Hello there, dear listeners and readers! At last, we have arrived to the end of my Top 20 with the remaining 5 to go! If you’ve stuck with these posts, thank you and I hope I added some more movies to your list to see!
*Footnote: Again,here are a few key words that helped me narrow my focus on why certain movies were chosen: Risk, originality, genuine, geeky, beauty, closure, intensity.
5 – Skyfall – The best-looking Bond movie, (thank you masterful cinematographer Roger Deakins), the best Bond story and the best Bond film! After 50 years of, let’s face it, the same story (some world-threatening force that Bond has to stop) told over and over again with different plot devices for each film, it was really nice to see a Bond movie with something different! This movie truly looked & sounded the best in IMAX, which contained the original cut of the film, instead of the version that was cropped, which had the aspect ratio slightly trimmed down to fit in the regular theaters. Without spoiling too much, this movie gives the Bond fans what they want, while helping the narrative of the story move organically to its surprising conclusion.
4 – Lincoln – First, I’m a huge Steven Spielberg fan. This has got to be one of his best works, considering the time spent making this movie. Spielberg worked on film for almost a decade and it SHOWS in the best way possible. With amazing performances from everyone in the cast, the incredible sets and locations and the beautiful attention to detail with the costumes seems unmatched with this years’ best of the best. Personally, I think this movie has one of the best ensemble performances for 2012. For the student in all of us, this is probably the best historical fiction movie that every American should see. Even though this movie has little action, all of which is contained in the opening few minutes, and the story is very dramatic, the film is surprisingly funny. The sense of humor is clever and light-hearted considering the seriousness of the subject. Daniel Day-Lewis has exceeded my expectations of portraying Lincoln, (better than what Liam Neeson could have performed?) he almost disappears into the role with an intensity & authenticity not seen from anyone since Lewis’ turn as Daniel Plainview of There Will Be Blood (2007), which he won the Oscar for Best Actor and surely deserves it here.
3 – Looper – This is, hands down, the most original movie of 2012. Rian Johnson’s vision gets finely tuned with each film he’s done, from Brick (2005), to The Brothers Bloom (2008), and Looper is no slouch. Every time travel-based movie will always have flaws in the laws of time travel, since time travel doesn’t exist; Looper dispenses with the expositional break down of how Looper’s time travel works, but it cleverly throws in an homage to a certain time travel movie with Bruce Willis explaining “If I were to explain how it works, we’d be sitting here all day, drawing diagrams with straws.” Rian ingeniously uses the story and plot elements to let the laws of time travel explain themselves, whether it’s the choices a character makes, or a scar that leaves more than a mark. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had an amazing year, (and he’s in 3 of the movies in this list) and his physical and personal transformation into a young Bruce Willis is very convincing, even down to small mannerisms. Speaking of great performances, an actor named Pierce Gagnon plays a great character named Cid, and although Pierce is only 7 years old, he manages to give one of the best performances of 2012, no question. His performance rivals Quvenzhané Wallis (who is 9 years old) from Beasts of a Southern Wild, whom did get nominated for Best Actress.
2 – Argo – This movie was SO CLOSE to being my favorite of the year. Here is a film so suspenseful, that I was biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat for the last half of the movie. Here is the ONLY movie to rival Zero Dark Thirty when it comes to suspense, but personally, I think Argo did it better. Ben Affleck as a director keeps getting better and better with each movie he makes, like Rian Johnson. He was robbed for not getting nominated for Best Director this year, because his precise vision and style is what makes this movie so well done. The fine balance of the seriousness of the mission in Iran with the hilarity of Hollywood trying to create the cover for the mission works so well. This balance of humor and suspense would not have gelled together if anyone else directed the movie. For example, the start of the movie made me uncomfortable because of how real everything felt; I don’t see that much out of Hollywood. The performances here are wonderful and a strong supporting cast helps carry the movie in every scene. Alan Arkin does have my favorite line in the whole movie, and I won’t say what it is because a) it has bad language and b) it’s funnier in context. You’ll know it when you hear it. I hope it wins best picture.
1 – Cloud Atlas – Here is, what I think, the best movie and the most divisive film of 2012. A film, unlike any other, dared so many risks in telling a beautiful, touching story of how we are connected with our past, present and future versions of ourselves, no matter where we come from or where we end up. It also tells of the consequences or victories reflected by our past or future selves with each choice we make, or “Everything is Connected” as the poster tagline puts it. An uncompromising, daring, challenging, thought-provoking film that never plays it easy. After I saw this movie, which required two viewings, I kept finding myself thinking about Cloud Atlas, whether it was the stunning visuals, the top-notch performances, or the emotional connections to my thoughts on life. I really dislike those who protest this film over the “racist” way various actors were portrayed in makeup. But that’s NOT THE POINT: The reason why Jim Sturgess was Korean, or Xun Zhou was white or Hugo Weaving a woman named Nurse Noakes were because their past characters were incarnated into a new person, living in another part of the world, in another time. It didn’t matter what race or sex they were, their actions defined them. “Everything is Connected.” The clever and sometimes blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments where you could see an actor or actress in makeup within each tale, were like little Easter eggs in this larger than life story. Each actor and actress were placed in every story, whether they had a big part, a small part, portrayed a background character or impersonated another existing character. The beauty of the linking of each actor/actress through all story lines grounds them in that they all have their triumphs or faults, depending on their actions in the previous life. Never has a film been more un-Hollywood than this: 6 story-lines spanning the globe, from a pre-colonial lawyer traveling the seas on a slave ship, to a 1936 England involving the struggles of a musician with his own identity, to a 70’s San Francisco where a journalist uncovers a harmful story that could mean risking her life, back to a modern-day England covering a publisher trying to hide from thugs who want money, then into the future in Korea, where a clone slowly discovers her place in the world and lastly, it ends with a far-distant future Hawaii, where the world is in a post-apocalyptic state and a tribesman discovers more about his religious beliefs. The cast is a diverse, dedicated bunch that perform on all cylinders and help make, what may seem a confusing story, cohesive and connected. I am thankful for this experience and am hopeful that more movies, like Cloud Atlas, take more risks in telling a great story. It is a real shame that the Oscars completely overlooked what tremendous work directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings crafted.
The Christmas movie conversations continue this week with Bryan’s favorite: The Ref. Also, Nerds on History’s Eric Bricmont is back, everyone! Back to try to destroy the film podcast… one shark at a time.
We celebrate Nerdsgiving by discussing the portrayal of Native Americans on film. Also, Nerds on History’s own Eric Bricmont guest hosts alongside a man who has been away from the mic too long… Mr. David C. McGuire.