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.

Perks
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

Alps

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Rust

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.

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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.

Alps

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.

Walken

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):

levant

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.

Oslo
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.

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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.

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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 )

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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

List: Top 20 Film Posters of 2012


It’s that time of year again; and joy and elation of 2012 lists! The others will be posted in January, far after everyone is sick of reading round-ups of the past 12 months. But since I’ve got stuff to catch up on, the date stays.

The poster lists are perhaps the ones I always look forward to the most. The vast majority of film posters, in their primary advertising function, are rehashes of the same basic format depending on the genre and plot. Not to sound too condescending but casual movie-goers tend to gravitate towards repetition and the comfort of being able to rely on concrete expectations. Posters have to sell this too. Marketers want people to be able to look at a poster and know what they are going to get when they walk into that theater.

But this is a considerable generalization; for all the forgettable to questionable images each year has to offer, there are a lot of top-notch posters too. These are the 20 posters that rank as my favorites from 2012. The only condition is that it had to get a US release this year and only one poster per film. Since most films do not get released here, it disqualifies a lot of great work, but it would just be too hard to sift through everything otherwise.

Here is 2011’s list: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/list-top-20-film-posters-of-2011/

And 2010’s: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/top-20-film-posters-of-2010/

The best poster I came across that I could not count (but will post here anyways because, um, amazing) is Xavier Dolan’s latest Laurence Anyways which right now has no US release date. Does it even have distribution yet? Not sure. Anyways, it’s very Last Tango in Paris, very effortlessly retro, very pink and just all-around sickening.

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So while in theory, this is supposed to be about the poster art and not the films attached to them, it is impossible not to bring that context into the proceedings. If this list has is skewed towards my own taste (I’ve seen 16/20 of the films) from this year than that would be why.

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Honorable Mention:  2 Days in New York

My reason for this is the instantaneous reaction to the colors which are vibrant, lively and look almost crayon-like in execution. It is a very simple and even bland image, even if it feels sacrilegious to refer to a picture of Julie Delpy as bland. But I am easy to please and while there were plenty of more creative options out there to choose from, my instinct said ‘oooooh cooolllllooooorrrsssss’. I also cannot get enough of how the colors ever so slightly run into their hair.

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20. Gerhard Richter Painting

We continue on the ‘Katie is Easily Pleased by Colors’ theme (an ongoing one that will appear constantly). The poster quite literally reflects the title of the film. Cheeky. The long sequences in this doc that show Gerhard Richter painting is some of the best documentary footage from this year. Honestly, this could have been the whole film and it would likely have an even higher spot on my year-end list.  So the poster evokes a sequence I could not take my eyes off of, so between that and the startling colors = on the list.

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19. Lincoln

This is a surreally uncanny image that immediately immortalizes the idea of Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. It’s actually disturbingly uncanny. The longer you look at it the more reality seems to implode on itself. Has Daniel Day-Lewis always been Lincoln? Was Lincoln in fact Daniel Day-Lewis? Oh, the questions this poster raises. The profile shot and the statuesque look really make this the best it can be.

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18. Zero Dark Thirty

I love me some minimalist posters. This one is a teaser image that just sticks with you immediately. I cannot get enough of the redaction and how the only actual additional non-text element of this poster is something that tries to take away. Like everyone else I cannot wait to see what Kathryn Bigelow does with this film and the way its advertising was handled has been thoroughly successful.

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17. Michael

Another really minimal poster, but with all honesty, how does one go about advertising a difficult-to-watch (but for my money worth it) arthouse film about a pedophile who has a boy in his basement? So I’d call this a resounding success on all counts considering that it gets around the challenge and is fabulous to boot. The color choice is memorable as well as the puzzle concept allowing for subtle shading and dimension.

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16. Girl Model

This poster is really just one of the first shots of Girl Model, a haunting documentary that just scratches the surface of the unsurprisingly seedy underbelly of the bottom rungs of the modeling industry. The mirror image creates a slight distortion that reflects the sad logic of how this occupational world works. And I love slightly out-of-focus images and the mirror gives it that inestimable ‘feel’ that I am so drawn to.

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15. Attenberg

I could have easily chosen another poster from the film but went with this one which really captures the off-kilter strangeness of the small but very significant recent wave of Greek films to make their way over here. First of all, I love this scene. Throughout Attenberg are sprinkled scenes of the main character and her friend walking along a street in increasingly complex synchronization. There is something about two young girls letting in their instincts and being confrontational about it that reminds the amazing feminist and surrealist film Daisies. So there’s that. The poster has a great combination of having a simple background that forces focus to the pose and stance of the subjects. It reflects the extremely strong focus these films have on the body and body language with its possible contortions and positions.

Here is the scene containing the pose depicted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SrOfBIvrpQ

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14. Frankenweenie

It’s a Tim Burton sketch so of course this poster rules. It is like they are saying ‘don’t forget Tim Burton was once capable of not sucking’. It is a strong enforcer of the idea that Burton is revisiting and updating his roots with this one. This was not one of the main posters used for the marketing, which from that standpoint I understand. But it’s a gorgeous illustration that brings the Sparky design back to its “Family Dog” influence (more like replica) and he has just about the quirkiest expression of endearment I’ve ever seen.

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13. Paul Williams Still Alive

Stop Making Sense font; check. The top of Paul Williams head; check. Number 13 spot; check.

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12. Elena

The illustration here is so stark and evocative. It depicts two colors, trees, the outline of a person looking out and a bird flying by. The color feels like the sun is just about to rise which is how Elena starts. The left side is used for some deserved festival bracket whoring. It’s a foreboding image with a blue I cannot take my eyes off of. And I love that microscopic eye detail on the bird.

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11. The Cabin in the Woods

Another poster that was nowhere near the primary one used but thankfully it was given the frameworthy poster treatment. A take on Escher’s Relativity, the sepia-toned drawing nails what Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon’s film is really about. The picture gets the trapped and constructed environment of the characters. And the tagline, which seems cliché at first glance, just like the purposely broad title, is actually perfect.

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10. Sound of My Voice

This is so mysterious and ambiguous just like the film’s conceit. The handshake feels like another language. The instructional format feels like a retro kitsch-piece. The crunched up folding makes it seem like we are looking at something we shouldn’t be seeing. It feels like something from a pastime, which is apt given what the characters in the story’s cult are wont to believe.

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9. Paranorman

There is a whole batch of Paranorman posters equally fabulous that could be in its place. Again, the main posters were certainly serviceable but there is a whole slew of great artwork that was done to promote the Focus Features film. It’s the blocking of the different images that draws me in as well as, again, the use of the orange, green and blue colors. The way the font is strewn across the poster is reminiscent of a 50’s B-movie.

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8. Compliance

This is my number one movie I haven’t seen this year. I feel like it’s got a fair shot at being near the top of my year-end list, however unfair those expectations may be. Dreama Walker, who can be seen on “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23”, has a somehow enigmatic expressionlessness. I just love this shot and where she is in the frame related to the text. And quotes galore! Quotes make you go ‘ooooh what is this about’. Walker’s prominence in the poster could mean anything. Add in the dubious title and I was dying to find out what all the fuss and controversy of the film was about and whether or not it was justified. It grabbed my interest immediately; exactly what a poster is supposed to do.

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7. The Master

The film is quite a bit like a Rorschach test. Though one pops up early in The Master, this image also reflects the open-wide interpretive room of the characters and how they interact with and change each other. It’s an enigma but at the same time it’s not. Again, loving the folded-up quality, making it seem like a pamphlet of sorts. There is a black-and-white version but I actually prefer the color. In a substantial misrepresentation, Joaquin Phoenix is looking far too sane, no?

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6. Holy Motors

This would have been in the top 5 if not for the distracting title art. The title art and font look very cheap to me and is not successfully integrated into the rest of the poster. It looks like the title is uncomfortably resting on top instead of being part of. But Denis Lavant, playing many different identities here, is seen as a black shadowed blank slate. The headlights of the limo are the eyes, placed in the headspace, which is likely where the film takes place. At the very least Holy Motors has its own internal logic that gleefully defies any explanation. And the poster certainly hints at this. My favorite thing about this is the sketchy yellow scribble. Just one of those inspired touches.

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5. Beauty is Embarrassing

Using Wayne White work in a documentary about Wayne White equals a spot in my Top 5 posters. It’s playfully bizarre and the way the letters form a kind of landscape in the background is seamlessly appropriate.

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4. Alps

Here is yet another minimalist poster. The abstract Dogtooth poster had a place this high as well two years ago. This one actually has the characters in it and I find the shape their placement creates to be hypnotic, much like the film. There is an almost slightly oversaturated grainy quality to the images that make them blend in with the background in interesting ways. And anything featuring Aggeliki Papoulia’s mesmerizing face is okay by me.

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3. Barbara

I think you all know what’s coming. You can sense it the second you look at the poster. COLORS!!!! Oh the glorious combination of these colors! Look at how lush this visual is. It’s quite stunning. Everything pops here and it’s a really creative poster in a lot of subtle ways. The red! The green! The yellow! The title placement! See? Subtle.

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2. The Loneliest Planet

Let’s start with that intensely profound statement at the top. Jeez Louise. Talk about lofty expectations. After Compliance and Amour, this is probably what I’m craving to see the most that I haven’t yet. Luckily it’s on demand so first thing when I get back to CT? Yep. This gorgeous green, which just barely reveals itself as actual land is to die for, as is the juxtaposition of the two close-up faces against their far-away selves amidst the green. And let’s talk about that red hair! Well, okay I’ve got nothing more to say about it….but look at it! And are her eyes green too? This poster just stuck with me instantaneously and its pleasing to look at but also further piques my interest.

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1. The Innkeepers

I already knew this would be my number 1 poster before even doing my 2011 list last year. Since The Innkeepers had been kicking around at fests for a while, the poster has been out for quite some time. It’s so intricate and beautifully haunting. It’s got a snarky tagline. The blue-grays, the title design, the borders and shapes; all of it is flawless. There’s a lot going on here but it’s not too much. And lastly, it’s got my favorite film character from a 2012 film no contest. Yeah, I’m looking at you Sara Paxton.
Stay tuned because within the next week my Top 10 Worst Posters of 2012 will be posted.

List: Top 30 Fall Films to See (September-December)


We are two weeks into the Fall Movie Season; that lovely time of year when theaters are crowded with anticipated releases big and small. I have to admit that there are not a ton of films I’m dying to see these last several months of the year. My Top 30 is a strong group indeed, but this is the first year in a long time where I didn’t have about 45 films clamming for a spot on the Top 30. To put it simply, several of the bigger fall releases I’m feeling ambivalent towards. These include Flight, Promised Land, The Impossible, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Hyde Park on Hudson and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’m really looking forward to On the Road, Therese Raquin, Skyfall, Frankenweenie, Detropia, This is 40 and The Sessions but not enough to earn them a spot on the list.

If all of those highly anticipated films do not appear on this list, the question begs; what does? These are the 30 films I am most looking forward to. What are yours?

30. Barbara (Germany)
Synopsis: A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.

Germany’s official submission for this year’s Oscars. I have yet to see a film directed by Christian Petzhold although I always meant to see Jerichow. I’m always going to be a sucker for films set in East Germany.

29. Lincoln
Synopsis:
As the Civil War nears its end, President Abraham Lincoln clashes with members of his cabinet over the issue of abolishing slavery.

The recently released trailer for Lincoln felt admittedly stuffy and anticlimactic. But I have faith in this film, despite the actors playing historical dress-up vibe and not caring about Spielberg’s 2011 one-two punch of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. But look at this cast! Look at it! Daniel Day-Lewis appears in one film every few years, so any opportunity to see him on screen must be seized immediately. Especially since his last film role was the start-to-finish miscalculation known as Nine.

28. Dredd 3D
Synopsis:
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Out of nowhere, Dredd 3D is getting really solid notices. Like, ridiculously solid review. In a world where the film industry deals in remakes and comic book adaptations as a daily ritual, I don’t think anyone had this on their radar. For the countless middling forgettable release and anticipatory disappointments, there aren’t as many ‘where did this come from’ surprises. Alex Garland wrote the screenplay, whose credits include Never Let Me Go, Sunshine and 28 Days Later. Color me intrigued. But if the notices are to be believed, this is more than worth checking out.

Bonus: Olivia Thirlby sporting blonde hair while kicking ass and taking names.

27. Sister (France)
Synopsis: A drama set at a Swiss ski resort and centered on a boy who supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests.

This sibling drama doesn’t seem to fit too comfortably into any easy box (outside of the aforementioned ‘sibling drama’) which is what draws me to it.  Lea Seydoux continues to stamp her presence as a French arthouse bombshell with her second release of the year after Farewell, My Queen.

26. Smashed
Synopsis: A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.

I have had my eye on Mary Elizabeth Winstead for a while now. Forget Scott Pilgrim. We’re talking the days of Final Destination 3, Death Proof and Black Christmas. Yes that’s right; Black Christmas. Last year she got a starring role in the remake of The Thing, walking away with all of her dignity in a film as forgettable and rote as they come. I think what most people are excited about in regards to Smashed, is Winstead finally gets a chance to show us what she’s got. And by all accounts, it was worth the wait.

Bonus: Aaron Paul, people. Aaron Paul. Aaron Paul: that is all.

25. How to Survive a Plague
Synopsis: The story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

This documentary has the subject matter and the kind of upcoming exposure to really get some attention. It looks like the type of inspiring impassioned history lesson that I look for in this type of doc.

24. Killing Them Softly
Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

I have to admit that the trailer for this left me really underwhelmed and relatively uninterested in the story. However, the pairing of director Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt has me salivating for this. Considering that The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is in my top 10 of the 2000’s, you best believe this earned a spot.

23. Argo
Synopsis: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Ben Affleck’s first two films managed to impress me enough without bowling me over. But it’s clear the man’s got a sure and efficient directorial hand. The cast, the based on a true story concept and 70’s period detail are all promising, not to mention its warm reception on the festival circuit.

22. Zero Dark Thirty
Synopsis: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osams Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May, 2011.

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker, chronicling the hunt and kill of Osama Bin Laden. I can’t wait to see how the film depicts its subject matter and how functionally rooted in factual reconstruction it is.

21. The Other Dream Team
Synopsis: The incredible story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, whose athletes struggled under Soviet rule, became symbols of Lithuania’s independence movement, and – with help from the Grateful Dead – triumphed at the Barcelona Olympics.

Been hearing a lot about this documentary (one of only 3 on this list since the majority of documentaries come out during the Spring and Summer months). This is a truly fascinating subject, ripe for potential exploration, and it looks genuinely educational and uplifting to boot.

20. Sleep Tight (Spain)
Synopsis: An embittered concierge at a Barcelona apartment building plots to make one happy-go-lucky resident completely miserable in this psychological thriller from [REC] and [REC 2] co-screenwriter/co-director Jaume Balaguero.

I feel pretty confident that this is going to be a reliable, solid slice of horror. It looks like the kind of low-key, suspense ratcheting creepfest that focuses on its antagonist over other characters. And Spanish directors certainly know how to deliver the scares: The Orphanage, The Devil’s Backbone, REC, The Others and last year’s The Last Circus to name a few obvious examples.

19. V/H/S (seen)
Synopsis: When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

I’ve already seen this one but this is where it would have been placed. Horror anthologies are always worth a watch and these directors take the stylistic experimentation that videotapes inherently offer, with its glitchy worn-down visuals and static white noise, and channel it through the possibilities of the genre. That alone makes this worth watching. For all the mediocrity of the stories themselves and the fevered gender-based discussion it has incited, V/H/S has a DIY aesthetic that makes its mark.

18. Keep the Lights On
Synopsis: In Manhattan, filmmaker Erik bonds with closeted lawyer Paul after a fling. As their relationship becomes one fueled by highs, lows, and dysfunctional patterns, Erik struggles to negotiate his own boundaries while being true to himself.

This looks emotional and moving with strong lead performances. It has been impressing audiences since Sundance.

17. Bachelorette (seen)
Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.

Another film on the list I have already seen, this is where Leslye Headland’s self-adapted mean streak of a comedy would have been placed.

16. Sinister
Synopsis: Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.

Since premiering at SXSW in March, I have heard nothing but good things about this one. Good horror films that get wide releases are far and few between, but this looks like it will garner Insidious levels of attention with the buzz I’ve been hearing.

15. Silver Linings Playbook
Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Winning the Audience Award at Toronto today is a huge signifier as to how this film will be received. The trailer didn’t do much to impress, looking too by-the-book with empty quirk thrown in. But all signs point to David O. Russell having a huge hit on his hands post-The Fighter. Russell is one of my favorite directors working today so I cannot wait to see him working in the comedic realm again.

14. Girl Model
Synopsis: A documentary on the modeling industry’s ‘supply chain’ between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S., told through the experiences of the scouts, agencies, and a 13-year-old model.

The second of two documentaries on this list, Girl Model looks like a chilling and illuminating look at the international modeling industry.

13. Seven Psychopaths
Synopsis:
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges reunites him with Colin Farrell as well as Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, both of whom starred in his play “A Beheading in Spokane”. McDonagh a master of the kind of dialogue that knows it’s clever, a Snatch-like trait that I usually veer towards not liking. Somehow he pulls this style off with aplomb and if it’s anywhere near as good as In Bruges, we are in for a treat. Oh, and Tom Waits people. Tom. Waits.

12. Wreck-It-Ralph
Summary: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

This is the only children’s film I really can’t wait to see this Fall. The trailer had me full-on cracking up in a way no trailer has in ages and it has got a golden goose of a high concept. Add in the voice work of John C. Reilly at the helm and the smorgasbord of video game references and this looks like a guaranteed winner.

11. Looper
Synopsis: In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.

A brainy sci-fi headed by Rian Johnson? The amount of hype going into this one is considerable, but it looks like it will live up to expectations. I’m a huge fan of Brick and Johnson has directed two of the best “Breaking Bad” episodes in existence (“Fly” and “Fifty-One” respectively). So to see him get the opportunity to headline a considerably mounted genre film with its own world and rules is sure to impress. It is already well on its way to its own spot in the pantheon of great sci-fi flicks.

10. Wuthering Heights (Seen)
Synopsis: A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.

I got the opportunity to see this at the Independent Film Festival of Boston and this is where Andrea Arnold’s adaptation would have been placed had I not seen it. It would have been one of my favorite 2012 films had the last hour not been entirely unbearable. Here is my review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/review-wuthering-heights-2012-arnold-iffboston-2012/

9. Django Unchained
Synopsis: With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

I realize that it looks like Quentin Tarantino’s latest gets a pretty low spot. Surely this is Top 5 material, right? Well, while I’m sure this is going to be fantastic, I’m also feeling ready for the director to do something else besides revenge across different genres. But this promises memorable characters, references galore and the type of crackling two-person dialogue scenes we love from him. I think I’m most interested to see how Leonardo DiCaprio fares in one of the auteur’s films and as a villain at that. It’s a much-needed and refreshing step out of his comfort zone.

8. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Synopsis: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.

I’ve had high hopes, really high hopes for this, for a long long time. A lot of us have been waiting forever to see if Stephen Chbosky seminal coming-of-age novel was ever going to be adapted, and lo and behold, the day is almost upon us. It has a remarkable trio of actors in the lead roles. I am particularly amped for Ezra Miller, who quickly climbed his way onto my list of favorite young actors. There hasn’t been a memorable high school flick in a while. And this soundtrack, which takes from the book, is to die for. To. Die. For. The fact that Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” is going to be in this film is a fact that single-handedly earns ‘Perks’ a spot on the list.

7. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Synopsis: A young queen, who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician – and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever.

This is shaping up to be a great year for Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. He won Best Actor at Cannes for The Hunt (which will hopefully get a Spring release for 2013), he is set to star in a TV series as Hannibal Lecter and he received excellent notices in the very well-received historical drama A Royal Affair. This looks like an intriguing much better-than-average historical drama that is right up my alley. It also stars Alicia Vikander, a young actress to watch out for who also will appear in Anna Karenina.

6. Rust and Bone (France)
Synopsis: Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali’s bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

This being the latest from Jacques Audiard (A Prophet and Read My Lips) with a reportedly stellar lead performance by Marion Cotillard gives this a very high anticipatory spot. Cotillard has been relegated to pretty thankless roles since catapulting to the Hollywood A-List. It’ll be nice to see her in a meaty lead once again.

5. Holy Motors (France)
Synopsis: From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man…

All I heard during this year’s Cannes coverage was Holy Motors, Holy Motors, Holy Motors (well, that and a certain other film to appear on this list shortly). By all accounts, this is a surreal whackadoo head trip in the best way possible. It seems well on its way to earning a cult status and I intend on checking it out the moment it comes near me.

4. Cloud Atlas
Synopsis: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

What will likely be the most divisive film to come out this season, I for one am counting down the days until this film gets released. The 6-minute trailer is a thing of beauty, bringing tears to my hypersensitive eyes. We can attribute a lot of this to the inspired use of M83’s brilliant “Outro”.  And I am over halfway through David Mitchell’s novel as we speak.

The way I see it, whether the film turns out to be a disaster or a triumph (or both at the same time), these filmmakers are going for it. The Wackowski’s and Tom Tykwer have together tackled what is widely thought to be an unadaptable novel (more so than most novels given the unadaptable label). It’s weaving six stories in one film, all in different time periods, with the same actors with the tired old theme of interconnectedness. No matter what the outcome, the film will be discussed for years to come. Without having seen it and going on gut instinct, it feels like the type of film that will possibly be reassessed for the positive as decades pass. As you can see, I’m preparing myself for the bashing to come. I can already see that Cloud Atlas is going to bring out the worst in the blogosphere, Prometheus-style. But no matter what the outcome, this is going to be an ambitious, epic and challenging work that nobody can fully write off. It may end up becoming a flop, but it sure as hell will go down swinging.

Ridiculous Bonus: Bae Doona, one of my very favorite actresses working today is going to get some serious international exposure here as Sonmi-451.

3. Amour (Austria)
Synopsis: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.

New Micheal Haneke. That not enough for you? It won the Palme D’Or. That still not enough for you? Haneke regular, and my favorite actress, Isabelle Huppert appears. Want more? This is Haneke doing a tearjerker about the elderly with two lead performances that supposedly devastate. My common sense tells me that Amour is going to stomp out my soul. Part of me has been mentally preparing myself for this film since this year’s Cannes.

2. Anna Karenina
Synopsis: Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.

Another film that is sure to divide. Joe Wright’s decision to set the Tolstoy adaptation on a stage and to use theatrical stylization is sure to distract some. But frankly, if all we are left with are the visuals evident in the trailer, this will still likely land a spot on my favorites for the year. The costumes, production design and overall look of the trailer is sickening. Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors working today. He pushes himself into challenging and creative directions that breathe new life into familiar tales. Wright reteaming with Keira Knightley, surely one of modern cinema’s most rewarding director/star collaborations, is always thrilling. The way his camera illuminates this woman (who is already stunning to begin with) is beyond my ability to comprehend. We’ve got a screenplay by the great Tom Stoppard, cinematography by the great Seamus McGarvey, music by the great Dario Marianelli and costume design by the great Jacqueline Durran. So basically what it comes down to is that lots of great people are involved in this. I plan on reading this monster of a novel before the film comes out. Now that’s anticipation for you.

1. The Master
Synopsis: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

I honestly feel like I don’t even need to put reasons here. It’s at the top of everyone’s list. Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite working director. It’s been 5 years since his last film. This was very close to not getting financed. It’s a near miracle we even get to see this. His films engage me more than any other director. They make me feel things that are unrepeatable, unfamiliar and challenging. His films are dense, complex, elusive, pretentious and indefinably uncomfortable.  I live for his films. And on Friday I will finally be seeing his latest in 70mm. Oh, and welcome back to Joaquin Phoenix. It’s been too long. And if the trailers are any indication, this performance is one for the books.