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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.

#110.  Safety Not Guaranteed

Saw this one in theaters with my family.  In completely unrelated news, I haven’t been asked to pick a family movie since then.  The film is gratingly lo-fi.  Which means the actors don’t have anywhere to hide.  Aubrey Plaza actually acquits herself quite nicely, she can definitely anchor a movie.  And Jake Johnson can curmudgeon his way across any screen of mine any time he likes.  Mark Duplass, though, I don’t know.  At this point I’ve seen him in a bunch of things, and I’m impressed with the variety of roles he takes, and that he also writes, directs, and produces many films.  But I can only take him in small doses of smarminess.  The Mindy Project has used him well, I think.  And he’s best on The League when relegated to a supporting slot being douchey.  I will say that this movie has a cameo it managed to hide very well.  Also, the guys who wrote and directed this (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, respectively) are lined up to do Jurassic Park IV.  So, uh, be prepared for that.

109.  Kill List

This one came across my radar because I saw multiple places talking about how it was a riveting, surprising thriller which defied genre and contained some crazy twists.  I…must have seen a different cut of the movie than everyone else?  I was never on the edge of my seat, save for that one time I almost nodded off.  Weird for the sake of being weird, I suppose the film did kinda cut through genres, but not to any meaningful effect.  For me, the film just became progressively more and more bonkers.  A little unsettling, sure, but more puzzling than disquieting.  And I didn’t find the film particularly twisty.  There’s one bit at the end, but by that point the movie had veered so far off course that the twist didn’t have the impact it must have had on others.

108.  Hitchcock

I’ll always remember seeing this in theaters with John.  Not due to anything from the film, which may well have been the least essential movie of the year.  Helen Mirren was fun, naturally, but man, what a waste of her and everything else.  There was no reason this story had to be told, because there wasn’t really a story at all.  But anyway.  So I meet up with John before the movie.  We watch the movie.  We walk the six or seven blocks to California Tortilla.  We order food.  We eat the food there.  We chitchat, of course.  I remember at one point John mentioned how he had realized NBC still had the prior Olympics up online so he was watching something like archery.  So.  Including the movie, we’ve been hanging out for about four hours at this point.  We’ve finished up the tortillas and it is just about time to start heading back home.  And then John tells me, oh, by the way, he proposed last weekend.

107.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The movie that launched a million jokes on the Internet.  It made two big mistakes, I think.  First, I haven’t read Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, but his screenplay is entirely too earnest.  There are plenty of vampire movies these days, most of which have, frankly, more engaging dramatic premises than our 16th president deciding to fight the bloodsuckers.  If any movie was set up to be tongue in cheek, it was this one, which took itself entirely too seriously.  Second, the story’s structure is rather awkward.  It felt like the first three-quarters of the movie was an origin story, and then as soon as Lincoln gets involved with politics, we jumped forward to the presidency, with a climactic action sequence.  A sequence which was, admittedly, pretty cool, surely thanks to director Timur Bekmambetov who would undoubtedly be my first choice to direct any sort of gothic and/or steampunk scenes my movie required, though I might ask him to step aside once filming of those had completed.  A highly interesting cast, including Dominic Cooper, Benjamin Mackie, Rufus Sewell, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was pretty much wasted, with Jimmi Simpson the only one who I thought managed to come off OK.

106.  Holy Motors

Multiple movie blogs I follow were in love with this film.  There’s, sadly, only so much time to watch movies (even for me!), and so I have to make hard decisions about which movies to see.  And an important factor is whether the movie inspires passion in anyone.  Better if it someone whose opinion I respect, of course, but I’m always fascinated to see which movie inspire fervent emotion.  All of which is to say that while I personally found this movie kinda boring, I stand by the process by which it ended up on my Netflix queue.  The structure of the film was kinda cool, with Denis Levant taking on a number of different personas in a number of different situations, over the course of a day.  And Levant was quite good in the role (even if Tatiana Maslany has essentially ruined actors playing different characters).  I could see the different parts of the day working well as a series of one-act plays tied together by some common purpose or theme.  But to me, the different parts of the days felt like disparate middle acts of a wide variety of three act plays: experimental, musical, etc. without any reason they were mashed together.

105.  The Deep Blue Sea

Rachel Weisz received some Oscar attention for her performance in this film, including garnering a Golden Globe nomination.  Unfortunately, there were three major roadblocks, none of which were her fault: the film was released early in the year, nobody saw it, and it is mind-numbingly dull.  It is a character study without really studying a character.  People mope, stuff happens off-screen, people get angry or sad or mope some more.  That’s not entirely fair, of course, I get that it is about love or wanting to be in love, and a time not so long ago when women still didn’t have a ton of options (or, at least, were constrained by society) in terms of deciding who or how to love.  Although, really, I could say it is about pretty much anything.  Not like you’ll stay awake long enough to disagree with me.  Tom Hiddleston is solid, as usual.  Rachel Weisz is good, certainly better than Quvenzhane Wallis, but I’m not sure she would have made my final list.

104.  Frankenweenie

I’m sad I didn’t like this one, because John August wrote the screenplay, and I’ve loved his blog for years.  But this half-baked riff on the story of Frankenstein’s monster was entirely forgettable.  The concept of all these horror movie standbys being in middle school was pretty clever, but that seemed to be about where the creativity stopped.  Imdb lists a biopic of Margaret Keane as Tim Burton’s next directorial effort and one wonders if the break from his gothic sensibilities might do him some good.

103.  Haywire

An action movie for people who don’t like action movies.  (And I love me some action movies.)  The film is super stripped down, which in theory is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to summer blockbuster fare.  But Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs go too far in the other direction, as this film is spare to the point of distraction.  For me, the comparison to make is with Colombiana.  Both feature strong and deadly hitwomen, but where Colombiana is fun and gripping, this one was a chore to get through.  Soderbergh did a great job pulling down name talent, as Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewen McGregor, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas all litter the cast, among others, but almost serve more as a distraction, given the limited nature of their roles.  Speaking of Colombiana, I would love to see Gina Carano in a Luc Besson film, I think that’s pretty much a perfect match.

102.  ATM

I want to stress that I think Alice Eve is a talented actress.  She’s been in a couple of my favorite movies, but even in the clunkers she’s shown an impressive magnetism.  I sincerely hope that she gets a chance to play some meatier roles in the near future.  That said, since I’m going to lose my man card with the next movie on my list, let me ask a question.  If you are going to have a movie where Alice Eve is trapped in a room and decided that harsh weather would play a factor, would you decide to place the setting somewhere cold, where she’d have to wear as many layers as possible, or, I don’t know, somewhere really hot where it is the exact opposite?!  I feel like that should have been the studio’s first note.  At any rate, I tend to be  a big fan of one-setting films, but this one missed for me.  It wasn’t terribly clever, and the ending was far from satisfying.  The end credits seemed fascinated by the bad guy’s detailed and elaborate plans, but said plans weren’t really displayed in the movie.

101.  Scents and Sensibility

I’m scared to look back and see how many years in a row I’ve told myself to stop watching terrible Marla Sokoloff films.  I’d like to say it ends now, but let’s face it, time has shown that I’m an idiot.  This one is based off of Sense and Sensibility, only Marla Sokoloff’s character has a real talent for making scented lotions, so it is Scents and Sensibility.  And that’s probably the most clever thing about the screenplay.  The film also stars Ashley Williams (aka Victoria from HIMYM).  Who, like Sokoloff, deserves better.  Most frustrating to me, I think, is that I know many people poured many hours into making this film.  I’m sure most, if not all of those people put in hard, solid work, work of which they wanted to be proud.  So I can’t understand the process which led to this film being the final product.  Surely at some point, someone asked about the vision, the creativity, the flair, the reason for existing so sorely lacking from this movie?

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You know the drill.  Oscar nominations out on the 10th, I’m taking a look at the big eight categories.  This time: Actress.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty isn’t out here yet, and while I can totally appreciate the strategy, it still cheeses me off that Oscar nominations for 2012 movies will be out before the vast majority of people had a chance to see the movie.  I like playing along, you know?  Anyway, Jessica Chastain has a nomination for The Help and seems like a sure bet in this presumably two women race, assuming enough people saw the film.  I thought Lawrence was absolutely fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook and she absolutely deserves to be a front-runner.  She, of course, has a prior nomination for Winter’s Bone and that red dress.

GOOD BET

LIKELY IN

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
  • Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

If you have any confidence in predicting this category, you are a braver person than I.  Riva is supposed to be fantastic, and director Haneke is essentially an arthouse cult figure at this point.  The question that everyone is asking is whether enough people managed to see the film in time.  Also, is there enough room in the category for two ladies speaking French?  Marion Cotillard sure hopes so.  I still maintain it is a supporting role.  As Adam surely remembers, Cotillard has an Oscar win for La Vie en Rose.  Having seen Hitchcock, I want to say Helen Mirren is in the weakest position of the lot.  Except, you know, it is Helen freakin’ Mirren, who has nominations for The Madness of King GeorgeGosford Park, and The Last Station, and a win for The Queen.  I haven’t gotten to The Impossible, partially because ugh.  But Naomi Watts is hitting her precursors and had a well-publicized endorsement from Reese Witherspoon.  She has an Oscar nomination for 21 Grams.  I’ve got Beasts of the Southern Wild at home from Netflix.  Wallis is supposed to be quite memorable, but the indie film has had a little bit of trouble navigating the Oscar race, and some people will have trouble voting for a nine year old who, apparently, doesn’t seem like she’s Acting.  The Deep Blue Sea came out months ago, was little seen, and is kind of not good, none of which bodes well for Rachel Weisz.  She did get the Globes nom, but the movie is in the Globes’s wheelhouse.  She’s pretty great in the film, though, which might be the most important factor of all.  Weisz has an Oscar for The Constant Gardener.

DARK HORSES

  • Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

Count Judi Dench or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel out at your own peril.  I think the Grouches have had like six different email threads about going to see Anna Karenina, but it just hasn’t happened yet.  The film seems likely to get some technical nominations, so maybe Knightley can squeak through, even without any major precursors.  She has a nomination for Pride and Prejudice.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Carla Gugino, A Girl Walks Into a Bar
  • Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz

In case you missed it, The Thin Man remake appears to be really and truly going forward.  As a fan of the series, I was pretty excited when I heard the rumors last year, so I’m glad it seems closer to happening.  Some may balk at the idea of messing with a classic.  But the original film had numerous sequels.  And as Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, Remington Steele (or Bones and Castle, if you prefer more recent incarnations) all show, attractive couples solving mysteries while engaging in non-stop witty repartee is a pretty timeless formula.

Rob Marshall is directing, which…I dunno.  Wouldn’t have been my first choice.  And Johnny Depp is playing Nick Charles, which should be interesting.  Depp clearly is capable of knocking a fast-talking smarter-than-thou boozehound out of the park.  So what of his wife, Nora?  The role, which vaulted Myrna Loy to stardom, requires a rather particular set of qualities.  Nora is a wealthy socialite who is every bit Nick’s equal in brains and alcohol tolerance.  And while they both may be familiar with the concept of manners, Nora is only one of the pair who actually puts them into practice, save for opportunities to take playful jabs at her husband.

Anyway, here are some names off the top of my head I’d toss out for Nora, if I got to cast her on an unlimited budget:

Rachel Weisz  is the first person who came to mind when I think about this.  And apparently, I’m not the only one.  Her performances in The Mummy and The Brothers Bloom suggest she’s got the comedic (both verbal and physical) chops needed to take on the role, and she does have an Oscar on the mantle.

Maybe it is my Bond-bias talking (if Gemma Arterton were about ten years older, this role would be perfect), but I think Rosamund Pike has been woefully underused.  I guess I haven’t really seen her in a straight comedic role yet, but she was cast in Johny English sequel, so someone thinks she can do it.  Compare her to Halle Berry in Die Another Day.  If she can so adroitly handle the quips there, she’ll do wonders with a more intelligent script.

Between Happy-Go-Lucky and Made in Dageham, Sally Hawkins clearly has the independent woman thing down.  Her Nora would perhaps be a little softer than Loy’s, but I think the only real question is how well she’d blend with Johnny Depp.

Frankly, I’m surprised Reese Witherspoon‘s name hasn’t come up more often.  Other than the whole being blond thing, she’s a fantastic fit.  If you only remember the romantic comedies, don’t forget she’s tackled two pretty big British works (Vanity Fair and The Importance of Being Earnest) and has an Oscar.  In a roundabout way, her June Carter is very much like Nora Charles.

I’ve always wanted to see Kate Winslet tackle a slightly less…depressing film.  She doesn’t have a rich comedy background, but she was pretty funny in Extras.  Nora Charles needs to fit in with the salt of the earth and high society, and I’m pretty certain Winslet could run that gamut.  Plus, she already successfully paired up once with Johnny Depp (you didn’t forget Finding Neverland was nominated for seven Oscars, did you?)

She’s actually turning 33 this month, Ginnifer Goodwin just plays young.  Don’t forget, Loy wasn’t a star until after the film.  And hey, it is my list, I’m allowed to play favorites if I want.  Besides, anyone who can handle Ed’s dialogue can take on the inevitable rat-a-tat lines that will be in this film’s script.

Of course, my Mom makes an excellent point.  All of this is pretty irrelevant.  The only casting decision that really matters is figuring out who is going to play Asta.

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