We're already in the first week of 2013, hard to believe, but we're about to be knee deep in Awards Season. Entertainment Weekly’s released their list of the 25 Movies to See Before the Oscars. Here they are, with their comments, then my comments:
25. Frankenweenie: “It flopped at the box office. But voters (and their kids) may revisit this critics' fave. (Rated PG, on DVD Jan. 8).” Tim Burton’s stop motion kid-brings-pet-back-from-the-dead story. Not sure if it was the story or the black and white that caused it to be so unpopular with audiences, either way, both of those things plus Tim Burton makes me have no interest..
24. Compliance: “Veteran character actress Ann Dowd lays bare our darkest authoritarian impulses as a fast-food manager manipulated into terrible deeds. (Rated R, on DVD Jan. 8)” I had never heard of this, it sounds a little dark and demented for my taste. Based on the trailer, I have zero interest.
23. Perks of Being a Wallflower: “Stephen Chbosky adapted his own novel — then directed the movie. That's why voters may consider it for adapted screenplay. (Rated PG-13, in theaters” I have no interest in this – teen angst movies do nothing for me – I hated Juno. It's a little unfair to judge this movie on that one, but no part of this looked good to me, it looked pretentious, and man – do I hate that in a movie.
22. Middle of Nowhere: “Emayatzy Corinealdi's breakthrough turn as a woman who falls in love with another man while her husband is in prison is a sweet, heartfelt performance. (Rated R, in theaters)” This is another one that I am hearing about for the first time. It sounds like another powerhouse acting drama...which, as you know, is not something I care about. Maybe if it had giant robots or something...Like if her husband was in prison because of a giant robot scandal, and she fell in love with another giant robot creator while her husband was in prison...doesn't that sound more watchable?
21. How to Survive a Plague: “This documentary about the fight for AIDS research quickens the pulse like a thriller and rouses passions as well as any drama. (Not Rated, in theaters and on demand)” I don’t usually watch documentaries, real life is too horrifying and too depressing. This is the only doc on this list, interesting, usually there are more than that. Because it's the only documentary on this list - this should be an easy win for everyone who picks it for Best Documentary in their office pools.
20. Looper: “Rian Johnson's mind-bending time-travel thriller could get an original-screenplay nomination. (Rated R, on DVD now and for download Dec. 31)” Hey – Finally one that I saw! I actually felt this was a really well-conceived movie and probably does deserve to be nominated for best original screenplay. I personally did not care for the movie, but it was well done, entertaining, and you should check it out. The kid, Pierce Gagnon, is amazing; and if I supported nominating children for Oscars (I don't) I would suggest he should be nominated.
19. The Dark Knight Rises: “The last film (supposedly) in Christopher Nolan's beloved Batman series — so this might get some nostalgia votes. It should claim nominations in technical categories, but also has a strong, ongoing push for Best Picture, which could help voters see something deeper in this blockbuster. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” Another one I saw! In my opinion this was the worst of Nolan’s trilogy. It mainly suffered from just “too much”. It’s overblown, over-long, and a little over-acted…especially on the part of Marion Cottillard. If you haven’t seen it – see it, it is well done, but not as good as it’s predecessor(s). Plus, once you see it – you can start working on your Bane impression, and then find a way to work that into every conversation... “I am this cheeseburger's reckoning!”
18. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: British retirees engage in shenanigans at a run-down hotel in India after leaving their old lives behind. “Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are the most likely nominees from this whimsical crowd-pleaser. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” I haven’t seen this yet, but I do intend to see it. The marketing for it pushed the comedy aspect hard, which probably means it's more drama than comedy, but it should have some entertaining moments.
17. Wreck-it Ralph: “To paraphrase its J-pop theme song: S-U-G-A-R, jump into your racing car...and see this animated-feature front-runner about a videogame bad guy (voiced by John C. Reilly) who travels to another game to prove he can be a good guy. (Rated PG, in theaters)” Another one I haven’t seen yet, but I will when it's available to rent. I try to not pay for kids movies.
16. Anna Karenina: “The production design and lush costumes of imperial Russia should earn this Leo Tolstoy adaptation some technical nods, though Keira Knightley also stands a chance for lead actress as the adulterous, tragic heroine. (Rated R, in theaters)” Yes, should win all the costuming awards, but that’s not going to make it shorter and more interesting. It’s going to stay long and boring. If you’re a fan of the novel (is anyone?) you’ll probably love the movie.
15. The Sessions: “Expect a lead-actor nomination for John Hawkes as a quadriplegic man trying to figure out what sex is all about, and a supporting mention for Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate who gets intimate to help him. (Rated R, in theaters)” Yikes, how is that a movie? No part of this interests me. John Hawkes has been in many quality indies lately, but I still think of him as the creepy Scully-obsessed writer from the X-files episode Milagro in 1999, big bonus nerd points if you remember that.
14. Django Unchained: “Bounty-hunting duo Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz spill so much blood, it may split the Academy. Perhaps voters will agree that Leonardo DiCaprio's satanic plantation owner is worthy of a supporting nod. (Rated R, out Dec. 25)” I have the odd opinion of being a Tarantino fan, but not a fan of Tarantino movies. They’re all just a little too much for me, and really, I liked Resevoir Dogs and Kill Bill, but I have never loved any of his movies. However, he does combine crazy good dialogue with crazy graphic violence, and is able to get great performances out of his actors. DiCaprio is actually better as a villain than a hero, so if he’s got a chance at winning an Oscar, this could be it.
13. Beasts of the Southern Wild: “The sky is falling, the water is rising, and prehistoric monsters are rampaging across the land. The only thing that stands in the way, is a feisty little girl, played by Quvenzhané Wallis, who, at 9, could become the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” I might see this – who knows. It’s an after-Katrina New Orleans story, don’t be fooled by the description above, which is somewhat misleading. What's amazing is all the people talking about nominating a 9 year old for an Oscar. Is she really that great an actress? Or is she just a kid? Remember Anna Paquin won for the Piano...is she that great an actress?
12. Moonrise Kingdom: “Academy voters talk about Wes Anderson's coming-of-age comedy as fondly as if it were how they spent their own summer vacation, giving it an underdog shot for Best Picture and Original Screenplay. (Rated PG-13, DVD and download)” Sometimes I like Wes Anderson movies. I don’t love them, but I like them. My favorite was The Life Aquatic. He has the ability to make a quirky little dialogue movie that features some amazing visuals – not effects-wise, but in still shots. Many of his shots look like carefully arranged paintings, which I’ve always found fascinating.
11. The Master: “The Paul Thomas Anderson movie may be dividing voters, but Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams all have solid shots at acting nominations for this searing look at damaged souls forging a new religion. (Rated R, in theaters)” No, just – no. Not interested, will not be seeing. I’m actually a little surprised this is not higher on the list. When it first came out – there was Oscar buzz all over it, I’m wondering if maybe it was released too early in the year to generate serious Oscar talk?
10. Rust and Bone: “Marion Cotillard should get her second lead-actress nom (after winning in 2008 for La Vie en Rose) for playing an orca trainer who loses her legs in a whale attack and falls for an underground fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts) who shows her tenderness, but no pity. (Rated R, in theaters)” Did you get as confused as I did after reading that description? Really? A Whale trainer loses her legs and falls for an underground fighter? What’s even more confusing is that I keep hearing she’s a lock for best actress because of this. One more time – how is this a Oscar film and not a movie on SyFy saturday nights – based solely on the description? You could call it Orca-fighter...Or Ocra-tastrophe...
9. The Impossible: “Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in this survival saga about a family on vacation during the 2004 tsunami. Every performance is riveting. In a just world, Tom Holland (who plays the eldest son) would score a Best Actor nod. (Rated PG-13, opens limited Dec. 21)” Not sure how I feel about this one either. Disasters make great backdrops for heavy character-study dramas, but sometimes it feels a little disrespectful. This one in particular: I did read one review that pointed out how while all the thousands of natives were dying, viewers were expected to care about one white family of tourists – which is an interesting point.
8. Flight: “Denzel Washington's explosive role as a pilot who's drunk during a plane crash — but still saves almost everyone on board — could earn him his sixth nomination. (Rated R, in theaters)” I hated this movie with a passion, and was tempted to walk out after the first fifteen minutes. That doesn’t mean the movie is bad, that just means I have no patience for heavy, character-study award movies with despicable lead characters. Denzel is amazing in this, and does deserve a nomination.
7. Amour: “A heartbreaker. Director Michael Haneke's look at the end of an elderly couple's love story will have you ripping out pages of The Notebook to use as Kleenex. Emmanuelle Riva, 85, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, 82, could become the oldest lead-performer nominees ever. (Rated PG-13, opens limited Dec. 19)” Well – this sounds tailor-made for awards season. No, thank you.
6. Life of Pi: “Director Ang Lee's fantasy adventure about a young boy lost at sea with a Bengal tiger should nab a nom for Best Picture and clean up in the technical categories for re-creating the harsh elements (and the tiger) with such precision. (Rated PG, in theaters)” I saw this and felt like it was good, not great. However, visually – it was stunning and should easily win some technical awards. That CGI tiger gave the best performance in the movie, and how many cats adopted in the next few months will be named Richard Parker?
5. Silver Linings Playbook: “This comedy about a bipolar man (Bradley Cooper) and a troubled widow (Jennifer Lawrence) may net noms for both leads. We also predict nods for Best Picture and for Supporting Actor Robert De Niro. (Rated R, in theaters)” Be forewarned, no matter how many times you are told this is a comedy, it is not. It is a dramedy at best; another awards-season heavy-duty character study. I may see this, but again, probably not until it’s available to rent. And what about the age difference between Lawrence and Cooper – she’s barely over 20, right? That seems weird to me. Maybe it’s not weird in the movie.
4. Argo: “Ben Affleck's spy thriller has just enough of a Hollywood plotline to woo Academy voters. The movie's momentum may have slowed, but expect a Best Director nom, and Best Picture is still a possibility. (Rated R, in theaters)” My pick for the best movie on this list – and if they’re not going to give the best picture Oscar to the Avengers (they’re not), then they should give it to this movie. Well-written, well-acted, and superbly directed; Affleck needs to win for best director, and should win for best picture – just my opinion!
3. Zero Dark Thirty: “Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal may have invented a new genre with their meticulously researched film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — investigative drama. Jessica Chastain is impressive in the lead, and The Hurt Locker's Bigelow is guaranteed another crack at Best Director and Best Picture. (Rated R, opens limited Dec. 19)” I’ll see this, because I saw Bigelow’s other Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker. I hated it, but I saw it. I think the story sounds interesting, and seeing Chris Pratt in a real movie as opposed to being a lovable moron on Parks and Rec fascinates me. Also I'm curious if Jessica Chastain spends the entire movie standing around looking at things with her arms crossed...that's what I am lead to believe by all the trailers.
2. Les Miserables: “Another powerhouse contender, this adaptation of the phenomenally popular musical will easily score a Best Picture nomination, as well as numerous mentions in the technical categories and nods for director Tom Hooper, lead actor Hugh Jackman, supporting actress Anne Hathaway (a frontrunner to win), and original song for ''Suddenly.'' (Rated PG-13, out Dec. 25)” Commence my eyerolling; I will probably see this, but I’m not going to be happy about it. I’m sure it’s beautifully done, and congrats to them for remembering to create an original song so they can win best song. I don’t like musicals, so I’m sure this will bore the hell out of me, but there’s an awful lot of talk around this…so I’ll take a look. I'll have to prepare for three hours, and two Australians starring in a movie about the french revolution. Also, the talk is big around Anne Hathaway for best supporting.
1. Lincoln: “Daniel Day-Lewis is a near lock for Best Actor thanks to his soulful performance as the 16th president. In addition to supporting nods for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field, the film has a shot at nominations for picture, director (Steven Spielberg), adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner), cinematography, sound, costumes, makeup, editing, production design, and music. (Rated PG-13, in theaters)” Again, I guess I’ll see this, just not happy about it. It seems like an “Acting for the sake of Acting” movie (Day-Lewis spent the whole time in character and had other actors greet him as Mr. President, even when cameras were not rolling – again, eyerolling). We know the story – it will be interesting to see what else Spielberg brings to it. You know what would help? Vampires.
I find it interesting that both the Hobbit and Promised Land are not on this list. The Hobbit has to be nominated for technical awards because it is visually stunning – and for goodness sake – will someone finally nominate Andy Serkis for something? In terms writing/acting I’m shocked Matt Damon and John Krasinski were not mentioned for the anti-fracking drama Promised Land.
That’s the critic’s take, and what will do best for awards, however, as a movie fan – not a ‘film’ fan – I have a different list: here’s my top movies of the year. Just my opinion, and in no way the best films, just my personal faves.
10. John Carter: This is the only 'tops' list you will see this movie on. It was almost universally hated. I don't know what to tell you – I found it really entertaining. I thought Taylor Kitsch was fine, the scenes of Mars were beautiful, and Willem DaFoe was a great four-armed martian. I also enjoyed Lynn Collins's ass-kicking martian princess. Give it a watch, there are parts you will enjoy!
9. 21 Jump Street: I was dreading this movie because I loved the TV show so much. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew with Jonah Hill in charge of the script – it would be funny. It was easily one of the funniest movies of the year, and a huge surprise. It was well done, and hilarious. The scenes of the Tatum and Hill attempting to fit in at high school were fantastic.
8. Skyfall: Fifty years of James Bond result in the latest Daniel Craig Bond adventure in which he deals with Javier Bardem developing a twisted, button-pushing, jaw-removing plot to kidnap and torture M for reasons only he understands. Director Sam Mendes gave us great action, a good story, and some amazing visual sequences. He also threw in some great Bond history moments for us fans, including the original car, and the original M office. Loved it.
7. Dredd 3D: Fantastic classic action starring Karl Urban. Simple story, great effects, another great fun summer popcorn flick. As well as a quiet and chilling performance from Lena Heady as evil drug dealer Ma-Ma. If you missed this in the theater, you missed some awesome 3D, but it's freshly out on DVD, so you should check it out.
6. Pitch Perfect: My favorite comedy of the year. Again – another huge surprise for me. Simple and fun. Great songs, funny performances, and Rebel Wilson. Outstanding.
5. Hit and Run: Dax Sheppard's car chase comedy. He wrote and produced it, filled it with his own cars and all his friends. Best is his chemistry with real-life girlfriend Kristen Bell. Quick, fun, and entertaining – this was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
4. Haywire: Stephen Soderburg's Gina Carrano spy-action story. He wrote it for her, and – knowing she's a MMA fighter and not an actress – surrounded her with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas). The story is simple, but told in a typical complex Soderburg way. Carrano could be the next great female action star if she keeps this up. If you missed this the first time around, it's streaming on Netflix now.
3. Expendables 2: Yes, it was terrible; and yes, there was almost no plot; and yes – the acting was questionable. I can't help it, I loved it. I honestly could have watched two hours of just Schwarzeneggar and Willis in the smart car. Also – JCVD is best as a villain, and really chewed the hell out of all the scenery. Big fun – lots of 'spolsions, and Chuck Norris at 72 making a Chuck Norris joke: Stallone: “I heard you were bitten by a rattlesnake.” Norris: “Yes, and after two days of pain and agony...the snake died.” Awesome.
2. Argo: You know the world has gone crazy when I put a 'film' this high on my list. Or, maybe it's just a really good film? Argo was intense, thrilling, and fun. Affleck absolutely should win best director, and the film should win best picture. In terms of acting awards, John Goodman was great, Bryan Cranston was great – all this and based on a true story too? Amazing.
1. Avengers: Not even a question, not just the best movie of this year, but the best movie I have seen in many years. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to bring together a group of characters who had each stood on their own in successful movies. The perfect blend of superhero action/comedy/and challenges, it’s non-stop entertainment from beginning to end. I cannot wait for the next Marvel movie. If only DC would learn from Marvel's example; I suppose we have to wait for this summer to get that answered.
That's the top 10, again just my opinion. I did almost pull of the 52 movies in 52 weeks, finishing out at about 51. There were a bunch of others I really really liked: Amazing SpiderMan (why wasn't the Lizard always wearing his lab coat, and since when does he communicate with tiny lizards?), Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (awesome, fun, ridiculous...), Battleship (better than you think! And featured lots of real-life veterans), Cabin in the Woods (flipping the horror genre on it's head, plus - Merman), Lockout (Guy Pearce in an Escape from New York ripoff set in space), Looper (twisty and cool), Man with the Iron Fists (RZA's Tarantino-inspired kung-fu tribute), Step Up 4 (cheesy dance flick!), Wrath of the Titans (so much fun! Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy are fabulous, and the scenes with just Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes make the movie), Red Tails (exciting, fun, and inspiring), Man on a Ledge (hey – something Sam Worthington was good in! So much better than expected!), Chronicle (an interesting take on what might happen if already unstable high schoolers developed superpowers). You'll notice I didn't mention the Dark Knight Rises...biggest disappointment of the year for me. Not because it was bad, but because the excellence of the previous two raised my expectations to unreasonable levels.
But what about the other end of the list? The worst of the year? Oh, don't worry, I have that ready for you too.
5. The Campaign: One of the definitions of wasted potential. It delivered what it promised, which was dumb humor, but honestly – I was disappointed because it could have been so much more. It spent the whole movie being slapstick, then tried to throw in a touching moment or two at the end.
4. Rock of Ages: I tried, because I loved that music. But here's the issue, I forgot how much I still don't like musicals. It was overdone, and annoying. But – Tom Cruise was great, but that was about it.
3. This means War: Again, my issue with most romantic comedies is that they are insulting. A woman cannot exist without a man – is usually the point of these movies. In this one in particular, a woman has two wonderful men fighting over her, and instead of being insulted that she is essentially their prize in a pissing contest and walking away...she ends up with one of them. Also – it's ludicrous that two top notch CIA spies would use government assets to woo a woman. I know it's just a movie, and usually I can let that stuff go, but I think I expected more from Tom Hardy and Chris Pine.
2. Total Recall: Honestly, this is on the list because I love Len Wiseman as a director and I loved Verhoven's original. This just did not deliver. It changed the story slightly from the original, and just made it more confusing and a lot less fun. It was all together lame.
1. Flight: Interesting, because this will be near the top of a lot of critic's lists. It's well crafted, and superbly acted by Denzel, but I could not stand it. It's similar to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year. I know, I know – everyone else said how great it was. I hated it – HATED IT. So, they are similar in that way.
I think that is the complete rundown...I'll keep updating the list as I see more and more of the nominated movies for this year. If you want to know more about any of the movies on my list – my reviews are all available on my blog! Happy New Year Everyone!