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.
The Year in Pictures:
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:
- Lincoln – Steven Spielberg
- The Grey – Joe Carnahan
- The Impossible – Juan Antonio Bayona
- Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow
- Rust & Bone – Jacques Audiard
- The Hunter – Daniel Nettheim
- The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson
- Looper – Rian Johnson
- Monsieur Lazhar – Philippe Falardeau
- The Kid with a Bike – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
- Argo – Ben Affleck
- Bernie – Richard Linklater
- The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan
- Detachment – Tony Kaye
- Elena – Andrey Zvyaginstev
- Killer Joe – William Friedkin
- Nobody Else But You – Gerald Hustache-Mathieu
- Prometheus – Ridley Scott
- Searching for Sugar Man – Malik Bendjelloul
- Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell
- Skyfall – Sam Mendes
* 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
- Runner- up: Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
- Runner-up: Naomi Watts for The Impossible
Best Supporting Actor: Tom Holland for The Impossible
- Runner-up: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field for Lincoln
- Runner-up: Amy Adams for The Master
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 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)
Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:
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.
Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2012.
What movies would make your Top Ten List?
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