1. Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni)
2. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
3. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo)
4. Masculin Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone)
6. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols)
7. The Hawks and the Sparrows (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
8. Daisies (Vera Chytilova)
9. Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene)
10. Kill, Baby…Kill! (Mario Bava)
Honorable Mention: Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson), Made in U.S.A. (Jean-Luc Godard)
Updated: May 18, 2013
See Also: Top 10 Albums of 1966, Top 10 Tracks of 1966, Top 10 Movies of 1951, Top 10 Movies of 1953, Top 10 Movies of 1957, Top 10 Movies of 1959, Top 10 Movies of 1962, Top 10 Movies of 1972, Top 10 Movies of 1975, Top 10 Movies of 1984, Top 10 Movies of 1986, Top 10 Movies of 1989, Top 10 Movies of 1992, Top 10 Movies of 1999, Top 10 Movies of 2002, Top 10 Movies of 2003, Top 10 Movies of 2004, Top 10 Movies of 2005, Top 10 Movies of 2007, Top 10 Movies of 2008, Top 10 Movies of 2009, Top 10 Movies of 2010, Top 10 Movies of 2011, Top 10 Movies of 2012
1. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)
2. Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet)
3. Jaws (Steven Spielberg)
4. Nashville (Robert Altman)
5. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman)
6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones)
7. Love and Death (Woody Allen)
8. Je tu il elle (Chantal Akerman)
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman)
10. The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky)
Honorable Mention: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman)
Updated: May 9, 2013
See Also: Top 10 Albums of 1975, Top 10 Tracks of 1975, Top 10 Movies of 1951, Top 10 Movies of 1953, Top 10 Movies of 1957, Top 10 Movies of 1959, Top 10 Movies of 1962, Top 10 Movies of 1966, Top 10 Movies of 1972, Top 10 Movies of 1984, Top 10 Movies of 1986, Top 10 Movies of 1989, Top 10 Movies of 1992, Top 10 Movies of 1999, Top 10 Movies of 2002, Top 10 Movies of 2003, Top 10 Movies of 2004, Top 10 Movies of 2005, Top 10 Movies of 2007, Top 10 Movies of 2008, Top 10 Movies of 2009, Top 10 Movies of 2010, Top 10 Movies of 2011, Top 10 Movies of 2012
Previous (skipping a year): 83rd Academy Awards
UPDATED: Correctly predicted 15/20, winners marked with asterisks below
Personal Pick: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Prediction and Personal Pick: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Actor in a Leading Role
Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln*
Personal Pick: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Actress in a Leading Role
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook*
Personal Pick: Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Actor in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
Personal Pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
Actress in a Supporting Role
Prediction and Personal Pick: Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables*
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Prediction: Chris Terrio for Argo*
Personal Pick: Tony Kushner for Lincoln
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Prediction: Michael Haneke for Amour
Personal Pick: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom
Animated Feature Film
Personal Pick: ParaNorman
Prediction: Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi*
Personal Pick: Roger Deakins for Skyfall
Prediction and Personal Pick: Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina*
Prediction: Searching for Sugar Man*
Personal Pick: No Opinion
Prediction and Personal Pick: William Goldenberg for Argo*
Makeup and Hairstyling
Prediction: Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for Les Miserables*
Personal Pick: Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Music (Original Score)
Prediction: Mychael Danna for Life of Pi*
Personal Pick: John Williams for Lincoln
Music (Original Song)
Prediction and Personal Pick: “Skyfall” from Skyfall; Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth*
Prediction: David Gropman (Production Design), Anna Pinock (Set Decoration) for Life of Pi
Personal Pick: Dan Hennah (Production Design), Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration) for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Prediction and Personal Pick: Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton for Life of Pi
Prediction: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes for Les Miserables*
Personal Pick: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson for Skyfall
Prediction and Personal Pick: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott for Life of Pi*
Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects tells a stupid story with irritating (sometimes offensive) plot turns, yet it somehow works. This enjoyably trashy tale of intrigue is visually slick, hypnotic with its cold edits and shallow-focus digital cinematography. Much to my relief, the movie doesn’t demonize prescription drugs but rather explores how manipulative characters capitalize on society’s fears of meds. To say much more would ruin the fun.
The first time I watched Zero Dark Thirty, I was mostly impressed, particularly with its skillful plotting and the direction of the suspenseful set pieces. But as I thought more about the film, I became increasingly troubled by it, not necessarily because of its much-debated depiction of torture but due to its thin characterizations and odd mix of reportage and fictionalization. A second viewing confirmed my suspicions. Kathryn Bigelow’s latest on the hunt for Osama bin Laden is well-crafted but far from great and lesser than the sum of its parts. And from a more philosophical, theoretical standpoint it takes the medium of film for granted, never fully grasping the responsibility of representation or the baggage that comes with fictional Hollywood storytelling.
To be clear, this is not meant to be a traditional review of the film (a clarification that is becoming more and more predictable on this blog). It is instead my attempt to articulate my issues with the film and pose some lingering questions. I think much of the criticism of this film has been broad, politicized and sometimes downright silly, making it very easy for the overwhelming majority that loves the film to defuse any arguments against it. Zero Dark Thirty is a problematic film, one that reveals just how hollow and sometimes dangerous it is on repeat viewings. (And just to get this out of the way now because I really want to say it, and it isn’t really relevant to anything else: James Gandolfini’s wig is really embarrassing.)
Indeed, the film gets off to a terrible start with its most offensive, exploitative moment. With the screen completely dark, the soundtrack features desperate 911 calls from individuals in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Certainly, this functions to remind viewers of the attack on the homeland that made the search for Osama so important in the first place, but the use of these calls, whether they’re real or dramatized, is completely unjustified. If the calls are real, imagine an audience member hearing the voice of a loved one, perhaps dead, and to have that tragedy framed as sickly ironic, with the emergency responder telling them everything is going to be okay when we know that is not the case.
But it would have been just as problematic to reenact these calls. This gets at what I see as one of the issues of the film, how it seems to misunderstand the responsibility of announcing itself from the very start as based on first-hand accounts. The beginning of Alain Resnais’ 1959 feature Hiroshima, mon amour features a series of images that present society’s attempts to depict or reenact the tragedies of the atomic bomb – footage of burn victims, shots of the museums, visits to the titular Japanese city itself, etc. But it’s all set to one of the characters insisting again and again that his naïve companion “saw nothing in Hiroshima.” It is a haunting sequence that suggests the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of representing tragedy or any moment in history, for that matter.
I’m not saying every movie should so consciously play with form, or that a fact-based feature such as Zero Dark Thirty cannot work as propulsive, classically constructed procedural. But Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal tackle the material with self-seriousness but very little self-awareness. Their film proudly suggests it can and it will do its best to provide an exciting and ostensibly sophisticated account of recent history. Other 2012 releases such as Lincoln and Django Unchained certainly pose some interesting issues of historical representation, but there is more general knowledge about those moments in times and, as a result, probably more healthy skepticism. More importantly, both of these films revel in their artifice, whether it is the icon-inscribing cinematography of Janusz Kaminski or the cinematic playfulness of Quentin Tarantino. While Zero Dark Thirty is most certainly a fictionalized account, it is dressed up and packaged to suggest otherwise. Consider the previously mentioned trumpeting of the reporting that went into the script or the documentary-esuqe hand-held camerawork. Classical Hollywood storytelling is not necessarily the wrong way to tell the story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But Bigelow and Boal invite us to contemplate the morality of the actions depicted without ever questioning or complicating the validity of their images.
Zero Dark Thirty follows in the tradition of classical storytelling audiences have been conditioned to expect in the movies, and one of the primary aspects of such filmmaking is narrative causality, relevant to the film’s depiction of torture. Many of those either critiquing or defending the film’s use of torture have completely overstated and sometimes misrepresented their cases. Arguments suggesting that the film completely endorses torture feel a bit simplistic, and I tend to think they are exaggerating their points and ignoring the text that exists.
But those defending the film are not always honest about the film’s representation. Watching Zero Dark Thirty again, I can confirm that torture does lead to the capture of bin Laden, at least as it is depicted in the narrative. The key to unlocking the case is the name Abu Ahmed, a name first uttered by a character who is tortured in the first few scenes. Though he offers the name under friendly conditions, the threat of “enhanced interrogation” is clearly held over his head by Jason Clarke’s Dan. The film does not necessarily endorse torture, and I think there is a deeper conversation to be had about the inherent issues of representing such horrific acts. (Francois Truffaut once suggested there is no such thing as an anti-war film because the images will inherently glorify the violence and defend it.) But many of those defending the film should nuance their arguments by acknowledging the film’s narrative does suggest that, justified or not, torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Narrative causality is king in classical Hollywood storytelling, so it’s essential to get that right.
Another key element of Hollywood storytelling is identification with key characters. What’s interesting is that while the film might not glorify torture with its brutal depictions, it does villainize those that get in the way. When Mark Strong’s George butts heads with Stephen Dillane’s National Security Adviser, the characterizations unambiguously (though probably unintentionally) suggest who is in the right and who is in the wrong. As Republicans might suggest about the president he works under, the Obama official is cast as smug, condescending and a little too intellectual, looking down at his smart phone while Strong’s character complains about the CIA’s impotency without the detainee program. The advising team’s suggestion that the unknown figure in the Abottabod compound might be a drug dealer is framed as absurd. Dillane’s caricature resembles the bureaucratic bullies of the ‘80s in films like Ghostbusters. There are grey areas in Zero Dark Thirty, but praise of the film’s moral ambiguity and objectivity are overstated. I sense people have seen the movie they want to see, projecting their own inner conflicts onto a movie that, for the most part, tells a very specific version of the story. There is only so much room for reflection with a fictional procedure that is this dependent on forward momentum.
The film’s emphasis on procedure over people could prevent Zero Dark Thirty from being an enduring film. Indeed, the details are fascinating, but it relies heavily on the most sensationalistic aspects of the story. We do not see the paper-pushing discovery by a low-level worker that ultimately gives the Abu Ahmed lead the clarity it needs. (Not to mention, this character is forgotten and pushed aside as a mere footnote.) This might be defended as consistent with Maya’s perspective, but we do see Jennifer Ehle’s Jessica fall into a trap when following a false lead. Thanks to Bigelow’s knack for action, the set pieces are impressive and visceral, so we do not necessarily stop to question her decisions of inclusion and exclusion as a storyteller. However, the film undeniably focuses on the most “entertaining” aspects: the torture, the explosions, etc. Indeed, these might be a crucial part of intelligence work, but there seems to be a disproportionate amount of attention on these elements.
Although there are details that could possibly inform viewers, the film has the tricky problem of being a fictionalized narrative based on real accounts that probably cannot be verified and did not even have to depicted accurately. To me, the relationship between fact and fiction in Zero Dark Thirty seems analogous to the issue of the uncanny valley. This is the idea that as a robot or animated figure approaches a lifelike image, it eventually becomes unsettling, so close and yet so soulless. (On 30 Rock, Frank explains the phenomenon to Tracy, who is at that point working on a pornographic video game.) Zero Dark Thirty has a similar problem. Ultimately, it does not have the tangible facts or journalistic accountability to be accepted as reality, but it is also too close to the real events to be easily embraced as fiction. If it seems that I’m thinking too much about all of this, that is precisely the problem. Zero Dark Thirty might depict serious issues with superficially intellectual rigor, but it is ultimately shallow, with no new layers to peal back on repeat viewings.
When the facts and fiction seem too messy, Zero Dark Thirty turns to Chastain’s Maya to anchor the drama. The Oscar-nominated actress mostly rises to the challenge. She offers a rich performance, especially powerful when she does not say much. What’s so disappointing is how on-the-nose the film is about her character’s non-life. Conversations with Ehle’s Jessica, Kyle Chandler’s Joseph Bradley and Gandolfini’s CIA director cast her all-consuming obsession in bold, capital letters. No, she doesn’t have any friends, and she wouldn’t flirt with a co-worker. Yes, she will start yelling in the hallway until she gets what she wants. And no, she has done nothing outside of this case. The movie is too insistent on underlining the purposeful underdevelopment of the character, instead of simply letting her actions and Chastain’s expressions speak for themselves. These scenes might not be as silly or reductive as the moment Clarke’s Dan loses his monkeys, but they certainly come close. The near-anonymity might be unconventional, but the redundancy is pure classical Hollywood storytelling.
The film sets up the character’s non-existence to represent the singular obsession with Osama or perhaps to offer Maya as a cipher onto which we can project our own post-9/11 anxieties. And it all culminates in that moving but frustratingly simplistic final shot of Chastain’s face. Maya’s inability to answer a simple question of where she is going falls in line with what the film has already made clear: She has no life outside of this decade-long hunt. Like The Hurt Locker, the film ends with a tacked-on moment of character insight, incongruous and seemingly disingenuous for a film more interested in process. It feels less like a heartfelt moment and more like an empty gesture towards profundity.
Or perhaps the final close-up can be read another way. The tear rolling down Maya’s face could very well suggest the futility of the search for Osama bin Laden. She went through all of this work, and for what? What is disappointing about this possibility is that it undermines the existence of the film in the first place. If the final shot is in fact meant to signal her dissatisfaction after it is all done, one starts to wonder why we had to sit for two and a half hours to reach such a conclusion.
Yes, the journey is often more important than the destination, but ultimately, this is the question I have been struggling with: What do I take away from this film? Zero Dark Thirty offers the semblance of ethical complexity but never digs past the surface in a way that resonates beyond a first viewing. It suggests a fascination with process, but possibly only as a means to set up the action scenes, Bigelow’s strength. And it gives us a wide cast of characters encountering political and moral issues at every turn, but none of them have the interiority or lives that would make these questions more vibrant than the headlines on an editorial page. The film takes the trouble to highlight Maya as a nonentity, but the people around her are equally empty. And the film simplistically suggests that if torture has a consequence for Americans, it is to relegate us as the oppressors to the hell of office work. There might be many issues to consider here, but the propulsive plotting of Zero Dark Thirty never gives us the space to consider them.
- Todd Kushigemachi
See Also: Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall
I already tackled the major categories. Here are my thoughts on (most of) the rest! In sum, I am super glad Les Miserables didn’t get cinematography or editing nominations, and it’s also nice to see the Academy recognize the stellar craftsmanship in Snow White and the Huntsman. I’m really disappointed about the Original Score nominees, and WOW, The Dark Knight Rises got nothing.
Anna Karenina, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall
Nothing makes me happier than Les Miserables not being here. It was a horridly shot film that still had a good chance of being nominated. Zero Dark Thirty is not here, despite receiving a number of critics’ awards for this very category. (My indifference to the snubs should be a good indication of how I feel about the film.) Instead, the Academy opted for some gorgeously shot movies, Anna Karenina and Django Unchained. And I think I’m officially going to stop complaining about The Master not being nominated.
Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman
Some of the notable films missing from this category are Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Cloud Atlas, which received zero nominations. The five shortlisted films are all deserving, including (and perhaps especially) the TWO Snow White movies.
Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
I have wildly varying opinions about these five films, but they are all impeccably edited. I expected all of these to be nominated. And again, we should all celebrate the absence of Les Miserables, a film cut with no sense of space or visual grammar.
Makeup and Hairstyling
Hitchcock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables
I’m mostly just glad that they didn’t nominate Looper for making Joseph Gordon-Levitt look weird. But no Lincoln? BUT HE LOOKED JUST LIKE ABE. IT WAS SCARY.
Music (Original Score)
Anna Karenina, Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall
I’m really sad that Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Master aren’t here. (Oops, I lied about complaining about The Master.) They would have easily been my personal favorites to win. The nominations for Anna Karenina indicate that Academy voters didn’t necessarily like the movie but liked how it looked and sounded; that’s pretty much what I’d say about the film. I personally would have liked to see Cloud Atlas here, for the music that pulled the six stories together.
Anna Karenina, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln
I correctly predicted that these five films would be nominated. Argo, Cloud Atlas and Django Unchained were contenders that did not make it. People who were predicting Zero Dark Thirty for this category should know that a film will probably not be nominated here unless it is a period or fantasy piece.
Sound Editing and Mixing
Editing: Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty
Mixing: Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall
I figured I’d discuss these two together, mostly to clarify the difference between the two categories. Think of sound editing as the sound effects and sound mixing as the way the different audio elements are put together. If you don’t understand the difference, don’t worry because I’m guessing most Academy voters don’t either. I did not expect to see Argo here, especially over films like The Dark Knight Rises, Flight and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman
Again, I’m glad to see Snow White and the Huntsman here. The Queen-related effects were simply stunning. Some people weren’t predicting an Avengers nomination, but come on, the best thing about the movie was the Hulk! I personally would have liked to see the mediocre but slick Amazing Spider-Man here rather than Prometheus, but I think I’m just blinded by the insane stupidity of the writing for Ridley Scott’s movie.
Originally posted: January 10, 2013 - 8:45 a.m.
Here are some of my early morning thoughts on the major Oscar categories, most of those announced by Seth MacFarlene and Emma Stone this morning. (Their routine had a bunch of actually funny jokes, not typical for what’s usually a dull ceremony.)
For the most part, the shortlists for the major prizes are unsurprising. It should be noted that Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for the top prize, directing, lead actor, lead actress, supporting actor and supporting actress, which I believe is the first time this has happened since Reds in 1981. Also, I want a dollar for every time a commentator goes “Riva is the OLDEST Best Actress nominee ever, and Wallis is the YOUNGEST Best Actress nominee ever. WOOHOO!” And I finally withdraw my early prediction of Argo for winning Best Picture.
Also check out my second post covering below-the-line categories.
Most Interesting Inclusions/Omissions
Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
None of these nine films are major surprises. I’m not too shocked that The Master and Moonrise Kingdom didn’t make the cut, and I didn’t think that crowd pleasers like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Skyfall would place #1 on enough ballots. Other titles missing include The Dark Knight Rises, Flight and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Michael Haneke for Amour, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Now this category is very interesting. I thought the nominees would align with the DGA picks: Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg. But David O. Russell was nominated, along with the more surprising inclusions of Haneke and Zeitlin. I was also ready for the possibility of a Paul Thomas Anderson mention. But given the The Master’s absence from most of the major categories, it looks like voters disliked this movie as much as I thought they would.
Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight
This was really a race with only six likely contenders, and it turned out to be John Hawkes who didn’t make the cut for his great performance in The Sessions. The inclusion of Phoenix is not a complete surprise, though I thought the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) snub was a bad sign. Still, it’s nice to see one of the year’s most challenging, engaging performances get some real love.
Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Naomi Watts in The Impossible
To do post this quickly and efficiently, I prepared in advance a(n unpublished) list of five predictions plus five other contenders for each category so I could note what was nominated. These were actually the five actresses I had predicted. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) or Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), as they were nominated for SAG awards, but just as I suspected, the SAG-ineligible Wallis and the foreign actress (a group commonly overlooked by SAG) Riva made the cut. *pat pat pat*
Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin in Argo, Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
I suspected that Javier Bardem’s homophobic Skyfall villain, nominated by SAG, would make way for Christoph Waltz’s bounty hunter or Leonardo DiCaprio’s slave master. It looks like poor Leo won’t make the cut again, after his leading role in J. Edgar was ignored last year. And as Seth MacFarlene and Emma Stone hilariously noted, all of these nominees have won this award before, making this category a “breath of fresh air.” When is Leo going to get some recognition?
Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in The Master, Sally Field in Lincoln, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, Helen Hunt in The Sessions, Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook
SAG nominees Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy) and Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) are not here. Instead, there’s Adams and Weaver. I’m a bit surprised by the nomination of Weaver, who does fine work in Silver Linings Playbook, but it’s easily the most understated performance of the movie and thus easiest to overlook. But then again, the Academy nominated her for Animal Kingdom, which saw her give a stronger but even less conventional performance. The Academy must love her, and it’s deserved. It would have been nice to see Judi Dench here for her powerful performance as M in Skyfall, but that was more wishful thinking on my part than a realistic expectation.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty
WGA-nominated sci-fi flick Looper did not make the cut, and I’m not entirely surprised. However, I am surprised that Paul Thomas Anderson is not here for The Master. It’s definitely not what I would consider a typical Awards-winning screenplay, purposefully abandoning typical story structure with its hypnotically elliptical narrative, but this category often recognizes challenging work. After all, they nominated A Separation last year, and Amour was named this year. I’m not too upset though, as the Oscars don’t exist to validate my love for PTA.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook
This is a completely unsurprising list of contenders. The Perks of Being a Wallflower would have been a nice inclusion, but this was a packed category full of the year’s biggest films.
Originally posted: January 10, 2013 - 7:05 a.m.
See Also: Below-the-Line Nominees
Judd Apatow’s This is 40 is a funnier, more mature film than the writer-director’s Knocked Up, but it’s still not a good movie. Film benefits from stronger leads Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, somehow bringing warmth to the incessant fights of their characters. This time, the humor feels more organic, grounded in the drama of the story rather than a distraction. Still, it’s an exhausting movie, and when it comes to finding comedy in the tragedies of everyday life, I would take a single episode of Louie over this film any day.
I Heart Huckabees is the rare American indie with narrative and visual quirks that function as key thematic devices rather than empty affectation. The entire ensemble successfully matches the manic rhythms of David O. Russell’s direction and writing, but Mark Wahlberg particularly stands out. He captures both the leftist rage and the heartache of his character with ease. It’s existentialism at its most excitingly wacky.
See Also: Top 10 Movies of 2004
Promised Land too bluntly presents the fracking facts and simplifies its character’s emotional arc with an eye-rolling romance. And yet, I enjoyed the film for the most part, thanks to nuanced performances by Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski and Hal Holbrook. Although the movie is told from the oppressor’s perspective, it truly engages with issues like the economic downturn instead of marginalizing them (as Up in the Air did). Gun Van Sant’s direction gives the film an intimate, small-town touch. It’s an incredibly minor work for the filmmaker but a better-than-average drama overall.