Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best in Film - 2012

So here we are.  Tomorrow I will be naming the 10 Best Films from 2012, but today it's all about what I thought was the Best Work that film in 2012 had to offer.  From Cinematography, to Actor and Actress, all the way to Director, what follows are my Best in Film honors for 2012.  It's a good, long list, so I wont waste time building it up, after all, we had a whole year to do that.  Let's get started:

Best Blu Ray/DVD E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial:  30th Anniversary Blu Ray

An entirely new category this year, and the reason for it is that this is a huge part of what shapes my filmgoing experience each and every year.  I love watching films at home, but I'm also a special features junkie.  The more deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes documentaries there are, the better.  Therefore this award felt like a natural fit to start this list, and no other blu ray from 2012 was as awesome as the 30th Anniversary release of E.T.  E.T. is a bona fide classic film, and the 4K transfer looks beautiful, as well, if you were not a fan of the 20th Anniversary Edition with updated visual effects and added scenes, you'll be happy to know that all of this is relegated to the Deleted Scenes' section and the film you watch is the original 1982 version in glorious high definition.  Featuring every special feature documentary ever made about the film, from the laser discs to the past DVD releases, to a brand new doc made up entirely of behind-the-scenes footage from back in 1981 when the film was shot, the special features are what put this one over-the-top.  So many hours of informative features, from being a fly-on-the-wall watching and learning how to direct by observing Spielberg to learning how the film was made, this is the ultimate release for an E.T. fan.
2.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2 (2-Movie Ultimate Edition)
3.) Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures
4.) The Hunger Games
5.) Jaws (Universal 100th Anniversary) Blu Ray

Best Use of a Pre-Existing Song - "Till Kingdom Come" from The Amazing Spider-Man

For a long time I've been trying to figure out how to break up the music categories, because there are so many different facets of music in a film.  There's music written for the film, and then there is the use of pre-existing music in a film, and the more I thought about it, some of the better moments in films are when the filmmakers use a pre-existing song to underscore an important sceneWhy Oscars and whatnot don't honor pre-existing music is beyond me, but I figured I'd do it, and this year, no other song was used better than Coldplay's "Till Kingdom Come" from The Amazing Spider-Man.  The song plays after Peter Parker makes a date with Gwen Stacy and celebrates using his newfound Spider powers to swing from rafters and do crazy, impossible skateboard tricks.  The sequence harks back to director Marc Webb's music video roots and is easily one of the better scenes of the film.
2.) "On My Own" from Les Miserables
3.) "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables
4.) "Feelin' Alright" from Flight
5.) "Baba O'Riley" from Premium Rush

Best Original Song - "Safe and Sound" from The Hunger Games

Very often an original song is merely relegated to the end credits, but in the case of Taylor Swift's song, "Safe and Sound," from The Hunger Games, the lyrics and feel of the song tie so perfectly back to the thematic ideas of the story, it makes the song like a companion piece reflecting on the film you just saw. Co-written by Swift, T Bone Burnett, and the Civil Wars, the song could easily be interpreted in multiple ways.  John Paul White of the Civil Wars said the song was inspired by the relationship between Katniss and Rue, but I've always thought the song was a poetic way expressing how Katniss really feels about Peeta.  Whatever the true meaning is, the song just befit the movie it was written for perfectly.
2.) "Song of the Lonely Mountain" from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3.) "Skyfall" from Skyfall
4.) "This Gift" from The Odd Life of Timothy Green
5.) "Abraham's Daughter" from The Hunger Games

Best Original Score - The Amazing Spider-Man

2012 was an amazing year for film scores, from a return to the beautiful themes of Middle Earth in The Hobbit, to the video game-styled music of Wreck-It Ralph, all the way to the folksy feel of the score from The Hunger Games, this was a year with hours upon hours of just amazing scores, but the most amazing score was by far The Amazing Spider-Man.  Composer James Horner (Titanic) wrote a heroic, noble theme that easily gets stuck in your head, and what really sells it is how he uses different variations of the theme throughout the film to highlight all of the different emotions that Peter Parker experiences.  I genuinely feel it bested the Danny Elfman score from the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 10 years ago.
2.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3.) Wreck-It Ralph
4.) Cloud Atlas
5.) The Avengers

Best Make-Up - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

This was a competitive category.  I was real impressed with how the crew of Lincoln made up Daniel Day-Lewis to look just like Honest Abe.  I was also blown away by the amazing cut and injury effects that the make-up crew for The Impossible used to believably sell the idea that these characters were tossed by a tsunami, but it was the make-up work for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that blew me away.  Almost every character in the film had some sort of wig, fake nose, or beard on, and the make-up crew made the work perfectly match the natural skin tone and hair colors of each actor to make the work believable and seem as if it was all actual features of the actors.
2.) The Impossible
3.) Lincoln
4.) The Hunger Games
5.) Cloud Atlas

Best Costumes - The Avengers

I have always been in awe of how costume designers take comic book reference material and transform superhero costumes into real suits that seem as if they'd actually function if you were fighting to save the world.  The costumes in The Avengers were so well done.  From the skin tight leather of Black Widow's costume, to the Iron Man armor, all the way to the redesigned Captain America and Thor costumes that look just like their comic book counterparts, the costume designers managed to keep the costumes faithful to the comics without ever traipsing into cheesiness.
2.) The Hunger Games
3.) Mirror, Mirror
4.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5.) Argo

Best Sound - The Secret World of Arrietty

Sound is often one of those categories that is very hard to give out, because if the sound mixers and sound designers did their jobs right, then you aren't supposed to notice the sound work, it's just supposed to sound seamless.  However, there was one occasion from 2012 where the sound work really stood out for me, and it was for the Studio Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty.   The film is based on the book, The Borrowers, about a group of six centimeter tall people living in walls and floorboards, and what I was so blown away by with this film was how they designed the audio and mixed it to where ordinary, everyday sounds sounded larger than life and frightening.  The sound work really put you into the world of the Borrowers, and that is why it won here.
2.) Zero Dark Thirty
3.) The Hunger Games
4.) The Avengers
5.) The Impossible

Best Special Effects - Flight

It would have been very easy for me to have given this award to a film with more effects' work, but the work in Flight is just so real, it had to be acknowledged.  The only real effects' sequence of the film is the plane crash that kickstarts the story, but the crash is rendered so realistically that you actually believe you're watching a real plane fall from the sky.  It makes the sequence all the more harrowing and unforgettable.
2.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3.) Zero Dark Thirty
4.) John Carter
5.) The Dark Knight Rises

Best Production Design
 - The Hunger Games

Hands down, no other film this year had production design work as extensively researched or as intricate as the design work for The Hunger Games.  The novels by Suzanne Collins are fairly specific in how places look and feel, but director Gary Ross and his team of set designers and art directors took that and ran with it.  You learn by watching the documentary on The Hunger Games Blu Ray, how they researched how societies under dictatorial rule tended to design buildings and cities, and they applied that with a futuristic sheen to the world of Panem, creating a futuristic world that looked unlike anything else I'd ever seen on film before.  A tremendous accomplishment.
2.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3.) The Woman in Black
4.) Argo
5.) Lincoln

Best Editing - The Hunger Games

Like sound, editing is a tough beast to award, because if an editor does their job well, you shouldn't even notice it.  I really could have gone many different directions with this award, but I chose to honor the whip smart editing for The Hunger Games because of how it effectively placed you in the point-of-view of Katniss Everdeen.  The editing was all quick, and in the action moments, very chaotic, as I would imagine it would be like in real life, with only quick, fleeting glimpses of the tragedies transpiring around you, and only showing what Katniss sees.  However, the moment that really won this for The Hunger Games is when the tributes are raised up on their platforms around the cornucopia, awaiting the start of the games.  As the announcer is counting down, the sequence is cut to manipulate your heart's pace, as the cutting gets faster and faster as the count gets closer to zero, forcing your heart up into your throat by the time the signal sounds and the games begin.
2.) Zero Dark Thirty
3.) The Bourne Legacy
4.) Argo
5.) Django Unchained

Best Cinematography - The Master

This was the award I was most on the fence on, because I just did not like The Master as a film, but if you look at the cinematography on a stand alone basis, it features the most beautifully framed shots from any movie in 2012.  Each shot is picturesque and all of the camera movements are timed and executed to perfection.  Not to mention the breadth of the image that you get from the film being shot in 65mm.  While I fought for so long against it, I just had to give credit where credit was due, and no other film in 2012 looked better than The Master.  Now, if only the story were good, we'd be on to something here.
2.) Skyfall
3.) Looper
4.) Lincoln
5.) Django Unchained

Best Animated Film - Wreck-It Ralph

This was a fairly weak year for animation overall, but Wreck-It Ralph and The Secret World of Arrietty made it a worthwhile year.  Both were stellar animated films, but I think Wreck-It Ralph had the slight leg up.  The Secret World of Arrietty was a Japanese adaptation of a classic children's book, where as Wreck-It Ralph was an original film about a video game bad guy who wants to become good.  It was laugh-out loud hilarious, but heartwarming and tender when it needed to be, striking that rare balance that only an animated film can.  Not to mention the fact that Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney movie featuring some of the more lively characters to ever be introduced into the Disney canon, as well as a message that tells kids it's okay to be who you are.
2.) The Secret World of Arrietty
3.) Brave

Worst Film of 2012 - Take This Waltz

I don't even want to write about this one, but I will.  It was a hipster soap opera of people who don't know what they really want in life, yet they all live in cushy hipster-land.   Michelle Williams plays a married woman who starts developing an inappropriate relationship with her neighbor.  It was as if Lifetime was trying to pick up the Indie/hipster market.  This movie was just unwatchable to me, so unwatchable in fact that I only watched the first thirty minutes.  I know critics loved this one, but I just could not get in to it.
2.) Snow White and the Huntsman
3.) Prometheus
4.) Haywire
5.) Mirror, Mirror

Biggest Disappointment of 2012 - The Dark Knight Rises

Now, let me come clean and say this does not mean I think The Dark Knight Rises is a bad film, after all, I gave it an A-rating, but there is a reason it was not an A+.  Where The Dark Knight Rises disappointed me was the fact that there was just so much going on, and the movie was not that much about Batman and was more about Christopher Nolan's ideas that he was wanting to play with.  As such, Nolan disregarded the comic books and made the characters do things that they would never do in the comic books, I mean, Bruce Wayne would never give up being Batman, it is too much of a compulsion for him, nor would Alfred ever leave his side.  Then there was the cheap Robin-nod at the end of the movie, and I was just fuming when I left the theater.  If you are going to include Robin, then include one of the real Robins from the comic books.  Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, there were four you could have chosen, but leave it to Chris Nolan wanting to make it a twisty surprise, so therefore he disregarded over seventy years of history just to get that aha moment similar to when he revealed Liam Neeson was Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins.  It worked once, but failed the second go around.  Congrats.
2.) Looper
3.) John Carter
4.) Prometheus
5.) Beasts of the Southern Wild 

Most Underrated Film of 2012 - The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man has gotten more flack from critics and comic book fans than any other comic book film released from the past year, and I just feel it is all unwarranted.  I mean, did they have to reboot Spider-Man only ten years after his first big screen appearance?  No, but did director Marc Webb and company knock it out of the park and one-up the Sam Raimi original?  Yes, they did.  They delved deeper into the character of Peter Parker and they actually created a more complex origin story than in any other incarnation of Spider-Man, making the film feel fresh and exciting.  Why so many people are still clinging to the idea that there can only be one continuity of Spider-Man on film is beyond me.  I love the Sam Raimi movies, but now, I also love the Marc Webb movie and cannot wait for the sequel.
2.) The Odd Life of Timothy Green
3.) The Woman in Black
4.) Lawless
5.) Premium Rush

Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises

Anne Hathaway's performance as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, was the best part of The Dark Knight Rises.  She portrayed the character with a brain.  She wasn't slinking around or purring like Michelle Pfeiffer, she was portraying Catwoman as a smart cat thief with a chameleon-like persona, who actually feels emotions.  While there were many good performances from this past year, the way that Hathaway channeled the comic book Catwoman was just so spectacular, she deserved to be recognized.
2.) Sarah Silverman, Wreck-It Ralph
3.) Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games
4.) Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man
5.) Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Best Supporting Actor - Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers

There is the classic saying that a hero, or in this case, heroes, are only as good as their villain, and that applies to Loki in The Avengers, played brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston.  What I love so much about the way Tom Hiddleston portrays Loki is that he doesn't play Loki as a mustache twirling bad guy, but rather he portrays him as a person who feels wronged and desires to prove himself through power.  Hands down, the finest supporting performance of 2012.
2.) Javier Bardem, Skyfall
3.) Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty
4.) Woody Harrelson, The Hunger Games
5.) Ewan McGreggor, The Impossible

Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games

This really was the year of Jennifer Lawrence, not only did she knock it out of the park with her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, she proved her box office credentials and delivered her finest performance to date in The Hunger Games as heroine, Katniss Everdeen.  Lawrence's Katniss is such an engrossing character to watch onscreen, not because the character is charismatic, but because Lawrence brings a rawness to the emotional side of the character that bears her inner feelings for all to see.  Few performers genuinely open themselves up and just risk it all, letting audiences see all of the nasty emotions inside, but Lawrence was unafraid to do this as Katniss.  Honestly, the same could also be said for her performance in Silver Linings as well, but as a bigger fan of The Hunger Games, I just had to give her props for bringing Katniss to life.
2.) Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
3.) Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
4.) Naomi Watts, The Impossible
5.) Elizabeth Olsen, Liberal Arts

Best Actor
 - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

As soon as I saw Lincoln, I just knew, there was no contest, Daniel Day-Lewis was the one to beat for Best Actor.  You know, we'll never know how accurate his Abraham Lincoln voice was, but what we do know is he channels the Abraham Lincoln that we all wish was the real Honest AbeDay-Lewis portrays Lincoln with an equal mixture of charm and fiery stubbornness.  However, what always seals the deal for a Daniel Day-Lewis portrayal is just how he alters himself for every performance.  Physically, emotionally, from the way he walks and talks, to the way he acts and reacts in each scene, it is different based upon each character he is portraying, and I really think Abraham Lincoln may be his best performance he has ever done.
2.) Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man
3.) Tom Holland, The Impossible
4.) Jack Black, Bernie
5.) Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Ensemble - The Avengers

Each year it's difficult to ask yourself which film had the best group of actors working together to form an ensemble worthy of recognition, this year had many great ensemble casts, but in the year of the ultimate superhero team-up film, how could you not award The Avengers?  From Robert Downey, Jr.'s charismatic portrayal as Iron Man, to Chris Evans' straight-laced Captain America, all the way to such great talents as:  Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, and the above mentioned, Tom Hiddleston.  I mean, my goodness, each actor is terrific in their own individual films, and then when you bring them all together into one movie, it's a feast.
2.) The Hunger Games
3.) Silver Linings Playbook
4.) Lincoln
5.) The Impossible

Best Screenplay - The Avengers

This was the best script of the year, hands down, bar none, this is where writer/director, Joss Whedon, shined.  The story which was thought up by Whedon and Zak Penn, with the actual screenplay coming entirely from Whedon, was just one of those perfect blockbuster scripts.  Not only did the screenplay execute a picture perfect three-act structure, but it also brought together superheroes from four different franchises, all with big personalities, and gave each hero equal time and a moment to shine.  There was no character shortchanged by the script, with almost every character given an arc to go through throughout the film.  Then there's the Joss Whedon dialogue which is so clever, so funny, and so emotionally potent, I really don't see how you could give Best Screenplay to any other film in 2012.
2.) Liberal Arts
3.) Skyfall
4.) Wreck-It Ralph
5.) Lincoln

Best Director
 - Gary Ross, The Hunger Games

No other film from 2012 had an artist's signature quite like The Hunger Games did.  The choices that Gary Ross made, from the shooting style to the look of the film, all the way to how he portrayed each event from the book, there was a noticeable artistic stamp to each and every frame.  I think that's why I liked this film so much.  It does not look, feel, or play like any other film, and for a big scale motion picture like this, which could have easily been done in a boring Hollywood style, that is rare.  It's rare even for an arthouse film to have such a unifying vision that ties every moment together, like The Hunger Games has.  This is why Gary Ross was the Best Director from 2012, and it's why I am so sad he isn't returning for any of the sequels.
2.) Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
3.) David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
4.) Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5.) Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty


And that's that, tune in tomorrow as I finish my 2012 coverage naming what I believe to be the 10 Best Films of 2012!

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