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I’m counting down all the movies released in 2012.  The ones I’ve seen, at any rate.  In what is unquestionably a timely manner.

#90.  For a Good Time, Call…

Well, I certainly had higher expectations for this one.  The story was undercooked and the jokes not frequent or funny enough to compensate.  I probably lean on this comparison too much, but it felt like a TV pilot.  For a good show, I mean, Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor running a phone sex line with Justin Long as the flaming best friend and Mark Webber as a boyfriend is something that would get a Season Pass on my brand new Genie.  On its own, though, the film isn’t terribly satisfying.

#89.  Return

I know this wasn’t supposed to be my takeaway, but you know how Michael Shannon is pretty much the creepiest actor ever?  Perhaps the most unsettling role I’ve seen him play is here, where he’s just an ordinary, loving, dad.  Like, I kept waiting for some twist where he went crazy or started killing people or something.  But it just never came.  Anyway, Linda Cardellini nabbed a Spirit Award nom for her role here.  Which is cool, because Linda Cardellini is great.  Not just for Freaks and Geeks, because don’t forget about her arc on Boy Meets World.  Her performance here is a lot more understated than I would have expected for a nominated role about a war veteran returning home and dealing with getting her life back to normal.  Which doesn’t make it any less unnerving, there just weren’t really many Oscar (TM) scenes.  Unfortunately, the story itself isn’t terribly gripping.

#88.  Snow White and the Huntsmen

#87.  Mirror Mirror

I did have these two movies next to each other on my list, but I’m sure that was at least subconsciously on purpose.  i do think it is fascinating to compare them, though.  Snow White and the Huntsman falls squarely in the Hollywood trend of making everything gritty.  Which sure seems like it is played out.  But economics aside, I think it was a poor choice here, because the Snow White story held the film back, restricting the creative choices allowed by needing to remain at least somewhat faithful to the fable.  For example, the odd decision to cast people like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones as dwarves.  I think the movie would have been significantly better if it weren’t a Snow White story.  Mirror Mirror, on the other hand, fell into the Tarsem trap of a lush-looking film without much of a script to prop it up.  Sometimes it feels like he prefers weak scripts so he has more room to do his thing.  The lead actresses also offer an interesting duality.  Kristen Stewart is an underrated actress, I think.  in particular, she’s quite adept at the action scenes.  Lily Collins, on the other hand, is a lovely princess.  But she does the action scenes like a lovely princess.  The male love interests were pretty well-cast.  Chris Hemsworth basically is the bastion of masculinity that is the huntsman and Armie Hammer has the more goofily refined nature to play a prince.  Charlize Theron and Julia Roberts were both interesting choices for evil stepmothers, I sorta wish the characters could have been even more than what they were.

86.  The Raven

I dunno, Edgar AllIan Poe fighting crime actually sounds interesting to me.  Or, at least, as a big fan of Poe’s writing, I was intrigued by a story which captured his cleverly plotted murders.  This one wanders too much, with an unsatisfying reveal. plus it wastes Brendan Gleeson.  John Cusack as Poe worked for me, I thought he was a good fit for the character and that filmmakers made the character halfway compelling.  As mentioned elsewhere, I love me some Alice Eve and hope she finds her way into some better roles, because I’m fairly certain in an earlier draft of the screenplay, her character’s name was Heaving Bosom.

#85.  Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

If I’m being honest, Google Docs won’t let me unhide row number 86 (which has my #85 movie).  When trying to get the spreadsheet to work, I noticed elsewhere on it that I had listed this movie, which I’m 95% sure I saw, but forgot to add it to my list.  So let’s make life easy and put it here.  I mean, it probably deserves a little better rating, but it has been over a year since I saw it in theaters, so maybe not.  Like most movies, it needed more Connie Britton.  Actually, there are a bunch of fun cameos: Gillian Jacobs, Jim O’Heir, Amy Schumer, T.J. Miller, William Peterson, and more.  Which is how a good road trip movie should be.  The pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is actually kind of brilliant, and works a lot better than I thought it would.  The film has some problems establishing a tone, but I respect the ending.  (Though I sense the two are related.)

#84.  Cloud Atlas

A noble failure.  I respect the heck out of the ambition of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, but this one just didn’t quite work.  The individual segments were all fine.  None of them were boring, but not really sure I needed to see any more of any of them.  It was neat seeing the actors take on a bunch of wildly different role, but I’ll confess I didn’t really see the point.  Which may have been my problem overall with the film.  It seemed like it was maybe trying to make a point or have a message, with the various storylines and actors in multiple roles and vaguely philosophical underpinnings.  But I didn’t see one.

#83.  Damsels in Distress

My first Whit Stillman film, and I was not impressed.  To me, it felt like Greta Gerwig’s character was out of a Wes Anderson film, and that’s not a compliment.  Most of the other characters were somewhat less twee, but still pretty unbearable to watch.  That said, I do kinda wish there was someone around who would appreciate if it I started calling things a “playboy” or “operator” move.  Partially because she’s great and partially because hers was the only character I could recognize, but the standout to me was Analeigh Tipton.  Curious to hear John’s thoughts on the Sambola! and if it deserves to be an international dance craze.  Also, it was odd to see Aubrey Plaza in a world where her shtick feels like normalcy.

#82.  The Sessions

Talked about this one in various awards wrap ups.  The main acting performances were top notch.  Helen Hunt certainly deserved her Oscar nomination.  And John Hawkes probably was robbed of his.  Hawkes’s performance, I’d argue, is kinda sneaky good.  For an awards baity movie about a guy with a serious medical condition, there are a surprisingly few number of baity-type scenes.  Instead, Hawkes somehow imbues his character with such depth while only moving his head.  It is really impressive.  The story was a little weak, though.  In particular, the relationship between the characters never felt justified.  Hunt and Hawkes only meet for a few times and while I realize spending a lot of time together is not a prerequisite to feeling a deep connection, I think it is on the film to show how and why their relationship is so strong.

#81.  Brave

There were some funny bits.  The triplets. for example, were quite amusing.  And the clans fighting was a great scene.  Actually, you know, the clans fighting probably should have been the movie’s focus.  Because Merida’s story was second-rate.  Just felt uninspired.  And I don’t think that’s me holding Pixar to a higher standard, I think that’s me holding it to the same standard I would any other movie.

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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart (and I, at least, have impeccable taste), we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Jared

I’m a big fan of Amy Adams. Watching Junebug (and her performance in it) was one of the reasons I started down this Oscar-obsessive path. She’s pretty much always fantastic, and one of the reasons I suggest people check out the underrated Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. That all said, there’s absolutely no good reason she was nominated for her role here. Sure, it was darker than she usually plays, and she was good. But it kinda seems like she got the nom for jacking off Philip Seymour Hoffman, which is maybe not the best reason ever to nominate someone.

It was surprising to me that Jacki Weaver hadn’t been receiving more Oscar buzz for her role, given she was a recent Oscar nominee and lots of people love Silver Linings Playbook. She’s actually pretty good as a character who is pretty much the complete opposite of her Oscar-nominated character in Animal Kingdom. But I don’t really get it. Especially considering Ann Dowd was in the mix this year as another middle-aged woman who struggles to keep things together while making a lot of food. Weaver and Adams’s nomination kinda make it seem like the Academy needs to get out and see more movies. Which is bad, since it is sort of their job to do that.

You know, I don’t quite get the love this year for Sally Field. As I mentioned earlier, I thought Kushner’s script had a little difficulty fitting the Lincoln family into the cast of thousands. Her scene with Tommy Lee Jones in the receiving line was fun, sure. And she does some good work in a bedroom scene. But in my mind there’s just not enough there to merit a nomination.

John and I both had Helen Hunt as the runner-up in our Spirit Awards picks, and we talk about her performance a little bit there. I’m not really a fan of the use of “brave” to describe acting, and the fact that Hunt got naked doesn’t really affect my opinion here. But how well she used her nakedness while portraying a sex therapist does. Nudity in movies often serves as a distraction (good or bad), and while it serviced the plot here, the impressive part was Hunt jumping into the character, almost teaching the audience to be comfortable with skin as she taught Hawkes the same. She also gets credit for the emotional scenes at home and in the car, even if I’m not sure they really added to the film.

hathaway1

But, yeah, obviously it is Anne Hathaway in her Sinead O’Connor homage. I don’t really have anything new to the conversation here, so I’ll just say that I watched the pilot episode of Get Real, which starred Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, among others. It was actually pretty decent. And kind of a fascinating link from the television of the late 90s/early 2000s and the often hyper self-aware television of today.

Should have been here: Man, this is a really tough category. If you asked me right this second, I have Hunt and Hathaway in my top five, along with Samantha Barks, Les Miserables; Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister; and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But a few seconds later I’d figure out a way to get Ann Dowd, Compliance; Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man and/or Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect in there. And I’m leaving out a handful more performances I really want to mention. It was a great year for supporting actresses, if you are willing to think outside the box a little bit.

John

She really cleans up after she dies

She really cleans up after she dies

I’m a lemming and going with Anne Hathaway. She doesn’t have much screen time but she sure is memorable. She gets a little bit of derision since for “winning for one song,” but she does do at least a little more there. Not that it matters. Her “I Dreamed a Dream” is very powerful and instantly iconic.

Hunt is my second choice. The Sessions walks a fine line. It needs to be sympathetic to its subjects – it finds humor in the situation without ever mocking – but doesn’t want to stray into maudlin territory. The performance are a big reason why it succeeds.

Twice now in the short history of this site I’ve discussed that I like Amy Adams but that she was swept to an undeserved nomination as part of an acting showcase. Jared makes the same argument above because here she is again for a film that also landed nominations for two other actors. This time, though, I’m totally fine with it. Its hard to not be dominated by the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in a film, but she manages to be memorable in her own right.

Finally, not to disparage their work, but Field and Weaver made very little impact on me.

Who should have been here? You have to think that Ann Dowd finished 6th or 7th in the voting for Compliance and she would have been a favorite for me in the category. Compliance is a film that requires all its characters to continually do stupid things at the behest of a prankster. Through Dowd’s character we can at least understand how a well-meaning person could be duped so much. At least she got our Independent Spirit vote. Jared says it was a good year for this category but I disagree. Even his outside of the box suggestions do very little for me.

Oscar nominations come out on the 10th.  I’m looking at the state of the race in the big eight categories.  This time: Supporting Actress

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Sally Field, Lincoln

Say what you will about Hooper’s direction (and I did), but Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” may well have been the quintessential Oscar scene.  She has one prior nomination, for Rachel Getting Married.  In my mind, Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln wouldn’t have been enough if the rest of the movie had turned out to not be very good.  As is, the two time Oscar winner (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) should be through just fine.

GOOD BET

LIKELY IN

  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions

The only thing dropping Hunt down to this section is that The Sessions just hasn’t been in the Oscar conversation as much as I would have expected.  But she gets naked, and it is Meaningful, so the Academy should eat it up.  Hunt won an Oscar for As Good as It Gets.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Samantha Barks, Les Miserables
  • Judi Dench, Skyfall
  • Ann Dowd, Compliance
  • Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
  • Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Still haven’t seen The Master, but Amy Adams is supposed to be solid and in a role unlike most of her others.  She suffers from being a movie that appears to be losing ground in the Oscar race, though she does have three prior noms (JunebugDoubt, and The Fighter).  I thought Barks was quite good, but she is facing a movie with sharply divided reviews and is overshadowed by Hathway, plus she has no Oscar history.  Judi Dench has five Oscar noms (Mrs. BrownChocolat, IrisMrs. Henderson PresentsNotes on a Scandal) and a win (the infamous Shakespeare in Love), all since 1998.  Her role isn’t terribly showy, but it is a meaningful one in the Bond canon, and Skyfall‘s PGA nom may suggest support for the film.  I just figured out that Ann Down played Busy Philipps’s mom on Freaks and Geeks.  I haven’t seen Compliance yet, but Dowd is the easy to root for underdog, as the veteran character actress is self-financing her campaign.  The Paperboy is supposed to be dreadful, which would be entirely consistent with seemingly 90% of the films Nicole Kidman picks.  She’s picked up steam lately, and has past noms for Moulin Rouge! and Rabbit Hole, along with a win for The Hours.  I don’t understand the love for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The characters really weren’t any fun at all, but Smith’s is the only one who shows even mild signs of development.  She has prior noms for OthelloTravels with My Aunt, A Room with a View, and Gosford Park along with wins for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and California Suite.

DARK HORSES

  • Emily Blunt, Looper
  • Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Kelly Reilly, Flight
  • Amanda Seyfried, Les Miserables
  • Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

I don’t really think any of these actresses have much of a shot, you basically have to believe in the wave theory of nominations and that the Academy really liked each respective film.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises
  • Taraji P. Henson, Think Like a Man
  • Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man
  • Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect
November 2017
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