Tuesday, August 4, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture: 2012

It's that time of the week again!  Yup, time for another entry in the 4 Ways a Best Picture Blogger's Roundtable!  This week we discuss the year that was 2012...and it's the first year where two of our winners actually TIE.  Yup, two films get doled out the same score.  Good?  Bad?  Somewhere in the middle?

You'll have to read to find out.

But first, here's our panel:

Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Wendell from Dell on Movies

Drew:  Let's talk Searching for Sugar ManKevin wrote a beautiful and personal piece on this already, so I know that he connected to this one strongly.  I, personally, like this... but I have some problems with it overall.  It's a sweet-natured doc, in that I kind of find the whole intent behind this to be truly heartwarming.  To know that a particular 'artist' could have that kind of impact on a life (on lives) and that passion for that person himself would cause someone to literally SEARCH for him is really moving.  And then it ends.  It builds to this ending that...feels so incredibly anti-climactic it had me completely blindsided by how much I, sadly, didn't care...like...at all.  I turned this off thinking, "oh, that's nice" and then...nothing.  This is also the same year that Bully was eligible for Oscar, and that film and it's message and it's construction deserved ALL awards.

Kevin:  I really need to see Bully. Shame it wasn't even nominated based on all the praise I've heard.  As for Searching for Sugar Man...well, you know how I feel...

"And you claim you got something going
Something you call unique
But I've seen your self-pity showing
And the tears rolled down your cheeks."
- Rodriguez, "Crucify Your Mind"

The man called Rodriguez seriously wrote songs. Great messages of humility and pain, happiness and beauty.  He seemed filled with everything but "self-pity" when he had every right to pity himself and hate the world, the business that abandoned him.  This movie blew me away. It is so perfectly made. It is the best-looking documentary of this whole project.  It is a beautiful love letter to both a tremendous talent who never made it in his own country. It is also a love letter to the people of South Africa and to the people of Detroit, Michigan, a city that is way more beautiful than people give it credit for.  I found the ending to be perfectly apt and touching given what came before. Rodriguez made great music and thanks to "the search" at least got a small taste of true fame and admiration from his legions of South African fans.  I felt this movie, especially in the end.  I LOVE the music this guy made. The sequence where they digitally rendered that Detroit street, sort of a music video for the song I quoted above moved me to tears. Then, when Rodriguez's daughters come into play. Oh, I lost it a couple times.  One thing this movie missed, if you haven't done your own Rodriguez research (as I have), is that he also had a huge following in Australia.  This film totally skipped that. He even played big concerts over there. Not sure why they decided to leave that out.  Either way, America gave the man nothing and took everything, specifically that twisted old record exec. I wish this film had gone further into its indictment of the recording industry. But I suppose that's another movie entirely.  I adore Rodriguez and this movie. He deserves way more than even this doc could give him. But it's a great start.

Drew:  I completely agree with you about the record execs.  I really wish they had spent a little more time on them.  When they interviewed the one who clearly had stolen ALL of Rodriguez's money...my blood boiled.  I wanted more of that.

Kevin:  Yeah. I suppose Bendjelloul really just wanted to focus more on him as a man. A man not really tortured by his lack on money. Obviously, there is no hate in his heart whatsoever, when there easily could have been. No bitterness at all.

Drew:  He's a very warm and contented person, which is so refreshing, but is also probably why the ending left me so...apathetic.  I mean, this sounds terrible, I know, but the lack of any and all conflict and the way that Rodriguez was so resolved to basically not care left this feeling of almost pointlessness to the whole thing.  It's like, "oh, there he is...oh, he didn't know he had fans...oh, he'll play a concert...and no one heard from Rodriguez again."  I see both sides to the coin here, and I love your connection to him as a musician, but for me...the doc itself felt so light in retrospect.

Kevin:  For me, it sets out to be a love story between a musician, his home, and his home across the world. In that, it succeeds perfectly. There were times when I wanted it to be a little more hard-hitting. But that wasn't its goal as far as I can see.  It does feel light. I think that's just what it wanted to be. That aspect didn't bother me. In fact, I like that about. Some things just are, and those kinds of stories are sometimes better than big docs with missions.

Britt:  The placement of this doc on my watch list was refreshing, because I had watched The Cove and Amour right before it. I needed a pick me up.  I just really enjoyed it. Rodriguez's songs were excellent, and I thought it was really cool how he had achieved all this radio play in South Africa and yet no one knew what became of him. It wasn't like any other documentary I'd seen in awhile. Plus the guy was so laid back about everything too. I couldn't help but like him.

Wendell:  I really like this doc. This was such a fun watch. The story blew me away. Rodriguez himself is, like, the coolest dude ever, and he made great music. I had never heard of him before seeing this for the first time last year and was extremely happy to have him introduced to me.  He's an artist that I have come to admire and appreciate.  I love the way the first part of the doc plays like a mystery with all the legends going around South Africa about him killing himself on stage. His presence, though not yet tangible, hangs over the movie in a good way because we're roped in to the story. We get caught up in those wild tales and imagine some dude pulling a pistol out right on stage after finishing a set and blowing his own brains out. The latter parts of the film play like a long-awaited homecoming even though he had never actually been there.

Kevin:  So true. I was on the edge of my seat. I felt as if I was one of those fans. I totally identify with having such a profound love of an artist. "Roped in" is right.  And all the lore surrounding him is so great. And so great how it all turns out.  That's the power of music right there, man.

Wendell:  And he made some powerful music.

Kevin:  Damn right.

Wendell:  It's almost strange to think of such hard-hitting songs that took an unflinching look at the world around the artist coming from such a gentle person. You'd expect him to be some world-weary, leather-skinned, old jackass completely disenchanted with everyone and everything, but he's exactly the opposite.

Kevin:  He's like Bob Dylan if Bob Dylan wasn't an asshole and cared about his fans.

Wendell:  Exactly.  To be honest, I think leaving out the whole Australia chapter was the film-makers making a narrative decision. Having his whereabouts known by an whole other continent doesn't quite fit the mystery they were building. He had to be completely obscure for their movie to have the same impact. I'm cool with this fudging of the facts because the end is still the same. A country found a beloved artist they thought they would never see in person.  As much as I love this movie, I can't quite go full-tilt on the score. That's due to no fault with the movie, but in this case I have seen two of the other nominees in the category, How to Survive a Plague and The Invisible War, and I think they are both phenomenal. In fact, I'd probably go with How to Survive a Plague as my winner. I'm surprised AMPAS didn't go with one of those two because they certainly are more "important" films. Plague is about the AIDS epidemic and the fight to get effective treatment for it and The Invisible War is about how the military has consistently mishandled and looked the other way on sexual assault ever since the first woman was allowed to serve. Refreshing that this won, and a shock given the Academy's track record. 

Britt:  The only other docs I saw that year were West of Memphis and Stories We Tell, and neither were nominated. So Sugar Man works for me.  It's sad that Malik Bendjelloul is no longer with us. He showed a lot of promise putting all of this together.

Drew:  Stories We Tell was eligible (and should have won) in 2013.

Jeffery:  Stories We Tell was an amazing movie. So sad it was overlooked. I would have nominated Polley for director and given the film a win for editing--amazing work.  Searching for Sugar Man is an interesting one though. I like the 'mystery' set-up. The use of music is evocative too.  I can see why this hit a nerve. Rodriguez is a fascinating figure. I like too how ambivalent the film is.

Drew:  I'm at a B.  As much as I admire why this was made and even how it was made, it's a film that fades rather quickly, for me.

Kevin:  So, yeah, anyway...A+.

Wendell:  Like I said, I would have picked Plague, but I'm more than happy with this win.  I give this an A.

Britt:  B from me.

Jeffery:  B+


Drew:  So…Amour?

Britt:  I fucking hate this movie.

Drew:  BRING IT!

Britt:  I should point out that diseases, strokes, things like this are absolutely terrifying to me, so this was not an enjoyable watch whatsoever.  But I'm struggling to find its purpose.  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was a hard watch, but beautifully shot and acted.  Away From Her was a hard watch, but was actually pretty intriguing when I wasn't having ugly cry face.  This though, what was this?  This was just nothing.  And this was the movie I expected to bawl the entire time though.  I didn't even get that.  I was just questioning why I was watching it.  

Drew:  I want to preface this by saying that I'm a huge Haneke fan.  He's the first director I ever purchased a 'DVD Set' of.  I've seen all of his films and I anticipate each one with an almost rabid excitement.  He's not an easy director to embrace because his nature is cold.  He's very 'matter of fact' in his delivery and yet his films almost always seep into this overtly human place that makes that coldness feel honest.  All Oscar season, I was blind rooting for Amour.  The reviews were golden and it was stampeding towards the Foreign Film Oscar and I was cheering every step of the way, film unseen.  When he was actually nominated for Director I stood up at my desk and hooted and actually woke up my wife.  She didn't understand.  She couldn't.  This was HUGE.  Michael Haneke was an Oscar nominee!!!  Then I saw Amour.  Now, I don't hate this like Britt.  I don't.  I like parts of this very much, actually.  Unfortunately, this is easily my least favorite Haneke, and while I understand that this is more accessible than his other works, it is also his least inspired.  Nothing feels developed, at least not in the way we're used to with him.  I always look to a Haneke film to explore the depths of human psyche, to find kernels of our thinking that we don't often analyze.  Films like Cache and Benny's Video and Funny Games and The Piano Teacher and The White Ribbon all develop these themes that complete blindside the audience, digging into our perception of violence and revenge and anger and oppression and turning it all on its head.  I struggle to understand what it is that Haneke is trying to say with this one.  Great performances (Trintignant being the standout and the one who was truly Oscar worthy) can't make this more than it is, sadly, and at the end of the day it all feels almost completely pointless.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe the pointlessness or absoluteness of loss is what Haneke was going for here, but when all is said and done, it didn't completely work for me.  Like I said, I don't hate this...but I barely like it.

Britt:  Hanke isn't a consistent director for me.  Cache is a masterpiece but his arrogance with the Funny Games remake rubbed me the wrong way.  So I can't just buy that pointlessness was his point.  A film, in my opinion should be at least either interesting or entertaining (hopefully both), but this film was neither.

Drew:  I think there are a few films that have tried to exploit that pointlessness, or apathy, with regards to a situation that is, in most cases, hopeless.  Gus Van Sant's Elephant comes instantly to mind as a film that exploits a horrendous situation in such a languid and un-emotional way that it makes me feel absolutely nothing, which was, in my humble opinion, the point.  In that same way, I think Haneke was trying to give the audience a sense of resolution to oblivion with this case of mental deterioration, a sense that nothing is going to fix this... you can't stop what's coming...and in that regard, it worked...I'm just not so sure that I cared much for how it worked, if that makes sense.

Britt:  Well said, but Elephant at least interesting and had somewhat of a climax.  College Humor took the Best Picture nominees of this year and condensed them into 6 seconds Vine's.  Amour's Vine was better than the film.

Kevin:  That Vine is hilarious.  Oh, Amour.  That’s a movie I’ll never watch again.  Having said that, it's pretty damn powerful at times.  And those two actors, Riva especially, are amazing.  I like the intimacy of this film but there are times when Haneke's camera almost doesn't want us to see.  I don't mind a static shot.  But that's all this movie was.  I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean.  It alienated me at times.  Worked at others.  The space of the apartment was well-established and real.  I liked that.  I've never seen a Haneke film before or since this one.  I obviously should.  He knows what he's doing.  Very assured.  I appreciate what he did here.  It is truly an intimate situation made intimately.  My grandmother passed a year and a half ago, and I feel like the emotions of the husband character are perfectly realistic.  My grandfather was the same way, though, he had and accepted a bit more help than this guy.  I really loved this movie about half the time, and sort of hated at others.  It never got me all the way.  I LOVE the end of this movie though.  LOVE.  AMOUR.  It really stuck out that a movie of such stark realism should take a little flight of fancy in the end.  Really a solid ending.

Drew:  Haneke has a way with endings.  The intensity of Cache's ending will never leave me.  Like...he was just getting into bed and yet I couldn't breathe.

Kevin:  What Britt said about this movie feeling "intrusive" is spot on, and I'd say that's the point of it.  But it is uncomfortable to watch often.  While it is intrusive, I also feel like the camera work actually put me at an arm's length at times.  Not every director need to dance the camera around like Scorsese.  But this movie could've used a bit of camera movement if you ask me.  Just a shift or an edit here or there, only at certain times.  Like I said before, this is real, raw, powerful stuff.  But I just couldn't hang with it the whole time.  The end was brutal and beautiful at the same time though.  And the performances were perfect.  I'll never see it again.  But I'm glad I saw it once.

Wendell:  I actually loved this one.  I genuinely felt for this couple going through the most difficult possible part of their relationship.  The way dad's pride gets in the way of him accepting help from his family, yet still trying to do as much as he could for her felt wonderfully real.  The performances are just perfect.  And you could really feel that their entire world was in this apartment.  It gave the film a lived-in vibe that delivered all of their years together without having to have someone tell us about them.  At times, it is hard to watch because the wife is deteriorating before our eyes, before his eyes, and there's really nothing either he or we can do to stop it.  It's not pointlessness Haneke expresses to me because in this case, I think, love is its own point.  That is ultimately why we do things.  There doesn't need to be anything beyond that.  However, we are all doomed to be separated from those we love.  A definite sense of hopelessness comes about.  That, I think is at least part of what the director is trying to accomplish.  The other is a more literal thing.  Without putting the question in our faces like a few of the other winners we discussed, it does want us to debate the euthanasia issue.  More specifically, it asks us could we do what the husband did in this movie and/or is what he did right.  Oh...SPOILER ALERT...oops.  When it ended I was stunned into silence for a few minutes before debating it with myself.  I love when movies do that to me.  So even though there were some tough themes to stomach I appreciated the places it took me.

Kevin:  That ending man.  #beautifullybrutal then just beautiful.

Wendell:  That’s a great way to put it. 

Jeffery:  The direction is strong and very focused--almost to a point that makes the film feel clinical.  I felt somewhat distant from the movie but Riva reeled me in.  I think she's extraordinary in it.  Haneke's films are complex and layered.  This one haunted me afterwards.  I started to see it in a creepier light than what I experienced when I first saw it.  I appreciate when a film can take on that kind of power.  It's not really a movie I'd like to return to. It's a pretty painful watch.

Kevin:  "Clinical" is an interesting way to put it.  I like that.

Wendell:  Haven't seen any of the other noms, but I feel very good about this win.  I wish Rust and Bone were nominated, but even if it were I might till go with Amour.  My other faves from that year AMPAS wouldn't dare nominate: Jiro Dreams of Sushi because it's a doc and The Raid because it literally kicks ass for an hour and a half.  In light of all that, I'm giving this a solid A.

Drew:  Declaration of War is my favorite foreign of the year, followed by Rust + Bone (stupid Harvey convincing the French to submit Intouchables) and both would make my ballot and get A+ grades from me.  This gets a B.

Britt:  Intouchables was awesome!  Rust and Bone was great too.  I actually liked it a lot more than 2nd time around.  You guys are always so eloquent in your words.  So I feel a little inferior in doing this: F for Fuck it.

Drew:  LOL!

Wendell:  Hahahahahahahaha!!!  Seriously, though, The Intouchables was ok, but Rust & Bone was 1000x better.

Kevin:  B

Jeffery:  B+


Drew:  The Academy needed a Fix-It Felix when they went and wrecked the Animated Oscar by giving it to Brave over Disney's triumphant return!

Britt:  Yes!  Man, Wreck It Ralph should've won this.  I don't think Brave is bad though.  It's a nice story about a strong willed girl.  The music was beautiful, and I have a bit of a soft spot for the animation when it comes to Merida's hair.  Aside from Merida not needing a prince, it didn't feel very original though.  And her father reminded me way too much of Stoick from How To Train Your Dragon.

Drew:  I actually like Brave.  It's nice.  Wreck-It Ralph is just superior.

Britt:  Also I love Kelly Macdonald.

Drew:  I think that's the thing with Brave...it's not very original, and the reviews were on to that as well, which makes this win...fishy.  The film is fine, in parts beautiful, and wholly entertaining.  My family loved this, and Merida is a GREAT princess, but the themes developed don't feel fresh in these hands.  Disney handled similar themes in a far more refreshing light the next year, but we'll get into that next week.  I loved the message and the characters (the brothers were great) and the music...but I preferred the message, characters and music in Wreck-It Ralph.

Wendell:  I like Brave, but it should not have won.  It's a solid picture, gorgeous to look at with a nice mother-daughter thing going on.  Like Britt said, though, it doesn't feel very original.  I give it a big plus for the visuals.  I think they knocked it out the park in that aspect.  I love Wreck-it Ralph, but I'm going not sure I would give that the win, either.  When I did my awards that year, I actually went off the grid and gave it to Rise of the Guardians.  Lately, I'm backing off that.  If/when I redo those I am more inclined to go with Frankenweenie as my top choice. That might be Burton's best movie in a decade.  Honestly, I have Brave and Pirates neck and neck at the bottom of the nominees pack.  At the risk of sounding sexist, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think it having a female protagonist had something to do with this win.

Drew:  I love Pirates, but that's for another discussion.

Britt:  I think it was less about the lead being a female and more about the lead not needing a prince.

Wendell:  Fair enough.

Jeffery:  Nicely made and I like the female protagonist but I'm sitll meh overall with this movie.

Kevin:  I hope you weren't worried about me.  I know I'm late.  Unusually.  Here's a story: I thought I hated Brave.  I wasn't even gonna re-watch it for this, but my wife reminded me that I was being a real dick about watching it with her that one time, and I ended up falling asleep while she watched it.

Drew:  Who doesn't love a good dick story!

Kevin:  I felt I needed to watch it again, so I just did.  Just now.  I don't hate it...at all.  I really was being a dick that night, a stubborn little manboy who didn't want to watch an animated movie.  It's a good little movie.  My favorite thing, here it is, Britt: I love Merida's hair.  I grew up a brunette.  But my Mom's family is made up of strong-willed, red-headed girls.  I know the kind well.  Brave is a beautifully shot movie.  I mean I think this movie is gorgeous to look at, the sweeping shots of the landscape.  Smoothly edited, well-paced.  I wasn't crazy about the cutesy acoustic pop numbers, a bit cheesy for my taste, but they work.  And I also was put off a bit by the "Mom turned into a bear" routine.  But, just the same, that worked in the end, as the whole legend backstory played back in.  Merida is a wonderful princess.  Kelly Macdonald is incredible...in everything I've ever seen her in.  Her voice work is great here in a role perfectly suited for her.  The brother characters were cute, sometimes hilarious.  I also really like the Dad character.  I also know big, brutish dudes with big hearts.  This is a "nice" movie, as Drew put it.  But I also liked the edge the action sequences and fight scenes brought to it.  I enjoyed myself, for the most part.  I zoned out a bit in the middle, during the first little bit where Mom first turned into the bear.  But it picked back up quickly enough and got sweet enough, in the end, to tug at the old heartstrings a bit.  I wouldn't say I LOVE Brave.  But it's good enough to watch again, especially when I have a feisty little redheaded daughter one day (I hope!).  I will admit, of course, I haven't seen one of the other nominees in a field of familiar titles I now regret not seeing, so I can't really compare.  I'm willing to bet Oscar did feel like they were making a statement with Brave as the winner.  It is decidedly different than just about any other Disney princess movie that with the lack of a love story, Prince Charming deal.

Wendell:  Cool story, Kevin.  And it is a nice movie, just not a great one.  B

Drew:  B

Kevin:  B+

Britt:  B.  I've had "Chase The Wind" stuck in my head all day because of this.

Jeffery:  C+


Drew:  So, maybe 'nice movie' was the theme this year, because it's time to talk about Argo!

Britt:  I love Argo so much.  I liked how suspenseful it was, even though you knew the outcome.  That plane scene was intense.

Drew:  I feel like this is one of those films that is fun and entertaining and in parts riveting and then...completely forgettable.  I think a lot of this is due to the fact that none of these characters matter.  There are no defining traits or moments that connect us to these people passed to circumstance, and once the film ends all that's remembered is the circumstance and everyone involved fades away and eventually...you don't care anymore.

Kevin:  I'd say you're right on it, Drew.  I really had a good time with Argo but instantly forgot about it.  It's a solid piece of entertainment and Affleck is really good behind the camera.  I still haven't seen The Town, but between this and Gone Baby Gone, it's apparent that he has some skill.  I'm really looking forward to anything he directs going forward.  For me, though, the only memorable characters, despite all the great casting here, are the John Goodman and Alan Arkin Hollywood players.  I never connected to Affleck's character much at all, and the scenes with the group of embassy workers hiding out, well-crafted and acted as they are, just didn't offer enough to hang onto. 

Britt:  I have to disagree, because I liked the more "unknown" actors here.  Clea DuVall and Christopher Denham specifically I find quite fascinating and of course I liked the main players in Goodman, Arkin, and Cranston.  I think out of all of Affleck's director efforts, this one is by far his best. I found it to be very engaging, and I still remember it well enough.   

Kevin:  I definitely don't think they're bad.  Clea DuVall is always good.  Love seeing her pop up.  This movie has a great cast.  Really great.  And Affleck and his production designers nailed the period look.  It's full of style.  It just didn't stick out as far as the other nominees went that year.

Wendell:  Kevin and Drew nailed my argument for me.  The first time I saw it, I was all into it while watching it, even wrote a glowing review of it.  Shortly after that, it was practically gone.  Nothing resonated outside of the performances of Arkin and Goodman.  The unknowns all turned in solid work, but they were basically one collective character to be rescued, one that wasn't terribly well developed. The only other thing sorta stuck with me was the runway chase, which of course, is total BS, but it worked within the context of the film.  Knowing what works is something Ben Affleck is obviously good at.  He is an exceptionally talented director and this is further proof of that after two outstanding prior efforts.  The strange thing about Argo, and this is basically repeating the first thing I said, in the minutes after watching it I felt like this was his strongest movie, yet, in the time since, I've come to view it as his weakest.  I have it a shade behind The Town and both far behind Gone Baby Gone

Jeffery:  I wasn't too keen on Argo when it came out.  I thought it was solid but nothing special.  Not a huge fan of Affleck's directing so far.  His performance is so flat in the movie.  I think it would have been more compelling with a different lead.  Still, people seem to love it.  Especially Hollywood.  I thought the whole Affleck snub thing was sort of over the top and ridiculous.  There were better choices that year.  Looking at the movie now it's even worse.  Now that you know the outcome, the tension isn't really there.  I do like some of the 70s vibe--the toys at the end.  Some nice touches.  But the movie overall is pretty derivative.

Kevin:  This was one of the last nominees I saw that year.  Did a double feature of this and Life of Pi.  I was much more impacted by Ang Lee's film that day.  I'd say Argo is towards the bottom of the nominees for me.  I hadn't seen Amour at the time.  I'd put this one barely above Amour and quite a bit above Les Mis.  I know you love it, Drew.  But it's just not my kind of musical, as well made as it was.  My favorite nominees that year were Silver Linings Playbook (which I absolutely adore) and Beasts of the Southern WildDjango put me off a bit, but I've come to love it as I've re-watched it.  Zero Dark Thirty was awesome.  Life of Pi was beautiful, and Lee was a great choice for Best Director.  That's the only movie I've actually liked watching in 3D.  I so wanted Lincoln to be better, my lack of period knowledge hurt me on that one.  I felt bored early on, though it got way better as it moved along.

Britt:  This rates high on my list for the nominees that year.  Silver Linings Playbook was probably my favorite, followed by this, Django Unchained, and Les Miserables.  Loved Beasts of the Southern Wild too.  Lincoln was good, the rest meh to a new category I just created now called "fuck off, Amour"

Kevin:  Amour, as praised as it was, did not deserve to be here.  Everybody loved Argo.  And that may have played a part in my not loving it as well.  All these expectations, and I just wasn't blown away by it.  Argo is far from a bad movie.  It just wasn't up there for me.  No desire to revisit it.  Third from the bottom of these nominees.  Silver Linings Playbook is like the perfect movie for me.  Truly.

Britt:  I love Silver Linings too.  And that's before everyone got Jennifer Lawrence fatigue.

Kevin:  I will never tire of J Law.  She's bae.  And even my wife has become ok with that.

Drew:  Beasts of the Southern Wild should have won, but Les Miserables is like my heartbeats...it's part of me.  They are leagues above the rest.  Silver Linings is fun, but whatever.  Amour was good...but not great.  Zero Dark Thirty thrilled me, but I've moved on.  Django is like Basterds' lesser cousin (and that Waltz win was...ridiculous)...Lincoln was glorified history channel fine.  Life of Pi is a film I wanted to LOVE.  The book is brilliant.  I found it so lacking.  Moonrise Kingdom should have been nominated and won, period.  Argo is a fine winner, but like The King's Speech, it won't be remembered in ten years.  Like, at all.

Kevin:  Totally.  Moonrise Kingdom is easily my favorite movie of 2012.  It is pure love.  And I would've given the Supporting Oscar to Phil.  No question.

Jeffery:  Moonrise Kingdom was my fave of the year too!

Wendell:  I think it was a good batch of nominees.  My top two are very close: Django Unchained and Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Loved both of those to death.  I would have been extremely happy with either of those winning.  I've got Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and Amour in the next tier with Argo, Les Mis, and Lincoln in the one after that.  Lincoln is odd for me because I could move it up a tier some days and others I can't.  Towering performances all around help that movie tremendously.  I would have loved to see noms for The Master, The Sessions, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and/or Skyfall.  Yes, Skyfall, a freakin' 007 movie.  The best one of them all, if you ask me.  Good call on Moonrise Kingdom.  Love that one, as well.  Argo is a good movie, but should not have won.  It's already mostly forgotten.

Britt:  I'm going to go A, I think I gave it an A+ in my original review, but it's still a solid A for me.

Kevin:  I’m at a B.

Drew:  B-

Wendell:  Going with a B- on this one.

Jeffery:  B-


YEAR SCORE: 266/400


1) Searching for Sugar Man (79 Points)
2 & 3) Argo & Brave (64 Points Each)
4) Amour (59 Points)

Closing Comments

Drew:  Time for closing comments!  I think I said this already, but 'nice movie' seemed to be the theme.  Nothing terrible, but nothing memorable either.

Wendell:  I think this was a pretty good year.  Doc and Foreign were strong winners.  Best Pic and Animated is where the meh comes in for me.

Kevin:  Decent year for me.  Best Picture was a bust.  Argo is not a bad movie, but there were plenty of better ones.  A B-range year with a perfect, beautiful A+ doc.

Britt:  The foreign winner really brought this year down.  It would've been very solid otherwise. 

Jeffery:  Super blah year with Argo being a bland choice for Best Picture.  Amour and Sugarman were good but didn't sweep me away as it did for many.

Let's Get TRENDY!

This week's hashtag comes from our discussion of Brave, where Kevin told us...a good dick story, and who doesn't love one of those!  So, #GoodDickStory and make this conversation trendy...and be sure to comment below your thoughts for the year in question and our assessment of the winners.


  1. So I've seen the Best Picture, Animated Feature, and Foreign Language Film winners and...interestingly, do not agree with any of those. Watching Amour was like watching paint dry and I still do not get the uproar over Emmanuelle Riva's performance. Yes, she was good. But that's it. Just good.

    Brave was fine, but it pales in comparison to Wreck-It Ralph which was far more inventive snd memorable imo.

    But regarding Argo. It's a fun, edge of your seat thriller. But I wouldn't give it Best Picture. I remember rooting against it before I saw it because it was winning everything. But I think its awards run had a lot to do with sympathy over Ben Affleck's directorial snub and it being a movie where Hollywood is the hero. Compared to its competition, like Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty, it felt like an easy way out. I will give Argo this, though. I'll take Argo over Lincoln. Another movie that was like watching paint dry.

    1. Looks like we're pretty much in agreement here.

  2. Oh, it is about to be BROUGHT for Amour (especially since I pretty much agree with you guys on the other three, although I enjoyed Brave a bit more).

    The point of it is right there in the title: Love. What is love? How do you show it? When you love someone, do you put their needs above your own, or do you ignore what they tell you they need and give them what they "actually" need? Where is that line? And when do you realize it's time to cross it - that the choice you made actually wasn't the correct one?

    I will say that there is personal baggage here: My long-term boyfriend at the time had watched his partner succumb to old age in a way not too far removed from this, and he himself had just been diagnosed with kidney failure at a relatively young age, and I had been helping him with dialysis treatments. In addition, when my grandmother passed it was under similar circumstances, although she was in hospital. I had avoided seeing her because I felt she would not want to be seen that way, but allowed my family to talk me into going. The second I saw her, before I even said hello, I knew my instinct had been right. Emmanuelle Riva's performance in Amour took me right back there. It's so real, as though there was no acting AT ALL. I never saw her playing a character, just her, going through these horrible things, feeling these terrible feelings, feeling her life slip away from her and being completely unable to do anything about it.

    Because of this, Amour is often incredibly difficult to watch. Combined with Haneke's unflinching camera, at times it's unbearable. But those camera positions and movements (or, mostly, lack thereof regarding the latter) are the perfect choice for this subject, just as Aronofsky's choices were perfect for Requiem for a Dream. I make that comparison because these are two films that I find to be so great at being difficult to watch that I'll never watch them again.

    For Haneke to present everything that happens in Amour as he does, which is to say, without any commentary, without any editorializing, is kind of radical and the best possible choice for the material. Think of Hollywood telling this story; it would drown in sentimental gloop. Instead, Haneke simply presents everything that happens as is, shows the toll it takes on the characters as is, and leads everything to that stunning climax so that we may not agree with what Georges does, but we understand it. It's nothing short of miraculous, and Trintignant is brilliant in his portrayal - as unflinching, in his way, as Haneke and Riva are in theirs.

    Amour is a difficult sit, no question, but IT SHOULD BE. The indignities of old age will come for us all, eventually, and it can be hell for the people who love us. And in a couple, one person has to go first. This is not something to be sentimentalized, but in its way, Amour IS sentimental. It is an ode to this woman - this incredible woman who is fading away - and the relationship she and her husband built over decades, a relationship that has likely weathered many things and now must face one more, the toughest... and it shows what their love was, how strong it was, and not just what that love meant to them, but what the word "love" meant. It's quite possibly the most powerful piece of cinema I've ever seen, one that shook me to my core and will never leave me.

    Also: That dream sequence! Isabelle Huppert! The opening scene! The ending! And so many perfect little moments in between. The one that always sticks out in my memory (besides literally every scene in the kitchen) is the one where she's sitting at the piano and we hear her playing as he watches. Then after a short while, he reaches up and turns off the music. Heartbreaking. And somehow it doesn't feel manipulative, even though that's EXACTLY what it is.

    Anyway, yeah. My passionate defense of Amour. Although Beasts of the Southern Wild should have won that year, in a landslide.

    1. Bravo! What an impassioned defense. Good stuff.

    2. Well done! Even if I didn't like the film, I can't argue with passion like that.

    3. I'll echo my fellow panelists here, Daniel. I love your passionate defense. When a movie means this much to someone, it's hard to argue!

    4. The thing is though, Amour is one of those films that I respect/admire more than I actually like. But the craft in it is so crazy strong that I find myself rushing to its defense whenever someone says they didn't like it. It is a film that exists beyond the realm of like/dislike.

  3. Haneke is a very hit and miss director with me. I loved Cache and White Ribbon but hated Benny's Video and found Funny Games (U.S) to be an appalling and atrocious film, Amour is a film I don't particularly like or hate. I agree with you that it has some good parts and I think it's well-acted but it doesn't hold a light to Cache or White Ribbon.

    Declaration of War was very good, the best foreign film of the year but that's not saying much imo because I thought the competition was fairly weak.

    Really like Argo as well even though it wasn't the best film of the year. I found it to be tense, well-crafted and genuinely engaging.

    1. The Amour Vine was hilarious btw

    2. That Amour vine had me nearly crying in laughter, which made me feel bad...kind of.

      I haven't met a Haneke I haven't at least liked. Most of them I love, including the atrocious ones.

      Declaration of War is my second favorite film of the entire year. It hit me that hard. So beautiful. So touching. So emotional. IT'S EVERYTHING!

  4. I love Amour... Britt.... why? :(

    1. Britt...you have some 'splaining to do!

  5. Oh man, I still need to see Searching for Sugar Man! That was recommended to me a few yrs ago but somehow I haven't got around to it. I haven't seen Amour either but I have a feeling I will share Britt's sentiment. I LOVE Brave, I just had such fond memories from watching it, it made me laugh and cry, it may not be perfect but I absolutely love it.

    1. If you haven't seen any other Haneke, and aren't sure what to 'look forward to', then Amour may not be the place to start, even if it is his most accessible film.

      I'd think, for any Haneke virgin, The Piano Teacher is the best place to start, honestly.

  6. I thought the performances in Amour were wonderful but didn't love the film. I would have been happy to see Riva win especially over a Jennifer Lawrence performance that underwhelmed me.

    Brave was a pleasant film for a non-animation person like me. I love Kelly MacDonald, her voice work added so much to the picture but sweet though the film was, and not having seen the competitors, I find it hard to believe this was the best animated film of the year.

    I loved Argo but I can definitely see everyone's point that the lack of identifiable characters, aside from Arkin and Goodman who made a great team, keeps it from being enduring.

    That brought to mind the original "The Poseidon Adventure" and how each passenger in that film was someone you could identify and know in some way so you were involved in their plight and remembered them long after the picture ended. You hit the nail on the head when you said the hostages despite doing excellent work we a collective "we" and ten minutes after the film ended I couldn't tell you who was who. But all these years later I can recall that Shelley Winters was kindly grandmother Belle Rosen "the champion of the women's swimming association" and Stella Stevens & Ernest Borgnine were the battling but loving Mike & Linda Rogo and so on.

    Still Argo is a terrific film just not the best picture of the year, my vote would have gone to Lincoln though both the unnominated Moonrise Kingdom and Skyfall were strong contenders.

    1. I really liked Lawrence, but it wasn't, in my eyes, an Oscar winning performance.

      Yeah, Brave was nice, but it wasn't the best of the year.

      The Poseidon Adventure is a great comparison (or, non-comparison). That was Argo's failure. It's a good film that failed at being great because of that lack of memorable characters.

  7. I was fine with most of the winners this year, and I liked most of the lineups. Though, the Academy could've rewarded better work.

    Sugar Man (B+/B) is a fine little film, and I was happy it won. Though, it's there and gone, unlike How to Survive a Plague, which should've won. (I know, I still need to see Bully.)

    I LOVE Amour (A+), though I probably should rewatch it one of these days. :P Still, Haneke actually getting those Oscar noms was otherworldly. Like, a Haneke film really got nominated?!

    While I wouldn't give Argo the win, I do think it's Affleck's second-best film, behind Gone Baby Gone. He's 3/3 for me (A for GBG and Argo, A-/B+ for The Town), so I'm fine with him being rewarded here. Besides, it's not like Les Miserables had a chance. :(

    I agree on Brave, which I also like. It's flawed, and it beat a better film, but it's not bad at all. I predicted the Academy would be sheep and go for the Pixar film out of that lineup. But, yeah, Wreck-It Ralph should've won.

    1. I'm so with you on the Haneke noms. Like I said, I was THRILLED...and even though it's my least favorite Haneke, I still like it and am not upset it got any of the noms it got.

  8. I just actually love reading these! Good on you guys for doing this, it's always interesting to see other peoples opinions on these winners.

    Amour was a movie I wanted to like, but I knew I would never be able to get through. I just CANNOT watch movies about sad, old people. It makes me scared of getting old and I picture my husband and I, and it''s just too hard to watch. That said, I did watch maybe about a third or a half before switching it off. Well done, but I just can't with old people movies...

    For Argo, I liked it because of how mainstream it was. I went and saw it in theatres with a group of friends, and we all came out really enjoying it. It was nice to have a movie like that win. But Argo is a movie I do actually really enjoy. All of Affleck's directorial efforts have been really good, and this one is no exception. It seems to be the most polished and overall well made. But I do see why people find it kind of meh. I once heard someone say about it that it's like a movie you show in film school of an example of how to make a good movie. It checks all the boxes, and does them all quite well, but it doesn't quite extend farther than that. And I do agree, but I do still really, really enjoy it.

    1. Yes...that Argo explanation is really accurate. It checks every box...and then stops there. So it's a well made movie with no real impact.

      And I'm so happy you love reading these. We love having the conversations!

  9. I fucking hate 2012. The worst year of the decade for me. Searching for Sugar Man is decent at least, not great but not bad either. B. Brave is Pixar at it's most mediocre since A Bug's Life (if we forget that Cars 1 & 2 ever happend). C+. And while hard to say that is bad or anything, and a lot better then the mediocre Town, Argo felt just overhyped for me. B-. And now you'll hate, but I love Amour. It's perfect. Every shot, every performance, every line, every fucking second. Just perfect. It feels just so personal and powerful. I'm a Haneke lover and I think this is one of his finest efforts yet. An A fucking +.

    1. I didn't hate it as much as you, but I did find it just...blah...nice but nothing special and definitely nothing to remember...as far as Oscar winning films go.

      The year itself wasn't a complete loss...but it's also not a bounty of riches either.

  10. I have seen Argo and Canadians were put out by this film since we really helped big time but I believe this film was specifically about the man who faked a film to get them out. To me, it was all about Affleck and his character and the use of a fake film. The actual hostages didn't really matter in Affleck's world. They were the reason for the fake film and how the character got them out. The sad thing is that Affleck is not a great actor. I think of him as a pouter. I prefer Moonrise Kingdom, Skyfall and Lincoln over Argo. For some reason I have no desire to see Brave but I did want to see Amour because it was soon after I had to send my mom into long term care.

    1. Um...if it's that close to home, I'd avoid Amour at all costs.

      Also, everything you said about Argo...except the Affleck thing. I actually like him as an actor more than most. Not in Argo...but in general.