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!

Argo

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

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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)

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

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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

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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

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

Matthias

Newcomers:
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)

Seven-Psychopaths-Tom-Waits

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

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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

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Scores:
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

Characters:
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

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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

Villains:
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

Romances/Couples
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

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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?

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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.

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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: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/review-dark-shadows-2012-burton/

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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.

woman-in-the-fifth

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?

Detachment

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: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/review-detachment-2012-kaye/

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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.

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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: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/review-mirror-mirror-2012-singh/

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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.

LIZ-DICK_510x380

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.

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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.

Review: Dark Shadows (2012, Burton)


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When I say that Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows isn’t quite the disaster he spewed forth with Alice in Wonderland, don’t mistake that even for the faintest of praise. It’s merely a testament to just how awful his 2010 fantasy revisionist film is. While Dark Shadows shows an uptick in his visual palette, the improvements end there. Here he takes a 1960’s campy soap and transforms it into an at times excruciating misfire that is headlined by an incomprehensible script by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Tim Burton’s interest in storytelling has been, for the most part, pretty low on his priority list. He is more into atmospheric world-building that fits both his imagination and a consistent evocation of his long-standing influences. By now, he is treading muddy water, refusing to attempt creative expansion and is bogged down in increasingly unsalvagable scripts. It is clear now that Sweeney Todd was not a return to form, but evidence that he still has life in him provided he has solid material to work with. Sadly, this is now rarely the case.

There’s a reason that most reviews of recent Tim Burton fare include a by-now mandatory Burton-centric rant. The handful of his films that I will always cherish are enough for me, and many other youguns who grew up with his work, to remain masochistically loyal to him. He’s sort of like the Weezer of filmmakers in that way. Batman Returns essentially represents my childhood; it has so much added personal meaning for me that it is in many ways the Burton film that means the most to me. As a stereotypically moody adolescent I worshiped Lydia Deetz and tried to recreate her bedroom by nailing sheer fabric to the ceiling, putting up an imaginary fortress fit for an angsty queen. At 12 years old, Sleepy Hollow was the first R-rated film I saw in theaters. The day I saw Ed Wood for the first time I was 13 and I loved it so much that I watched it 4 times in a row, still the only time I have done that. And then there is the discovery that the older I got, the funnier Pee Wee’s Big Adventure became. And so that loyalty persists, despite my better judgment.

There is infinite possibility in the advent of CGI which is more often that not wasted by the absence of balance. Once Burton started working with and embracing CGI, his work lost that indefinable something. His visuals now veer towards the opposite of idiosyncratic, disabling his calling card. There was something about the concrete physicality of his worlds. What he does with shapes, sizes and structures; those marks feel largely absent. The way he used to employ effects (Large Marge anyone?) quite literally popped. CGI gives him a broader paintbrush and he uses it to showcase the wider landscapes of his worlds. But the result is a look that, beyond the often still memorable room-based production design, is transparent and flat. AKA the antithesis of his films looked like in pasttimes.

The final problem is the mutually assured destruction pairing of Burton and Johnny Depp. The two continue to bring each other down, a statement that long ago I never thought I’d have to make. Basically studios give Burton boatloads of cha-ching cha-ching to make shit adaptations of whatever the piqued interest of the year is. Then Burton ropes Depp in, pays him boatloads of cha-ching to play dress-up and create increasingly rote variations of the same bag of eccentricities. Depp used to be non-conformist, always taking chances and making interesting choices. Now he is conformist and predictable and is being paid absolutely ludicrous amounts of money for it (he’s the highest paid working actor). Somewhere along the line he stopped playing characters and we are left with bad makeup, a vaguely British over-enunciated accent and garish flailing mannerisms.

So what about Dark Shadows? Let’s start with the story. In the 1700’s, young Barnabas Collins and his family travel to Maine and make a name for themselves by successfully taking over the seafood business. He gets involved with a witch named Angelique (Eva Green), but his feelings for her are surface-level. His heart truly lies with young Josette (Bella Heathcote). When he spurns Angelique, she hypnotizes Josette into throwing herself off a cliff and turns Barnabas into a vampire in addition to chaining him in a coffin and burying him underground. This all happens in the first five minutes.

In 1972, a young woman named Victoria, who happens to look exactly like Josette, arrives in Collinsport to be a governess to young David (Gulliver McGrath). We meet the many Collins descendants and learn that Angelique still lives in the town and is the family’s main competitor in the seafood industry. At the same time, Barnabas is unearthed by construction workers and has to adjust to the 1970’s, meet his family and face Angelique.

The story consists of languorous exposition and subplots that are introduced and then dropped with no warning. Oh, and then randomly picked up again when it’s convenient. The dialogue has zero punch or wit. The pacing is akin to a hobbled man walking and the film’s identity crisis is apparent throughout. Perhaps most disconcertingly, we are never given any reason to be invested in anything, and I mean anything, onscreen. The rushed prologue tells us a lot and thinks that equals effective storytelling. Economic maybe; but effective?

There’s no throughline with the characters and no established family dynamic, and this is a film that wants to be about family; at least that is what it tells us. There are way too many characters that screenwriter Smith has no idea what to do with. They register on the most basic of levels and by the skin of their teeth at that. The actors are given no room to individualize their work. Eva Green is the only one who manages to do something with her character. The always welcome Michelle Pfieffier is one of many actors wasted. Depp is exactly what you would expect; recycled and gaudy. Helena Bonham-Carter manages to be semi-effective with a couple of later scenes. The worst of the bunch is Chloe Grace-Moretz who showcases the traits of hers I have always had a problem with; the entirety of her performance consists of an over-pronounced snarl.

An example of the unforgivably clumsy storytelling is the handling of Bella Heathcote’s Victoria, played by the kind of wide-eyed ingenue with just-so styling that Burton loves. She is introduced during the opening credits as Moody Blues “Nights in White Satin” plays, thereby automatically earning the ‘Best Scene in Dark Shadows‘ award. It turns out she is only being used as a gateway, not as a character in her own right. Once she is used to get us introduced to the wacky family, she is unceremoniously hung out to dry. The governess pretext is just that; it never remotely comes into play. She disappears for a hefty 30-40 minutes only to be jarringly reintroduced so she can out-of-nowhere express her feelings for Barnabus. And once again at the end so she can be saved.

On some level this is how the film treats every character, though none so dismissively as Victoria. A pattern of zero characterization and flung-in backstory appearing solely to justify their existence in a half-assed effort to give them something to do.

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.

This lack of genre commitment means that Dark Shadows is too frightened to throw itself into anything but ‘well I guess it could count as soapy’. The original show is oft described as a campy soap. The film does not commit to camp. It commits to soap only in plot details, not tone. Nor does it commit to comedy, as discussed above, or horror. By trying to be a wispy hint of everything, we are left with not much of anything. A poorly written, indeterminately characterized not much of anything at that. Yes, the costumes and production design are notably satisfying; and that’s basically what Burton and his regular collaborators bring to the table at this point. We can only hope that Frankenweenie represents some kind of return to form, however fleeting that may be.