2013 BAFTAs

BAFTA

 

Before I start, I’d like to direct your attention to an excellent website that focuses on all forms of entertainment called Live in Limbo. It’s run by a friend of mine, and it’s well designed, well informed, and sleek in every sense of the word. Definitely check it out here!
http://www.liveinlimbo.com/

Now the BAFTAs are today and, possibly, even any moment now. They are the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and they double as both the UK version of the Academy Awards (in terms of prestigiousness) and the Golden Globes (in terms of covering both movies and television shows).

We’ve got some good nominees this year, and let me stop yapping away so I can actually predict these winners before they actually win or lose. So let’s get started!

Best picture

Argo-It seems to be winning everything so far, and when a movie has such momentum in the awards season, there’s little chance for it to slow down.

Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Zero Dark Thirty

Best British film

Anna Karenina
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Miserables-Well, you know how this game goes. If a film is nominated for Best Picture, chances are it will dominate the smaller “Best Picture” categories, and this is one of them.
Seven Psychopaths
Skyfall

Best director

Ben Affleck, Argo-He was snubbed for an Academy Award nomination, but he will probably win it here (unless I am wrong, which could happen easily), because he’s gotten this award from, again, almost every other awards ceremony.
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best actor

Ben Affleck, Argo
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln-I think it’s safe to say Daniel Day-Lewis is getting the award. Just look up Lincoln on wikipedia and try to prove otherwise at this point. It’s Daniel Plainview all over again!
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best actress

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty-This year is tough when picking between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. I feel like it depends on the ceremony itself. The BAFTAs will take more kindly to Zero Dark Thirty, which is evident based on the amount of nominations it has (including Best Director), and the controversies didn’t hit that side of the pond. The movie itself seems more geared to what BAFTA voters would appreciate in terms of construct and content, but in the end that doesn’t solidify this win. You never know.
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Best supporting actor

Alan Arkin, Argo
Javier Bardem, Skyfall
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln-This is the toughest category to predict this year. I will go with Mr. Lee Jones because, again, sometimes it is the kind of film that cements a win when the competition is so tight, and Lincoln is easily the most BAFTA approachable film here (despite 1] it being about an American president and 2] Skyfall being the BAFTA darling of the year). I’m still going with Tommy.
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best supporting actress

Amy Adams, The Master
Judi Dench, Skyfall
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables-The only other safe option of 2012, Anne Hathaway stole a movie she was barely in, and for good reason. I’d stick with this option, despite the incredible performances by everyone else nominated, especially Amy Adams and Sally Field. This one’s pretty much in the books already.
Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Best original screenplay

Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal Zero Dark Thirty-Foreign films tend to be nominated as a sign of recognition, but in a year where it isn’t a clear definite win, chances are it may not win (look at the brilliant A Separation last year), so Amour could win but I don’t know if it will. Django Unchained may, but chances are it’s another sign of recognition, and I’m not quite sure if it will beat some of the other categories. Moonrise Kingdom is also like Django Unchained in which the dialogue and writing is excellent, but will it surpass the depths of The Master and Zero Dark Thirty? My final pick goes to Zero Dark Thirty because of the push that movie is getting and the lack of promotion The Master has given.
Michael Haneke, Amour
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best adapted screenplay

Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David Magee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook-This too is a tight race, and I’ll give this one to O. Russell, because, yes, the other nominees were terrific, but Silver Linings Playbook was poetic in a literary sense. Life of Pi dominated visually. Beasts of the Southern Wild was immense socially. Lincoln was driving in a political sense. Argo was thrilling as pretty much all of the above. What puts Silver Linings Playbook just a few centimeters ahead, for me, is how down to earth and personal it is whilst being so well written.
Chris Terrio, Argo

Best foreign

Amour: Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz-See what I wrote about the Best British Film. Also, I think it’s obvious at this point.
Headhunters: Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn
The Hunt Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann
Rust and Bone: Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux
Untouchable: Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun

Best documentary

The Imposter: Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis
Marley: Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel
McCullin: David Morris, Jacqui Morris
Searching for Sugar Man: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn- This movie has gotten a lot of buzz because of the connectivity this movie has with its audiences. It’s personal and relatable, as well as being informative.
West of Memphis: Amy Berg

Best animation

Brave: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Frankenweenie: Tim Burton- The fight in this category, from what I’ve seen, is between Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph appears to be absent from the game, so I’m going with the revival of Frankenweenie’s awards race.
ParaNorman: Sam Fell, Chris Butler

Best cinematography

Danny Cohen, Les Miserables
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi-Not just because it was featured in 3-D, or because it’s possibly the best 3-D I’ve seen yet, but because the movie really plays with the visual inter-workings of a starving straggler’s mind out on sea with a tiger as a friend. The movie really takes advantage of what we see through Pi’s eyes. It’s too gorgeous to ignore.

Best editing

Stuart Baird, Skyfall
William Goldenberg, Argo-I’ll go with Argo because the final climax and opening scene were mostly engaging and nerve wracking because of how well the pacing was, and that, my friends, is what good editing can do. While Zero Dark Thirty is a close second, I felt like that was more based on atmosphere and established shots. Argo was made on the connection of these shots instead.
Fred Raskin, Django Unchained
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty

Best production design

Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer: Anna Karenina
Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson: Les Miserables-I have a feeling Les Miserables will dominate these kinds of categories, and rightfully so. The movie was great in these aspects.
David Gropman, Anna Pinnock: Life of Pi
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson: Lincoln
Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock: Skyfall

Best costume design

Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Beatrix Aruna Pasztor, Great Expectations
Paco Delgado, Les Miserables
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln-Having said that, Les Miserables did have great costumes, but Lincoln had pitch perfect costumes. Les Miserables was inventive with how people dressed, but Lincoln brought history to life in many ways, and the costumes were one of those ways. I’m going with Lincoln on this.
Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman

Best make up and hair

Ivana Primorac, Anna Karenina
Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger: Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lisa Westcott, Les Miserables-I may go with Les Miserables here because of the many eccentric characters that were pieced together in the trailer behind the set. Also a lot of the grieving, wounded citizens during the duration of the film probably deserve some credit, don’t you think?
Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou: Lincoln

Best sound

Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman: Django Unchained
Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst: Les Miserables-It’s a musical that broke ground in terms of recording. I think it’s safe to go with this one.
Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill: Life of Pi
Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers: Skyfall

Best original music

Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi-Danna seems to be doing well in the awards race, and I don’t see why that would stop anytime soon (unless Newman and Skyfall steals it from him).
John Williams, Lincoln
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

Best special visual effects

Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley: The Dark Knight Rises
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth:Prometheus
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer: Life of Pi-Prometheus was stunning, The Avengers was fun, The Hobbit was nostalgic and The Dark Knight Rises was epic. But Life of Pi made believe that a tiger was really there, amongst the many other incredible things going on. I’ll go with the wonders of a Richard Parker that was never really there for the most part.
Nominees TBC: Avengers Assemble

Best short animation

Here to Fall: Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath-I won’t lie I haven’t seen any of these, and Paperman is not here, so I’m going to guess. I hope you aren’t betting money with my picks!
I’m Fine Thanks: Eamonn O’Neill
The Making of Longbird: Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

Best short film

The Curse: Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries
Good Night: Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir-The only one I’ve seen, so rightfully so, it’s the only one I can kind of pass judgement on, right? 
Swimmer: Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw
Tumult: Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews
The Voorman Problem: Mark Gill, Baldwin Li

Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer

Bart Layton (Director), Dimitri Doganis (Producer), The Imposter-This movie’s gotten a lot of publicity and praise, so I’m going to go with this one.
David Morris (Director), Jacqui Morris (Director/Producer), McCullin
Dexter Fletcher (Director/Writer), Danny King (Writer), Wild Bill
James Bobin (Director), The Muppets
Tina Gharavi (Director/Writer), I Am Nasrine

The EE Rising Star award (voted for by public)

Elizabeth Olsen
Andrea Riseborough
Suraj Sharma-This guy basically pulled off 127 Hours with a CGI tiger in a boat. I’m sorry. That’s pretty damn difficult to do. He’s already getting praise for his work and I can see many movies in store for him.
Juno Temple
Alicia Vikander

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Gangster Squad

gangster-squad-poster-has-a-b-movie-vibe-117331-1000-100                                                                  Rating: 2.8/10
Flashy? Definitely. Sexy? Unquestionably. Captivating? Not in the slightest. Gangster Squad is a visually thrilling film where you just want to see the next explosion Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has or the next big shoot out. You strive to see the actors doing their jobs with finesse but even they cannot hide you from the problems this movie has. It’s been painted layer after layer after layer to try and hide the basic foundations that are supposed to be the structure of this movie. In the end, the structure that is there may as well have been made out of toothpicks. It’s so embarrassingly thin, and it’s a damn shame because the cast is absolutely terrific, the special effects are rather nice, the styles the movie has going for it are stunning and there is a nice constant pace to keep the movie going along.

He didn't take his divorce from Robin Wright too well...

He didn’t take his divorce from Robin Wright too well…

How can a movie with so much good in it be rated so low? How could such a promising film with such class and such pizazz be considered such a miss? There are two fundamental reasons as to why this movie misses the mark. The first reason is that the story just isn’t good enough. It’s so incredibly cliched and expected. Everything visually is above and beyond the story, and truth be told, it’s extremely noticeable. It’s almost as if the minds behind this movie came up with a great cast that would look and act like gangsters well and they knew it’d be thrilling, so they instantly tied it to a true story about a criminal and tossed the script out into the open to let the actors flock towards it and suddenly they had a movie. It seems like all of the thought went into the production and not the pre-production. The ending result could have been brilliant if they worked more on getting there. The trailer was so promising, and that’s exactly the problem. The trailer isn’t a full movie (obviously), and it can be reworked to take out all flaws of such a movie (again, obviously). With a movie like Gangster Squad whose only problem is the story, it’s almost virtually impossible to spot out a bad film from a trailer. Congratulations, you guys. You sold us a movie that may as well have been a cut out of a Lamborghini placed in front of a bicycle.

"If you don't have a shot in the next five to ten minutes, you're on your own."

“If you don’t have a shot in the next five to ten minutes, you’re on your own.”

But before we get into the biggest problem of the movie, let’s look at the good aspects of this movie. We have a well acted villain who is seemingly unstoppable because of his stature in society, despite the crimes he’s committed. We have an honest hero who only wants to do what is right (both lawfully and morally) who starts a team to bring down said criminal. That’s nice and all, and really remarkable. It’s nice to have a refreshing story like this.

Oh wait it isn’t refreshing. Well, perhaps in the larger picture it isn’t, but in this context, where the underdogs end up becoming the forces to reckon with themselves and suddenly the villain has to take action, it is a nice touch and it’s not something I’ve personally seen before.

Oh wait, yes I have.

Good lord when did Anthony Mackie turn into a white middle aged... whatever nationality Malone is?

Good lord when did Anthony Mackie turn into a white middle aged… whatever nationality Malone is?

The only time the story in Gangster Squad is remotely captivating is when it’s, let’s face it, pretty much stealing from Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. You replace De Niro and Capone with Penn and Cohen. You replace Costner with Brolin. You replace The Untouchables (a title given to this group of underdogs by the media) with the Gangster Squad (a title given to this group of underdogs by the media). There are many more similarities (right down to a specific scene that is way too closely specific to be coincidental) but there’s no point. Once something is established as a rip off, it’s blatantly a rip off. You can go into the many other ways it’s stealing from something else or the many ways it is different in its own right. Once there are too many similarities for comfort, then the credibility is already lost and basically unsalvageable.

Now what you may be thinking is that both are based on true stories about their respective criminals (Al Capone and Mickey Cohen), which you’d be correct in thinking. If the stories are similar, technically it’s hard to avoid any similarities in the final product. Perhaps, apart from the fact that De Palma infamously included events that didn’t happen in real life (that were criticized by anyone relating to the real events) and, what a coincidence, Gangster Squad had them too (that specific scene I mentioned earlier being an example). Also, if the crew behind Gangster Squad were quick enough to get rid of a scene and reshoot it just to be as “violent” as the original (not my words, by the way), I think it’s safe to say that Gangster Squad isn’t entirely accurate either to begin with. I know this was to avoid the comparisons to the tragic shootings at the cinema during the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, and I have to honour that, but it’s just an example I have to make explicit because of the flaws the movie has and how they are in fact inexcusable. I am not shaming them for working around a scene during a fragile time in the United States. I am shaming them for the blatant theft of another movie.

The new scene was, like, it was photoshopped or something.

The new scene was, like, it was photoshopped or something.

Whether you’ve seen The Untouchables or not, the movie is still flat by itself. It may even be kind of enjoyable if you are none the wiser of The Untouchables, which should be seen itself; It’s heartfelt, full of cheesy awkward lines that only add to the humanistic characters that somehow made a difference in the world, and it’s full of love for the original story and filmmaking. However, if you do find the “strong” parts that Gangster Squad steals from The Untouchables enjoyable, that’s your privilege and I wish I was in your shoes. I wish I liked this movie, but when it wasn’t stale, it was copied. The originality in this story barely speaks about anything, and when the movie has something to say, it includes footnotes from another, better, movie that already had its say in the film world and did a fine job with it. In the end, all style and no say makes Gangster Squad a dull film.

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Let’s Rant: Zero Dark Thirty Controversy

In a new video segment I have started called “Let’s Rant”, kind of like a Let’s Play but not even remotely, I will discuss current controversies and issues with films/movies. This isn’t to rant about bad movies. This is to rant about the industry or poor decisions or whatever I feel is necessary to discuss and alert people about.

My first Let’s Rant video will be about the recent want to boycott Zero Dark Thirty from winning any awards and here’s what I have to say about it.

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Les Misérables

leswpid-les-miserables-movie-poster-large                                                                    Rating: 7.3/10

Oh what an emotional treat this movie was. You could feel the happiness of the victorious fighters during the French Revolution. You felt the sadness for the fighters that straggled behind. You experienced life and death, all sung through song (only a handful of lines are actually spoken), and the music that carries the movie soars above everyone as they anchor it down through their acting. Two of the biggest surprises were Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, and for different reasons. Jackman is known for being a talented Broadway actor, so it only seemed natural for him to star in a musical. However musical movies are not Broadway productions, and the nice thing is that Jackman realizes this. He caters to the movie audience, the audience that pays attention to small intricacies and to personal reflection; not the theatre audience that look for how one takes advantage of the stage and the auditorium. Jackman makes Jean Valjean a believable force on screen, although he seems to command both the very start and the very end of the movie. He is still quite moving in the middle of the movie, but his suffering as an ill prisoner is very hard to shake out of your mind, and thus the middle section acts as Valjean running away from his past.

"Mr., what is Van Helsing?" "Don't ask..."

“Mr., what is Van Helsing?” “Don’t ask…”

Hathaway, of whom has been bombarded with hatred and mockery for years now, is the real focal point of this film, though. All those years of the second Princes Diaries, her Oscar gig with James Franco, her accent in One Day, and even her recent nudity slip; gone. She never uses her real life pain to channel through to her performance of Fantine, either. No. This pain and anguish comes from somewhere else, somewhere otherworldly. It’s a rarity to see on screen, and it’s a shame that she seems to come and go because her suffering (and Jackman’s, too) are the highlights of the movie. You never quite feel the effects of the struggling French nation like you do with these two characters. You figured you’d feel the authority of France through Russel Crowe, but sadly that is not the case, as another emotion you will feel during this movie (in a few ways, not just with this character) is annoyance. His character feels like it was glued onto the reel and dubbed over the soundtrack. He feels like a non-diegetic cameo, almost. He is good at what he does, but in a completely different movie. When everyone else rumbles through their singing, Crowe instead cheers, and it is very unlike any of the other performances. It really is not his fault, either. I feel that there were some silly directing decisions, and this was one of them.

baron cohen and bonham carter

Combining Sweeney Todd with Alice in Wonderland wasn’t a good idea either.

Another case of bad directing meeting honest performances is with the comedic pair of Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter, who are hilarious and captivating. Now, the direction at fault here isn’t that of the director in this case, but rather that of the script, oddly enough. These characters had no saving graces. We laughed at them, sure, but we still disliked them as people. Every time they are on screen, you just know that someone will have to put up with their nuisances. They are just bad morally. That’s it. With the crimes committed by others, you can feel them second guessing and you can sense that they are only doing this to survive. Now, sure these two characters may have been that way before until they became comfortable with just being conniving and sly, but showing that transition would be lovely. Oh, speaking of transitions, there aren’t any visually.

Well they don't look too misera-okay I'll wait two minutes.

Well they don’t look too misera-okay I’ll wait two minutes.

The editing is beyond sloppy. It’s beyond choppy. It’s a categorical nightmare at times, even. The cinematography is actually stunning and brilliant, and I’ll be damned to call it some of the best of the year. I had my reason for not mentioning this earlier, though. It’s because you can barely enjoy it most of the time. Honestly, some of the best shots in the movie clock in under a second (or even half a second). This goes for almost every scene, and it’s a shame because this movie could have been ten times better with a chance to breathe, relax, and take in what we’re seeing. There are even moments where I had to actually think back as to what I just saw just to understand the purpose of that scene. I had to question what main characters were doing, and how we got from point a to point b. In a musical, where the music carries plot (especially this movie, where the majority of it is sung), you can’t have people trying to backtrack what is happening. You need to keep going forward and you need people to be along side you. When people are busy reflecting on the past or wondering what just happened, you lose your matching paces.

Fantine

I won’t even go into how much this brilliant scene stands out so early on

What helps, and is eventually the saving grace of this movie, is the music that ties everything together like a tapestry. Every scene feels like its own music video, so watching this film as a cohesive narrative may not benefit you so much. Watching this film as a visual, moving soundtrack is where you will get the most out of this movie. Watching the performances for what they convey and not necessarily how the story benefits from them will suffice, and it’s not as if the original story is weak. It is a classic work of literature. Will this movie be remembered as a classic? Sadly, it could have been. For now, it’s just a pretty good movie with some excellent qualities and some forgettable aspects and lastly some hindering moments. It is far from perfect but it is carried along by passion and by love; there is love for acting, for music and singing, for art and for Les Misérables. Many may love this movie, but I didn’t. Did I love the soundtrack? Undeniably. Did I love some of the performances? Without a doubt. The movie experimented a lot, and you can never shut down those who try something different even when they occasionally fall flat.

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What’s this? A new YouTube channel?

Yes it is, inquisitive headline!

Thanks to the 22’000 of you that have stumbled upon my blog, I am humbled and thrilled that my work is being noticed. Because of this, I wish to buff my blog by injecting it with steroids. I’m going to upgrade this blog to Pro shortly and have made a YouTube channel!

I’ll explain how things will work in this video, but basically I’m going to try and update it weekly.

Watch and try to enjoy. It isn’t exactly riveting (yet), but it’s just a welcome video to all of you and a big thanks to everyone for their support!

But really, who cares, right?

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Top 20 Films of 2012

The year started off oh so slowly but boy did it end with a bang. In fact, I have been panicking to find some of these movies at the last minute because of how late they have been released and how hard some are to find. As I did with the other list, I apologize if any of you wanted to see any specific movies with me, but I’m dying to rewatch all of these as soon as I can, so do not fret! If you want some movies to watch for 2013 when the worst three months of cinema (where all of the movies no one thought deserved any form of nominations are released) are (apart from Zero Dark Thirty’s wide release and possibly Gangster Squad, that looks terrific), here is a list of the top 20 movies that blew my mind in 2012!

But first, for those who are dying to ask questions (all two of you), here are some Quick 5’s:

Honorable Mentions
1) Skyfall
2) End of Watch
3) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4) Cosmopolis
5) Wreck-It Ralph

Best cinematography
1) The Master
2) Moonrise Kingdom
3) Life of Pi
4) Passion
5) Tabu

Best Writing
1) Zero Dark Thirty
2) Django Unchained
3) Silver Linings Playbook
4) The Master
5) The Sessions

Best music
1) Django Unchained
2) The Master
3) Beasts of the Southern Wild
4) Les Miserables
5) Frankenweenie

Worst movies of the year (that I’ve seen)
1) The Apparition
2) Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance
3) Battleship
4) John Carter
5) The Three Stooges

With all of that out of the way, I will now proceed with

My Top 20 Films of 2012

Rust and Bone

20. Rust and Bone [De Rouille et D’os]

He is a fighter, she is a whale trainer. He is a low tempered, selfish brute, she is an independent worker but open for care. They both have passions that are risky, and she is the one that faces that reality first. Rust and Bone takes place in modern day France, where the economy world wide is terrible and everybody, from the unemployed, those that work in supermarkets, and even those that work at Marineland, are affected. Ali puts his body and his reputation at risk to support his five year old son, while Stéphanie struggles to face the world with her new reputation. These two stories combine as both characters become bigger assets to each others lives. Ali makes Stéphanie feel comfortable with herself, and Stéphanie makes Ali realize his terrible ways and his wasting of his own life. Ali loves having his body beaten up and pummeled, yet Stéphanie feels so protective of her body, before and after her accident at Marineland. This movie works because of its parallels. That’s why someone so unlikeable as Ali works, because Stéphanie makes him face reality. That’s why someone as damaged as Stéphanie works, because Ali instills strength back in her life. The final comparison of many is the title itself, where the world around us, especially during an economy crisis, may die, but our reputations as people, deep down, shall not.

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19. Prometheus

After the hundreds of questions, some legitimate and others conjured up for the sake of extending a list, that people had about Prometheus, now here arrives another: Why is this movie on my list? Movies can either answer all questions or they can be left open. A movie that does both is usually a bad one. Prometheus is courageous because it forces you to ask questions, and many are not answered. In the end, do they have to be? Many questions are answered outside of the movie through hidden websites, online campaigns, and as of the home releases, a smart phone application. This polarizing movie, of which I happened to thoroughly enjoy even with the occasional silliness and open ended style, can be called anything as long as one admits to it being bold. The environment created is breathtaking, the acting of some of the leads, especially Michael Fassbender, is captivating, and the overall idea is pretty wonderful. Many of the questions people have are asked outside of the movie (why did they accept to go on some mission blindly, what was the ritual at the beginning, what happened during the climax, etc.), and the plot holes that can’t be answered may be a bit annoying, but in the end Prometheus works in the moment as if we are on the mission with the main characters, and while many may not agree with the film’s direction, I certainly find the movie ballsy for its approach, and that alone deserves some kudos.

cabinboard__span

18. The Cabin in the Woods

We haven’t had a good horror movie in quite some time. The Cabin in the Woods laughs in the face of horror and, like something Penn and Teller would do, “reveals” all about the world of horror films while one upping any horror release that has come out within the past few years. It starts off as a parody, where all of the token elements are shown (typical young adults going to an isolated area for fun. What could go wrong?), and as these elements are being messed around with, we are introduced to an organization that runs the way horror movies are unveiled (only in this film it’s a reality). Is this company Hollywood? Is the need to fulfill this task inevitability from originality running dry, or greed through working with a rewarding formula? Much like the ways in the film, this film changes from a spoof to a legitimate drama with deep questions, which is quite bizarre for such a silly movie. You will even feel sorry for “the bad guys”, as the film progresses and you figure out the reason for everything. As virtually every nightmare you can think of gets unleashed and a standard way of life turns into a game with betting and “giving what the customer wants”, The Cabin in the Woods may poke fun at horror movies, but it shows its true intentions through us; The biggest monster of all is, oddly enough, man.

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17. Argo

 

Saving the lives of others can sometimes be seemingly impossible, because all of the clear options cannot work. That’s when the most bizarre ideas work and make anything work. Argo was the title of a fake movie, but now this movie title, that was once based on a spaceship, represents the absolutely insane plan that rescued hostages during the revolution in Iran. Argo starts off with a jaw dropping opening scene, eases into a dark comedy where the film itself laughs at the very idea of such an insane plan working, and then it bursts into a spine tingling second half that does not stop for a break. It begins to believe in itself, and the characters that were bold enough to attempt this plan keep the movie steady and uplifting. Argo works on speed; Quick line delivery, quick action execution, quick results. Its story is quick, but its morals and its characters progress gracefully as the story ventures forth. They don’t examine themselves as people as much as they examine themselves as a necessity to a larger picture. Argo is a burst of tension and victory not just because of its unique story, but also because of the inspiring gang of four that inhabit it and protect all around them, as they keep calm and in command when the rest of us freak out along with the ticking of the clock.

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16. Looper

Nothing like a good old fashioned Western that takes place in the future. Remember Cowboys vs. Aliens? The concept was pretty cool but it wasn’t executed too well. Looper may not have aliens, but it sure does have futuristically foreign concepts. It may not have cowboys either, but in this post apocalyptic and empty future, the concept of the lone outlaw fending for his or her self still rings true. The unholy and disfigured here are psychics, the long journeys in the open lands are done with time travel instead and the search for identity ends with one going back in time and killing themselves. Much like the art of time travel itself, the movie is so quick and cut throat at first, but it relaxes and takes its time in its second half once it, like Gordon-Levitt’s character, realizes that it has to face the inevitable truth. Gordon-Levitt’s character faces himself, played by Willis, from the future. The movie faces those that will find something to question about the methods of time travel. It answers all that it can, and leaves the rest of the movie for people to either pick apart the logic or to enjoy the ride given to us. Those willing to pick it apart will probably have missed an emotional look at identity and a statement of the greed ridden failing future. Those willing to enjoy the ride would be touched by said story. Either way, both audiences would most likely want to travel back and experience it again.

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15. The Sessions

 

This touching true story, based on an essay by Mark O’Brien himself, is a wonderful tribute to the bold man himself. It is wise with its revelations and its pacing, as it never rushes the discoveries O’Brien makes nor does it drag on to get us to feel depressed for what is going on rather than wowed. It documents a personal time in a fragile life, where a man paralyzed from the neck down because of polio confronts his vulnerability and humanistic desires and wishes to lose his virginity. The event itself may seem awkward, but the charming and touching performances by Hawkes, Hunt and Macy make the connections between the characters approachable and qualitative. You can see that everybody on board with this project wanted to do the original essay justice, as they were all clearly moved by it themselves. This is one of those rare instances where a man’s story, no matter who he is, is engaging and full of awe, and thus warrants a film for all to see. It’s barely about his life, in fact. It’s about a moment in his life, and yet we learn all about him through these moments, where he opens up to all with such courage and such honesty. The Sessions isn’t about a handicapped man trying to lose his virginity. It is about a man fighting his fears and overcoming his obstacles while being so humble and so lively and so forgiving of his inner self and his body.

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14. The Dark Knight Rises

 

The biggest challenge here was following The Dark Knight; a groundbreaking film when it comes to comic book movies. So why not have a villain that is the polar opposite of The Joker? The Joker is thin and clumsy, Bane is steady and massive. The Joker worked off of nothing and unpredictability, and Bane had a set goal in mind from the very start. Nolan refused to duplicate the chaos and animalistic nature of The Dark Knight, as well as the more personal structure of Batman Begins, as The Dark Knight Rises works through triumph and celebration. People complain about Bruce Wayne’s abilities to come back and they question how he even returned. That’s the power of Nolan’s trilogy. It’s so realistic and captivating on a societal sense, that we often forget that it is not only a work of fiction, but even a work of fantasy. That doesn’t explain the latter, and I can’t explain that. Yes, The Dark Knight Rises may be flawed, but it is still powerful for the most part and so engaging. The plot and story get completed, Wayne’s character structure gets completed, amongst the structures of the other characters both old and new, and most importantly Nolan’s message about society gets completed. We learned about the importance one can have in society. We learned about the unpredictable nature of greed and societal collapse. Now, we learn about the anonymity that can save our struggling society and not just some sole figure, making this trilogy not only thrilling, but also a big statement of our times.

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13. Passion

 

People have been confused about this film. Is it supposed to be funny? Why does it change so drastically halfway through? Why on earth are they fighting over a camera that shows how many people stare at a woman’s ass? If you are not used to De Palma’s purposeful campiness, switcheroos, and complete absurdity by now, decades into his career, you may never be used to it. Passion may alienate those who are easily skeptical about films that aren’t squeaky clean or easily forgiving, but that’s kind of what is magical about it. If you are willing to accept everything in this twisted film, then you’re in for a roller coaster of emotions. The movie works like a living, breathing photo shoot in a fashion magazine, where even the credit font seems pulled out of Vogue. The acting is both over the top and extremely realistic at times. The music seems unoriginal, yet moving. Passion is a statement of the world and its fondness for sugar coating and hiding behind wealth, sex and materialism. It makes fun of it, it shows the severities of it, and it puts a De Palma spin on it. De Palma even makes fun of his own style in this movie. Yes, Passion may be as acquired of a taste as the pleasures of the kinds of people the movie makes fun of, and I may be the only person who truly enjoyed this movie, but the movie stuck with me for a very long time after seeing it, and if I am silly for ranking this film so high on this list, then so be it.

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12. Tabu

 

Life sure is odd, isn’t it? We think we have Aurora all figured out; She’s just some arrogant old stick in the mud that has no concept of money and is slowly beginning to talk nonsense. We give Aurora the cold shoulder as her housemaid and her next door neighbor have to keep fixing her mistakes. We don’t even see the majority of them, but we can tell, through the frustration of those around her, that she is constantly an issue. That’s Aurora in a nutshell, right? Tabu is lovely because most of it is not even a flashback, but a poetic retelling of ones life by someone else. Aurora’s senility and her characteristics are explained through a stunningly shot retreat back to a farm near the mountain of Tabu, where the threat of the Portuguese Colonial War looms and crocodiles represent pets and friends that are willing to turn on you. The movie never resorts to being a sentimental ode to Aurora. Once her story of her life in 2010 and 2011 is told, that’s the end of it. The film never tries to refer back to how she is now, because that rendition of her character is finished with. Tabu works wonders in her native land instead, as if both were separate stories of the same person that connect seamlessly. This is one of the more demanding films of 2012, but if you have patience with the humanistic story being told and the images provided as if they were a moving scrapbook, Tabu will become an artistic statement on the study of character, and a dive into life as more than just a story.

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11. Silver Linings Playbook

 

Every year or so, there is a romantic comedy or dramedy that is refreshing, innovative, and exciting. Silver Linings Playbook is that film of 2012. This movie teeters along the edge of sensitivity and hilarity without being disrespectful, and the heartfelt cast is to thank for this. Bradley Cooper, finally being able to show the potential we all knew he had, is a man trying to restart his life while suffering from bipolar disorder. With that in mind, the movie never pokes fun at this disorder or overly exploits it. It’s more about cherishing his will to keep going or to fight against it. He finds a connection through Tiffany, expertly acted by the young and unstoppable force herself Jennifer Lawrence. They share their problems and their eccentricities with each other, and we share our own with them. This isn’t a love story built on a challenge or on luck, or even on a mission. This is a love story built on human nature and loss, whether it be the loss of one’s self worth or the loss of a loved one. This film could have easily fallen into either the pool of silliness or the pool of depression, but instead it walks past both while dipping its hand in either or to get a sense of both. It’s light but not too light, it’s funny but not judgmental, it’s moving but not hating, and it’s unique but very familiar. It isn’t easy to make a film for everyone without being painfully formulaic, but this movie reminds us that it isn’t impossible.

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10. Safety Not Guaranteed

 

Memes can either be clever and remarkable or downright grating. It was black and white before. Now with Safety Not Guaranteed, some memes can be actually given life and rejoiced as a studied entity. Based on a real newspaper advertisement from the 90’s, and made famous during the recent internet age, this movie takes a very questionable printed request for a partner to time travel with, where the person asking states that they have done it before, and that weapons are probably necessary. This movie could have been silly and absolutely appalling as really, this is an entire movie based on one funny thing that isn’t even really a joke. Instead, this movie is charming, hilarious whilst being appropriate to this subject, and actually very deep. What if people who make weird requests like this are not psychotic? What is the backstory of people like this? Do they have motives for attempting the impossible? What would it be like to befriend people like this, of whom are shunned from society? This movie answers all of this, with lovable performances from even the scummiest of characters. It is worth noting that you truly believe everything Kenneth says, like Darius does, and you don’t even really know if he is right. Safety Not Guaranteed is not only a superb, and actually gripping, dramady, but it is also proof that even the shallowest of modern day jokes can be given heart if one truly thinks past the obvious.

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9. Frankenweenie

 

Oh the things that can be said about this movie. To get the obvious out of the way, this is Tim Burton’s best film in years. No contest. Not even remotely. It is his most personal and heartfelt since Edward Scissorhands, his biggest homage to film since Ed Wood, and his best recent film since Sweeney Todd (of which this film bests). You have the many tributes to the story of Frankenstein, but also many tributes of science, mythology, and even B-movie monster mayhem. This film could have just stuck with being about a boy and his dog, but it takes the questions about life and death and science to another level. They could have saved the obvious plot threads until the end, but Burton expands as quickly as possible, always keeping the movie alive much like Victor’s quest to have his dog live again. It’s intriguing for kids, very well thought out for adults, and funny for all ages. The models are so gorgeous to look at because they are the closest things to Burton’s drawings coming alive. They aren’t too grande like in his other stop motion films, of which are good in their own right, but are instead very personal and very appropriate with the movie’s theme of whether or not one should let go of what they cling on to as children. Burton may have released some questionable films in the past, even one this year, but Frankenweenie is proof that through trial and error, if you keep doing what you love, it has to work sometime, and the result is this surprisingly touching tale of eccentric charm.

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8. Lincoln

We know the story. We know the history. We know the man. We know his legacy. We didn’t know the potential until this film. Instead of a full scope of his life, we are given the finer details during the time that President Lincoln vowed to abolish slavery and end the Civil War. We can cherish the efforts and excelling patience of Lincoln with so much more intimacy with a film like this, that works on the grande scope of his achievements and not the grande scope of his life. Nothing is just glanced over. Spielberg’s heart and passion shines through this movie without turning it into something candy coated; treating it with the dignity it deserves and the admiration it thrives on. We get a personal look into the White House and what occurred inside of it. We get a superb recounting of history as more than a costume drama. We get a moving, thrilling rendition of something we already knew but could never bring ourselves to imagine in such a way. We get the heroic story of Abraham Lincoln in the biopic of the year, and we don’t have to look forward to another about this story for a while; Not when it almost literally comes to life in front of you.

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7. Moonrise Kingdom

 

If you need an introduction to Wes Anderson’s best work, it’s usually bizarre to suggest the newest film of one’s career, but Moonrise Kingdom is both a fantastic welcoming to his style and the top of his talents thus far. This curious tale, that works like something Roald Dhal would make if he worked with a camera, is the funniest film of the year. It’s the kind of comedy that ages well and is better with repeat viewings, almost like the first viewing is one of fantasy and wonder, and every viewing after works like the story being retold to your friends. The moments with the adults feel like a hysterical play, and the moments with the two leads like one of Suzy’s mystical coming-of-age novels. In the end this film, in signature blue and yellow fashion, has jokes of many dimensions (silly jokes for kids, very dark jokes for adults, irony for all, all through dialogue and visuals) but they all feel natural and very humane. From veteran actors of old to a look into the possible future generation of actors, Moonrise Kingdom is full of talent and is, unquestionably, an affectionate piece for all.

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6. Django Unchained

 

Ruthless. Sly. Rewarding. Challenging. This is the emotional struggle of a slave that finally has the break he has been begging for to rescue his wife and get his life of freedom he has longed for. Aided by a foreign bounty hunter, Django dives head first into the life of vengeance, lawful hunting and gun slinging. This is the ultimate film Tarantino has wanted to make his entire life, and his first (and hopefully not last) Spaghetti Western is the most thrilling movie of the year, with some of the most memorable heroes, unforgettable villains, and the best dialogue all year. The language is shocking and the violence brutal, but you are kept on your toes for virtually the entire movie, as you experience the tip toe threatening situations Django and Schultz may have faced, being a freed slave and the man that freed him. The film is a tribute to the best Spaghetti Westerns (with its muted 60’s style flash back scenes and its Ennio Morricone inspired, and supplied, soundtrack) as well as a modern rendition that combines how far the war on racism has come (featuring the odd rap number, somehow perfectly fit into the score). Carrying the triumphs and glory of the new wave of Westerns in the 60s, the snappy and witty dialogue of the modern age (partially created by Tarantino himself in the early 90’s), the characters that ruled blaxploitation films (the last name “Shaft” wasn’t a coincidence) and the rush of an action movie, Django Unchained is a rooted-yet-off-the-walls Western that will only age better with time and revisits.

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5. Zero Dark Thirty

 

The Hurt Locker, being one of the best movies of the past decade, jumped out of nowhere and blew everybody away. When Osama Bin Laden was finally captured and murdered this year, the duo behind The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal) instantly began working on a film called “Kill Bin Laden”. This, however, surprisingly did not come out of nowhere. Boal has been struggling to write a movie about hunting Bin Laden for quite some time now, and this event is what finalized his story once and for all. It was finally completed, and immediately it was worked on. For a film made in under a year, this historical epic is baffling. How could a film made with such a short time frame be so captivating and so gripping? The heart and soul of Bigelow and Boal drive the movie with patriotic admiration, but not too much to avoid drowning the movie. The characters of whom we know little about are introduced to us by stellar performances guided by determination. The fear that drips from every corner of the screen, despite us knowing the ending of it all, makes the movie zoom past you as the dirty work is done by the trustworthy team on screen, saving you in the process. The Hurt Locker was described as a miracle and a one-hit wonder. Zero Dark Thirty, which can be described as the bigger, more orthodox partner of that movie, is proof that it wasn’t. Sometimes when you have the right team, it isn’t impossible to strike gold again, especially when the second time around becomes a more personal and challenging attempt.

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4. Amour

 

If Moonrise Kingdom is the movie about celebrating youthfulness, Amour is the movie that celebrates longevity. It is always difficult to watch a film about one person going through deterioration, never mind two. Anne becomes paralyzed on one side of her body and she slowly withers away. Georges continues to help her as much as he can, but he too is well beyond his years and is finding every subsequent challenge more and more difficult. Their chemistry is what keeps them trying, and it’s what keeps us optimistic. It is incredibly hard to make such a heavy movie and have the audience still feeling hopeful, and that’s what Amour does. Situations may not get better, but they are made the best they can be. What really gives this film a boost is how realistic it is for the majority of the time, and how Haneke sprinkles poetic fragility at moments to truly emphasize moments. This is a story about a couple facing the inevitability of life and death, as they both weigh the options of what actions they should take; George acting for the both of them and Anne hanging on as best as she can. Last year, the action packed thrillers ruled. This year, it seems that French language films have taken the reign, and this Austrian, French and German produced film is an example of how universal the concept of will power is, as Amour is the greatest film about love I have seen in quite some time.

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3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

 

In a community known as the Bathtub, Beasts of the Southern Wild creates a story similar to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Here, we are guided by a young girl named Hushpuppy who is both too young to understand but also smart for her age and can understand some things she shouldn’t. She understands life, and her importance as a person and not just someone’s kid. She understands death, and the impossibility to escape it, of which she still tries her best to refuse. She understands danger, and how to stare it in the face. This story is so unique because it is not only the concept of a disaster and a struggling community through the eyes of an imaginative child, but it also shows a different perspective on natural disasters. What if people didn’t want to be helped by volunteers? What if people knew they wouldn’t have a good future anyways and they wished to spend it together as a community and not in some facility (of which Hushpuppy compares to a fish tank without water)? This story blurs harsh realities with fantasy as Hushpuppy imagines large animals known as Aurochs stampeding, of which she was taught about at school. Whether these creatures exist in this story or not, Hushpuppy becomes ready to take on the world and all of its battles, while we experience one of the boldest movies of the year. Keep an eye out for Benh Zeitlin. If this is his first feature film, I can’t even fathom what he can accomplish with experience.

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2. Life of Pi

 

This exhilarating tale of survival and spirit was deemed impossible to film when it was simply a terrific novel. Ang Lee, the director that dabbles in all styles and genres, put this story to the test and created a gorgeous miracle of a movie. This “impossible” movie not only works, but it works so with such exuberance and beauty. The concept of spirituality and religion is a largely used theme here, transforming this modern day fable into something more than just a tale of survival. Whether you know the main character as Pi or as Piscine, his true story with a tiger named Richard Parker and an assortment of other animals or the made up story to get others to understand, some sort of recognition will ring true to people, much like religion. That’s why Pi believes in so many religions, and that’s why he had such a connection with the animal kingdom that others doubted was possible. Pi’s backstory before his test of survival work as a basis of building his character, so we can understand his strengths and weaknesses much like he himself can. We follow Pi through his many religious awakenings and questionings, so the journey is more than just surviving such harsh living conditions but also a survival of mentality and internal strength. Life of Pi is not just a huge accomplishment, it is a living, breathing story book that remains a breathtaking piece of art.

 

 

 

 

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1. The Master

What happens when you put a mind that is so damaged against a cult that is known for brainwashing many people? How does a mind so perverted and loathing get influenced by a cult that manipulates on love and goodness? When a man is stuck in one position and is slowly killing himself mentally, can he be saved by an organization that freezes you into one way of thinking? Will he truly be saved? You can go on for hours with The Master, the best film of 2012. The amount of depth and analysis going on within this film is nearly impossible to calculate within the first watch. In fact, I’m sure there are many aspects to these questions that I have missed and will need to revisit. There is no standard way to tell this story. There is no way to capsulate it and ship it off to Hollywood. Like a boat capsizing, this movie is a non stop panic to find clarity within life and within the mind of Freddie Quell. Freddie, the antihero of the year, is despicable and vile. We like him because we, like The Cause, want to see him get well again. We love him because we, the flawed people of the world, see ourselves within this character, as we are reminded that anybody can be so mentally deranged if life gets the better of them. We love The Cause, despite its blatant flaws and manipulations, because we feel sorry for those within it and we congratulate their efforts and their willpower. The Master never kicks Scientology to the curb. Yes, we know that most people hate this religion and we all know what they think about it. Instead, The Master doesn’t go the obvious route and it instead tries to get us to level with the people within such an organization. I hate to admit it, but it succeeds.

The music frames this movie with dread, quirk and mental collapse. The cinematography captures this movie as a vision of life as a brilliant creation being trodden on by a grumpy hunch-backed demon. The water surrounding this movie like a moat reminds us just how easily one can drift off somewhere else; somewhere distant. It also reminds us about how easy one can drown, as Freddie dangles above the sea without even caring. Why should he care? Life is only so long. Why can’t he be in his own world? If he is happy, what is wrong with that? It’s only when people defile his world that he gets violent, right? Then again, why sympathize with someone so short tempered and explosive if he gives almost nothing back to those that help him?

The Master is a visual and analytical study about human nature, about cinematic characters, about religion, about psychology and about life itself. The Master is a brilliantly acted, brilliantly shot, brilliantly scored, and brilliantly directed piece of, well, brilliance. I have missed this movie since seconds after leaving the theatre. This is not a typical movie. This is not your basic story. This is a risky film that dares to defy what a movie can represent and how life can be represented. It was my most anticipated film of the year, and did it ever go over my expectations. The Master is a movie that will grow with time and will stand out more as the years go by. For now, I think recognizing it as my top film of 2012 will suffice, as I await watching it again and again as soon as I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 20 Performances of 2012

Right so I did kind of go out of the guidelines here and include a bit more, but oh well! I think I justified myself rather well. Basically these are the top 20 or so performances of the year in my opinion. I aplogize in advanced if there was a movie or two I saw before I saw it with one of you, but I felt it was necessary to finish this before 2013 for… whatever reason. But I would love to rewatch these because, well, I put them on a best of list didn’t I?

So with that in mind, I present to you these fine actors with what I feel are:

The Top 20 Performances of 2012

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20. Bruce Willis-Captain Sharp (Moonrise Kingdom)

Bruce Willis kicked some serious ass in Looper this year. He ran with such power, reacted unflinchingly and stared everyone down with the eyes of death. This is a perfectly good reason why he was at his best this year as the one and only… Captain Sharp in Moonrise Kingdom. This is the one and only Bruce Willis playing a cop without any of his usual expected antics. This is Bruce Willis playing in a comedy without being the butt end of jokes and silly. This is the heart and soul I figured Bruce Willis had but didn’t show outside of his comfort zones (in action and science fiction films). What really spoke to me with this performance is just how relatable he was, despite his mental clumsiness at times. He was still full of care and warmth, and Willis conveys this quite well. You never feel that he cannot be trusted, despite the clearly sheltered life this man has. With a great cast in place, Willis shines the most not because he was unpredictably wonderful, but because this is a hopeful sign of the next chapter in his catalogue. Will Willis take on more roles like this, where his characters are full of such vibrant emotion and earnestness that does not have to be verbally described by him? I certainly hope so.

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19. Martin Freeman-Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

 

This was a huge film for Lord of the Rings fans. This prequel has been begged for for years, and people (including myself) even signed petitions to have Peter Jackson on board to direct this film (or trilogy, now). The first movie is finally out, and people are split on the movie. I, personally liking the movie, loved the heart that was in this film, and a lot of that came from Martin Freeman as the younger version of Bilbo Baggins. Amongst the reoccuring cast from the original trilogy (Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, and so forth), Freeman stands out because he is inexperienced as a character. He wants to relax and take the easy road in life. He is forced into an adventurous situation that makes him feel uncomfortable, and when given the option to help dwarves on their quest, we can truly believe that he had a change of heart. We can also believe the amount of times he questions himself on the journey. He questions what he should do in a fight. He questions what his role is amongst the grand scheme of things. He is new to all of this, and we are new to seeing Bilbo Baggins like this, instead of the wise and experienced story teller we remember him as. Freeman makes Baggins charming and not arrogant, curious and not naive, courageous and not flatly developed. With a lot of burden placed upon his shoulders with so much anticipation all over the world, Freeman never cracks, and the film is carried by his sudden love for wonder.

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18. Jake Gyllenhaal-Brian Taylor (End of Watch)

 

This “realistic” film that is meant to document the life of police officers (as it focuses on a pair of cops that end up discovering more than they expected) is anchored down by Gyllenhaal’s down to earth approach. He doesn’t act too passively so the film still works as an interesting story, and he doesn’t act too theatrically to shatter the illusion. Taylor, thanks to Gyllenhaal’s interpretation of the character, is very fond of his line of duty. He is fond of sharing it, he is fond of performing tasks, and he is fond of those who he works with. You can see dedication and even his lust to work as a cop just by the way he stands, the way he talks, and the way he smiles. He loves to lay back, but he is the first to react with instinctive force. His will to serve and protect carries on until the climax, where, without giving anything away, he keeps his reputation close to himself and his loved ones in mind. This guy isn’t all talk. This guy is exactly who he makes himself out to be, and who Gyllenhaal builds him to be. Taylor is all the more real not because of the style of filmmaking, but because of Gyllenhaal’s mission to represent the good people in the police force as best as he can.

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17. Diane Kruger-Marie-Antroinette (Farewell, My Queen [Les Adieu a la reine])

 

Diane Kruger is the kind of actress that has tried her absolute best for years and just has not gotten a proper break. The closest she’s gotten so far is with Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and while that is an honour in its own right, I just know that one day she will have a huge turn much like the selection in my number 12 spot on this list has. For now, we have her unpredictable performance as Marie-Antroinette in the French period drama Farewell, My Queen. The film is less about her and more about her servant, so Kruger’s screen time isn’t as long as you’d hope, especially when she is quite frightening despite not really doing many things to warrant that. Marie-Antoinette is experiencing the most damaging and frightening moment of her life, and the way she stares people down (as a cry for help) both scares people away and attracts them closer. She is malicious even during such a time, but she is a master of deception. Much like Kruger’s performance has Marie-Antoinette tricking people by playing with their emotions, she plays with ours. Do we get mad at her? Sure. Can we forgive her? We cannot forgive Marie-Antoinette, but we can forgive Diane Kruger, with her risky, completely unexpected job in this film, as she adds depth to a movie full of chaos much like the events depicted in it and just like the leader herself would have.

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16. Michael Shannon-Richard Kuklinski (The Iceman)

 

Shannon is no stranger to being the scariest person on screen. Naturally, playing a hitman may seem like a walk in the park for him. Shannon decides to add more to the role rather than sit back and just play it, showing yet again that he is one of the more dedicated antihero-actors working today. He stares off into the distance unless someone he cares about is near him. He slowly gets more and more haggard because he cares less about himself, but he fine tunes himself to hide his true nature from his family. They assume that he is changing because of his newly found successes. He grows a social status on the outside, but withers down to a despicable human being on the inside. He still has morals, but what good are morals when you live a life full of murder? Well, they still seem to make some lick of sense because Shannon plays Kuklinski with quite a lot of focus and dedication. You truly believe that he cannot see past not killing some people while killing many others is okay, especially when not killing jeopardizes his life and puts his family in danger. There are some screws missing from his head, and that is why he is all the more scarier. Shannon’s deadpan face of death grows more and more frightening, and his body language changes from awkward to menacing. This is a shocking evolution of a mentally disturbed individual, and Shannon’s performance, of which is essentially the main reason to watch The Iceman, is one that will cause you to squirm in your seat.

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15. Jessica Chastain-Maya (Zero Dark Thirty)

 

What a task. How can one take a real life crisis and become the heroine of it all? In fact, how can someone add depth to this kind of character? How can you take what is proclaimed the “biggest man hunt in history”, and make the lead character somebody with conflicting issues, development, and warmth without being presumptuous? Ask Jessica Chastain; a recent talent that came out of nowhere and is suddenly taking over as many movies as she can. She’s dominated as supporting roles before, and now Chastain has taken on one of the biggest events in American history as the leader. Is she strict? Sure, but only because she has her eyes on the goal ahead. Is she damaged? Well, much like Bigelow and Boal put their own reflections of this moment in recent history into their work, so does Chastain, instilling emotions and feelings that do not seem out of reach. This makes Maya a character that seems like it could have been anybody with the sheer determination and the necessities to fulfill such a task. What she adds to make her character special, though, is the boldness to take on such a position no matter the length, the problems and the fear. But Maya in the end is an everyday person, and that ends up being more admirable than just a figurehead, and personal on such a level that the film becomes more chilling.

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14. Jennifer Lawrence-Tiffany Maxwell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Lawrence as Tiffany is, well, weird. Weird, but believable. When we see weird characters on screen, it is extremely easy to distance the audience from the film by smashing the film apart. If someone is too weird, which is extremely close to being just the right amount of unusual, we are aware we are watching someone performing (or rather over performing). Lawrence is, herself, a curious actor because she seems to be able to do anything she wants, doesn’t she? One of the better up and coming actors, Lawrence is very in control of her characters and herself, and her multi layered work as Tiffany is no exception. She is a bit awkward and a bit strange, but she means well and is just socially awkward. Is it because of recent events that she is unsure of how to approach people, or life itself? Or was she always a little bit off center? Either way, her quirkiness adds to her character and is not a lame excuse for whatever happens on screen. Lawrence turns Tiffany into that kind of person we all know (and if we don’t know a person like this, it’s one we want to know). She’s very up front, very to the point, and very natural about it. She doesn’t force a dead pan face to take away from it all, either. Yes, Lawrence is someone who seems to know what to do with her characters, but this is the first time she’s taken a bit of herself and put it into a character, and boy does it ever add to the character’s likability.

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13. Tommy Lee Jones-Arnold Soames (Hope Springs)/Thaddeus Stevens (Lincoln)

I rarely include two performances from the same film, or even multiple films in one actor’s entry, but Tommy Lee Jones and his paralleling, superb performances of 2012 could not be taken apart for me (I don’t feel the need to include Men In Black III, though). This is because he is a master of connecting when he acts. He connects with other characters when he acts. He connects with us when he acts. He truly connects with the story when he acts. He’s not just some miserable stick in the mud in Hope Springs. You can see he has love in him still, and yet he has lost all idea of how to approach it as the years have gone by. He fights and fights to help abolish slavery in Lincoln, and he is so committed that you can see, even when he bluffs, he will sacrifice himself to protect others. Both performances are so eternally commanding. Both performances show years and years and years of struggle and hard work, yet also ages of experience and ages of search for his identity. His ability to be such a resourceful supporting character is what makes him great. When he needs to carry a punch, he can. When he needs to work as a catalyst, he does. These two performances work as evidence that Tommy Lee Jones still knows damn well what he’s doing and how to garnish a film to make it served even better.

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12. Anne Hathaway-Fantine (Les Miserables)

Remember all of those lists last year that tore poor Anne Hathaway apart? She stars in One Day, after a considerable amount of pretty good-to-wonderful performances, and people start ranking the worst cinematic accents of all time. Considering she broke out of the walls of Disney films and has made a household name for herself for a decade now (time certainly does fly past), it is a bit unfortunate to have that kind of reputation. Which is why she does not have to worry. Her new reputation, as of a year later, is her best role yet in Les Miserables. Unlike some other actors that could be in this position, this role was not fueled on vengeance or with the intent of proving people wrong. This role was fueled by Hathaway’s love for the story, her love for singing, her love for acting, and her love for the movies. We’ve seen Anne Hathaway try to break away from the doubt of the harshest critics for years. She nearly did with her emotional performance in Rachel Getting Married. We’ve finally witnessed her change, much like Natalie Portman changed in 2010’s Black Swan. Hathaway as Fantine is full of pain and agony and the slightest shred of hope. She sings because it is the only way she will be heard. In a movie that thrived on very little apart from its stellar cast, it’s one thing to stand out. It’s another when you stand out amongst broadway showman greats like Hugh Jackman himself, of whom also deserves mention. This isn’t the work of someone who got lucky. This is the work of someone who knew what they were doing but was perhaps too shy to show it until the world turned against her. Good on you, Hathaway.
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11. Denzel Washington-William Whitaker (Flight)

Flight is a pretty good movie. Sure, the story is gripping and the events nerve shattering, but why? A movie like this needs a lead actor that can take this situation seriously and also be tangible. How can we follow someone who is beyond our grasp? These subtleties are what make a performance of a “leader” difficult, especially when not many are being lead. In Flight, Denzel Washington leads us, and himself, and those that believe in him. He’s not fighting for a cause. He’s fighting for his reputation. He’s fighting against those that can only point out that he may have been inebriated, not the fact that he saved many lives. As usual, one’s darkest secrets blind everyone from the good one does. Washington, having not been in many good films for a while now, has teamed up with Robert Zemeckis, a director who has put heart and soul into disappointment after disappointment. Both are hard working individuals, and because of their raised bars, both get their share of flack. Flight is a combined effort of Zemeckis proving the world wrong about his capabilities as a director (with his first hit in years; welcome back, Zemeckis) and Washington’s explosive performance, channeling what seems like years of frustration into this character that demanded it. He is commanding, confrontational, textured, and most of all, reflective.

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10. Alan Cumming-Rudy Donatello (Any Day Now)

 

It is never easy to play someone of a different sexual orientation convincingly. It is a thousand times harder to do so when you include legal battles that aren’t going one’s way partially because of their preference. Alan Cumming is an actor that seems to have slipped under the radar for many years, and it is a shame because he is quite a terrific actor. This is perhaps the movie that will finally get him noticed, as he plays Rudy Donatello, a drag queen that celebrates himself in a gay club but hides his relationship anyways due to fear. When Donatello discovers that a young teen with Down syndrome has been left alone, he discovers the will to fight for ones self through this child. He discovers the endurance to fight to render his identity as normal and just like anyone else. His personal growth from stage performer, one of whom pretended to be open, to being someone who is actually open, is astonishing and very gradual. This would be a risky and brave performance for many actors, but with Alan Cumming, it just seems like the normal day at the office. There isn’t an over abundance of guilt tripping. It’s just him trying to help tell the story as best as he can, and in the end, that speaks volumes more than a performance that begs to be sympathized for.

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9. John Hawkes-Mark O’Brien (The Sessions)

 

We’ve gotten used to loving to hate John Hawkes within the past few years. Being a memorable face from Deadwood, Hawkes sadly only got his name heard just recently when he was finally recognized for his outstanding acting in Winter’s Bone. Add Martha Marcy May Marlene to the mix, and many of us have only seen Hawkes as an excellently twisted villainous figure in movies. This is of course not the case, or even close to it. Hopefully now, his newest and biggest role to date will clear his name and repel any typecasting notions given to him. He is a man paralyzed from the neck down who is visibly happy to still even be alive after suffering from Polio. He seeks guidance from a priest and from a sex surrogate about losing his virginity, but in reality he is merely trying to find alternative ways of breaking out of his immobile state (spiritually and emotionally, for instance). He’s accepted his unfortunate circumstances, and Hawkes’s take on this character is a humble, caring one that is guided not by “what now” but by “what next”. It is a rarity to find a performance like this, one about a burdensome disability, that isn’t forced or even borderline offensive, but Hawkes’s work here is exactly what this damedy needed: A little bit of pathos, a little bit of leadership, and a large chunk of reflection that mirrors the movie and its plot through just his facial expressions.

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8. Leonardo DiCaprio-Calvin Candie (Django Unchained)

 

Calvin Candie is perhaps Tarantino’s sneakiest villain yet. We know Marcellus is scary. We see how the boys in Reservoir Dogs behave. Hans Landa starts off being shown as a conniving hunter. DiCaprio plays Candie as a lovable man who happens to be rich for unorthodox and revolting reasons, until you see his true colours. Throughout the entire movie, where walking on eggshells is the only way to continue through the story, dynamite is laid everywhere through plot points and characters. DiCaprio is the lit match working its way to light said dynamite, and his unpredictability is lethal. Yes you know he is the villain and yet you get pulled into his sick ways. That is until he snaps and scares you in a way you never thought DiCaprio, the common American heroic actor, could. He is childish in the way he has fun but he is mature when it comes to making deals. His ignorance seeps through both assets, yet it is clearly deep rooted underneath his greed and his need for success. DiCaprio plays Candie not as a despicable villain but as someone who just happened to have been caught up with the ugliness of the world of slavery and racism who then becomes absolutely revolting as time and power got the better of him.

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7. Noomi Rapace-Isabelle James (Passion)

 

Passion, itself, is a cemented mosaic of many styles and many homages. It’s basically everything De Palma loves about filmmaking and everything De Palma fans love about his movies. Rapace effortlessly meshes with every single change of tone and shift of style in this film, playing a businesswoman whose foreign accent and body language makes her stick out for all the right reasons. She does a good job and is seen as a ticket to worldwide success. She suffers a downfall and suddenly she is made into a mockery, and she has very few people to lean on. Her desire to be a good worker and her heightened sexual frustrations clash in a bagful of ways, ranging from the awkward campiness that works as comedic relief and the foreshadowing of discomfort, to being an emotional wreck whose baggage is written all over her face and even the way she breathes. In a world that is so superficial, hilariously overdramatic, and extremely staged to appear great in a fashion display, Rapace is all we have in order to go past the roller coaster aspect of the film and find something attachable. She does so with flying colours. Whether we should side with her or not, we find ourselves doing just that as the rest of the world is covered in masks to promote themselves as walking businesses and not as people. It is only when Rapace cracks that the rest of the world does so boldly in the open. This clever portrayal of the classic femme fatale may haunt you because it is so rare for someone so humane and so vulnerable to be so dubious.

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6. Michael Fassbender-David (Prometheus)

 

All of the things David knows, he knows by research. He speaks and looks like his idol Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, as he spouts quotes from the film and meshes Lawrence’s love for danger into his own “life”. All of the bad he does is for insight, not just to obey orders. Is it likely that David actually has emotions and feelings? We won’t know, but David sure takes what he can presume will connect with humans and studies it well. Fassbender’s take on this unpredictable android is shockingly realistic, and we don’t even have the technology to make an android this advanced, so really we shouldn’t have anything possible to compare him with. He works because he seems possible. This kind of android does seem likely do exist. The way he conjures drinks without even looking and with such precision, how he can ride a bike and launch a basketball right into the net as if it were nothing, everything. You can almost see equations being written across his face, knowing the calculations he is computing in order to achieve such feats. You forgive him because of his still chilling face that knows not what he has done. You fear him because he does not react to any sort of tasks he performs. His voice is a fine tuned version of Hal 9000’s (another man made creation that, ironically, finds solitude in a man named Dave) that cloaks any sort of chance for evil yet shows just enough to remind us that it exists. Fassbender’s David is both a walking time bomb and a technological marvel.

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5. Jean-Louis Trintignant-Georges/Emmanuelle Riva-Anne (Amour)

These two have to be placed together. The entire movie works by their chemistry and their loss. Georges slowly emerges as the glue trying to piece back together the shattered Anne as the movie progresses. Anne is Georges’s brain, as she works as his thought process for the entirety of the film, even when she is well. The more decrepit Anne becomes, the more Georges strives on to better the situation. It’s frightening because Trintignant and Riva play their respective characters with the fear, the discomfort and the togetherness that this movie demands so naturally. The more Georges clings on, the more Anne drifts off into another time and place. This realism is absolutely damaging, but it works because of how well balanced these performances are. Riva plays Anne with such devotion and emotion, creating a character that is so scared of what is to come and yet is completely unable to even show it past her eyes. Trintignant plays Georges as a determined man who is clearly used to living life normally and, especially at his age, has no idea how to handle his wife’s severe illness. It’s jaw dropping just watching Trintignant force himself (or Georges, rather) to be more agile and more alert and more resourceful with all of his might. Both performances are steered by a dive into the unknown at such a late step in life. This pairing is a perfect example to learn how acting is reacting, and they do this flawlessly.

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4. Quvenzhané Wallis-Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

I am the first to be critical of child actors. I often get complaints that I should be lenient as they are “only children”, and to be fair this is a good point. But at the same time, this really takes away from the child actor that truly takes your breath away, the child actor that is so fantastic that you cannot even imagine how good he/she will be when they are older. Every time someone would complain about how I treat child actors the same way I treat adult actors, I would tell them about Aleksei Kravchenko in Come and See, Anna Paquin in The Piano, and even Natalie Portman in The Professional. Now I can recommend Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wallis, only five during this production, is absolutely impossible to write about without missing something truly remarkable about her performance. She’s already captured the subtle nuances that even good actors struggle to achieve, a perfect grip on handling emotions, and a commanding presence whilst being shorter than a metre stick. Any child actor could have made this film likable because of how commanding the story is and how masterful the directing is, but Wallis is the reason why this film has become a treasurable gift to everyone. We see our childhood through her, so we connect with her. We see our frustrations and battles with confidence that we face now, and cannot understand how such a young girl can face them herself. With Wallis’s performance, it actually seems possible.

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3. Marion Cotillard-Stéphanie (Rust and Bone)

 

Cotillard plays Stéphanie, a whale trainer that loses her legs after a stunt at Marineland goes terribly wrong. You barely see her experience as a trainer before this incident, but you don’t have to. You see her passion in photographs of her career’s past, and her miserableness mixed with love the day of the accident, as she is angry with life but wishes to get back to what she loves the most. Once she can no longer work there, the one place that gave her comfort, she is depressed and her will to care about life is shattered simply through facial expressions alone. Her body shakes with frustration while her face remains still from surrender. When she moves along the ground, her thighs move as if she is swimming because it is the only flat-body movement she knows. Her hand movements resemble the hand gestures she used to command orcas. Cotillard’s subtleties that give Stéphanie such a history as a whale trainer are remarkable, and her ability to truly be in the now are what makes this the best leading female performance of the year. She becomes so fascinated with Ali’s life as a boxer, as she loved whale training for its ability to take her out of the current world, and Ali’s way of life does just that. She is experienced by past, entranced with the present, and sadly very in tune with both the good, and the bad, to come from the future.

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2. Joaquin Phoenix-Freddie Quell/Philip Seymour Hoffman-Lancaster Dodd/Amy Adams-Peggy Dodd (The Master)

 

I really tried to limit this to one actor (Phoenix), but there was absolutely no way I could make a best performance list without mentioning the other two powerful actors in The Master.

 

Amy Adams has pushed herself yet again as the severely brainwashed wife of a cult icon. Her still eyes and passive way of speaking seem robotic yet sincere. Her pain in trying to help integrate Freddie into their family is deeply rooted; a combination of all of the frustrations she has held over the years of her beliefs being pummeled and her husband being called out. Her hope is what makes her likable and forgivable, despite her absolute ignorance and her insanely detached ways of life. She is the figure head of all of the members of The Cause.

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman, continuing his consistent streak of excellence, is the husband and the iconic figure of the movie, the worshipped Lancaster Dodd. He speaks so boldly and with such earnest wisdom that even we, the audience, are hooked on what he says, despite how unbelievable they may seem. Does Lancaster believe his own religion? Does he willingly control people to feel loved, or has he successfully convinced himself that even his own words are real? When cracks in his preaches appear and he has no idea how to solve them. He explodes and he bluffs. He winces and he stares. Whether or not he is crazy, he is undoubtably highly educated. Determining if he is a master manipulator or an ambitious day dreamer is ambiguous, and Hoffman’s empowered performance makes either or likely.

 

The spirit of the film comes from Joaquin Phoenix, who started acting from scratch and has given his best performance by light years. His capabilities were unpredictable. His character is impossible to gauge. When a man so mentally skewed as Freddie enters a movie about mental control, you have to be on point in order for the film to experiment with possibilities, and Phoenix gives the film an endless amount of reasons for either side of its argument about cults. His jaw sticks out like he grinds his teeth at night. He is hunched over like he is broken. He walks stiffly like he is lazy, and he has to force himself to be a human being.  He stumbles more when he is sober because he cannot function without additional help. He is self destructive and manic to a point where his own downfalls and self harm become punches in an intellectual scene. In the best acted scene of the year (the questionnaire scene), you will squirm in your seats watching a man punish himself under the influence of guilt, as he crashes and burns inside, melts on the outside and speaks volumes with his never-closing eyes. Freddie Quell is the antihero of 2012 that should not be sided with, but his brawn mixed with Lancaster’s brains and Peggy’s heart co exist as not just a question of beliefs and mental stability, but also ways of living and ways of self respect.

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1. Daniel Day-Lewis-Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln)

 

The movie cuts no time revealing Day-Lewis as Lincoln, because we’ve come to expect the real deal at this point. We don’t have to question if it will be pulled off and how. We just trust Day-Lewis at this point, and we were ever so right to do so. The world around him screams and yells but Lincoln himself speaks softly yet with so much more authority. He doesn’t have to stomp his foot to be heard. He only stomps his foot out of frustration, which is rare. You never feel threatened when he shows his stress, and oddly enough you actually feel more inclined to be around him when he does. Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln is so wisely put together. When Lincoln fights with his wife, he clasps his hands like he has no idea what to do with himself; losing it is not something he is used to. When someone commends him of his work even as a side note, a wide smile beams across his face and you can almost literally see the spark that caused it inside of him. He acknowledges all as he speaks, and he speaks so profoundly. He walks with such grace and such unpracticed whimsy. He is playful at heart, taking the time he wishes he could spend with his sons and uses it to play with the people that depend on him not foolishly but as means to ease pain. He’s a father just like any other that only wants to do the best for his sons. He is a husband who faces issues with his wife like most. He is a historical icon that soundly changed the ways of the United States without being hateful about it. Day-Lewis has accomplished both a commanding position as an effective leader in a film and the worrisome task of bringing a famous figure to life in a biographical picture. He does so so easily that you may find yourself observing how other actors are doing because he blends into the entity of the film so well. Day-Lewis’s performance as president Abraham Lincoln is the best of the year for his technical skill, his artistic flair, his respect, his significance, and his realistic depth to a hero we could only wish to have witnessed in our lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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