Friday, February 1, 2013

ABANDONED THEATER: TJ's Top 20 Films of 2012: Honorable Mentions and Individual Awards


This is TJ, writing for YPOIW's Abandoned Theater feature, and I love Oscar season. I like competitive awards (I'm a sports fan) even though I recognize that competition in art is stupid. Is there really a best? There is on one side--I'll fight someone to prove my #1 movie of the year is better than my #70, at least--but then on the other side, isn't everything a bit subjective? Ahh, who cares. I'm going just to have some fun with this. For the next 3 weeks, I'm going to post sections of my Top 20 films (and honorable mentions)!

I liked a lot of movies this year’s Oscar season. Overall, I’d say it was a really strong year. I saw a little less than 70 of 2012’s offerings and there were more than 20 films on my “loved list” – including some whipping boys, which you’ll see here. I don’t want to exclude the plethora of awesome movies, so here are some highlights did not make my Top 20 films, aka the Best of What Didn’t Make It. 

Most Surprisingly Good Film: The Grey

I thought this movie was going to suck. I even wanted it to suck. The premise seemed supremely stupid to me. But oh what I wrong. Liam Neeson has his best role in ages as a man trying to survive in a Jack London-esque tale of survival. The Grey also features some of the best, most dense philosophy of any popular film in 2012: we should not rely on God to save us. Rather, we should take our fates into our own hands, tape broken glass on our knuckles, and punch a wolf in the face.

Crazy Film Concept That Worked: Turin Horse

This movie features two hours of a man eating boiled potatoes with his bare hands. Also there is a bit about the decay of the world, but that is secondary to the potatoes, seriously. And it’s engaging. And apocalyptic. There is no way to prepare someone for Turin Horse, except to say it is well worth the watch for the ambitious of you. And the Bela Tarr fans.

Best Looking Movie: Prometheus

Prometheus deserves kudos for its production design and special effects. The greys and blues were beautiful. Many fault the film’s script, side-character acting, and even Ridley Scott’s direction, but few people fault how this movie looks. Prometheus is landmark in sci-fi production design and special effects. Also, it is a rare example great usage of 3D.

Best Film Directed By a Great Director, and Features Great Moments, but Doesn’t Add Up To a Great Film: Tie, Cosmopolis and Killing Them Softly.

David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, Cosmopolis) and Andrew Dominik (The Assassination Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly) are talented auteurs, but their 2012 output does not feature their best work. Cosmopolis has a genius final 10-minute scene that encompasses an ultimate conversation of egos between Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti, while Killing Them Softly also has a great final scene that is an argument between Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins. But these movies hit the viewer over the head with their (mostly anti-)capitalism messages and drag a bit. Some claim The Master is this year’s overrated auteur work, but where I believe that movie soars, these movies don’t quite make it.

Best Career Resurgence: Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe and Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh and William Friedkin showed up in 2012 and left two really good movies (three for you Haywire fans—pretty decent to me, though a lot lesser than Magic Mike) and two really good Matthew McConaughey performances. He owns these charming yet creepy roles that hit different sides of the film world. Where Magic Mike is a flashy expose on the male stripper world, Killer Joe is a dark white-trash melodrama featuring a supremely creepy hitman, played of course by McConaughey.

What’s funny: McConaughey also gave a great, funny performance in a movie that did make my Top

Best Bromance: Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavalta (Michael Pena) in End of Watch

Kudos to Pena and Gyllenhaal. Both actors did fantastic work. And kudos also to David Ayer’s script.  You care about these two silly cops, about as much as they care for one another. Plutonic, brotherly love is something that goes deep in life, but in films, these relationships make me sick to my stomach—not because I’m heartless but because they feel very corporate and phony, on the part of an over-sentimental filmmaker and a money-grubbing studio. This relationship here in End of Watch is natural and realistic, and when the end of the movie hits the audience, no one leaves not feeling something, bro.

Best Nearly-Nameless Side Character: Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in The Avengers

Best Documentary (for crying): Tie, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, and Shut up and Play the Hits

Best Documentary At Making Me Dance Like a Crazy Person: Tie, Girl Walk // All Day and Shut Up and Play the Hits

Best Documentary: Searching For Sugar Man

This documentary inspires the audience into curiosity. Who is Rodriguez, and what kind of life did he live?  How was he so little known in his own country (here in the good ole US of A) but exploded in South Africa?  What was his music and Dylan-esque poetry about? And how did he die—self-immolation or on-stage bullet in the temple?

The truth is revealed half-way through the doc, and everything shifts, somehow uppting the ante and fulfilling all the promises made early in the film. Searching for Sugar Man is fantastic and emotionally engaging throughout both of its halves.  

Best Animated Feature: ParaNorman

I have not yet seen Wreck It Ralph (all credibility out the window, I know) but it would be hard-pressed to be as pleasing and heart-felt as ParaNorman. Its story was fresher than Brave’s and more complicated than Frankenweenie’s. ParaNorman was through-and-through a success. Also, ParaNorman and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie both continue the usage of stop-motion animation, which I’m a big fan of. When I eventually see Wreck It Ralph, I will reassess.

Most Overrated (but still good) Oscar Contender: Tie, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook

Like The Artist and The King’s Speech, 2012 had its years of critical darling, crowd pleasing motion pictures that are favorites to win a few Oscars, including possibly Best Picture. These movies are well made by their directors, Ben Affleck and David O. Russell, but they’re hardly their best works. Gone Baby Gone and The Fighter are much better examples of awesome filmmaking and would have been better Best Picture contenders, the latter of which was such a contender at the 2011 ceremony. While I enjoy Alan Arkin cursing and Bradley Cooper actually appearing in an engaging role for once, I wouldn’t say any aspects of these movies were overly impressive. They were just—good.  

Worst Oscar Contender: Les Miserables


Worst Film of 2012: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2


Here are my individual awards, Oscars style.

Best Soundtrack: Moonrise Kingdom

Best Score: Jonny Greenwood, The Master

Best Song: “Skyfall” by Adele, in Skyfall [1] 

Best Visual Effects: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, and Donald R. Elliott, Life of Pi

Best Production Design: Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, Anna Karenina

Best Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare, Jr., The Master

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, The Master

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

So based on this information, where will my picks line up? Predictions in the comment section! Expect my top 20 soon!

20-11 here!

and 10-1 here!


[1] This might be the only time we here at YPOIW praise Adele. Actually, I'm anticipating my pink slip at any moment. Seriously though, awesome song.


  1. My thoughts:

    1. Great post, I was surprised how many 2012 movies I've missed, especially documentaries about which I'm normally obsessive. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't even say Sugar Man yet, but the Invisible War was indeed moving stuff. Anyway, a good movie post makes you excited about movies and after reading, there are a few listed here that I was reminded about and hopefully I'll see in the next few days.

    2.I totally agree about Argo and Silver Linings. I thought they were Very Good, but there are too many legitimate GREAT movies, many made in 2012, for the attention and adoration these have received.

    3. Your love of Ang Lee is deep, huh? I thought Life of Pi was excellent. Lee wouldn't get my nod for director this year, but hell of a movie.

    4. Les Miz, duh! HOW DARE you. Someone other than Her Majesty Anne Hathaway as Best Supporting? Heartless, soulless, vampire you! You must have not liked Twilight bc it misrepresents your bloodless brethren. Kidding, obviously, you have solid opinions and I'm a les miz fanboy since circa 1993, so I have trouble being objective. But HOW DARE YOU anyway.

    Can't wait to read the actual top 20, keep bringing the good schtuff.

  2. My thoughts on Lee: Life of Pi is a Top 10 film to me (spoiler) but not a Top 5, yet he had the hardest job of any director in 2012, yet the biggest payoff.

  3. As a fan of the source material (the musical, even the novel), the Les Miz film was HORRIBLE.

  4. I enjoy the novel and have ADORED the musical - attended 8 performances in the last 15ish years, including Colm Wilkinson reprising his original Valjean in Toronto as my first. I had a spiel prepared for anyone who saw the movie and asked me why the hell I liked the play so much, because I assumed the movie wouldn't live up. It's still not quite as good as the theatrical production, but I thought it was excellent.

    1. It's just opinion. :-) tbh I thought Tom Hooper's insistence on super tight shots was really annoying, and the performances stunk of melodrama. It wasn't showy in a theatrical way to me, it was showy in a "make sure I have enough tears so I can get my Oscar" kind of way. And I'm pretty sure that ain't what Victor Hugo was writing about.

    2. I understand what you're saying. You make a good case for your opinion, but none of that bothered me.

      Melodrama has become a dirty word of late, but I feel that it has its place. Just because subtle and understated can be an awesome approach, doesn't mean to me that with the right material playing something to the hilt can't be. IMO Les Mis isn't a story to pull back on. Even reading the lyrics to the songs are just dripping with overstated emotion - and I love it in this case.

      Its been about ten years since I've read the book. I remember enjoying it, but thinking it was much different than the musical in tone. I loved the musical, and I never minded when it was dripping with emotion - even if it slapped you in the face with it.

      And I'm not just apologizing for the film, I was all set to hate it. Being a fan, I was going to see it regardless, but I loved it.

      Anyway, bright minds can disagree, and I'm always glad to talk with someone who is a fan of the source material. Nice chatting with ya!