"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The Year in Review

Personally, I didn't end watching more films this year than I did last year and I need to remedy that next year.  But on the other hand, I found myself going back to the theater to watch more films which is always great. This is the ultimate way that film needs to be viewed and enjoyed.  And I always have a surge of films that I watch in December to hastily make up for the whole year.  Here's a recap of what I thought was the best and worst of this past year.


Captain America. Iron Man. Thor. Black Widow. Hawkeye. The Hulk.  Put them all together and what do you get? Marvel's The Avengers, easily the most enjoyable film of 2012 in the theaters.  Add a delicious villain Loki played by Tom Hiddleston and this was the most fun I had in the theater with fans who were cheering on the superheroes and superwoman's every move.  There better be a stellar Hulk movie after this, as this film has left us wanting more of the angry green fellow as enacted by Mark Ruffalo.

Harry, Edward, move over! Katniss Everdeen is new name on everyone's lips.  She's smart, feisty and fiercely loyal to her family and friends.  Did I forget to mention she's a badass with a bow and an arrow?  The Hunger Games was the hit Lionsgate knew they had in the bag and Jennifer Lawrence proved she's now a A-list player with a $300 million haul at the box-office.  If the rest of the series is as good as the first film was, they'll have no trouble doubling that amount.

The movie I kept recommending to everyone I met.  Everyone has a different reaction to it and how many movies can you say provoke a reaction so strong in their like or dislike.  One of the finest subjects to come out of Iran, it is a movie that must be seen.  A Separation is my pick for Best Foreign Film of 2012.

The first Pixar princess came to us via Scotland in an emotional story of a young headstrong royal and her relationship with her mother who just wants her to adhere to tradition.   Brave is stunning to look at with gorgeous colors of the Highland moors but at the core, the story is about a mother-daughter trying to see eye to eye.  A small step forward and please let's see more of female-oriented projects coming out of Pixar.

This really was the year of Channing Tatum.  He was everywhere and his collaborations with Steven Soderbergh proved particularly fruitful.  But 21 Jump Street was a collaboration with Jonah Hill and a remake of the popular late 80s TV show which turned out to be surprisingly funny and touching.  Tatum's performance especially stood out for me and even felt funnier than Hill's.  This crazy buddy comedy actually brought the laughs when so many comedies failed to stand out.

While I'd watch Judi Dench in absolutely anything, she practically shines and steals the show in this charming look at the lives of British senior citizens who relocate to India.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, superbly handled by director John Madden, gave these characters wonderful stories and the backdrop of India, for once, didn't just stoop to cliches but incorporated it as part of the overall story.  I can't wait for the sequel.

The best time-travel movie I've seen and one of the better screenplays of this past year by writer-director Rian Johnson that involves the audiences into caring deeply about the characters onscreen and the consequences of the hard choices they are forced to make.  Looper also has three fantastic performances by the leads, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis (playing versions of the same characters) and Emily Blunt.  You won't forget young Pierce Gagnon's striking rendition in a hurry as well.

Okay, I'll admit it. There were moments where I did cover my eyes but overall this movie took the expectations from audiences and flipped them over and then some.  Five young unsuspecting college students head over to The Cabin in the Woods and then all hell breaks loose literally.  From the brainchild of co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, this was a new horror classic with a comedic twist that even a scaredy cat like myself could endure.
In an interview in The Guardian, director Sam Mendes said he did the film 'to shock and wake' himself up.  What Skyfall has done has shock and wake up the Bond franchise all over again.  It was a clever yet nostalgic look at the past with some dark undertones and it set up the next couple of films up splendidly.  I will miss a certain character dreadfully but am looking ahead to the new additions to the team.  Welcome aboard!
Intouchables has many critics, yes, but it's hard to ignore the extremely winning performances from Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet in the most unlikeliest of friendships between a quadriplegic and his caregiver.  The second most successful French film to date, Intouchables will touch hearts and make you smile at the same time.

I'm so glad I held my "stock" in Ben Affleck and continued to remain a fan.  There were many who wrote off his acting career when his films weren't doing so well.  But he recouped well and came back strong as a writer-director with Gone Baby Gone and The TownArgo tops both of those by a mile.  A taut and thrilling tale of the rescue of six American embassy workers from Iran in 1979 during the hostage crisis, the film represents what Hollywood does best both in the tale and its recreation of one of history's lost tales.  One of the few times in the theater that everyone was literally on the edge of their seats to see if the hostages made it out of Iran. 

Out of all the films of the past year, I could say I'm the most fondest of Damsels in Distress as you would of any new friend you meet.  I loved this film so much with its most delightful dialogues and the most colorful and quirky characters that I've encountered all year.  This one I'd watch again and again. Plus, I have a feeling you might want to incorporate The Sambola! The International Dance Craze into your next party.  Greta Gerwig as the equally quirky and adorable Violet Wister was one of my favorite characters of the year.

In Bernie, Jack Black gives one of the best performances of his career and is so likable as the town's can-do man trying to see the best in everyone.  No one, including the viewers, can believe it when he goes off and commits a heinous crime.   The film combines testimonies from the townspeople of Carthage where the real Bernie Tiede lived.  You won't believe the twists and turns that take place in this tale.  I'm so pleased that the cast is getting some awards recognition.  This was a highly underrated film of the past year. 

 With Life of Pi, Ang Lee proved why he's one of the best directors in the business blending 3D technology with emotional storytelling in a way no one has done before.  A tale of shipwrecked Indian boy with only a Bengal tiger for company is deeply moving and visually stunning.  You too will feel as if you've experienced Pi's life-changing journey with him.  And Life of Pi's Richard Parker stays with you long after you leave the theater, a CGI marvel indeed.  This is a film I can watch again and again. 

The last five years or so, it seemed that I stopped watching Hindi movies altogether.  But every once in a while there are movies that make me remember why I loved them so in the first place.  English Vinglish, Sridevi's comeback to Indian cinema after 15 years, was a small and delightful tale of a housewife's right to do something for herself.  Sridevi was of course utterly charming and I really enjoyed the relationship portrayed onscreen with her niece (Priya Anand).  Don't miss this if you get a chance.

The other Hindi film which stood out for me this past year was Shanghai which dealt with weightier issues than the previous recommendation. Based on a novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Z, it shares a similar storyline as Z (1969), the Academy Award winner for Foreign Film.  But as powerful the story is, the actors make their mark and make it all come together.  I was much impressed by Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol who both took on roles dissimilar to their images.  I hope we see more of this kind of intelligent cinema in India.

Weekend, a small British film directed by Andrew Haigh, is the best romantic film I've seen all year.  It's rooted in reality and all the insecurities one brings into a new relationship.  Over the course of an eventful weekend in the lives of Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), the film deals with their hopes and dreams for themselves and for each other.  This glimpse into their lives is so honest and raw; you won't find emotion like this elsewhere.  It's out now on Criterion DVD release so do catch it if you can. 

Steven Spielberg's grand Lincoln biopic which we've been hearing about for years and years lives up to every expectation.  This is how you make a film.  Set in the last months leading to up the passing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln is indescribable.  You have to see it yourself to see how he disappears into the 16th president of the United States, a man who is hunched over with all that is expected of him.  The rest of the cast, including Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, are all commendable in their supporting roles.  I must say this is the first time in a Spielberg film that I haven't paid attention to John Williams' sweeping score as I was so lost in the film and its masterful dialogue. 

Supermen of Malegaon reminds you of the joy of making a film because of a crazy passionate urge to do so.  This documentary had such heart about a boisterous community in Malegaon who really, really love their movies.   The sight of the skinny Superman with his drawstrings on his red shorts is one I'll never forget. 

I can't believe that Beasts of the Southern Wild is Benh Zeitlin's first film.  It has such a strong voice in its narrative, characters and themes.  An impressive debut with breakthrough performances by Quvenzhane Wallis as the uniquely named Hushpuppy and Dwight Henry as her father Wink.  Both of them had never acted before this film. I'm so pleased that this film is getting the recognition and showing up on many of the critics' best of lists.  I also hope it wins some major awards as well.  Fingers crossed!

James Franco declared his love for The Perks of Being a Wallflower in Entertainment Weekly and I second his sentiments.  I had a good cry after watching this film because it was just so beautifully made with great love for the material on hand.  It helps that the Stephen Chbosky is adapting and directing from his own book.  The young cast of Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and especially Ezra Miller will break your hearts and make you wish that you too could be a part of their group of 'psychos'.  Yet another underrated film of the year. 

And finally, I've saved the best for last.  Christopher Nolan's end of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was a tour de force. One of the handful of filmmakers along with Spielberg still working on film, Nolan makes movies that deserve only to be seen in the theater.  The Dark Knight Rises was incredibly satisfying, introducing new and intriguing characters yet giving closures to those we've grown to love for years now.  His universe seems real and its problems very contemporary.  I was saddened that it had to end but I loved the ride it took us on. 


London Boulevard: Colin Farrell is a good actor who gets lost in roles that aren't meant for him.  In London Boulevard, he's spot on as a recently released convict who becomes a bodyguard for a reclusive movie actress (Keira Knightley) dealing with her own demons.  This dark London noir was difficult to stomach and contains great performances from its talented cast of Ray Winstone, David Thewlis, Anna Friel and Ben Chaplin.

Haywire: I thoroughly enjoyed Gina Carano's tough talking and butt-kicking Mallory Kane who truly was the star of this entertaining flick that reduced its appealing and A-list male actors to supporting roles.  Please don't retire, Steven Soderbergh, and much more where this and Magic Mike came from!

Pitch Perfect: Who knew that the college a cappella scene could be this enjoyable? The Barton Bellas, lead by Beca (Anna Kendrick who has an amazing voice) and her mates Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) shows us what a bit of teamwork and loosening up can get you.  The highlight of the film was Rebel Wilson who can crack me up with just a slight expression on her face.  I knew I was going to like this film the minute the Universal Studio logo came on with the theme sung in a cappella.

Margaret: This long-delayed project of Kenneth Lonergan was completely worth the wait.  A frustrating (in a good way) yet deeply insightful look into the turmoil a teenage girl (Anna Paquin) after being a part of road accident that claims the life of an innocent bystander.  Whatever it is, you will have a strong reaction to this film. 

Arbitrage: Even when he is committing fraud and dodging the police, Richard Gere's Robert Miller remains sympathethic towards the audience.  Not an easy feat to do but he manages to do so in one of his finest performances yet.  At 63, he's still got it. 

Ted: (in Barney Stinton's voice) Have you met Ted? The tiny teddy was part of the only other comedy that delivered big laughs. As the slacker best friend with good intentions, Ted had a knack for finding himself in dire situations for him and his friend John (Mark Wahlberg).  This oddly charming flick was hard to resist.


Here's a wedding that I didn't look forward to attending.  Which is a shame because the subject had such potential and I felt it was such a disservice to this highly likable cast.  Let's pretend this movie never happened for them.

Not even a strong cast of Glenn Close, Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson could save this dreary movie. Albert Nobbs, a sympathetic character, can't escape the machinations of the people that inhabit Morrison's Hotel.  I know Close was nominated for an Best Actress Oscar but I just wasn't feeling this film and wanted to move far away from its depressing vibes. 

I'm usually drawn to historical and therefore love period films.  But even I could not take even a single more minute of The Three Musketeers all of whom were miscast and spoke with all different accents. Why?  And what the hell was Orlando Bloom even doing in this film?  Logan Lerman who was so endearing in The Perks of Being a Wallflower was completely not right for the part here.  Skip the movie and reach for Alexandre Dumas' original novel instead.  It'll be much better with your own imagination.  Trust me!

I could never have predicted that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen would get a Gloden Globe nomination for Best Comedy/Musical.  The story of the very British Dr. Jones (Ewan McGregor) who assists a Yemeni sheik to bring salmon fishing to the region was as uptight as McGregor's character. I was bored to tears in the film.  This is not the feel-good flick I was promised.

Even going back in time was not going to save Men in Black 3.  It really felt as an end of era when a Will Smith film is no longer must see at the theaters.  Which is a shame because the original Men in Black was hilarious and fresh.  And now it just seems the franchise was dragged up again only to make so more moolah.  However, Josh Brolin does a great Tommy Lee Jones impression. 

I can't believe I actually sat through One for the Money. Everything was terrible, the plot, the fake Jersey accents and especially Katherine Heigl's dark hair. This film just annoyed me.  Avoid this one at all costs!

I was wrong, I thought I could watch Tom Hardy in virtually anything.  It turns out I have limits when it comes to really bad films. In This Means War, Tom Hardy's Tuck and Chris Pine's FDR, CIA agents and BFFs, fight over the new woman in their lives, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon).  Nothing in this film was plausible and it was truly embarrassing watching these good actors reduced to mouthing such trite dialogues. 

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