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Tuesday December 11, 2012

AFI's Top 10 Movies of 2012

Yesterday the American Film Institute released its list of the top 10 movies of 2012. It's a bit pedestrian since the organization is obviously limited to American film.


American Film Institute logo (AFI)Of the five I've seen (linked above), only two will probably make my top 10. Feel free to guess.

The surprise, of course, is “The Dark Knight Rises,” which has all sorts of problems but did well at the box office. If it's box office they're after, why not “The Avengers,” a better movie, which did better box office? Why not “Skyfall”? (Oh right, Brit.) Why not “Ice Age 3: Continental Drift”? (OK, now you're getting silly.) Why not “Chasing Ice”? Yeah, why not? Or doesn't AFI do docs? How about a “Ice Age 3”/“Chasing Ice” double feature?

For some reason, the year-end lists this year are depressing hell out of me. Maybe because there's no “Tree of Life” or “Un Prophete” or “Up” to choose from.

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Posted at 06:51 AM on Dec 11, 2012 in category Movies - Awards
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Monday December 10, 2012

D.C., Boston, Choose ZERO DARK THIRTY for Best Film; LA Says AMOUR

More year-end critics awards were announced recently:

  Washington, D.C.  Boston Los Angeles
Film Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty  Amour
Director Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Actress Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty Emmanuelle Riva, Amour Emmanuelle Riva, Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Supp. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Supp. Actress Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables Sally Field, Lincoln Amy Adams, The Master
Screenplay Rian Johnson, Looper/ David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook Tony Kushner, Lincoln Chris Terrio, Argo
Documentary Bully How to Survive a Plague The Gatekeepers
Foreign Amour Amour Holy Motors
Animated ParaNorman Frankenweenie Frankenweenie
Cinematography Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master Roger Deakins, Skyfall

LA loves itself some “Master,” doesn't it?

Don't understand the “Looper” love. Wasn't a fan.

Missed out on “Amour” thus far — although it's Haneke, which isn't a good sign for me. Also missed out on most of the year's good documentaries. Did they come through town? If so, where was I?

Inspired choice: Ezra Miller for best supporting actor.

Meanwhile, controversy begins to haunt the frontrunner. Does “Zero Dark Thirty,” against all available evidence, suggest that waterboarding led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden? Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal seem nonchalant about the matter in Dexter Filkins' New Yorker piece. A better defense, for them, is constructed by Spencer Ackerman in WIRED.

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

“The nuns taught us there were two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.”

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Posted at 05:12 PM on Dec 10, 2012 in category Movies - Awards
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Wednesday December 05, 2012

National Board of Review Names ZERO DARK THIRTY Best Film of 2012

Monday it was the New York Film Critics Circle with their best of 2012 list. Today it was the National Board of Review. And both orgs chose the same film as best film:

Here's NBR's list:

  • Best Film:  ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
  • Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
  • Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
  • Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE
  • Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
  • Best Animated Feature: WRECK-IT RALPH
  • Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, ARGO
  • Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, THE IMPOSSIBLE
  • Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
  • Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
  • Best Foreign Language Film:  AMOUR
  • Best Documentary: SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN
  • William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 YEARS OF BOND FILMS
  • Best Ensemble: LES MISÉRABLES
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award: CENTRAL PARK FIVE
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award: PROMISED LAND

(BTW, NBR, that should be “Sugar Man,” not “Sugarman.” FYI.)

The National Board of Review is less prestigious than the New York Film Critics Circle but an even poorer predictor of the Oscar race. Since 2000, they've chosen the same best picture as the Academy only twice: “No Country for Old Men” in 2007 and “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008. For the rest they went “Quills,” “Moulin Rouge!,” “The Hours,” “Mystic River,” “Finding Neverland,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Up in the Air,” “The Social Network,” “Hugo.” Some weak tea there.

As for when the NBR and the NYFCC agree on best picture? They rarely do: four times in the last 20 years. Well, five now. And it means nothing in terms of the Oscar race:

  • 2010: The Social Network (NO)
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men (YES)
  • 1997: L.A. Confidential: (NO)
  • 1993: Schindler's List: (YES)

“Lincoln,” interestingly, was shut out by the NBR. Even Danny Day-Lewis. That makes me smile, it's so absurd.

Among other absurd choices? “Looper” in their top 10, “Hello, I Must Be Going” among their top 10 indie, and “The Kid with a Bike” among their top 5 foreign.


I'm sure he's fine. But he's no Danny Day-Lewis, despite the garbage bag.

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Posted at 07:22 PM on Dec 05, 2012 in category Movies - Awards
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Monday December 03, 2012

Let the Awards Season Begin! NY Film Critics Circle Names ZERO DARK THIRTY Best Picture of 2012

Yes, the awards season has begun ... even though most of us haven't had the chance to see the movies yet. Or even hear of them. “The Deep Blue Sea” anyone?

None of that stopped the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) from, today, naming  its best of the best of 2012. The winners:

  • Picture: “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Director: Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Screenplay: Tony Kushner for “Lincoln”
  • Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”
  • Actress: Rachel Weisz for “The Deep Blue Sea”
  • Supporting Actress: Sally Field for “Lincoln”
  • Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey for “Bernie” and “Magic Mike”
  • Cinematographer: Greig Fraser for “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Animated Feature: “Frankenweenie”
  • Documentary Feature: “The Central Park Five”
  • Foreign Film: “Amour”
  • First Film: David France, “How to Survive a Plague”

Immediate reaction. I've seen “Lincoln” and that's it. Which is so typical of early December awards. But thus far I certainly agree with the NYFCC's actor and screenplay choices. Field, too, but less obviously. For some reason, apparently, some critics have disparaged her performance. Don't get that.

I'm glad for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow's film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. As I said the other day, it looks fantastic. I have high hopes.

“Frankenweenie”? I think Jordy will object. I think he prefered “ParaNorman” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” I think this award was given to the more famous, more prestigious director, not the better animated movie. (Although I didn't think much of “Wreck-It Ralph.”)

“Amour” has been all over the place this year but I'm not much of a fan of Michael Haneke, either.

If you're curious how the NYFCC prefigures the Oscars, it's about a 50-50 proposition when it comes to best picture: 2011 yes, 2010 no (“Social Network” over “The King's Speech”), 2009 yes, 2008 no (“Milk” over “Slumdog Millionaire”), 2007 yes, 2006 no (“United 93” over “The Departed”). We're in an even year so it look like another disagreement with the Academy. When that happens, as with the aforementioned, I tend to agree with the New York Film Critics Circle.

Zero Dark Thirty horizontal poster

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Posted at 01:44 PM on Dec 03, 2012 in category Movies - Awards
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Tuesday December 15, 2009

Here Come the Critics

“Critics” hardly seems the right word, does it, when they're listing off the best of the year. “Here Come the Praisers.” “Here Come the Complimenters.” More basically: “Here Come the Analyzers.” They've sifted through the year in movies, analyzed what's good and bad, and left us what's good. How nice! They're like Santa Claus. An underappreciated Santa Claus.

This is what the tally looks like thus far:

Critics Group Best Picture Best Actor Best Actress Best Director Best Foreign Language Film
NY Film Critics Circle (1935) “The Hurt Locker” George Clooney, “Up in the Air” Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia” Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker” “L'Heure d'ete”
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (1975) “The Hurt Locker” Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart” Yolanda Moreau, “Seraphine” Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”  “L'Heure d'ete”
The Boston Society of Film Critics (1981) “The Hurt Locker” Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker” Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia” Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker” “L'Heure d'ete”
Washington DC Area Film Critics (2002) “Up in the Air” George Clooney, “Up in the Air” Carey Mulligan, “An Education” Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”

“Sin Nombre”

A sweep thus far for Bigelow, and consensus for “The Hurt Locker” and “L'Heure d'ete” (“Summer Hours”), the latter of which I'm particularly happy about since I thought that movie was flying under the radar. I was lucky enough to see it at the Seattle International Film Festival in May or June and recommend it to anyone and everyone—when it finally comes out on DVD. It's a movie that works on you in subtle ways and stays with you in profound ways.

Most observers list off these types of awards as precursors to the Oscars (what does it mean, who's agreed with the Academy in the past, blah blah blah), but for once I thought it would be nice to just enjoy the movies mentioned, and the critics groups mentioned, on their own. I haven't seen “Sin Nombre” and “Crazy Heart” but everything else is worth seeing. These are all movies, stories, that, while trying to entertain, make us feel what it means to be alive: as an IED specialist in Iraq in 2004; as a working-class girl in England in the 1960s; as a working-class artist in turn-of-the-last-century France; and as a French family in an increasingly international and fragmented world. Also what it means when we go.

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Posted at 07:28 AM on Dec 15, 2009 in category Movies - Awards
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