The 7th Annual Davies Awards in Film

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

A Look Back at 2012:

There’s so much to say about the year in film that was 2012. In many ways it was like two distinct years. The first half was grim and borderline torturous with the only bright spots being two films that came out of the blue to depict with great grit and emotion man vs. his own nature (guised as man vs. nature) in The Grey and The Hunter. In the summer, we were met with art house films critics were too eager to gush over. Yes, Moonrise Kingdom was Wes Anderson’s most charming film in a while, but it was still a Wes Anderson film. And yes, Beasts of the Southern Wild had a cool title and interesting set-up, but it really didn’t make any sense.

Oddly, at the multiplex things were clearer as some of the heavy hitters were well above average. The Hunger Games offered a new series positively literary when compared to the god-awfulness of The Twilight series (finally put to rest this year). Many people didn’t like it, but I still got a kick out of Prometheus while The Dark Knight Rises was a fine conclusion to a fine trilogy. Even The Avengers (overrated by fanboys) was above average…though it was still a comic book movie. This trend continued into the fall with the best James Bond film of the modern era, Skyfall, lighting the box office on fire.

Quietly simmering beneath all of this pop-culture hubbub was a snarky good year for neo-noir with the twisty sci-fi yarn Looper at the multiplexes and art houses runneth over with films like the Russian melodrama Elena, Friedkin’s southern-fried piece of Americana trash Killer Joe and the Twin Peaksian French entry Nobody Else But You.

But it wasn’t until the fall that things got real and filmmakers tapped into history to deliver highly polished professional products of the most prestigious order.

First up was Affleck’s Argo (a bit oversold but still solid) reliving the Middle East problems of the 1970’s as channeled through a Hollywood lense. The year closed with Bayona’s riveting and emotional portrayal of a family during the 2004 Asian tsunami in The Impossible, while Bigelow used a surgeon’s scalpel to reveal the layers of complexity in the hunt for Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty.

But in between these films was the year’s most towering achievement: an iconic director (Spielberg) filming the world’s greatest actor (Daniel Day Lewis) as one of America’s most legendary presidents (Abraham Lincoln). Yet the real brilliance of Lincoln rests in the razor-sharp screenplay from Tony Kushner that focused on the passing of the 13th amendment while reveling in the intimacy of political discourse and soaring oratory that left me speechless.

Let’s not discount, however, the fact that 2012 was one of the strongest years ever for female performances. In any given year the Davie or the Oscar would’ve clearly and justly gone to any of the following: Marion Cotillard playing a double amputee in Rust & Bone, Naomi Watts playing a resilient mother put through the physical and emotional wringer in The Impossible, or Jessica Chastain delivering her first powerhouse lead performance as a ruthless CIA analyst out for Bin Laden’s head in Zero Dark Thirty. Even the premier supporting turns – Amy Adams as a cult leader’s wife in The Master and Sally Field as Mary Todd in Lincoln – were extraordinary barn-burning performances that only come around once in a blue moon.

Yes, 2012 was a tale of two years in one that began with a whimper but ended on one of the highest notes in recent cinematic history with a fall/prestige season where even the bad films (Django Unchained) were monstrously entertaining.

And above it all was the shadow of Lincoln’s stove-pipe hat – an image, a performance, a screenplay and a film…for the ages.

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The Year in Pictures:

In January, the wolves of THE GREY were metaphorical.

In January, the wolves of THE GREY were metaphorical.

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In July, Nolan closed out his “smarter than the average trilogy” with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

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Spielberg, Kushner and Day Lewis cast LINCOLN in a perfect light in November.

Spielberg, Kushner and Day Lewis cast LINCOLN in a perfect light in November.

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J. A. Bayona wowed us in December with THE IMPOSSIBLE.

J. A. Bayona wowed us in December with THE IMPOSSIBLE.

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Bigelow and Chastain took out Bin Laden in December in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

Bigelow and Chastain took out Bin Laden in December in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

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The Schleicher Spin proudly presents:

The 7th Annual Davies:

Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film for the Year 2012

The Top Ten Films of 2012:

  1. Lincoln – Steven Spielberg
  2. The Grey – Joe Carnahan
  3. The Impossible – Juan Antonio Bayona
  4. Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow
  5. Rust & Bone – Jacques Audiard
  6. The Hunter – Daniel Nettheim
  7. The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson
  8. Looper – Rian Johnson
  9. Monsieur Lazhar – Philippe Falardeau
  10. The Kid with a Bike – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Honorable Mentions:

* Note: Some foreign films may have made the festival and awards circuit in 2011, but if their stateside theatrical release fell within 2012 then I consider them a 2012 film.

Best Picture: Lincoln

Best Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor: Tom Holland for The Impossible

  • Runner-up: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field for Lincoln

Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson for Looper

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner for Lincoln

Worst Screenplay: Martin McDonagh for Seven Psychopaths (which pains me to say considering how much I loved McDonagh’s previous screenplay and film In Bruges)

Best Editing: The first two minutes and the last twenty minutes of Zero Dark Thirty

Worst Editing: The middle of Zero Dark Thirty

Best Original Music Score: Alexandre Desplat for Zero Dark Thirty

Best Soundtrack (of previously composed material): All that down-and-dirty stuff from Django Unchained

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for Skyfall

Best Special Effects: The Impossible

Most Underrated Film: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (I really kinda like this, though it just missed honorable mention)

Most Overrated Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Guilty Pleasure: Damsels in Distress (it’s nice to have Whit Stilman back)

Best Comedy: The Campaign

Best Sci-Fi Film: Looper

Best Horror Film: The Cabin in the Woods

Best Action Film: Skyfall

Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed: Historical based dramas (Argo, Lincoln, The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty)

Movie Trend I Completely Ignored: The “Channing Tatum” explosion (The Vow, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike)

Biggest Disappointment: Seven Psychopaths

Worst Picture: Savages (it’s hard to believe, but this vile piece of trash is Oliver Stone’s worst movie ever)

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Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:

The 6th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 3rd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 1st Annual Davies Awards in Film

We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.

Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.

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Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2012.

What movies would make your Top Ten List?

Speak your mind and join the discussion by leaving a comment!

If you’re a fellow film blogger with your own awards, top ten list or 2012 wrap-up, share your links in the comment form.

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17 comments on “The 7th Annual Davies Awards in Film

  1. Arti says:

    Great summary of 2012 films. I’ve seen most of what you’ve mentioned here, and agree with many of your observations. Good films don’t usually come out the first half the year, since they all want to be contenders for Awards with noms come at the end of the year or early new year. Now, I don’t know if you’ve not seen it or not, but in my opinion, The Life of Pi is one of the year’s best, and maybe best of Ang Lee’s works. I’m still eagerly waiting for Zero Dark Thirty. But my hunch is… nobody’s going to beat Lincoln this year.

    • Thanks, Arti – there are always a few films I wish I could’ve seen before handing out The Davies. Life of Pi is one of them this year, as well as Amour – though based on the thoughtful reviews I have read of them, I can’t see them topping any of my top five here (I know myself pretty well and what I will respond to the most in certain films). A few times I have made adjustments and changed my mind after the awards. In the past Biutiful and The Edge of Heaven are two films I saw post-awards and absolutely loved. It’s always nice to be surprised later on.

  2. Jon says:

    Hi David,

    Curious choice to have The Grey so high. I liked it don’t get me wrong, but never thought it was anything really special. I like Lincoln alot too and am looking forward to seeing ZD30 and Rust and Bone when I get a chance.

    Right now I’ve only rated a few films at the highest level:

    The Deep Blue Sea
    Lincoln
    Moonrise Kingdom
    2 Days in New York
    The Loneliest Planet

    I have been underwhelmed by most films from last year though and outright dislike several: Oslo August 31, Django, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Elena.

    I still have some more viewing to finish up my opinions for the year though.

    • Jon – I ranked The Grey so high because to me it was a complete surprise. I went to see it expecting nothing (just Liam Neeson punching some wolves as the previews promised) and instead I found a film whose metaphors I connected with and that carried a much deeper meaning than most films of its ilk. I was also taken aback by how emotional the film was for me. But honestly, you could take the 4 films under Lincoln and reorder them in any fashion at 2, 3, 4 & 5. It was a virtual tie for second place with The Grey, The Impossible, Zero Dark Thirty and Rust & Bone. The Grey won out because of the “unexpected” factor. The other three I went in with high expectations and they all delivered and were better than I expected.

      • Jon says:

        This makes sense, it was surprisingly intelligent and very well paced etc. I did like it. So am not going to argue against The Grey. You know I really loved the ending too.

    • Julio Ibanez says:

      Jon,

      I’ve been hearing more and more about “The Loneliest Planet.” I’m going to have to make sure to seek it out.

  3. The Grey – don’t get me started …

    Funny thing about Kushner’s “adaptation” is that it “adapts” the events of only a couple pages in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book.

    • Ha ha – I recall your not so warm feelings for The Grey.

      And yes, the Kushner adaptation was more like “inspired by” than a traditional adaptation. The seasoned playwright did his own thing for sure!

  4. Julio Ibanez says:

    I’ve been a bit behind, so I’ve not even seen half of your list. I think most of the awards committees are going to agree with your love of “Lincoln.” I thought it was masterfully done and I agree that as much praise belongs to Kushner as it does to Spielberg or Lewis.

    Also, on a quick peruse, your singling out of Deakins for “Skyfall” caught my eye. I’m a bit disappointed he doesn’t seem to be getting much hype for his work on this as it was GORGEOUS work. Hopefully, he’ll get a bit of momentum soon.

    There are a few on your list that were already on my “to watch” list. Now, they’ve just gotten bumped up a notch. 🙂

    • Deakins is hands down the best cinematographer in the biz. There were some scenes in Skyfall (like the hand to hand fight in the skyscraper) that were astounding – like nothing ever seen in an action film before. Deakins can shoot ANYTHING and make it look like a moving painting.

  5. Sam Juliano says:

    Another fabulous Davies Award presentation at the SPIN, David!!! Seems we agree on four films for the Top 10 (LINCOLN, ZERO, LAZHAR and THE IMPOSSIBLE) and another, THE KID WITH A BIKE nearly made it. Another award you have given -the year’s most overrated film- is one I applaud, though I also feel one of your Top 10, THE MASTER is overrated.

    As far as My own #1, THE TURIN HORSE, I know your feelings on that. Another very great film, OSLO, AUGUST 31ST, would seem to be one that you’d enthusiastically embrace.

    I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see another person that has chosen Tom Holland as Best Supporting Actoe for THE IMPOSSIBLE. I concur wholeheartedly and feel that he was one of the year’s finest actors in any category.

    • Sam, I plan on watching Oslo on Netflix soon based on your recommendation. And, yes, Holland was astounding – I can’t get that scene out of my head where he sits down at the table and realizes he has been put in a orphans camp, the look on his face, how his body tenses and he grips the edges of the table – he perfectly captured a child’s greatest fear – death of a parent and being left alone in an unfamiliar world. Never seen anything like it before from a child actor. He must’ve studied Watts too as they were perfect together and seemed like real mother and son. No one does emotional wrecks like Watts.

  6. I agree with Arti. Do watch The Life of Pi. It’s a visual treat but more than that it’s in the same vein of Man vs. His-own-nature that you speak of. In this case guised as Man vs. Beast. It might appeal to you as a continuum from The Grey and The Hunter.

    Oh and try to catch it on 3D. It’s the best 3D film I’ve seen so far and rightfully deserves the format.

    Loved your list as always. How about including “Best Drama” and something whacky like “Best Movie That Felt Like It’s Directed By Someone Else”

    • Prakash and Arti (and others) – I finally saw Life of Pi. I thought the visuals were spectacular but found the story lacking. It would just miss an honorable mention. The 3D really was something, though.

  7. NOTE OF AMENDMENT – After having seen the superb documentary Searching for Sugar Man – it clearly deserves an Honorable Mention.

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