealing about this. I don’t see how it could make anyone interested in seeing it, even the Beerfest demographic.


generation Um…
Worst. Film. Title. Ever. Also one of the worst posters ever. What is this, 1999? This looks horrible. I’m pretty sure Keanu Reeves is not in the same generation as these nubile youngsters but fine. Sex, drugs and indecision. Sounds like a breath of fresh air, this film does. And AGAIN with the blank expressions. Yep, that looks to me like indecision. Life whizzes past them in a flurry of colorful flashes. I love Keanu’s ‘what are you looking at’ face. Great stuff.


The Trouble with Bliss

This must have been a really early poster because the title of this was changed and the subsequent posters, while not good, are nowhere near as embarrassing as this. That’s what this is; embarrassing. I could have done this. I seriously think I could have done this and I know nothing about nothing. That this was ever released as an official piece of advertising is just sad. I don’t care how low-budget you are. There’s enough people with enough skill who can work with next to nothing and come up with more than this. And I adore you Michael C. Hall but you look icky and grody. Brie Larson’s out-of-focus legs are making a better impression on me. I feel like I’m in a middle-aged slacker’s bedroom (not a good feeling)….which has a giant map in it…?


A Thousand Words
There’s no logic here. The film’s main poster was far from a winner, but this other one apparently exists. It’s a beyond lazy greatest hits splicing from the film’s various parts. He’s a family man! He helps the elderly! He’s helping a blind man cross the street! He’s kissing Kerry Washington’s forehead (she deserves so much better)! It’s got a two-part tagline that describes the plot and the point of the film in one go because you certainly can’t figure out what the hell is going on from the images. The font is unspeakably awful. There’s no structure. There isn’t even a border around the publicity stills. The poster literally is just a bunch of publicity stills. With Eddie Murphy doing his thing in the center.

2013 Oscar Predictions

Time for annual Oscar Predictions! I’ve been casually following the race this year and this season has had a lot of monkey wrenches thrown into it. E-voting has confused voters leaving out a chunk of the constituents (though who knows how many), a shorter screening period, a narrower number of sure bets, etc. We pretty much know who and what all the contenders are but it feels like there is a wider possibility of combinations than usual, making this a slightly more exciting awards season I must admit. But just slightly.

What are your predictions? Anything you are predicting gets snubbed? Any surprises?

Best Picture:
Zero Dark Thirty
Silver Linings Playbook
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Django Unchained
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom
Alternate: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I was really tempted to put The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in here but I just couldn’t find the room for it. But I think it’s a possibility so it’s my alternate. I’d like a Django snub so I’m placing it at the bottom. I don’t think enough people had time to see Amour for it to sneak in here. I think Foreign Language and Actress will be where it shows up.

Best Director:
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Alternate: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

I’d rather see Russell get in for directing than writing if I had to choose between the two. His deft navigation between comedy and drama was really memorable whereas I mad major screenplay issues with SLP. The Anti-Hooper brigade is much stronger amongst the blogosphere than elsewhere so I think he’ll get in. People are more likely to remember when his directorial choices yielded one-of-a-kind results than its more frustrating elements. And while I haven’t seen Life of Pi, Lee’s adaptation is from a highly regarded novel seen as a difficult screen transfer with integral incorporation of CGI and 3D so he’ll be in. Affleck, Bigelow and Spielberg are locks.

Best Actor:
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Alternate: Denzel Washington, Flight

Day-Lewis has his third nomination and win in the bag. Actor and Supporting Actress will be the recognition for The Sessions.  I’m taking Washington out because I can’t in good conscience kick out Phoenix. Jackman is a lock as far as I’m concerned. Cooper’s spot is not as likely ( I should be picking Washington over him) but I’m keeping his. I never thought I’d be putting Phoenix in as a longshot. Not in a million years. I’d really like his force-of-nature performance to get recognized here as a better 2012 performance there was not (except maybe Denis Lavant).

Best Actress:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Alternate: Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Chastain and Lawrence are the only locks. Like I said, I think the late release date and crunched screening periods are going to hurt Amour but Riva’s performance has been a major talking point in 2012 film going on half a year since Cannes. People will remember Wallis’ spunk and so many were taken aback by her mere presence, though I feel that performances from actors that young should share the nomination with the director. I think her age will hurt her. There’s young and then there’s young. People cannot stop talking about Watts in The Impossible and her nomination will stand as recognition for the film as a whole.

Best Supporting Actor:
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Alternate: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

I honestly think Waltz is getting in over DiCaprio but I’m choosing to put DiCaprio in instead. Alan Arkin does a fine job in Argo, but it’s an unremarkable performance, only notable for livening up the film with his ‘Ar-go-fuck-yourself’. That’s never stopped the Academy before. People will be too happy to have seen De Niro in something of note (playing comedy and drama no less) to not nominate him. This has been the Year of McConaughey and his nomination for Magic Mike will be recognition for his comeback year. Philip Seymour Hoffman is more of a wild card than we think. Nothing for The Master is a lock at this point. It’s made a weak showing this awards season but if one acting nomination feels possible, it’s for Hoffman. Sam Jackson, Javier Bardem and Eddie Redmayne could sneak in for semi-shockers. A lot in this field is up for grabs.

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Alternate: Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy

Kidman may have stunned with SAG and Golden Globe nominations but I’d be surprised to see her sneak in. Instead I think Adams has this in the bag. The other four feel rock solid, Smith less so.

Best Original Screenplay:
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Michael Haneke, Amour
Alternate: Rian Johnson, Looper

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Chris Terrio, Argo
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Lucy Alibar & Ben Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee, Life of Pi
Alternate: Ben Lewin, The Sessions


Best Cinematography:
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Mihai Malaimire Jr., The Master
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Alternate: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Costume Design:
Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
Sharen Davis, Django Unchained
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln
Paco Delgado, Les Miserables
Alternate: Jacqueline West, Argo

If the late Eiko Ishioka does not get nominated here, this is one snub I will be seriously upset about. Her death received a ton of attention in the blogosphere with retrospectives galore. Hopefully voters will have seen the film (the costumes are its only merit but worth watching just for) and will give her due credit.

Best Film Editing:
Dylan Tichenor & William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty
William Goldenberg, Argo
Chris Dickens, Les Miserables
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Fred Raskin, Django Unchained
Alternate: Stuart Baird, Skyfall

I say don’t count Les Miserables out for any major categories. Even Editing.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Alternate: Hitchcock

Best Original Score:
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
John Williams, Lincoln
Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Jonny Greenwood, The Master
Alternate: Alexandre Desplat, Argo

Best Original Song:
“Skyfall”, Skyfall
“Suddenly”, Les Miserables
“Still Alive”, Paul Williams Still Alive
“Learn Me Right”, Brave
“Pi’s Lullaby”, Life of Pi
Alternate: “Ancora Qui”, Django Unchained

If “Still Alive” gets a nomination, it’ll be my favorite of the day. Will the vote be split amongst the multiple Django choices, cancelling them out?

Best Production Design:
Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer, Anna Karenina
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson & Peter T. Frank, Lincoln
Eve Stewart, Les Miserables
David Crank, Jack Fisk & Amy Wells, The Master
Hugh Bateup, Uli Hanisch, Cloud Atlas
Alternate: Adam Stockhausen & Kris Moran, Moonrise Kingdom

I know Cloud Atlas has been entirely shut down this season but it’s impossible to deny the sheer volume of production design work covering six different periods of time, two of them conceptually futuristic. So I’m throwing it in. In a just world, since Wes Anderson films are an onslaught of meticulous production design, you would think this would be a lock considering its Picture contender status and this being the director’s first period film. But apparently no? Will voters go for the theatrical staging of Karenina? I cannot wait to see what pops up here.

Best Sound Editing:
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Alternate: The Avengers

There are a lot of strong contenders here, but since I have no real skills to even begin to decipher the merits of them (despite having read a book on film sound this past year), this is all (mostly) guesswork.

Best Sound Mixing:
Les Miserables
Django Unchained
Zero Dark Thirty
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Alternate: The Impossible

I’d be truly surprised if The Dark Knight Rises gets in here. Everything else is up for grabs really except Les Miserables and Skyfall I’d say.

Best Visual Effects:
The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Snow White and the Huntsman
Alternate: The Amazing Spider-Man

Best Animated Feature Film:
Rise of the Guardians
Alternate: The Rabbi’s Cat

The Rise of the Guardians had a lot of supporters despite its tepid release. So I’m putting it as my fifth.

Best Documentary:
Searching for Sugar Man
The Gatekeepers
Mea Maxima Culpa
How to Survive a Plague
This is Not a Film
Alternate: The Invisible War

What a jam-packed shortlist. Anything could happen. Anything. It feels wrong to be leaving some of these off the list and don’t be surprised if an entirely different set of five is announced. It says something that I left my favorite documentary of the year, The Imposter, off the list entirely. Along with Eiko Ishioka and “Still Alive”, This is Not a Film would be a wholly gratifying and significantly triumphant nomination. But will they accept it as a documentary? How to Survive a Plague relies so heavily on archival footage, making its construction less of a feat but its power should overshadow that. The Imposter has the opposite approach but I’m leaving it off. That’s to say nothing of the many other possible contenders here. This was the hardest category to predict.

Best Foreign Language Film:
The Intouchables
War Witch
Alternate: Sister

Amour and The Intouchables are locks. Everything else, I’m really not sure. But I don’t see voters going for Beyond the Hills but Mungiu’s last film getting snubbed caused the Academy to CHANGE THEIR RULES there’s a good chance I’m wrong.

Total: 81

50 Favorite New-to-Me Films Seen in 2012

Pussy Goes Grr’s recent post on her favorite new-to-me films she saw this year inspired me to do my own. I had a project of watching a bunch of film from each decade that petered out for me mid-year. But from the considerable amount of film-viewing I did accomplish, I saw a boatload of great work. Here are the 50 non-2012 releases that I plan on having life-long affairs with.

Note: These aren’t ranked at all.

1. The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933, Korda)
2.The Ox-Bow Incident (1943, Wellman)
3. The Conformist (1970, Bertolucci)
4. This Land is Mine (1943, Renoir)
5. A Separation (2011, Farhadi)
6. Sabrina (1954, Wilder)
7. Pepe le Moko (1937, Duvivier)
8. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943, Powell and Pressburger)
9. Caught (1949, Ophuls)
10. Les Dames du Bois du Bologne (1945, Bresson)
11. Le Jour Se Leve (1939, Carne)
12. The Smiling Lieutenant (1931, Lubitsch)
13. Shanghai Express (1932, von Sternberg)
14. Destry Rides Again (1939, Marshall)
15. The Gay Divorcee (1934, Sandrich)
16. Only Angels Have Wings (1939, Hawks)
17. People on Sunday (1930, Siodmak and Ulmer)
18. Rembrandt (1936, Korda)
19. A Page of Madness (1926, Kinugasa)
20. Pygmalion (1938, Asquith and Howard)
21. Love Me Tonight (1932, Mamoulian)
22. Holiday (1938, Cukor):
23. The Pearls of the Crown (1937, Guitry)
24. The Story of a Cheat (1936, Guitry)
25. Madam Satan (1930, Demille)
26. Désiré (1937, Guitry)
27. The Edward G. Robinson vignette in Tales of Manhattan (1942, Duvivier)
28. The Heroic Trio (1993, To)
29. Secret Beyond the Door… (1948, Lang)
30. Green for Danger (1946, Gilliat)
31. The Thief of Bagdad (1940, Powell, et al)
32. The More the Merrier (1943, Stevens)
33. Brighton Rock (1948, Boulting)
34. Shoeshine (1946, De Sica)
35. Ordet (1955, Dreyer)
36. Los Olvidados (1950, Buñuel)
37. Germany Year Zero (1948, Rossellini)
38. Yes, Madam (1985)
39. Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970)
40. Nights of Cabiria (1957, Fellini)
41. The Furies (1950, Mann)
42. Senso (1954, Visconti)
43. The Band Wagon (1953, Minnelli)
44. Les Enfants Terribles (1950, Melville)
45. Red Desert (1964, Antonioni)
46. Harakiri (1962, Kobayashi)
47. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Bergman)
48. Street of Shame (1956, Mizoguchi)
49. Caged (1950, Marshall)
50. Daisies (1966, Chytilová)