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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.

20.  The Avengers

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Maybe you’ve heard of this movie?  I think I’m a little lower on it than most people, but I clearly still enjoyed it.  The reason the film isn’t higher, for me, is because the action felt a little generic.  Joss Whedon is so strong writing and directing heroic characters, but the fights themselves would be the one area in which I think he could stand some improvement.  He lucked out a little in that most of the main characters already had origin stories, but I think Iron Man is the only other Marvel movie that belongs in the same conversation.

19.  Django Unchained

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Wrote about this one plenty in my Oscar roundups.  At the risk of repeating myself, I think Tarantino needs someone to reel him in.  Tarantino is a brilliant filmmaker with so many clever ideas.  But I think at some point he starts harming the quality of his films by trying to cram everything in.  That said, there’s obviously a ton to love about this movie.  Few people have mastered the interplay of action, drama, and comedy the way Tarantino has.  The Klan bit was one of the funniest scenes in movies this year, just as the climactic shootout one of the best with gunplay.  Tarantino always rounds up stellar casts, and this was no exception.

18.  Skyfall

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As a really huge Bond fan, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for me to rate this film in the same manner as everything else on this list.  Because I have very specific expectations from a Bond movie.  I’ll save you the rant, but I haven’t agreed with the direction the franchise has taken since Daniel Craig took over.  I respect that they’ve been adding highly-regarded writers and directors, but they are screenwriters I largely dislike and directors I’m not sure I love.  Mostly, while I’m completely on board with rebooting Bond after Die Another Day, it seemed that the producers had trouble committing finding a new direction for Bond.  The Craig movies have felt to me like attempts to emulate the success of a franchise like Bourne, where I’m of the opinion Bond should be the trendsetter in spy action films.  At any rate, my brother was kind enough to accompany me to a midnight showing way out at Udvar-Hazy.  I was super excited after the opening sequence, which was almost exactly what I was looking for.  And then I was disappointed by almost everything else.  Except for a couple of points near the end, which set up the series to a point where I hoped it would be at the beginning of Casino Royale.  Also in the film’s favor: it got the franchise into the Academy’s good graces, for the first time in pretty much ever.

17.  The First Time 

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I realize I’m alone on this one, and I’m OK with that.  I also realize this is going to sound crazy, because the films really are nothing alike, but for me, much the praise directed toward Amour should have gone toward this one.  This movie was sweetly romantic and funny, a coming of age story about love in high school.  Very roughly in the framework of a romantic comedy, it is less screwball and more dramedy.  Awkward and goofy, sly and poignant, the film is squarely in the sweet spot of my cinematic taste.  Leads Britt Roberton and Dylan O’Brien were quite solid, but I wanted to give shoutouts to pairing Christine Taylor and Joshua Malina as a married couple, and appearances by Tinker from FNL, and Molly Quinn from Castle.  Here’s hoping writer/director Jon Kasdan has more like this up his sleeve.

16.  Cousinhood

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Saw this at Filmfest DC with John, and I’ll direct you to his recap of the film, since it is pretty spot on.  It is a funny and touching story of some bros going back home to reconnect with their past and figure out who they are now.  Like John says, the film isn’t perfect, and with some polish could have been something special.  But the movie is still definitely worth a watch.

15.  The Expendables 2

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This movie is exactly what you think it will be.

14.  The Intouchables

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This movie made a crazy amount of money in Europe.  Here in the U.S. it did OK, suffering from a terrible title and perhaps a weak advertising strategy.  The film is amount a paralyzed millionaire and his aide who grew up on the streets.  The formula is time-tested: it is a feel-good movie about a mismatched pair with wildly different backgrounds.  The movie isn’t particularly deep, which isn’t necessarily a problem or anything.   Omar Sy is a fun actor, he’s got roles in some high-profile English-language films over the next few years, here’s hoping those work out.

13.  Lincoln

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Already talked plenty about this one.  So I’ll recommend everyone read Team of Rivalson which the film was ostensibly based.  For me, though, the fascinating part of the book was how Lincoln corralled a cabinet full of people who didn’t like him and used them to great success.  Not a knock on the film, which already had too many characters, but there’s a lot more to the story.

12.  End of Watch

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Despite some good reviews, I was a little skeptical of this one, probably owing to my (likely misguided) distrust of shaky cam.  And because how many cop TV shows and movies does the world really need?  One more, apparently, because this film was pretty fantastic.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are so great together, they have an easy chemistry as partners that really makes the film sing.  The movie needs more Anna Kendrick because, as a general rule, every movie needs more Anna Kendrick, but I dare anyone to not fall in love with her after her singalong with Gyllenhaal to Cam’ron’s “Hey Ma”.  The film, impressively, manages to be funny and sad, made me want to spend more time with the characters, established a pretty clear world, and has a continuing subplot.

11.  Ted

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Sure, story has never been Seth MacFarlane’s particular forte, which is why the film falls just shy of my top 10.  But a never-ending barrage of jokes is Seth MacFarlane’s particular forte, and this film was one of the funniest of the year.  I was cracking up in the theater starting from Patrick Stewart’s narration at the beginning (“…there’s nothing more powerful than a young boy’s wish.  Except an Apache helicopter.”) and virtually throughout the rest of the ridiculous film.  Mark Wahlberg is sneakily game to act against a teddy bear and (an admittedly underutilized) Mila Kunis.

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Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Actor.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
  • Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
  • Jeff Bridges, True Grit
  • James Franco, 127 Hours

One of your lockiest locks of Tuesday morning is hearing Colin Firth‘s name called.  And I can’t imagine anyone complaining, as Firth turns in a characteristically wonderful performance that has been universally lauded for its nuance, subtlety and faithfulness to how stutters actually sound and feel.  Jesse Eisenberg could have been nominated for The Squid and the Whale, should have been nominated for Zombieland (OK, maaaaybe that’s just me), but will have his first nomination this week for a truly memorable performance portraying Mark Zuckerberg.  Maybe someday I’ll get around that post to what the rise of nerd chic, led by Eisenberg, Michael Cera, and Jay Baruchel, means for Hollywood.  Jeff Bridges got his career achievement Oscar last year (ostensibly for Crazy Heart, but let’s be realistic here) and is still going strong.  Anyone who can take on a non-Genghis Khan John Wayne role and not make fool of himself, yeah, probably deserves a nomination.  127 Hours may be fading, Oscar-wise, but Franco‘s performance is still demanding to be noticed.  With a role like his, there’s really no middle ground, I feel, since there’s absolutely nowhere to hide.  Either it is going to be awards-worthy or it will be a joke.

LAST ONE IN

  • Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

And here’s my upset special for this year’s Oscars.  I know Wahlberg hasn’t really gotten any precursors other than a Golden Globe, but stay with me for a sec.  He’s an Oscar-nominated lead actor in a film that peaked at the exact right time and that’s getting at least two acting nominations.  We’ll get to his competition shortly, but nobody has seen their respective films and neither of which seems likely for other nominations.

FIRST ALTERNATES

  • Robert Duvall, Get Low
  • Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
  • Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Duvall‘s been nominated for six Oscars, winning one of them for…Tender Mercies?  He’s probably the best bet for the last nomination here and has been for maybe six months, but Get Low never quite got the traction of which some thought it was capable.  I haven’t seen Blue Valentine yet, but have made a half-dozen jokes about how you wouldn’t want to see it with your significant other.  Ryan Gosling is always good in his movies, which tend to be either really great or really atrocious.  Here’s hoping Blue Valentine is the former.  I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve probably read dozens of blog posts on Biutiful, but I know absolutely nothing about it, short of the performance Javier Bardem is supposed to give.

DARK HORSES

  • Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception/Shutter Island

If someone wins a Golden Globe, as Paul Giamiatti did, he gets to make my dark horses list, even if he’s got no shot.  I’m a little surprised they couldn’t build a stronger campaign for DiCaprio for one of his performances.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Martin Landau, Lovely, Still
  • Andy Garcia, City Island
  • Ed Norton, Leaves of Grass
  • David Duchovny, The Joneses
  • Casey Affleck, The Killer Inside Me
October 2019
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