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2012 in Film, Part 2: Miscellaneous Awards and Shout-Outs

The ever-so-slightly-overdue Part Two, featuring stuff I wanted to mention or write about the films that didn’t make my top 15 back in Part One.

The Disappointing

Prometheus
Dir. Ridley Scott (USA/UK, 2012)
124 minutes

Watching Prometheus is like being served a delicious cake where around one in three slices is guaranteed to contain a human tooth. It’s a gorgeously shot picture with a truly epic visual ambition (it’s no surprise that Scott quotes directly from Lawrence of Arabia), where the connective tissue of characterisation and plot is thin to the point of transparency. It’s a film featuring great performers at the top of their game which gives them so little to grasp, only Fassbender comes out with anything resembling a character arc. It wants to have its cake as an austere, thought-provoking science fiction puzzle piece, and eat its cake as a monster-movie slasher (wait, how many cakes are there again? This metaphor got away from me). In its mixture of ambition and frustrating shortcomings, it’s not like any other film I saw this year. I loved looking at it. I can’t say the same for watching it.

Berberian Sound Studio
Dir. Peter Strickland (UK, 2012)
92 minutes

The first two thirds of this Lynchian psychodrama, featuring Toby Jones as a repressed British sound director working on a gory Italian giallo film in the 1970s, are pure magic, a supremely unsettling marriage of uncanny sound design and Jones’ slow disintegration as the violence he’s exposed to through his work starts playing tricks on his mind. The final third is where the film chooses to gutter out into inconsequentiality, tragically squandering all of the tension it so expertly built up before. That it would have ended up in my best-of list with a stronger third act is testament to how frustrating I found its botched ending.

The RapGenius.com Award for White Devil Sophistry

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Dir. Benh Zeitlin (USA, 2012)
93 minutes

This magical realist drama set in a never-named stretch of American swampland uses the obvious connections to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina to bring up wider resonances it neither earns nor makes any effort to explore. Framing the story through the precocious voiceover narration of a young girl frees the filmmakers from any obligation towards subtlety, allowing them to emotionally bludgeon the audience with cutesy truisms.The presentation of the Bathtub’s “community” as a bunch of dissolute drunks who resist any attempt at outside assistance or “civilisation” speaks not only of some patronising conception of how the poor live, but of fetishising this stereotype. The father’s aggression and violence towards his daughter is similarly indulged as part of this “authenticity”. An excellent star performance from Quvenzhané Wallis and the cinematographer’s clear gift for staging arresting shots can’t save the film from drowning in its own smugness and incoherence.

Now, on to better things…

Best Performance
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denis Lavant, Holy Motors
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Toby Jones, Berberian Sound Studio
Ebizô Ichikawa, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Best Supporting Performance
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michael Fassbender, Prometheus
James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Amy Adams, The Master

Having typed out these lists quickly aiming for gut reaction, I took a look back and realised the lack of female performers was glaring, and a let down on my part. So to redress the balance somewhat, I want to mention the excellent performances this year from Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene; Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises; Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild; Stephanie Sigman in Miss Bala; Emily Blunt in Looper; Juno Temple in Killer Joe; and Greta Gerwig in Damsels In Distress, who either made their films stand out from the crowd, or did a lot to make up for any deficiencies said films otherwise had.

Best Double Act
Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, The Cabin In The Woods

Best Couple
Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), Moonrise Kingdom
Runner up: Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) and Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), Rust and Bone

Performance(s) by an actor who I had written off until this year
Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe, Magic Mike
Runner up: Charlize Theron, Prometheus, Young Adult

Best performance by an actor using 20-30% of their face
Bane (Tom Hardy), The Dark Knight Rises
Runner up: Dredd (Karl Urban), Dredd

Best Cameo
Harry Dean Stanton, The Avengers
Runner up: Sigourney Weaver, The Cabin In The Woods

Scenes of the Year
1. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) “processes” Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) for the first time, The Master
2. Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) walks with Eva Grace (Kylie Minogue) through a derelict department store, Holy Motors
3. Charlie Parker shares his suspicions about the Barclays, The Imposter
4. Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) does her old routine to Katy Perry’s “Firework” on the balcony, Rust and Bone
5. Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt)’s final conversation with his employer (Richard Jenkins), Killing Them Softly
6. The family K-fried-C dinner, Killer Joe
7. Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) rescues Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel), Moonrise Kingdom
8. The disappearing fingers, Looper
9. Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) confronts Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), Cosmopolis
10. Mavis (Charlize Theron) explodes at the baby-naming party attendees, Young Adult

Action Sequence of the Year
1. Iko Uwais’ police officer and his brother versus “Mad Dog”, The Raid
2. Gina Carano versus Michael Fassbender in a Dublin hotel suite, Haywire
3. Dredd (Karl Urban) going hand to hand with a corrupt Judge, Dredd
4. James Bond versus a guy with a stolen hard drive on a speeding train, Skyfall
5. The Avengers versus Loki and bunch of aliens in central Manhattan, The Avengers

Best Cinematography
The Master
Runners up: Skyfall, Miss Bala

Best Soundtrack
Bombay Beach
Runners up: The Master, The Imposter, Haywire

Best Music Cue in a Film
“Strokin’” by Clarence Carter, Killer Joe
Runner up: “Let My Baby Ride” by R.L. Burnside, performed by Denis Lavant et al, Holy Motors

And as a reward for sitting through all that verbiage, let’s close this out with David Ehrlich’s ridiculously enjoyable montage of his best films of the year. Here’s to 2013.

 

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