Although the Academy Awards are not a definitive
statement on what’s good and right about cinema, they get people to talk. It’s
by far my favorite of all the award shows out there. The Oscars just stand out.
It was the first American awards ceremony (This may not be a fact, but rather
just something I’ve heard before). More importantly, you remember who wins, and
you care who wins.
The more nominated movies you’ve seen, the
more you care about what happens on Oscar night. 2 years ago, I viewed a ton
nominated films, and I ended up writing a pithy review/ranking of the Best
Picture noms. We’re in the same boat again this year, so I figured “why not try
As I said my before, the Oscars are not the
be all and end all, but it does a great job of generating discussion. My
commentary on it shouldn’t be confused for legitimate criticism. I’m simply
throwing my thoughts out there. Also, I’ll be linking either a scene or featurette
from each film.
Amour – We’re not off to a
great start. I didn’t see this. It was the only one I needed to check off for
the past month, and I couldn’t bring myself to see it in theaters. I’ll
certainly view it eventually, but for the most part I heard it’s an incredibly depressing film. I just wasn’t in the mood. Since I didn’t see
this, the clip to which I’ve linked is from Holy Motors. This is apropos of
nothing other than it’s also a French speaking film, but one I actually saw.
Lincoln – A fine film. Spielberg
stays out of the way for the most part (although, the opening scene is the film
equivalent of patting the audience on it’s head). Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing.
He should win for best actor hands down. DDL’s performance fit exactly with my
image President Lincoln. Also, James Spader should’ve been nominated over Tommy
Lee Jones if anyone was to be given a Best Supporting Actor nod. Spader
interjected some much-needed humor. I enjoyed this film, but I never need to
see it again. This will probably win Best Picture.
Beasts of the Southern Wild –
When I saw this over the summer, I never thought it would get any kind of Oscar
buzz. I love Quvenzhané Wallis. I mean,
if you liked this movie at all, you had to love Hushpuppy. The great thing
about Beasts is its huge moments (e.g. when the storm hits the bathtub, the confrontation
with the Aurochs). Beginning to end, I don’t think it’s the strongest story,
but maybe more than any other film on this list, I’m excited to see it again.
Silver Linings Playbook – I
don’t claim to know a ton about bi-polar disorder, but I imagine issues
associated with it aren’t resolved as neatly as one might think after watching
this nominee. But this has a good story. The pacing is great. You care about
the characters. Best of all, when it turns into a stereo typical rom com, things
get wrapped up pretty quickly. Plenty of good acting performances. All in all
definitely worth seeing.
Django Unchained – Full
disclosure. I’m a big Tarantino fan. I’ve seen and own the bulk of what he has made.
His creativity surpasses most everyone else in this medium. Django is a ton of
fun. Leo and Christoph Waltz should have both been nominated for best
supporting actor. That being said, this is probably my least favorite Tarantino
movie. This is easily his most violent film, and violent to the point of taking
you out of the story. Toward the end, it’s almost cartoonish how violent it
gets. Once again, very entertaining, but his worst film I’ve seen. I will admit
I need a second viewing.
Les Misérables – I’m not a musical fan. Plain and simple. I loved
this film. It’s shot unlike any musical I’ve seen. The choice to get right in
the actors’ faces and have them sing live translated so well. It forced the
actors to act through and feel the song rather than dubbing it over later. Apparently
that doesn’t make for a great soundtrack to purchase (which seems to be the
chief criticism of many), but I’d take good acting and mediocre singing over
mediocre acting and great singing any day. It’s a bit long, but let’s be
honest, most of the Best Picture noms could stand to lose at least 15 or 20
Argo – More than anything
else I’ve seen this year, I can universally recommend this film. It appeals to
a wide audience. It’s funny. It’s suspenseful. It’s just a great time. When we
walked out of the theater, my friend John said to me, “Has Ben Affleck become
one our best American directors?” I told him to pump the breaks, but Affleck
has put together some really, really good movies. I hope this wins for Best
Picture, which seems like a 2 horse race between this and Lincoln. Argo would
be far more palatable.
Zero Dark Thirty – HEAVY. If
I needed one word to describe this movie, that’d have to be it. This is not a
fun time. Not funny. Not an easy watch. But my word, it is remarkable how
Kathryn Bigelow can take a story that is so current and give it the detail of
something about which hundreds of books have been written. The opening is utterly
haunting. Everyone in the theater knows what happens in the final 40 minutes,
but they’re all on the edge of their seat at the same time. The final approach
to the compound is the most intense scene of 2012. (No scenes available, so I
just put up the trailer)
Life of Pi – I’ve thought and
talked about this and 0 Dark more than any other films this year. I almost went
to go see this in theaters again earlier this week. I didn’t read this book but
from everything I’ve heard, it seemed like an impossible task to get this story
to translate to the big screen. This film is beautifully shot. The way Ang Lee
uses aspect ratio sucks you in. The 3D in this is the best I’ve ever seen.
Instead of it just being a money grab, the 3D is there to actually improve the
viewing experience. I’ve felt for some time, that the best films are ones that
can’t just be “put on in the background.” They demand that you watch in order
to get the full effect. This is the type of movie for which theaters were made,
so if you haven’t seen it in theaters, I’m sorry. The whole point of cinema is
to take you places you can’t go and show you things you can never see. More
than any other film this year; Life of Pi does precisely that.
That is all I got for Best Picture films,
right now. Here are a couple of other movies worth checking out from 2012
The Raid – Best kung fu movie in years, and
my favorite foreign film of the year
Searching for Sugar Man – I only saw a half
a dozen documentaries this year, but this was the best
Looper – Dark. Way darker than you think. Maybe
my favorite movie of 2012
Dark Knight Rises – Look. It was good. It
wasn’t the Dark Knight, but it was good.
The Grey – Surprise of the year for me. Way
better than I expected. A lot less wolf punching than I had guessed given the
trailers. (Em said to add that this is also, way darker than you think)
Skyfall – Name me a better Bond movie.
Cabin in the Woods – Not what I thought it
would be at all. Most fun I had in a theater this year.
The Master – Not as good as other PTA
stuff, but great performances. I didn't love it, but it's worth checking out because of the acting.
Seeking a Friend at the End of the World –
Surprisingly a very upbeat film given the subject matter (the end of the world)
The Impossible – Loved it, but I’m a sap.
It got dusty more than a few times in the theater. Also, the greatest natural
disaster sequence I’ve ever seen.
Killing them Softly – Crazy heavy handed with it's message, but if you were to take away gangsters constantly listening to NPR, it's a pretty good movie.
Queen of Versailles – Another good
documentary. If you want to get angry with people, watch this.
Seven Psychopaths – Solid follow up to In
Bruges. I’m excited to see what Martin McDonagh does next.
Flight – A lot better than I thought, but
it wins the award for best completely “on the nose” soundtrack.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for
indulging me. Since this is a music blog, here are my top 5 albums of 2012 in no