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.

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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.

tabu

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.

Silver-linings-playbook

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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Movie Review: Lincoln

                                                                   Rating: 9.5/10

Such an appropriate time is this for a film about Abraham Lincoln. It’s not just because of the recent American elections, or even the coincidental events of states wanting to secede from the U.S. (Spielberg couldn’t have seen that coming from a mile away). Instead we look at a troubled president who is not troubled because of his mental state, but troubled because people are quick to put pressure on him. Obama is no Lincoln by any means, but many people are hating Obama’s decisions even before he even attempts to begin his new ideas. Again, Obama is not Lincoln, but perhaps we should give whoever is in office a bit of leeway, not just Obama. Presidents do make mistakes, but there are some drastic, life changing and historical decisions some presidents have to face, and Lincoln instills faith in its audience that, perhaps, faith should be had with whomever the current president is and not just quick hatred.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m absolutely delusional. Maybe I feel that this is so possible because Lincoln felt possible. Of course it is based on true events, but what I mean is that this president didn’t feel like some kind of untouchable. His family didn’t seem distant. His methods didn’t seem instantly holy and the world wasn’t a stage. The film feels so real, thanks to one of the best casts of the year, the stunning visuals, and the appropriate form of story telling. The film goes for realism and not just drama. When the film feels that it is necessary to be silly and have some comic relief, it goes for it without hesitating and having to ask us for permission. When the film feels that Lincoln shouldn’t be the sole focus and that other people of whom are of importance should be focused on, it goes for it, knowing Day-Lewis will have left a lasting impression already and we don’t need a thousand reminders of both his performance and Lincoln’s heroism.

But for arguments sake, here he is.

What shocked me the most about this clearly Spielbergian film is that it didn’t feel very Spielbergian. Yes, you had your bad guys and your good guys, clear as crystal. Yes you had triumphing music and some gorgeous pans and shots. However, all of this was kept down. You had main characters that were just as offensive as bad guys (Thaddeus Stevens, anyone? I mean, what a jerk. A funny jerk, and a right jerk, but a jerk nonetheless), and you had bad people who were honest and clearly unsure of themselves (Save for Ohio because what a bunch of jerks. In the movie. Not now. Don’t hurt me). The music was kept minimal and used as punches and not just to score the entire movie. The movie was essentially what it was meant to be, a political thriller, and it never felt cheesy or predictable. It’s bizarre because we all know what happened and we know how history played out, but it doesn’t seem that way. You still get attached and fear the worst.

The screenplay was a bitch to edit, though, with that blasted morse code.

What I find interesting about the movie is that you do feel unsure about it. It’s actually magically insane how well this movie worked out, and it’s not as if Spielberg could have planned it to work this way (unless he did, because you never know, but it seems so difficult). You feel uneasy about how the movie is working. It cuts right into the action. No typical Spielberg grande opening with music. You meet Lincoln right away in the second scene. No big build up; he’s just there. And the whole movie works like this, where everything is just so open and so welcoming. That’s how Lincoln was as a person. As the movie went on, and this is what I find interesting, I felt myself remarking on how gorgeous the previous scene was now as a piece of the whole picture. It wasn’t because I missed a better scene than the one currently, but instead I felt like history had passed and I was able to appreciate how it progressed the story, and I was able to appreciate how the risky candidness of this movie just worked. Oddly enough, the most obvious points in the story, of which I won’t mention here (but you’ll see what I mean when you watch the film) are made fresh because the most obvious moments are shot differently and are shot less openly because we’ve heard these stories so many times. Instead, Spielberg uses these moments to reflect on their respective impacts,  and in return we feel exactly like the people on screen. We feel the triumph. We feel the shock. We feel the movement. We feel everything, and you wouldn’t think you would with a story you’ve heard more than you’ve heard milkshake jokes about Daniel Plainview.

Sorry, Abe. I was just making a point. So sorry.

The acting as a whole was absolutely brilliant: Sally Field as the nerve stricken yet brave wife, Tommy Lee Jones as the vulgar yet courageous leader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the distant son who faces issues of his own identity in a country that faces problems of self, Jackie Earle Haley as the conniving and split tongued vice president of the confederation, and John Hawkes and James Spader as a pair of comedic relief and moral reasoning, amongst many other names. I’ve got to bring up the main man, though, and I feel it is important not because it is a question of whether or not Daniel Day-Lewis could pull it off. I think by now everyone has faith in Day-Lewis as an actor (and if not, seriously watch the vast majority of his movies and come back to me). I think we questioned how he would approach this film, and we know Day-Lewis for his very grande performances. Here, he is humble. He is relaxed. He is the anchor of the film. When everyone else goes off the rails, Day-Lewis’s Lincoln will tell a funny story with such earnest wisdom and absolute heart. It’s absolutely unreal to see Day-Lewis command the screen as the calmest person on it, and yet it happens so damn easily. The moments where even Lincoln has to let off some steam will strike you so heavily because of how well Day-Lewis can pull off someone reaching their boiling point, and yet he never goes insane. He just gets more vocal and passionate about his points. There will be moments where you fill be so focused on how other people are doing with their performances because you’ll forget that someone is actually acting as Abraham Lincoln. It is one of the most naturalistic performances I have seen in years, and, just, damn it Day-Lewis, you’ve done it again.

A close second goes to Lee Jones for his best performance yet. This isn’t a funny caption. Shoot. Umm… Something about The Fugitive.

Overall the film is not just a celebration, which I feared seeing that Spielberg was behind the camera; The film is a charming, funny, emotional, and captivating political thriller. It’s interesting, it’s personal, and it’s ambitious all at the same time. It never tries to be too ambitious, and it never gets lazy. It just feels naturally right. In all honesty, this film is Spielberg’s best film in over a decade. You get more than just the story of one of the finest presidents and the story about the civil war and the abolishment of slavery. You get a father’s outlook on his children, a wife’s concern for her husband, family and country, a great look at Thaddeus Stevens’s contribution to this point in history, and you get what Spielberg always wants with his films: Captivation via cinematic magic. His more recent films have tried to instill this feeling as much as possible and it has felt artificial. Here, it feels authentic and you feel more accomplished and moved than you do guilty and hateful. Don’t just watch the movie because of its relevance with the recent events in American politics, and don’t just watch the film for its acting. Don’t just watch the film for its beautiful images and music, and don’t just watch it just because of Spielberg’s name. Watch it to discover what this film means for yourself, and see how the president’s story being brought back to life will affect you personally because it very well may do just that.

 

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Friday Review: Argo

                                                                          Argo
Rating: 9.4/10

The common tale of the washed up actor is not a pleasant one. Many turn to substances of which they abuse, or to alternative cries for help. It’s a silly thing to say, but it’s sadly true. In this article, however, it is even sillier because we have ourselves an actor that never really made it through his talents and certainly not through his previous career choices. Instead of being addicted to other things, Ben Affleck, former Hollywood punch line, became addicted to film making. Recognizing that his biggest claim to fame for years was helping co-write Good Will Hunting, many joked about just how much of a say he truly had with the writing process. People were befuddled with Gone, Baby, Gone in the middle of the last decade because they weren’t sure if this actor managed to make a lucky first film. Then 2010’s The Town really made people turn their heads and truly see Affleck as the filmmaker he is. However, while The Town was truly a great film, we had yet to see the poetic nature and the smarts that somehow all could comprehend that Good Will Hunting had. He has yet to write (or co-write) a script of that nature, but now we have proof that he can create a film of such depth and cinematic sanctity with his newest, and best, release Argo.

It’s weird, because Affleck usually blends in with the scenery in other films.

Argo is the riveting story about six American diplomats stuck in Iran during the Iran hostage crisis of the late 70’s. Affleck’s character, Tony Mendez, works in the CIA and when the CIA learns about the missing diplomats and their need to be rescued, all ideas fail until Mendez comes up with this absurd plot: Pretend they are scouting for locations to shoot a science fiction film at. This idea is bizarre, and the movie knows it is bizarre, because it pokes fun at it many a time. In fact, there is a beautiful scene where this plan is being brought into action as people are in silly costumes trying to replicate what may be shot in the movie, while footage of what is happening in Iran is going on. Usually a contrast like this would fail oh so terribly, but here, where you know that the people back in California can’t go any faster, the contrast is positively shocking. You then realize that, good God, this idea is absolutely insane, and from there on in you suddenly begin to fear the possibility of it failing.

Looks like Walter White decided to shave this face he one time Affleck wanted to pay tribute.

To help you stay on track, you have three equally daring men: Mendez’s supervisor O’Donnell (played by Bryan Cranston), Hollywood make up specialist John Chambers (played by John Goodman), and finally the foul mouthed producer Siegel (lived by Alan Arkin). You believe their approval of the operation not just by the film’s great pacing and spectacular editing (they cut right to the chase, mid conversation, skipping all of the filler introduction based nonsense), but also because of the severity of the situation (one you will pick up on as the film begins to speed up). It is also worth noting that, unlike The Town, where Affleck may have gotten carried away, Affleck gives a pretty admirable performance and actually restrains himself from being the focal point of the movie. His subdued attitude and relaxed confidence helps the movie coast along when everybody else is on the verge of disbelief or losing their patience. Congratulations, Affleck. You may have given your most emotive performance yet and you were surprisingly calm and collected in doing so.

“So then Damon wants to use the line ‘How do you like them apples’, an-yes, yes I agree, if someone is as smart as Will Hunting, he’d say ‘those apples’, but he wouldn’t listen.”

What really sets Argo apart from most films this year is the fact that it is somewhat difficult to classify, even though it really isn’t a movie that goes all out in being unclassifiable. It has the story and pacing of a political thriller, it has the first act of complete hilarity of a good dramedy, and it is so focused visually that it could very well be somewhat of a period piece (the graininess and the editing to mimic movies of the 70’s, particularly All The President’s Men, is a very nice touch). In the end you can call it a thriller, but I’d rather call it captivating. The opening scene is breathtaking and you are emotionally invested right away. You go along with the awkwardly dark jokes, the crazy idea, and the brilliant development of this project. Argo is straight forward enough to be easy to follow, yet full of complexity for the biggest of film snobs to be shushed by, especially those who will to find something wrong with a film Affleck has made. They can try all they want, but in the end, it’s better to accept Argo for what it is: A very well made film, where you can understand the perspectives of absolutely everybody involved and understand the threatening conditions of all, even when something as silly as a low budget science fiction movie is involved.

 

 

 

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The Ten Reasons Why Most Hated Passion Yet I Loved It

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer! The school year is back, and we all have to get back to our studies; oh joyous day. Well, sadly, I’m back now as well, and I’m here to take out hours of my time a day and minutes of yours. Now that I’ve returned, my updates will be back to being as frequent as they were before, so don’t worry. If you have missed me, I question why but am thankful, as I have missed you as well (especially you, no, not you but the one behind you).

Let’s start off with a bang, shall we? I’ve finally made it to the Toronto International Film Festival and have managed to check out a few films there, so I will get to those next week. In the mean time, I’ve put up some quick reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, where I am somehow a super reviewer (basically I get additional powers like allergies and sinus issues every morning), and one of them has caught some attention: My review of Passion. I will post a better, more developed review on here next week but my rating and views on it shall remain the same. I’ve gotten some messages about it, and to be honest I don’t blame people for questioning my review.

Case in point: Most people have hated the film, and yet here I am thinking it was pretty damn good. I’m not the only person who actually liked the movie, but I’m definitely in the minority. Why I feel it is necessary to write an article about this is because the reasons people gave for hating the movie were, well, some of the reasons why I actually enjoyed it. For those who are curious about the movie, and perhaps don’t want to read an in depth review in case it spoils some things about the film, you’ll have this article to use as both a list of warnings and a list of things to be excited about, depending on how you view the movie afterwards. Ladies and gentlemen, here is:

                        THE TOP TEN REASONS WHY MOST PEOPLE HATED
PASSION/I LOVED PASSION

10. “The leads seem so out of place and are mismatched!”

She stopped talking, since her boss always tells her to shut up

Yes, a big issue everyone had even before the movie came out was that Rachel McAdams was not only going to play a boss, but she was going to play Noomi Rapace’s boss. People were asking why it wasn’t the other way around? Why was the youthful, bubbly McAdams a boss and the mature, collected Rapace merely an underling? This entry ranks the lowest, because Rapace as an employee nailed the part but McAdams as a boss took some getting used to. I eventually warmed up to McAdams’s character while growing to hate her (strange how the world works, isn’t it?), because I think I saw where De Palma was going with casting McAdams as the boss. In fact, McAdams herself thought she was being offered the part Rapace ended up with, so don’t worry if you’re in the same boat. What I think De Palma was going for with McAdams as the boss was using her superficial, facetious nature she donned in Mean Girls and applying it here in a real world setting to amplify the childish nature of the situation. Most people can’t see past the immaturity of McAdams’s ruthless character, but I began to welcome it, because it speaks so much more about the stupidity of the situation and the overall tediousness of her fueling the fire and prolonging the tension. It just seemed so much more unfair to have a bratty horny girl as a superior than it did a woman who was just bitter. Also, some food for thought: Noomi Rapace is 32, and Rachel McAdams is 33. The more you know.

9. “Wow, those are some cheesy lines! What is this, a cheap porno movie?”

If you thought Carrie discovering puberty was bad…

Oddly enough, I’ve heard the dialogue being compared to a porno movie. I didn’t make that complaint entirely up, so don’t get too mad at me. While De Palma movies aren’t exactly Shakespearean in nature, hasn’t he always had cheesy lines? Even some of his biggest films are known for their cheesy lines, including Carrie and Scarface; the former having wonderful lines like “Got Satan’s power” and “Who are you calling a stupid shit?”, the latter being infamous for the amount of times it swears. Let’s face it: De Palma’s films have always had stupid dialogue, and yet that’s part of the magic of it all. Passion is no exception. So many of the lines sound like they were lifted from an x rated movie, and I’m pretty sure that it’s intentional, especially since sex is usually a big theme of his in most of his films. If the visuals range from easy to look at to downright disturbing, I can’t imagine why the dialogue in his films wouldn’t do the same especially as comic relief (I’ll get back to this later on in the article). In fact, the awkwardness that comes from these kinds of lines actually does a few things apart from being funny: It creates more of an unsettling mood so disturbing moments are even more disturbing, it helps separate you from the film and appreciate it more as an art form (something else I’ll get into as well), and it makes fun of both the adult industry and films with unintentionally bad dialogue (of which I don’t think Passion is). Many great films have had bad adult-movie like dialogue to set moods (see Lynch films Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive as great examples, and even Twin Peaks). Some directors just like lighting up the mood with some downright awkward lines, but I can see why this can put people off because, well, they are awkward. For me it’s just entertaining when done well.

8. “Whocaresreviews, you can’t tell me the premise was actually good!” 

Gotta love that dance sequence at the end where, oh, I’ve said too much

While I won’t say it was brilliant, I think the premise gets hated on more than it should. I don’t mean the whole boss stealing an idea thing. I mean the idea being stolen. This is something many people had an issue with. It’s not really a spoiler, but in case you don’t want to know what happens literally in the first two minutes or so, skip to 7. Basically, the idea that Isabelle comes up with for the marketing firm in order to sell the new hot smart phone is making a viral video that shows women keeping the smart phone in their back pockets with the camera on to see which men would look at their asses. On paper, yes, this is pretty stupid. However, think about it. Truly think about it. When I saw this movie premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, De Palma was asked about the influence of social media. He mentioned how smart phones play a big part in the film, and this is no exception. Honestly, think about what social media has amused us with in the past:
1) Sneezing Pandas
2) Laughing Babies
3) A Guy Crying About Britney Spears
4) Some Kid Trying To Legitimately Become A Super Saiyan

Now that I’ve lost most of my audience because they were confused about that last part (If you got it, kudos, you’re stuck in your childhood as well!), I’ll get to the point. Isabelle’s idea was seen as genius, and kind of is, because she knows that we pay attention to really stupid things now, especially in a world with such a short attention span. People ridiculed this concept when they saw the film, but here’s the kicker: This was based off of a real advertisement that actually worked. By saying this concept is stupid, they’re saying that the millions of people that fell in love with the real advertisement are stupid. De Palma’s got something going here. Also, I’d like to note that it’s rather funny knowing just how crazy and depressing everything gets over this: An ass camera. People are being deceived  backstabbed, and actually threatened over an ass camera advert. Tell me that isn’t hilarious in a depressing kind of way.

7. “I can’t take this film seriously. It’s too over the top!”

And yet a film like Phantom of the Paradise is now a classic. Make up your mind people!

This and 6 are kind of paired, and you’ll see what I mean. There are two kinds of people that went to these initial screenings: De Palma fans, and those there for Rachel McAdams. McAdams fans are used to her usual fare, you know, the Hollywood land “everything will be ok” kind of films. Since she was at the actual screening, fans wanted a chance to see her and to see her new film. Boy, were they in for a surprise. This film went beyond anything she’s done before (apart from the new Malick film, which got the same response from McAdams fans). This film has been called all over the place and way too bizarre by some. Oddly enough, weren’t films like Phantom of the Paradise and Carrie and, wow, even Scarface, described the same way? Phantom of the Paradise did horribly all over the world (except Manitoba, figure that one out), and now it’s a huge cult film and one of De Palma’s “masterpieces”. Scarface was even nominated for a Razzie award for worst director, and look at how big it is now. De Palma makes films that tend to make more of a statement years after they have been made. That’s not to say he hasn’t made a bad film. He’s certainly made quite a few. I just don’t think Passion is one of them. Maybe it too will be more liked as the years go by? I mean, to go from possibly the worst directed film of the year to being a huge film in the gangster genre without changing the film at all says it all.

6. “What are you talking about, 7? It wasn’t bizarre enough!”

“I mean, they could have totally done more with this mask. Way too normal”

Now we look at the De Palma fans that are used to his crazy films of the past, and they think they have been deceived. The film isn’t as sexual as the trailer promised, or there wasn’t so many moments of complete weirdness. A lot of it was oddly enough contained, despite the cheesy lines, huge sense of falseness and even the off the walls finale. Some people wanted it to be even more insane (make up your minds, really!). See, I think it has the right amount of insanity. It’s enough to be exciting and off putting (whilst being engaging), but also enough to stick to the formal style the film has going. Why I loved the visuals so much was because every single shot looked like it could be featured in a fashion magazine; an appropriate quality for a film about rich business women. The film, while having a lot of weird qualities, also has a sense of professionalism attached to it. The font in the opening credits looks like it came out of GQ. The filters look like they were made for a nikon camera. The make up and costumes are for photo shoots, not every day life. See, everything seems to be still very out there but in a nice way. It still feels like De Palma’s classic style of film, but it also feels sleek and controlled. I guess people want Passion to either be completely whacky or not whacky at all, but I like this moderated feel of the film because it shares a bit of both worlds.

5. “Wow that soundtrack was terrible! It was like elevator music!”

Don’t forget that even elevators are tricky in a De Palma film

This one, I can somewhat agree with but can also strongly disagree with. The score has been described as dreadful and completely separate from the film by a number of people already, so it’s actually a common issue (which is strange, because the music in a film is rarely considered a huge low point). When the film starts, you get this really cliche piano music, but again, I think that’s the entire point. The movie starts off with a statement on how false and downright silly the work environment is especially for richer people that work in offices. Everybody pretends to like each other, everybody dresses up as if it makes them any more important, and you’ll find garbage music filling up offices just to boost moods (whether it’s sleazy lounge music or the top 40 soft rock songs, tell me most work environments don’t have terrible music on). In fact, some parts of the movie had wonderful music in my opinion. Some of it stunk, but I got more out of the scene because of it and it spoke more to me than if it had good emotional music. Other scenes had the necessary music and they had so much more of an impact because of this. POTENTIAL SPOILER there’s a key scene where Isabelle is at a ballet performance, and the music from this performance lines up with the events happening to Christine. It’s such a weird but pleasant contrast. /SPOILER I’ve certainly seen movies with much worse music, and even the somewhat low points of the score here can add to a scene. However, again, I can see why people would be put off by this, but I just find it to be a fun statement at times and actually good at the other times.

4. “Oh wow, real original! Who does this guy think he is, Hitchcock?”

“I can pick up voices. They’re from angry movie goers.”

De Palma has said many a time that he views film making just as much of an art form as music, photography and even painting. With that in mind, he’s never been afraid to show his influences on his sleeves. It’s no secret that the end of Passion was definitely a big homage to the great master of suspense himself Alfred Hitchcock, and without giving anything away, De Palma actually confirmed this at the Toronto International Film Festival. In all honesty, I can’t even understand why this is seen as a bad thing. First of all, many directors, even good ones, have made tributes and homages to other directors before. Quentin Tarantino is infamous for stuffing as many references and tributes as he can into his films. Even Martin Scorsese has admitted to being influenced by other films and directors before, naming a few films (like The Quiet Man) as inspiration for his opus Raging Bull. Even Steven Spielberg, probably the biggest director, has been influenced by films and directors (the similarities between The Battle of Algiers and Schindler’s List are not coincidental, kids). Why is it such a bad thing that Passion’s final act is so influenced by Hitchcock? In fact, why is it so bad when De Palma’s actually been praised for making a tribute to Hitchcock before? Blow Out was well received for its Hitchcock-ian style, and in fact was considered a great tribute. I can understand if people think the ending of Passion is a bad tribute, but that’s not the complaint I have heard (so far). No. It’s just because it is a tribute. In that regard, I thought it was a very interesting modern day tribute, especially since it took the same kind of pacing, music and tension and incorporated them with modern day shots, technology and lighting. With this modernized feel, it’s not like people will complain about the film being dated, right?

3. “This film is dated.”

Oh, I mean, not Drive… Some other film… Please don’t kill me.

Dammit, are you kidding me? Anyways, another huge complaint was that the film feels dated. People have said that classic De Palma works because it was from that time, and thus it carries a sense of nostalgia and a bit of the era on its shoulders. With Passion, it has no excuse to feel like it’s from another era because it’s from now, and thus it’s just silly. If this was said maybe four or five years ago, I’d give people the benefit of the doubt and say “okay, maybe it does seem out of place”. However, after last year, how is this even remotely true? Let’s look at what was one of the biggest films last year: Drive. Drive featured so many qualities taken from the “How to be from the 80’s” handbook. It music was synth based and poppy, the colours were neon and bright, and the shots were so similar to the shots of the 80s, when film makers began to film big blockbuster movies with a new approach. Here’s the fun part: Drive doesn’t take place in the 80’s. If it does, then slap me and call me an idiot, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. It’s just a tribute to both an older era and European cinema. Fine, if you think Drive is a bad example, what about The Expendables? Yeah, isn’t that film loved by many because of how dated it is? It made millions because of millions of people who wanted cheesy 80’s action with old, dated action stars. For Joe Pesci’s sake, it’s called THE EXPENDABLES! That in itself means they are dated doesn’t it? Why is that alright but here it isn’t, when De Palma’s classic style is known to be a combination of many factors (in this case, the 80’s are a bit of the bigger picture)? People don’t mention the great blend of European and American cinema, or the modernity brought into the story when the original, Love Crime, didn’t feature a lot of it. Instead, they focus on the small throwbacks to 80’s dialogue and the occasional 80’s visual techniques like they are a bad thing (yet they’re okay in other films that exploit these qualities on a much grander scale). Weird.

2. “The uneven pacing was atrocious! Is this an upbeat movie or a heavy one?”

The artsy second half is sneaking up on the quirkier first half, but this caption doesn’t work since the actresses are the wrong roles for it. Ah forget it.

Yeah, the first half and second half of the film do feel quite different, but that’s not always a bad thing, even though it usually is. The first half is full of sexual tension, office bitchiness, and childish revenge on one another. The second half gets much darker and twisted, involving psychotic traumas, mental games, grief and guilt, and mystery. It’s as if the film goes from your usual drama film to being almost a film noir. Again, I feel that De Palma likes to exaggerate what we experience in real life, and, like the music replicated this, I feel that the pacing is no different. The first is the upbeat everyday life we all go through. We go to work, stuff happens, we come home. End of story. When we face traumatic experiences of any kind, life just seems to change so drastically. I think the film shows this really well, and I welcome the different second half. However, it’s only fair to see why people would not like this. Just because life works like this, that doesn’t mean it will translate to film. Many things don’t translate to film well, it’s a given. I just think this ending adds so much to the feel of the film. SPOILER The first half, we see Christine’s conniving ways eating away at Isabelle, and we see Isabelle get closer and closer and closer to her breaking point. The second half, we see it. We see the explosion of rage. We see the peak being reached. It’s like watching a kid being bullied at school day after day until one day he retaliates and breaks the bully’s nose. /SPOILER The film creates this feeling rather well in my opinion, and it’s not easy for a film to work without a constant flow, but the very rare time it works, it’s memorable.

1. “…Was I supposed to laugh during this?”

“Give me a break!”

There’s a reason why this is #1. There’s a reason why this seemingly miniscule entry tops the list. In fact, there are a few reasons. The first reason is that this entry may tie every other entry together, which I will get to. The second is because this question was asked by people who tweeted from the Toronto premiere of the film, of which I was at. Before the film, the very film that people have ridiculed for being “unintentionally funny”, the director, the very man who was in charge of the film and of whom wrote this adaptation, said to everyone in the audience “I think you’ll have a lot of fun with this one”. Fun. That’s a peculiar word. Why, that implies that it’s not entirely serious.

OF COURSE IT MEANS THAT.

If someone saw this movie in theaters and had the same question, then I’d forgive them. To have people who were in the very room the very moment the brains behind the film said that this was a fun film ask if they were supposed to laugh is just ridiculous, even for other reasons. 1) De Palma’s classic style of films have always been fun to an extent, or at least have had some sort of comic relief to lighten the mood. 2) Moments of the film people laughed at were clearly over the top on purpose. When Isabelle laughs hysterically like a hyena, it’s to be funny and to ease the tension of that scene before the film gets too dark too soon. The adult movie lines? To be laughed at. The concept of an ass camera being the subject of threatening hatred? Hilarious if you think about it. Rarely has a De Palma movie not been fun in some sort of way, even if in a small way. Remember in The Untouchables, when the music by Ennio Morricone is so uplifting and triumphant and Kevin Costner’s character is busy being confused and asking “why the hell are we going in here?”? It was a funny and awkward contrast. What about the very out of place exercise scene in Carrie that had carnival like music that never shows up again? Funny and out of place. If people have loved and accepted this trait from De Palma before, why on earth are they questioning it now? You may say “Oh but two kinds of people saw Passion remember? What about the McAdams fans that didn’t know any better?”. To that, I reply with this…

… IF THE FILM MAKER SAYS IT’S MEANT TO BE FUN, IT’S MEANT TO BE FUN.

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Friday Review: Prometheus

Prometheus

Rating: 8.2/10

There is a lot to go over with this movie, so let’s get started.
First of all, it is quite the ride. The intensity is so nerve wracking at times, with some of the best executed shots in the history of the series. The movie doesn’t work slowly like Alien, but quickly like its sequel, whilst relying more on how quickly Alien worked at its end. You’re not sure if it’s a cheesy action adventure like Aliens, because it definitely carries the burden of grief and terror that Alien has (only not as well). Part of this is because of its well used 3-D. Yeah, imagine that. A movie actually being better in 3-D. The mist clouds everything around you, the holograms and projections are right in front of you, and you truly get an interesting perspective of the world. Unlike Avatar, where the 3-D brought you right into close up objects like flowers and beasts, Prometheus was very open, and too open for comfort. You felt as if you were soaring or shivering at times because of how well done this three dimensional setting is. When you do see things close up, you see them as the characters, whether it be through their cameras on their helmets or through their own eyes as they observe obscure objects and peculiar oddities. I love how the film doesn’t try to shove the 3-D aspect in your face every second, as it allows you to breath a lot of the time on the ship itself (which is, of course, named Prometheus). When the film wants to set a tone, it sets a tone. When it wants to show off its capabilities, boy does it ever.

So awesome, even an android is stunned

The world that surrounds these characters is a world that does not define them. They define themselves. It’s one thing to just have bold characters who aren’t afraid of entering a strange planet’s atmosphere, and it’s another to have characters who are bold in so many ways. Elizabeth Shaw is hooked on her faith in God and her faith in her project. Her boyfriend is fully supportive of her project and he even has his own two cents. Janek is there to have fun and be the captain he strives to be. David is an android that couldn’t care less until he actually visits the planet. I could describe each character but you get the idea; the idea being that there was some phenomenal acting in this movie. In an order of fifth best to best, let’s quickly take a look at our heavy hitters. Number five is Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, a cold hearted witch that is surveilling the mission to make sure it is up to speed (for her taste, anyways). Number four is Idris Elba as Janek, an insane pseudo cowboy that is there for the thrills whilst being there for the team when he has to be. Number three is Guy Pearce with his camouflaged performance as the founder of Weyland himself (the company in charge of the mission), as he is oh so withered and frail but full of determination. Two is Noomi Rapace as the main girl Elizabeth Shaw, with her performance that lingers on as strong and calm until she snaps, and suddenly the world around breaks with her. The one that stole the show is Michael Fassbender as David. There is absolutely no other person that could have been an android being Peter O’Toole being T. E. Lawrence better than this guy. Hands down the performance of the year so far, David is cynical yet whimsical, dashing yet menacing, curious yet conniving, and just oh so captivating. If there is anything right in the film making world, this performance will get its recognition during the awards season, and if not, shame on all of them.

I mean, come on, you know how hard it is to win when a scene like this exists?

WARNING: PLOT ANALYSIS, SPOILERS HERE, SCROLL DOWN

Each character of the five I listed has at least one moment that is simply breathtaking, either involving discovery or struggle. There are some scary moments that moved me, and that’s quite a rarity, including Shaw’s surgery on herself and David’s change of heart near the end of the film. I loved so much of the film and yet it irks me that I cannot rate it higher than what I have given it. The reason is the plot and story. The basis is pretty cool. Done before, but not like this. It’s not the masterpiece of this kind of story, either, but it didn’t feel dated. As I said, each character goes through heart breaking and mind blowing moments, even outside of the five I mentioned. This is definitely a moving film. However, what links up these moments can either be paper thin resolutions or complete avoidances. There are moments where I couldn’t figure out why the story moved on so quickly. Take the part with Ford where she gets attacked and the sole purpose is on Holloway being sick. It’s like she wasn’t even there. The main, unavoidable problem is that a lot of the characters, especially those that are not played by big named stars, ended up being causalities just to rank up a kill count. You don’t even care for some of them, as they say they aren’t on the mission to “make friends”. Why should we care if he gets killed?

The next, and probably biggest yet most intriguing, issue with the story is the ambiguity and open ended nature. There are so many questions that were not answered, and this threw many people off, including myself. That is until I waited along the end of the credits and noticed this at the very end. https://www.weylandindustries.com/timeline

This site made specifically for this movie has so much information in regards to the movie, and it makes sense as to why a lot of it wasn’t explained. Then you look back at the viral videos and understand that they weren’t just to promote the movie: They were plot points. David’s want to feel emotion in his viral video explains his want to feel by acting like T. E. Lawrence or by getting even with Holloway. Shaw’s curiosity in her viral video, whilst feeling ignored and miniscule, is definitely a theme that echoes in the film, even when she tries to stay strong, and you learn just how much more important the mission is to her. On that website, you learn about the star system they discovered, the way the planet they visit works, how David was created and how his prototypes work, and oh so much more. As this film was written by the writer for Lost, Damon Lindelof (I didn’t know this until the end of the film), it makes sense why there is so much tying in outside of the film itself.

However, that aside, a lot of the questions still are not answered. How did Shaw have super human strength each time she woke up? If David wanted to feel feelings and discovered them through anger, why didn’t he feel grief as well if he got irritated by Holloway so easily? Why and how did the engineers make those weapons, and what the hell are they? These could be on the site as well, but for now, I have not seen answers to them.

/SPOILERS

Ah shit, this is a picture from the movie. I guess the spoilers weren’t over.

The plot does have its great feats, such as not going the cliched science fiction route of having gadgets that appear for a very short time. I’ve always hated that; when science fiction directors just want you to believe “it’s science fiction” is a great excuse for every miniscule and pathetic contraption used for a millisecond. In Prometheus, you think this will happen a number of times, until these gadgets get used consistently and are beneficial to the film’s story. However, even with the outside sources clearing up many aspects of the film, as fantastic as this is, I cannot say it helped the film. Well, it did and it didn’t. I’ve raved about how much I love the environments in some of the Alien films, especially the first one. Creating these trans media connections definitely helped expand the world, and once I discovered this, the film definitely went up a few points. Scott and Lindelof definitely took one of the biggest loves fans had of the first film and they tried to experiment with what they could do, especially in an internet based world. I think they succeeded so well. However, it also hurts the film because the film relies so much on these sources. Had I not stayed for the credits, I would not have known about so many things and intricate details in the film. As cool of a concept as it is, it should only work as a bonus and not as an essential compartment to the story, especially if people don’t stay for the credits. I mean, it will probably go viral (I’m helping, clearly), but still. The point is the film should have answered its own questions, not our own research, especially when the film is so invested in asking big, deep questions and having so many of them. This hurts the film, especially when after all of this there are still some unanswered ones.

The bottom line is that Prometheus is an incredible experience. It does have moments of cheese and slight pointlessness, but they serve as a means to catch you off guard once the film hits full throttle (think X Men-First Class). When the film isn’t being more questionable than it is exciting, it is gripping. If you want to see the film for its story, you must do your work (whether you like it or not) or the film will fall a bit flat. If you want to watch it for its actors, you will not be disappointed. If you want to watch it for the experience, I don’t think you are prepared.

Unless you know who H. R. Giger is, and which Alien fan doesn’t?

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