Michael Smith: The year in movies - 2012 memorable moments in cinema
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, December 28, 2012
12/28/12 at 8:12 AM
In watching about 200 movies in 2012, I witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly, and I wasn't always prepared for what I saw on the big-screen, as you can gather from my review of the year in movies.
I'll never forget ... the Admiral Twin reopening to sold-out shows, and that the crowds kept coming until the last night on Dec. 1, three months longer than the drive-in's usual season ... Javier Bardem's villain getting close-up-and-personal with James Bond ... realizing last June 29 that "Girls Night Out" was code for "Let's all meet at the 7 p.m. show of 'Magic Mike' tonight" ... Josh Brolin's spot-on impression of Tommy Lee Jones in the third "Men in Black" movie ... "Zero Dark Thirty's" harrowing dramatization of enhanced interrogation techniques - waterboarding, among others - in the film that opens Jan. 11 in Tulsa ...
I applauded ... when the producers of "August: Osage County" decided to shoot in Osage County, when they could have filmed anywhere they wanted ... when the muscle-bound grandfathers of "The Expendables 2" had as much fun as they did ... when William Friedkin, director of "The French Connection," tweeted after seeing this year's "End of Watch" that it may be the best cop movie ever ... when "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" became a $135 million worldwide hit this summer, clearly capturing the "Downton Abbey" fans in their downtime ... at the much-maligned "Twilight" series of films ending with such a satisfying twist-ending in "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" ... when Circle Cinema finally opened its new auditorium and learned that another screen (their largest yet) will open next summer ... when girls armed with a bow-and-arrow ("The Hunger Games," "Brave") ruled the box-office ...
I was surprised ... that what sounded like an awful idea - a film remake of "21 Jump Street" - turned out to be the funniest movie of the year ... at the synergy of "The Hunger Games," which during spring break was the No. 1 movie, book and album in the country ... at Helen Hunt's comfort level with complete nudity in "The Sessions" ... at how starstruck the locals were by the "August: Osage County" filming, and some of the dream-requests that people thought I could make come true ... at finding the drive-in has become a family-friendly place, full of SUVs and young children, rather than the cliches of make-out sessions and partiers ... that audiences made a potty-mouthed "Ted"-dy bear the comedy star of 2012 ...
I was disturbed ... to see that Eddie Murphy is still making live-action films ("A Thousand Words"), despite no one going to see them ... to watch the manner in which a piece of fried chicken is used in a sadistic act in "Killer Joe" ... to see Hugo Weaving made up as a nursing home matron in "Cloud Atlas" ... at realizing that two of the five cases profiled in the harrowing school-bullying documentary "Bully" featured Oklahoma children ... by the plane crash in "Flight," but in a good way, cinematically speaking ... and mesmerized by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the de-programming scene in "The Master" ... by the Colorado massacre at a "The Dark Knight Rises" screening, and then thrilled to see audiences return en masse for communal midnight openings like those for the "Twilight" finale and others ...
I hope ... that no one really thought that all of that makeup made Joseph Gordon-Levitt look anything like a young Bruce Willis in "Looper" ... that Judd Apatow stops growing less funny with each film that he directs ... that the next two films in the "Hobbit" series are marked improvements, seeing as how we have two coming in the next 19 months ... that Jack Black finds another black comedy to make after his performance in "Bernie" ... that Anne Hathaway finds another role in her career as defining as that of Fantine in "Les Miserables" - it won't be easy ... that people bought more of their snacks and sodas at the drive-in - rather than bringing in coolers full of grub - after owner Blake Smith's plea to "those who want to see us stay open" ...
I was disappointed ... when "Alien" prequel "Prometheus" left more people saying "Huh?" than "Wow!" ... that legislative candidates were closer in their "attack-ad" methods to Will Ferrell's "The Campaign" than they might want to admit ... to see that Vince Vaughn has stopped being funny ... when Meryl Streep won her third Oscar for a film as lacking as "The Iron Lady" when it should have come for "Julie & Julia" ... when no one went to see "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," a witty little comedy about the end of the world ... to see that with "To Rome With Love," Woody Allen had gone back to making mean-spirited, unfunny movies so soon after "Midnight in Paris" ...
Best of 2012: Action based on a true story and indie drama lead list of year’s top 10 films
The movie year of 2012 produced some very good films. Did it produce a classic? "Argo," the dramatization of a rescue plan during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, comes closest.
Event pictures have become such an important part of Hollywood's calendar, and those earlier in the year - "The Hunger Games," "The Avengers" and a new "Spider-Man" movie - satisfied more than those arriving late in the year, like the misguided new James Bond flick "Skyfall" or "The Hobbit," which felt like been-there, done-that cinema.
The following is a 10-best list for 2012 that is, as always, something more like my 10 favorites for the year.
Based on the amazing true story of how the CIA used a fake science-fiction movie as a ruse to sneak out Americans during the Iranian hostage situation, director Ben Affleck cemented his status as one of our most compelling filmmakers. Superb acting from an ensemble cast was topped by Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Incredibly suspenseful and entertaining, as Affleck creates a great Iran story, a great Hollywood story and a great government story to make this the best picture of 2012.
2. The Sessions
This little indie film is one of the most beautiful, personal and intimate pictures I've seen in a long time - a remarkable achievement for a film based on the true story of a man living in an iron lung, determined to lose his virginity. In a world based purely on achievement, John Hawkes would be a contender for best actor against Daniel Day-Lewis, whose past "My Left Foot" performance is a favorable comparison to what Hawkes achieves. As the sex therapist, Helen Hunt bares all - clothing, her soul - and has never been better.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The best movie about teens in years. Now I know why author Stephen Chbosky held out allowing a movie to be made until he could be the director: He pulls no punches when it comes to the harsh realities confronted by Charlie, his introverted protagonist (Logan Lerman) and his two friends (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in unforgettable, award-worthy efforts). Seriously teen-smart and intimately aware of the melodrama that is the teen experience: Every event, in their eyes, is either the end of the world or the defining moment of a lifetime.
4. End of Watch
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña deliver performances that rarely reach such depth of character as a pair of Los Angeles police partners. They make an audience care about their lives, and their ultra-dangerous jobs, and all that they stand to lose if they don't come home from work alive one night. Writer-director David Ayer ("Training Day") leaves behind stories of rogue lawmen and focuses on two good cops for a remarkable look at street justice.
5. The Master
You can't boil it down as "the movie about Scientology's beginnings," because it's neither that simple nor that accurate. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson makes another complex picture about how we see ourselves, and those who inspire us, and it is as fascinating as it is confounding. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix turn in amazing performances as two men drawn to each other in forwarding a movement; they show us that a spiritual guide, as well as a scoundrel, can appear in many forms - and they may even be one and the same.
6. Zero Dark Thirty
The team behind the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" (director Kathryn Bigelow and scripter Mark Boal) makes their hunt-for-bin Laden picture feel like history on the run. Boal tells the story in a kind of journalistic reality manner, making no judgments on subjects like interrogations involving torture. Jessica Chastain creates a complex character as the dogged pursuer who essentially represents the American people, years later still chasing the top card in the deck when other officials have moved on. Opens Jan. 11 in Tulsa.
7. Moonrise Kingdom
Set in an "only in the movies" time of innocence on a placid New England island, filmmaker Wes Anderson tells an idealized 1965 story of two runaway young people who want nothing more than the freedom to be happy with each other, balanced against adults who appear resigned to the fact that they will never feel that way again. Anderson's film is surprisingly romantic, melancholy and filled with his storytelling devices that, as utilized in this picture, remind of his occasional genius.
8. The Intouchables
In this French feel-good film, a deep bond forms between a quadriplegic and his street-wise caregiver, creating a dependent relationship in which each man comes to know the other's joys, pains, desires and secrets. It's a foreign-film bromance that becomes a story of warm humanity amid all the politically incorrect chuckles. The worldwide box-office hit came to Tulsa and became the No. 1 ticket-seller at Circle Cinema. This is the only movie I paid to see a second time this year so I could share it with someone I love.
9. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino turns the "spaghetti Western" on its head with this "Southern" set in pre-Civil War Mississippi, with a slave-turned-bounty hunter seeking revenge. The picture is unapologetically hilarious, violent and verbally coarse like the era in which it is set. Tarantino makes a sinfully entertaining film that isn't afraid to confront the reality of slavery in the U.S. by looking at an ugly past with a modern viewpoint.
10. The Avengers
The most satisfying summer-movie joyride in years accomplished the near-impossible by exceeding expectations created by the Marvel movie franchises. It could have been a mess bringing together in one film the super-sized stories and egos of these heroes, but director Joss Whedon adopted its members' best qualities: The movie had the brains of "Iron Man" Tony Stark, the bravado of Thor, the heart of Captain America and the power of the Hulk. Cheers go out to executive producer and Union High graduate Jeremy Latcham.
Ten more movies to check out if you haven't seen them
11. 21 Jump Street: This naughty surprise twist on the 1980s TV series was the funniest movie of 2012.
12. Lincoln: Not an entirely great movie, but Daniel Day-Lewis' performance will define our 16th president for future generations.
13. Looper: This time-travel story made for a quirky science-fiction tale, with a second-act twist that raised the stakes.
14. The Dark Knight Rises: Nolan's finale is dynamic, ambitious, flawed and destined to be overshadowed by the Colorado tragedy.
15. Brave: Pixar decides that a girl can be the hero of one of their movies, and they hit the target like one of Merida's arrows.
16. The Amazing Spider-Man: Too soon for a reboot of Spidey movies? Not if they make Peter Parker's continuing stories this much fun.
17. The Hunger Games: The spring's definitive event picture satisfied devotees of the young-adult novels and made new fans, as well.
18. Your Sister's Sister: Indie comedic drama at its best, with just the right amount of personal conflict and improvised comedy.
19. Flight: When Denzel Washington is good, he's great. When he's bad, he's even better. Don't drink and shoot up and fly planes.
20. Silver Linings Playbook: Mental health taken seriously can work as comedy, especially when Jennifer Lawrence shows her range.
...And the worst
The 10 movies of 2012 to avoid at all costs are:
1. The Watch
I don't know who said "Let's get Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn together for a science-fiction comedy full of phallic jokes in which they fight off aliens in their neighborhood," but those people need to be abducted by aliens and probed.
2. That's My Boy
"That's My Boy" is disgusting, stupid, offensive and unfunny, which is to say that it's an Adam Sandler movie. Sandler must be stopped, and only you, the audience, can end his reign of terror.
3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Nicolas Cage's version of comic-book superhero "Ghost Rider" rumbles down the highway on a fiery motorcycle, himself a blazing skeleton. Beyond the flames, he appears to be brainless and gutless, lacking even a funny bone. So is this unneeded sequel.
4. Man on a Ledge
Note to filmmakers: When you have a star like Sam Worthington who has presence, especially in his action skills and interactions with other actors, don't stick him on a 21st-floor ledge. Not that the rest of this turkey is compelling, or coherent, for that matter.
This poster-child for the big, dumb, loud summer blockbuster destroys aircraft carriers, brain cells and Taylor Kitsch's chances of headlining another $200 million movie in his career. Just sink this "Battleship."
6. Darling Companion
Diane Keaton in Diane Keaton mode, fidgety and making funny noises with her mouth. She plays a woman who might love a dog more than her husband (Kevin Kline, looking as embalmed as the movie). Lawrence Kasdan's story flops from the start, and it can't get back up.
7. Anna Karenina
Tolstoy's epic novel, conceived as a film vehicle for Keira Knightley to make more ostentatious costume changes than Cher performing in concert with Beyonce. She also appears as the most stunningly beautiful but gravely ill woman since Ali MacGraw in "Love Story."
To make a family sports fantasy starring the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, the director of past "worst movie of the year" candidates "Deck the Halls" and "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son" was hired. Well ... this filmmaker is consistent.
9. Project X
This house party-from-hell flick wants to be something like "Superbad" meets "Jackass" meets "Girls Gone Wild," but without the sweetness. Meant to be a comedy, but with no laughs beyond cringe-inducing "That's so wrong" moments. Juvenile in the worst way.
10. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The lead actor has all the charisma of one of those animatronic figures in Disney's Hall of Presidents. A good degree of disappointment stems from the fact that the title alone seemed to promise something amusing, but this movie simply sucks.
Original Print Headline: Memorable Moments In Cinema
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Hundreds of cars wait in line to get into the Admiral Twin drive-in for its June reopening after a fire burned it down in 2010. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World file
Ewan McGregor (left), Abigail Breslin and Dermot Mulroney drive through downtown Barnsdall in a Ferrari during the filming of "August: Osage County" in October. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file