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Top 10 Films Of 2012

January 11, 2013

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2012 was a good year for film.  I ended up seeing 126 releases, and I have to admit that the majority of them were far from terrible.  This, of course, made crafting a Top 10 fairly difficult, but I gave it my best shot.  Just a heads up, below the main section of this article you’ll find some mini-lists.  Read on!

10) The Avengers

I feel like some people are afraid to put this movie on their year-end list.  It’s like the 1.5 billion dollars it made worldwide is now suddenly shameful.  I, however, still think of The Avengers as an amazing achievement.  The movie is an outright great time, and I have a feeling that it will be influencing comic book adaptations for years to come.  Way to be, Joss Whedon.

09) Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Much has been made of this little effort that plays big, and the hype is certainly warranted.  Quvenzhane Wallis, who is now the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, is so good that you walk away from the movie wishing you could spend more time with her.

08) Life Of Pi

If I didn’t already think that Ang Lee was a talented director, his work on Life Of Pi would have quickly remedied that particular train of thought.  He really did craft a beautiful, inspiring film out a book that seemed nearly impossible to adapt.  I can’t wait to own it.

07) Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell should win an award just for landing Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  The manic chemistry between their characters made for one of the more fascinating things I saw in a theater in 2012.

06) Lincoln

I was not at all interested in seeing Lincoln.  I thought the trailers were boring, and despite my fondness for Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, I just couldn’t get excited about the film.  And then, I saw it, and what I found was that it’s actually a superbly crafted effort.  To be honest, I’m still buzzing about it.

05) Argo

The best decision Ben Affleck ever made was to start directing films.  The guy is so very good at it, and with Argo, which is certainly his best effort to date, I think it’s time to consider him to be one of the best directors working.  This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

04) Seven Psychopaths

I love In Bruges so much that I went into Martin McDonagh’s follow-up with expectations so high that I was sure I’d be disappointed.  But I wasn’t.  Seven Psychopaths is so very clever and hilarious, and I’m anxious to have it in my library for viewing whenever i please.  Side note, if Colin Farrell would exclusively work with McDonagh, the world would be a better place.

03) Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is the most entertaining bastard on the face of this planet, and Django Unchained is proof of that.  The damn thing is just insanely fun.  When I wasn’t laughing, I was cheering, and when I was doing either of those things, it meant the credits were on and I wanted the movie to immediately start over.

02) Cabin In The Woods

Some would say that The Avengers is the nerd film of the year, but I think it’s actually Cabin In The Woods.  There are so many clever references to catch, and then there’s the fact that it’s filled with a slew of moments so gloriously geeky that you can’t help but loudly celebrate throughout the entire movie.

01) Zero Dark Thirty

I was blown away by Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to The Hurt Locker.  The movie is just a mammoth effort that’s so very heavy and intense, but yet there isn’t a single moment where you want to bow out.  Like the driven CIA operative that Jessica Chastain plays, you feel determined (and maybe even obligated) to see how the hunt for Osama bin Laden ends.  And speaking of the end.  The way Zero Dark Thirty comes to a close will stick with me until the day I’m gone.  Just an all around brilliant film.

5 Honorable Mentions
Skyfall
Bernie
Looper
Holy Motors
The Grey

5 Solid Films That Were Almost Spectacular
The Dark Knight Rises
Prometheus
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games

5 Smaller Films You Need To Seek Out
Sleepwalk With Me
The Sessions
Goon
Fat Kid Rules The World
Safety Not Guaranteed

5 Worst Films Of 2012
Not Fade Away
Snow White And The Huntsman
The Comedy
Wrong
Battleship

Unfairly Shit On Movie Of 2012
John Carter

Biggest Surprise Of 2012
21 Jump Street

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Movie Breakdown: Zero Dark Thirty

January 10, 2013

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Kathryn Bigelow follows up The Hurt Locker with a Jessica Chastain-fronted hunt for the world’s most dangerous man.

The Reality:

I went into Zero Dark Thirty thinking it would be a slow paced, cerebral presentation on the complicated and lengthy search for Osama bin Laden, but that’s not at all what I got.  Instead, I was slammed with so much intensity that I found myself repeatedly holding my breath and griping the armrests of my seat.  I know Kathryn Bigelow has already had plenty of Oscar glory, but I’m certain that Zero Dark Thirty is her best directorial effort.  The movie could have easily been a disjointed mess, but Bigelow keeps the pace quick, and while there’s a lot constantly going on, it’s all easy to follow.  I also appreciated the way she tossed in blips of humor, fear, and other emotions when they weren’t really expected, as it made everything feel even more real and intense.  Naturally, it’s not all about the director, there’s a lot of fine work from the actors in the film.  This especially goes for Jessica Chastain, who turns in an unforgettable performance that must be seen.

It’s not often that something as well crafted as Zero Dark Thirty comes along, so be sure you go experience it.

The Lesson:

It is now impossible to refer to a Kathryn Bigelow film as anything but can’t miss.

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Movie Breakdown: Zero Dark Thirty (Noah)

January 7, 2013

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

My love of Kathryn Bigelow is based almost entirely on my unadulterated, teenage obsession with both Point Break and the sadly underrated and under-seen Strange Days. I can’t imagine that prepares me whatsoever for a procedural drama about the hunting and killing of one of the world’s most notorious terrorists.

The Reality:

Zero Dark Thirty is a lot of things. It is a methodically paced procedural. It is a character study of one woman’s obsession. It is a showcase for the work of Jessica Chastain and a whole host of spot-on character actors. It is a subdued, yet thrilling action film that focuses more on the chase than the outcome. It is gripping and visceral and is somehow able to wring absolute tension out of moments of time that have already run their course across the seething world of media. It is also, from start to finish, intentionally or not, an extremely sad film. War, be it the frontlines or the dark corridors, is hell, and though Bigelow is too talented a director to actually scream that in your face, there isn’t a moment in the movie – from the thirty minutes of torture that start the film to the final scene of Maya’s tear-streaked face – that doesn’t broadcast, loud and clear, the horrible effects of our more and more war-like society. It is the artful and near perfectly edited summation of 12 years of intense effort.

Chastain’s performance as the hyper-driven CIA agent Maya caught me off guard at first. I was expecting icy cold from the get-go, but Chastain plays early Maya as a sorority girl-gone military – texting another agent on the verge of meeting with a potential source “Cool!” – but Maya is only a 20-something when she’s shipped to Pakistan to start hunting the upper echelons of Al Qaeda. At one point late in the film James Gandolfini’s C.I.A. Director asks Maya how long she’s been in the C.I.A. (12 years) and if she’s ever done anything else but hunt Osama. With an almost shrill desperation, Maya says, “No, I’ve never done anything else.” Osama and his death and all the death he’s caused are all Maya knows and as Chastain plays her she carries the weight of that responsibility squarely on her own shoulders. If anything, Zero Dark Thirty is the story of a kid thrust in to an awful and enormous situation, and every it takes and everything that must be sacrificed to survive.

Zero Dark Thirty is a lot of things, what it is not, in any way (much to the chagrin of the controversy hawks that circle this here internet) is an approving nod towards torture or killing. Bigelow paints in tiny subtle strokes here, giving everything multiple shades of meaning and understanding and for every violent act on either side of the War on Terrorism it feels as if every facet of the argument is peered at. Don’t let the media trick you in to thinking that this very reasonable, amazing film is anything less than that.

The Lesson:

Zero Dark Thirty deserves the Best Picture Oscar. It won’t win though, and that right there is sad.

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