2012 Favorites

We now return you to 2013, already in progress

feature_presentationI keep hearing myself say, “I told you the best movies from 2011 were Take Shelter, Another Earth, and Jane Eyre.”  In part so that I can cite the fact that I “told you,” and mostly just because I’ve been wanting to for awhile, I will now hold the Richard Lives equivalent of the Oscars once annually (called “Favorites” because I don’t presume to be any more of an authority on the subject than I seem to be [not to say I don’t make better decisions than the Academy, but I digress]) .  The rules I set for myself are as follows:

I.  Only include movies that I’ve seen/written about here.

II.  Set early February as a deadline.  Do it during awards season.  As such, I won’t have seen every movie of the year, in large part because of my location (for example, I am doing this list before having seen Rust and Bone, as I may not get to it anytime soon.  Apologies to Marion Cotillard, who surely doesn’t need my approval).

III.  Only include movies from the year in question.  Sometimes I see films from the previous year that I never got around to and write about them if I need to, so you’ll see them mixed in with the new movies.  Look at the year of release, listed at the bottom of each review, if you’re wondering why The Lie isn’t included in this year’s list.

IV.  No more than 5 nominees for each category.  Some have fewer.  Some have only one, such as “Favorite Character,” which we’ll also call the Highlander Award, just for fun.

V.  Be honest.  As much as I may like to be seen disagreeing with the Academy, Les Mis was pretty damn good.

I’ll explain the categories as we go, if the parameters aren’t obvious.  The “Body of Work” actor and actress awards refer to actors who had the most prolific year (varied roles, great performances).  2011’s winner was, of course, Jessica Chastain, with seven major roles and no equal in performance and character assortment.

Some categories have several nominees.  Some don’t.  Categories with multiple nominees may have a star (*) next to one, indicating my personal favorite of the year’s best.  However, since the nominees aren’t actually receiving anything from me (positive encouragement notwithstanding) and considering the fact that many of these roles/films are really not comparable (for instance, how do you compare Hugh Jackman’s performance with Woody Harrelson’s and Daniel Day-Lewis’s, and then decide which is somehow “best”?  “Best” according to what characteristics shared by all three?), you may consider all nominees equal winners if I’ve chosen not to “star” anything.  Click the links (movie titles) to see my original reviews.

Without further ado:

Best Pictures

Safety Not Guaranteed             

A Late Quartet                        

Moonrise Kingdom

Les Misérables

Zero Dark Thirty

Best screenwriting

Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained 

Derek Connolly – Safety Not Guaranteed     

Martin McDonaghSeven Psychopaths    

James Ellroy/Oren Moverman – Rampart

Brit MarlingSound of My Voice 

Favorite character

Léa Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde – Farewell, My Queen

Best Actress (single performance)

Jessica Chastain as Maya – Zero Dark Thirty*

Lea Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde – Farewell, My Queen

Juno Temple as LilyLittle Birds  

Jennifer Lawrence as TiffanySilver Linings Playbook 

Sarah Hayward as SuzieMoonrise Kingdom 

Best Actress (body of work)

Jennifer Lawrence

Best Actor (single performance)

Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown – Rampart*

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham LincolnLincoln

Michael Fassbender as DavidPrometheus

Richard Gere as Robert MillerArbitrage

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Robert – A Late Quartet*

Best actor (body of work)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Best supporting actress

Brie Larson as Helen – Rampart*

Imogen Poots as Alexandra A Late Quartet*

Brit Marling as MaggieSound of My Voice

Diane Kruger as Marie AntoinetteFarewell, My Queen

Best supporting actor

Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz – Django Unchained

Robert De Niro as Patrizio SolitanoSilver Linings Playbook

Ben Whishaw as Robert FrobisherCloud Atlas

Best director

Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty*

Oren MovermanRampart

Quentin TarantinoDjango Unchained

                                                                                                                                                   Best book-to-film adaptation

Anna Karenina

Les Misérables*

Silver Linings Playbook       

Dark Horse Favorite

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Biggest letdowns

Skyfall

The Expendables 2

Ruby Sparks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Most Popular Review

The Moth Diaries

Actors who wrote to me

Lily Cole

Lauren Ashley Carter

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Thanks for reading.  See you next year.

2012 Oscars

The yearly finger-wagging

The theme of the award shows this year seems to be nostalgia.  Topping the Academy’s ladder for Best Picture are Hugo and The Artist, two films about transitions in the world of cinema.  Also nominated is The Descendants, a better film than either, as well as The Tree of Life, a masterpiece from earlier in the year.  I’d like to see Kaui Hemmings’ novel-to-film take home the Oscar, but I expect the winner will be one of the top two.  More so, it would have been nice if Mike Cahill and Brit Marling’s Another Earth was nominated, but I suspect its modest budget and lesser-known performers caused the Academy to shy away.  Also unfortunately omitted was My Week With Marilyn.

While we’re on that topic, Michelle Williams deserves the Best Actress award, if our only choices are the nominees.  However, I’m guessing Glenn Close or Meryl Streep will win, because if you’re the Academy, you’re thinking that Michelle Williams will have plenty of occasion to be nominated later, while the roles of Albert Nobbs and Margaret Thatcher may very well be the crown jewels in the careers of Close and Streep.  Williams won the Golden Globe, however, so no sour grapes, although it is an absolute crime that Mia Wasikowska was not nominated for her heartbreakingly wonderful performance in Jane Eyre.

Also regarding crimes, Michael Fassbender received no nod for Shame, although he won a good amount of other awards for his excellent run as sex-addict Brandon Sullivan.  Similarly, Michael Shannon is nowhere to be seen for Take Shelter.  George Clooney rightfully receives a nomination for his role as Matt King in The Descendants (although, shamefully, Shailene Woodley was left out of Best Supporting Actress contention), and Gary Oldman receives a surprise nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  If patterns are to be trusted, the winner will be Jean Dujardin for his role as George Valentin in the brilliant silent film The Artist.

Here are my most current fundamental issues with this year’s awards (apart from the hackneyed formula by which the Academy chooses nominees, which you can read more about from Roger Ebert if you care):  a “best” award, leastways for an actor, should be based upon that actor’s volume of work for the entire year, if they’re receiving an award which represents that entire year.  For example, take a look at Jessica Chastain’s 2011 track record.  The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Debt, Wilde Salome, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus – mostly leading roles, and an astounding collection of characters.  She’s receiving a nod for Best Supporting Actress in The Help, but I imagine this award will go to her co-star, Octavia Spencer, and it perhaps should go to Bérénice Bejo for her brilliant performance as Peppy Miller in The Artist.  Therein lies the issue: we’re comparing one character from one film to one other character from one other film, which may or may not even be the same kind of film (a problem the Golden Globes avoids by splitting their “bests” into the categories of Drama and Musical/Comedy), and not on the work from the entire year.  Jessica Chastain is only slated for two films so far this year, one of which is animated, so it may unfortunately be awhile before we see her at the podium.

There are other things I could go on about, but suffice it to say that I think there’s one sweeping solution: understand that the Golden Globes, an international show, is more prestigious, and that there are plenty of other award ceremonies throughout the end of the year that equally (and quite often more truly) highlight the year’s bests.  The Oscars, being the one strictly American ceremony (notice A Separation is nominated only for Best Foreign Language Film and not Best Picture), has always sought to be the “best” source, perhaps because Americans are obsessed with referring to others to find out what the most appropriate behavior is, but at the same time do not want to check multiple sources.  Don’t be fooled.  I enjoy the Oscars every year, but it’s only one measuring stick in the proverbial plastic bin.