With the new trend of the Academy Awards nominating ten films instead of five in order to add some excitement and ratings to the festivities, I would like to put out an early list for my choice of the top ten films of 2012. I will say that I have only seen two on the list. So what qualifies me to comment on these picks. The buzz, the hype, and Hollywood’s pandering through commercials and trailers. Face it, it comes down to a popularity contest. Honestly, it is too expensive to go to the movies anymore. A lot of moviegoers discriminate more than years before. Unless you’re discussing “The Avengers” or “Prometheus,” which were two awful films promoted to death in five other prequel films, or promising audiences the mysterious origin of a terrifying cinematic icon from space. In any case, they made lots of mulah. Here is my list of films with a brief description. They are in no particular order.
Spoiler Alert! I really don’t care if it ruins the story for you.
1.) Argo – Take declassified historical information, add a charismatic actor/director (Ben Affleck) and you have the makings for a movie. Argo is a dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran who are taking refuge in the Canadian embassy.
I’m sorry. I was around when this happened and all the U.S. could muster in the press was, “Thank you, Canada!” There was also a follow-up album with the same title in the record section of your local department store. Since this is a dramatization, who knows what details were fabricated or omitted. I recall another government based film with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman entitled “Wag the Dog.” As far as this film goes, I’ll wait for the bargain bin at Best Buy.
2.) Lincoln – As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with the continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.
A great combination of talent showcasing Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg. This film is in high contention for Best Actor, and Best Director. However, unless Lincoln is fighting Vampires or Zombies, the historical record pretty much goes unchanged. He does free the slaves, the North wins the war, and in turn Lincoln gets whacked at the theater by John Wilkes Booth.
3.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an unexpected journey” to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home and treasure from a dragon named Smaug.
A terrific fantasy film which takes audiences back to the realm of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. This is the first film of the prequel trilogy to “The Lord of the Rings.” Wonderfully acted, pleasing visuals, and a storyline which plods along with a mission, the film provides some great background to the “one ring,” and lets filmgoers encounter some wonderful creatures. One year and counting to the next installment. (A must see in theaters!)
4.) Zero Dark Thirty – A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.
Okay, Osama bin Laden was behind the 9-11 attacks, and he deserved what he got, but wasn’t this mission classified? The plans for this film were out before the rotor blades on the blown up helicopter were cold. Director Kathryn Bigelow is capable of bringing the tale of bin Laden’s demise to the big screen. After all, she won Best Director honors for “The Hurt Locker.” It’s just that, almost everyone knows what happened. Extensive news coverage provided everyone with what they needed to see and know. Perhaps Bigelow is able to dig deeper, but the outcome is the same. Osama gets air-conditioned and sleeps with the fishes.
5.) Life of Pi – A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor … a fearsome Bengal tiger.
I didn’t read the book or see the film, but I knew exactly what this film was about from the trailers. On a lifeboat, young Pi survives a ship sinking with some exotic animals. They were being shipped to a zoo overseas. The tale of Pi’s adventure is told to authorities in Mexico where he washed up on shore. The animals are metaphors for the humans who survived, one of which was Pi’s mother. The whole affair devolves into cannibalism with Pi facing off against the tiger who in reality is human Richard Parker. Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) will be nominated for his directorial efforts. Unfortunately, the story suffers from being highly predictable.
6.) Moonrise Kingdom – Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down — which might not be such a bad thing.
Director/writer Wes Anderson makes some highly offbeat films. They are entertaining and pleasantly surprising. He keeps a good stable of talented actors on hand that enjoy working with Anderson. Highly imaginative, “Moonrise Kingdom” focuses on human behavior and feelings. Characteristics that people need to be in touch with these days.
7.) The Master – A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
This controversial film parroting Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is said to be weak in the story department, but it has a lot of talent packed behind it. Director Paul Thomas Anderson has cast Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams in psychologically in-depth roles. This is an interesting look at the phenomenon of cult mentality, and how it is used to pander to a person’s weaknesses in order to take advantage of them.
8.) Anna Karenina – Set in late 19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.
A great story, but this is the 12th remake of Anna Karenina. The last one was only seven years ago. What does this say about Hollywood trying something new? The blatant fact is the filmmakers are going after the Best Costume award at the Oscars. The story is solid, the acting is good, but do something different. How many times can you retread a tire? Snooze!
9.) Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.
An epic end to an epic trilogy. Director Christopher Nolan likes to take chances and usually pulls off any cinematic project he applies himself to. This is a film worth seeing multiple times due to its storytelling, action sequences, and dialogue. Bane is a force of nature who succeeds in putting Batman/Bruce Wayne to the test. In the process, Bruce Wayne falls in love with Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and the torch is passed to a new Batman. Nolan may be honored with a Best Director Academy Award for his work on the trilogy just as Peter Jackson won for “Return of the King” in “The Lord of the Rings” saga.
10.) Les Misérables – In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.
Touted as being visually impressive with emotional performances, actors Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe cannot sing a note to save their lives. A-list actors don’t mean great singing voices. If these guys want to sing so bad, they should stick to doing it in the shower. Also, this film suffers from being the eleventh remake from author Victor Hugo’s novel. Give it a rest! The only true gem in this feature is Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) who breaks out with a great singing voice. Additionally, this film will no doubt be nominated for the Best Costume Academy Award along with “Anna Karenina.”
I’ve said my piece about these films, but come Academy Award time, please compare my list to those the Academy nominates. The big question is, which two films on the list did I actually watch?