Archives For 2012

Oscars

Oops. So I caved in and watched the Oscars ceremony anyway, even though I’d decided not to. Seeing as in my local time the show airs from 02:30-06:00 AM on night to Monday, and I work weekdays from 8 AM, I thought I’d be the responsible adult and obstain from such silly indulgences, but apparently something happened along the way and now I find myself on my way to work with the desperate hope that memories from the show, aided by large amounts of caffeine and sugar, will pull me – and my work – through the day with an ounce of dignity remaining by the end of it.

It’s the first time I’ve watched the show in its entirety for many years, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it. Very little of the usual awkwardness, and apart from a few minor (and one major) blunders, the show was tasteful and pretty funny, safely guided by host Seth MacFarlane, whom I have no trouble imagining might be invited back to host again next year. All in all they played it pretty safe, but that’s a good thing. The live performances were steady, but not flashy, not even those by legends Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey. There were no legendary speeches, but no dreadful ones either. Daniel Day-Lewis and Christoph Waltz were both impossibly charming, as was Jennifer Lawrence, who tripped on her dress on her way to the stage but handled it in the most graceful way.

As for the awards, I’m actually pretty satisfied with the results. As the Oscars tend to be a popularity contest as much as about recognizing outstanding contributions in the art of film, it’s far from the most interesting award ceremony, and it can sometimes be fairly easy to guess who will win in many of the categories. I generally tend to disagree with some of the choices, which are clearly made for reasons other than to honor the best in each category. For instance, Meryl Streep’s award for ‘The Iron Lady’ last year was more of a “lifetime achievement award” to an icon who has missed out on more Oscars than any other nominee, than a testament to that particular performance, which was clearly outweighed by the competition. This year, there wasn’t all too much of that.

‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Argo’ were perhaps the biggest winners, to my satisfaction, though no movie totally swept the table this time. ‘Lincoln’ “lost” the most, as it was nominated in a rediculous amount of categories (for all I know, well-deservedly) and only ended up with two. Since I still haven’t seen some of most heavily nominated movies, such as ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, I didn’t make a list of my favourites in each of the 24 categories. Instead, I made a list of who I expected to win, and I got 13 right, which I thought was pretty decent.

Here are the winners of the 2013 Academy Awards, which concludes the movie and award year of 2012:

Best picture: Argo (a little surprising, but cool)

Best director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi (called it)

Adapted Screenplay: Argo (called it – and yay!)
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained (yay)

Leading actress: Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook (yay!)
Leading actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (called it)

Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (called it – and yay!)
Supporting actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained  (called it)

Editing: Argo (called it)
Cinematography: Life of Pi

Production design: Lincoln
Visual Effects: Life of Pi (called it)
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Make-up and Hair: Les Misérables

Sound Mixing: Les Misérables (called it)
Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall (tied!)
Original score: Life of Pi
Theme song: ‘Skyfall’ (called it)

Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man (called it – been wanting to see this)
Documentary Short: Inocente

Live Action Short Film: Curfew

Animated feature: Brave (called it – disappointing, but unsurprising)
Animated short: Paperman (called it – I saw this charming little film by chance at the cinema the other week, and I was thrilled to see it win)

Best Foreign Film: Amour (called it – obvious choice)

Did you watch the Oscars? Did any of your favourites win?

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Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Hilarity!

Writer and director Martin McDonagh follows up his schizophrenic work of genius ‘In Bruges’ (2008) with an ensemble movie in the same style. ‘Seven Psychopaths’ too has the characteristic clever, snappy and frequently nonsensical script and the unpredictable, outrageous characters as his debut film, only on an even bigger scale: everyone single character here is batshit crazy. They all also happen to be equipped with deadly weapons. Inevitably, havoc ensues. The plot is in the style of Snatch’ (2000) or ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ (2005), with multiple storylines, which are all – more or less – tied together at the end. I will need a rewatch to piece all the details together.

The acting performances are what you’d expect of an ensemble of this calibre: flawless. I love seeing Colin Farrell back with McDonagh, as this kind of movie is where he gets to demonstrate that he really does have talent (note that his performance in ‘In Bruges’ won him a Golden Globe). Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson all do what they do best, and they’ve all got it down to a tee.

This multi-layered, gun-slinging psycho fest could easily turn into a big mess, but McDonagh has a firm enough grip on things that it doesn’t loose its way entirely, even if it isn’t rounded off quite as neatly as I’d have liked. It is an ambitious movie which falls a little short of being as brilliant as I would have loved to see it, but which was a blast to watch.

7/10.

2012 is over, and it’s time to sum up the movie year, but making a ranked list of this year’s movies is proving difficult. At the best of times I struggle to rate movies, and having to compare movies of completely different genres and qualities is next to impossible. Some movies are watched for their quality, some for their contemplative effects, and some for their special effects or simple entertainment value.

I find myself stuck with one dilemma in particular: two of my favourite movies from this year are strictly speaking 2011 releases (*), but they were released at the cinema here in January and May respectively. How to treat the movies that aren’t released in Norway until the year after original release? Some movies take ages to be released in other countries; some are screened at one or two festivals and then not seen or heard of for ages; some just take forever to be released. Should they go unmentioned, or should they take up slots on the list that would otherwise have been occupied by titles which rightfully belong?

With all this in mind, I’ve decided to disregard a traditional top 10 list, instead picking a selection of this year’s most mentionable watches and categorising them in other ways. Out of the 40 new movies I’ve seen at the cinema, and another 25 or so watched online or at home, I really feel there are so many movies that deserve a mention, but with great self-restraint, here are some of the best and worst of 2012:

Most memorable – aka the favourites:

These three movies all kicked me right in the guts. How Steve McQueen’s Shame’* did not win more awards for its direction and acting performances is an outrage and will remain forever a mystery, because this haunting movie about a man’s dysfunctional life is a masterpiece. Weekend* is in many ways Shame‘s opposite: an intimate story of connection and growing attraction. What the two movies have in common is their stripped-down display of honesty and vulnerability. As for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s been mentioned so many times on this blog already that I hardly need to add a justification here. All three will be stuck with me for a very long time.
Follow-ups: ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, ‘Killer Joe.

Most enjoyable cinema experiences: 

There have been a lot of great blockbusters this year. These may not be the best movies all things considered, but they were an absolute blast to watch at the cinema. I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun at the cinema as I did watching ‘The Avengers’. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ was a refreshing and surprising horror flick, and ‘Looper‘ was a thrilling, action-packed sci-fi adventure. All three movies had me alternately grinning from ear to ear and gripping my seat in suspense.
Follow-ups: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘Kon-tiki‘.

Most disappointing:

Some movies had great potential, but sadly didn’t manage to live up to the expectations facing them. Sadly this was true for two of the most anticipated movies of the year. Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was by no means a terrible movie, but after the two preceding movies in the Batman trilogy, which are both masterpieces and among my favourite movies, I had really hoped and come to expect that this would be a lot better than it turned out. Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ was another movie facing massive expectations, but as impressive as the cast list and the visual effects were, a poor manuscript dragged this movie down into mediocrity. Cosmopolis was an interesting attempt at a satirical commentary on capitalism, but sadly the movie failed in every way that its thematic predecessor (and another favourite of mine) ‘American Psycho’ succeeded.
Follow-ups: ‘John Carter’, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’.

The lucky discoveries:

Actually, a fair few of the movies I’ve seen this year belong in this category, including a few of the previously mentioned, but these are a few of the movies I went to see without knowing anything about in advance, and which I greatly enjoyed.Take Shelter is a low-key, apocalyptic thriller (if you can imagine such a contradiction); Tomboy is a small and simplistic story about a big and complicated topic; The Deep Blue Sea is a tragic chamber play with outstanding acting performances.
Follow-ups: Laurence Anyways‘, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin‘, ‘Tyrannosaur.

All in all I’m pretty satisfied with the movie year 2012. It’s been a year of many big, long-awaited titles, and some mindblowing demonstrations of visual effects, though sadly too many of these movies have been disappointing in terms of substance. It’s the smaller, darker, contemplative movies that have really shone this year, and thankfully I’m a sucker for those too.

Happy new year!

PS: I would love to hear which movies in 2012 were your favourites, and which you found most disappointing or surprising.