Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Best: Catholic Skywalker Awards - Movies 2012

With 2012 almost over, and the world not ending as predicted (only a few more days to use that joke), it is time to look back and acknowledge excellence in movies this year.  We have actually had a number of very good movies in theaters.  When I started doing my movie reviews on this blog, I feared that most of the articles would be me pointing out the flaws I saw.  Instead I was delighted to find that most of the movies I went to see kept me entertained and emotionally connected (except for the amazingly dreadful Cloud Atlas).  

Regardless, I have gone through as many movies as possible this year. There were several that I missed and so was unable to place. So of the movies  I've seen this year, here are the winners:


Les Miserables

This was a tough call between this movie and The Dark Knight Rises. Both movies are incredibly different so comparisons were difficult to make. But in the end, I had to go with what had a deeper impact on me. Les Miserables works so well because Tom Hooper stripped everything non-essential away from the film until the bare bones of raw emotional truth were laid plain. I know this musical inside and out, and yet it felt fresh and new. I couldn't help let a few tears fall during “Little Fall of Rain,” or let out a full throated laugh during “Master of the House.” This is a showcase of the art of acting at its best. A great movie should pull you in and make you feel as though you have completed a long journey with the characters. The end credits should feel like coming up for air. And Les Miserables completely enfolds you in its world and it opens you up to the transcendent nature of art. It points to the higher and more perfect beauties of the world beyond in a way that does not seem cheap or flat, but is earned through the characters taking up their crosses out of love. I have not seen a musical, or any other movie, like it.

The Avengers – the most fun I had at the movies this year. Pure entertainment.
The Dark Knight Rises – A fantastic finish to the Nolan trilogy that brings everything full circle.
Ted – The funniest film of the year, and it is still funny every time I watch it.
Argo – A taut, tense thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the end.

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises

While Les Miserables may have taken the spot for best film of the year, the biggest contribution Tom Hooper's directing made was in letting go and trusting the actors to make his movie work. Nolan also assembles a top-notch cast, but fills the film with intense visual spectacle while at the same time wrestling with problems of wealth and poverty, self-preservation and self-sacrifice. He creates a world in Gotham that is a reflection of all of us, both good and bad inside. Through his direction, you feel the age and strain on Bruce Wayne and the energetic evil of Bane. He creates a tense, desperate conflict that continues to raise the stakes until the last few minutes. In the end, he showed us visually the main theme of the movies: Batman is a symbol of selflessness that can rally people together to serve the common good.


Joss Whedon – The Avengers
Ben Affleck – Argo
Tom Hooper – Les Miserables
Steven Spielberg - Lincoln

Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables

Hugh Jackman became a star with his turn as the most popular of the X-Men, Wolverine. Because it was a sci-fi/action movie, I don't think people took proper note of how precise and primal that performance was. I saw him in that movie and I knew he was a terrific actor. Now with his role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, the rest of the world will see what I saw. Jackman believably transforms through scene after affective scene from being a furious ruffian to terrified fugitive to selfless father. He carried Valjean with a dignity that comes from having lived with the worst that humanity has to offer and coming out on the other side. He cannot be taken in by the Thenardiers because he has lived in their world before. He has nothing but endless compassion for Fantine because it was compassion that changed his life. Jackman uses his strong voice to show us the slow disintegration of a man's strength. By the end of the film he is “poured out like water” and Jackman makes you feel every drop of his life drip away.

Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Kim Kold – Teddy Bear
Mark Duplass – Safety Not Guaranteed
Andy Garcia – For Greater Glory

Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games

Although she has received more accolades for her role as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence needs to be acknowledged for her wonderfully stoic performance in The Hunger Games. Katniss is not a character who wears her heart on her sleeve. She buries her emotions deep down to shelter herself from the horror of her life. Lawrence gives us Katniss' steely exterior, while letting us small cracks in her armor along the way. But when awful heartbreak hits her in the games, the dams break and we see a torrent of agony sweep over her. All the while she carries Katniss with incredible dignity, more dignity that most actresses her age could.

Anne Hathaway – The Dark Knight Rises
Emma Stone – The Amazing Spider-Man
Amy Adams – Trouble With the Curve
Keira Knightly – Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Tom Hardy – The Dark Knight Rises

There is a singular moment in The Dark Knight Rises when I realized how powerful Tom Hardy's performance was as the brutal terrorist Bane. Bane is being confronted by his employer over a change in plans. And without a word, Bane gently lays the back of his hand on the other man's shoulder. Immediately you see all of the power in the room shift. The lightest touch changes the entire dynamic. Hardy had to create a character without using most of his face and also through a partially distorted voice. So much of Bane had to be shown using only body language. And Hardy not only transformed his physique into a literal hulk, but he used every gesture, every posture to convey Bane's menace, to fantastic effect.

Rhys Ivans – The Amazing Spider-Man
Michael Fassbender - Prometheus
John Snieder – October Baby
Russel Crowe -Les Miserables


Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

I usually don't buy into “buzz” when it comes to movies. I find myself departing from many critics regarding what they see as good art. So when I went to see Les Miserables, I knew that there was a lot of “buzz” regarding Hathaway's Fantine, but I ignored it as best I could. And I have to say that the “buzz” is well deserved. Her performance her was the exact opposite of her worldly and confident Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. Her Fantine is the picture of vulnerability. You feel as though the slightest breeze could knock her over. And all the while she takes you step by step through the agony of her life, so that even the smallest ray of hope fills her with so much joy that your heart cannot help but swell.

Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emily Blunt – Looper
Samantha Barks – Les Miserables
Elsbeth Steentoft – Teddy Bear

Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild– Ted

Comedy is very hard to write. In some ways in much more difficult than tragedy. What makes Ted work so well is not just that it is funny (the funniest movie of the year), but that it isn't just a series of gags like you would expect from the producers of Family Guy. Ted has a solid story around it and it is actually about something. It's about growing up. There's a lot to be said about the arrested development of adults in this country, and Ted shows us how life falls apart when we don't grow up. Ted is the symbol of childhood irresponsibility, but he is so appealing despite his detestable behavior. That's because there is a part of us that doesn't want to lose that part of our lives that we know must be sacrificed on the altar of adulthood. And all the while it is conveying these themes, the jokes make you laugh more than most movies.

Tony Kushner - Lincoln
Joss Whedon - The Avengers
Rian Johnson - Looper
Derek Connoly - Safety Not Guaranteed

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

WETA once again demonstrates why they are the master of make-up effects, filling their world with enhancements that are both fantastic and subtle.

The Avengers

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Again, WETA has taken movie special effects to the next level. Especially in 48fps, the digital effects never looked so real.

The Avengers

Sune Martin - Teddy Bear

The score is so simple that it is easy to overlook. But in its simplicity is the heartbreak that is indicative of this fragile little movie.

Mark Silvestri - The Avengers
Geoff Zanelli - The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Howard Shore - The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey
James Horner - The Amazing Spider-Man

This Gift” - The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Glenn Hansard is an incredibly talented musician who puts all of his emotions into his songs, and you can feel it in the song about not letting go of your dreams.
"A Thousand Years" - Twilight: Breaking Dawn pt 2
"Big Machine" - Safety Not Guaranteed

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Not only are the costumes beautiful, but they feel as if they belong in that world. In other words, it never feels like the characters are wearing “costumes” but are wearing the clothes of a bygone culture

The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises

Below are the list of all the films of 2012 that I have seen, ranked in order of excellence:

  1. Les Miserables
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Marvel's The Avengers
  4. Teddy Bear
  5. Argo
  6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  7. Lincoln
  8. Ted
  9. The Hunger Games
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. The Amazing Spider-Man
  12. Skyfall
  13. Safety Not Guaranteed
  14. Pitch Perfect
  15. Looper
  16. Brave
  17. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
  18. John Carter
  19. Snow White and the Huntsman
  20. October Baby (2012)
  21. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
  22. For Greater Glory
  23. The Cabin in the Woods
  24. Here Comes the Boom
  25. This is 40
  26. The Expendables 2
  27. Trouble with the Curve
  28. Prometheus
  29. Premium Rush
  30. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
  31. Silver Linings Playbook
  32. Taken 2
  33. Big Miracle
  34. What to Expect When You're Expecting
  35. The Watch
  36. The Vow
  37. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  38. Cloud Atlas

iMy appreciation and judgment of a film should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility

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