Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2012--The Year in Review

Rarely can I remember a film falling so swiftly from grace as did Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Met with excited anticipation and confused raves upon its October release, but abandoned with utter contempt only a month later, Paul Thomas Anderson's superb character study left many viewers wondering "What went wrong?" But why?! The picture's quality and intent was crystal clear. Joaquin Phoenix delivered the performance of the year--I mean, James Dean-level brilliance--as Freddie Quell, a twisted, horndog, alcoholic war veteran who parlays his mastery of photography and chemistry into a friendship with Lancaster Dodd, a megalomaniacal cult leader played with equal grandeur by Philip Seymour Hoffman. This film seemed so simple: it was about the battle for Freddie's soul, and this is something Freddie is not going to give up so easily. What was wonderfully complex about The Master was that Lancaster Dodd's questionable brainwashing methods actually DO help Quell come to some sobering conclusions about himself. But this doesn't mean Quell owes Dodd his LIFE! (And this is where the film's main criticism of Scientology lies.) It remains, though, that The Master has profound feelings for both of its main characters (and deep suspicions about its most villainous presence, in the unlikely, chilly embodiment of Amy Adams as Dodd's imperious wife). It has great respect for Lancaster and Freddie's friendship, but it also knows that Freddie has other fish to fry, and it generously let's him go about doing so (this is underlined in the film's gloriously carnal final scene). With another earth-rocking score from Jonny Greenwood and astounding 70mm photography from Mihai Malaimaire Jr. (I swear, I gasped when those reproductions of Freddie's '40s-era photographic set-ups flashed onto the big screen), The Master left my body and soul buzzing after seeing it, as if I'd imbibed some of Freddie's intoxicating jet fuel. It was clearly the best film of the period, and glaringly worthy of the sweep I give it (and certainly better than the still entertaining Oscar winner Argo). 

Still, 2012 was a terrific year for international cinema, with Michael Haneke's end-of-life love story Amour; Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho's riveting tale of a high-rise bedeviled by crime Neighboring Sounds; the little seen truck-stop romance Araf/Somewhere in Between, from Turkey's Yesim Ustaoglu; the terrific political film No, shot on '80s-era videotape by Spain's Pablo Larrain; the stunningly idiosyncratic Holy Motors, from French auteur Leos Carax (and starring the remarkable Denis Levant); the often over-the-top, time-hopping, makeup-caked international production Cloud Atlas; and especially the deeply moving musical documentary Searching for Sugar Man by Sweden's Malik Bendjelloul (who, sadly, committed suicide only a year after winning the Oscar). As for the Americans, I was dazzled by Craig Zobel's account of a real-life hoax perpetrated against the workers at a fast food joint. Compliance was easily the most unfairly overlooked film of the year, with an ensemble cast that miraculously make you see how something this astoundingly wrong can happen with ease (it's Ann Dowd, in the nominal lead as the restaurant's confused manager, who really grabs us by the throat--it's arguable, the notion that hers is a supporting performance rather than a lead, but I'm siding with the latter, since she's the first and last major character we see on screen). It and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's tense account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, landed along with P.T. Anderson's movie as the best American products of the year, though I loved Behn Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, Don Hertzfeldt's mindbending animated feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Steven Spielberg's regal Lincoln, Hamony Korine's wild ride Spring Breakers, Richard Linklater's underappreciated Bernie, David O. Russell's hit romance Silver Linings Playbook, and Steven Soderburgh's utterly fun Magic Mike. All in all, an encouraging year for film. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: THE MASTER (US, Paul Thomas Anderson) (2nd: Searching for Sugar Man (Sweden/UK, Malik Bendjelloul), followed by: Amour (France, Michael Haneke); Zero Dark Thirty (US, Kathryn Bigelow); Compliance (US, Craig Zobel); Neighboring Sounds (Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho); Araf/Somewhere in Between (Turkey, Yesim Ustaoglu); No (Spain, Pablo Larrain); Frances Ha (US, Noah Baumbach); Holy Motors (France, Leos Carax); Cloud Atlas (US/Germany/Hong Kong, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lara Wachowski); Beasts of the Southern Wild (US, Benh Zeitlin); It’s Such a Beautiful Day (US, Don Hertzfeldt); Lincoln (US, Steven Spielberg); Spring Breakers (US, Harmony Korine); Bernie (US, Richard Linklater); Silver Linings Playbook (US, David O. Russell); Magic Mike (US, Steven Soderburgh); Wreck-It Ralph (US, Rich Moore); What Maisie Knew (US, Scott McGehee and David Siegel); A Hijacking (Denmark, Tobias Lindholm); Haywire (US, Steven Soderburgh); Hope Springs (US, David Frankel); The Cabin in the Woods (US, Drew Goddard); Killing Them Softly (US, Andrew Dominik); The Sessions (US, Ben Lewin); Django Unchained (US, Quentin Tarantino); Passion (US, Brian De Palma); Your Sister’s Sister (US, Lynn Shelton); Skyfall (US/UK, Sam Mendes); The Act of Killing (Denmark/Norway, Joshua Oppenheimer); Player Hating: A Love Story (US, Maggie Hadleigh-West); After Lucia (Mexico/France, Michel Franco); Frankenweenie (US, Tim Burton); Anna Karenina (UK, Joe Wright); This is 40 (US, Judd Apatow); Detropia (US, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady); The Avengers (US, Joss Whedon); Jeff Who Lives at Home (US, Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass); West of Memphis (US, Amy Berg); Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton (US, Tom Lawson and Michael Koepenick); Argo (US, Ben Affleck); Return (US, Liza Johnson); How to Survive a Plague (US, David France); Flight (US, Robert Zemeckis); The Dark Knight Rises (US, Christopher Nolan); You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (France, Alain Resnais); Life of Pi (US, Ang Lee); Street Dogs of South Central (US, Bill Marin); The Queen of Versailles (US, Lauren Greenfield); Le Capital (France, Costa-Gavras); The Hunt (Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg); Stories We Tell (Canada, Sarah Polley); Liv and Ingmar (Norway/Sweden, Dheeraj Akolkar); Paul Williams Still Alive (US, Stephen Kessler); Celeste and Jesse Forever (US, Lee Toland Kreiger); The Place Beyond the Pines (US, Derek Cianfrance); To the Wonder (US, Terrence Malick); Arbitrage (US, Nicholas Jarecki); Pitch Perfect (US, Jason Moore); The Guilt Trip (US, Anne Fletcher); Rock of Ages (US, Adam Shankman); 21 Jump Street (US, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller); Musical Chairs (US, Susan Seidelman); A Late Quartet (US, Yaron Zilberman); Trash Dance (US, Andrew Garrison); The Perks of Being a Wallflower (US, Stephen Chbosky); The Giant Mechanical Man (US, Lee Kirk); Whore’s Glory (Germany/Austria, Michael Glawogger); Stand Up Guys (US, Fisher Stevens); Hitchcock (US, Sasha Gervasi); Brave (US, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell); Les Miserables (US/UK, Tom Hooper); The Pirates: Band of Misfits (UK, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt); The Impossible (US/Spain, J.A. Bayona); On the Road (US/UK, Walter Salles); Moonrise Kingdom (US, Wes Anderson); Barbara (Germany, Christian Petzold); The Hunger Games (US, Gary Ross); The Imposter (UK, Bart Layton); Cosmopolis (US, David Cronenberg); Looper (US, Rian Johnson); The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (US/New Zealand, Peter Jackson); Prometheus (US, Ridley Scott))

ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix, THE MASTER (2nd: Denis Levant, Holy Motors, followed by: Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln; Jack Black, Bernie; Denzel Washington, Flight; Jean-Louis Tritignant, Amour; Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook; John Hawkes, The Sessions)

ACTRESS: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE (2nd: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour, followed by: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha; Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Qu’venzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Meryl Streep, Hope Springs; Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, THE MASTER (2nd: Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike, followed by: James Franco, Spring Breakers; Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained; Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook; Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained; Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Adams, THE MASTER (2nd: Helen Hunt, The Sessions, followed by: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables; Mickey Sumner, Frances Ha; Sally Field, Lincoln; Dreama Walker, Compliance; Doona Bae, Cloud Atlas; Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises)

DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson, THE MASTER (2nd: Malik Bendjelloul, Searching for Sugar Man, followed by: Michael Haneke, Amour; Pablo Larrain, No; Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty; Craig Zobel, Compliance; Leos Carax, Holy Motors; Yasim Ustaoglu, Araf/Somewhere in Between)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: AMOUR (France, Michael Haneke) (2nd: Neighboring Sounds (Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho), followed by: Araf/Somewhere in Between (Turkey, Yesim Ustaoglu); No (Spain, Pablo Larrain); Holy Motors (France, Leos Carax);  A Hijacking (Denmark, Tobias Lindholm); After Lucia (Mexico/France, Michel Franco); You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (France, Alain Resnais); Le Capital (France, Costa-Gavras); The Hunt (Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg); Barbara (Germany, Christian Petzold))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sweden/UK, Malik Bendjelloul) (2nd: The Act of Killing (Denmark/Norway, Joshua Oppenheimer), followed by: Player Hating: A Love Story (US, Maggie Hadleigh-West); Detropia (US, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady); West of Memphis (US, Amy Berg); Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton (US, Tom Lawson and Michael Koepenick); How to Survive a Plague (US, David France); Street Dogs of South Central (US, Bill Marin); The Queen of Versailles (US, Lauren Greenfield); Stories We Tell (Canada, Sarah Polley); Liv and Ingmar (Norway/Sweden, Dheeraj Akolkar); Paul Williams Still Alive (US, Stephen Kessler); Trash Dance (US, Andrew Garrison); Whore’s Glory (Germany/Austria, Michael Glawogger))

ANIMATED FEATURE: IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (US, Don Hertzfeldt) (2nd: Wreck-It Ralph (US, Rich Moore), followed by: Frankenweenie (US, Tim Burton); The Pirates: Band of Misfits (UK, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt); Brave (US, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell))

ANIMATED SHORT: FRESH GUACAMOLE (US, Adam Pesapane) (2nd: Adam and Dog (US, Minkyu Lee), followed by: Requiem for Romance (Canada, Jonathan Ng); Paperman (US, John Kahrs); Feral (Canada, Daniel Sousa))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: IK BEN ECHT NIET BANG! (I’M NEVER AFRAID) (Netherlands, Willem Baptist), (2nd: Curfew (US, Shawn Christensen), followed by: Last Words of the Holy Ghost (US, Ben Sharony); Buzkashi Boys (US/Afghanistan, Sam French); Patti (US, Haley Webb))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Paul Thomas Anderson, THE MASTER (2nd: Craig Zobel, Compliance, followed by: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty; Michael Haneke, Amour; Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:  Pedro Peirano, NO (2nd: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook, followed by: Richard Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth, Bernie; Lucy Alibar and Behn Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern WildChris Terrio, Argo)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Mihai Malaimaire Jr., THE MASTER (2nd: Roger Deakins, Skyfall, followed by: Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers; Frank Gribe and John Toll, Cloud Atlas; Grieg Fraser, Zero Dark Thirty)

ART DIRECTION: ANNA KARININA, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, Moonrise Kingdom, Skyfall

COSTUME DESIGN: ANNA KARININA, Moonrise Kingdom, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Lincoln 

FILM EDITING: ZERO DARK THIRTY, The Master, Searching for Sugar Man, Skyfall, Haywire 

SOUND: ZERO DARK THIRTY, Skyfall, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln

SOUND EFFECTS: ZERO DARK THIRTY, Skyfall (tied at the Oscars), The Avengers 

ORIGINAL SCORE: Jonny Greenwood, THE MASTER (2nd: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas, followed by: Cliff Martinez, Spring Breakers; Dan Roman and Behn Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Dario Marinelli, Anna Karinina)

ORIGINAL SONG: “Looking for a Sign” from JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (Music and lyrics by Beck Hansen) (2nd: “Metaphorical Blanket” from Any Day Now (Music and lyrics by Rufus Wainwright), followed by: “Who Were We?” from Holy Motors (Music by Neil Hannon, lyrics by Leos Carax and Neil Hannon); “Skyfall” from Skyfall (Music and lyrics by Adele and Paul Epworth); “Who Did That To You? from Django Unchained (Music and lyrics by John Legend); “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice (Music and lyrics by J. Ralph); "Dull Tool" from This is 40 (Music and lyrics by Fiona Apple); "Wide Awake" from Katy Perry: Part of Me (Music and lyrics by Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Bonnie McKee, Maz Martin and Henry Walter); "Anything Made of Paper" from West of Memphis (Music and lyrics by Bill Carter and Ruth Ellsworth); "Still Alive" from Paul Williams Still Alive (Music and lyrics by Paul Williams))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: LIFE OF PI, Cloud Atlas, The Avengers

MAKEUP: CLOUD ATLAS, Holy Motors, Lincoln

1 comment:

Eric Gilliland said...

Totally agree on The Master. I've watched the film at least a dozen times, mesmerized by those two performances. There's few films from the past decade I could say that about (Inherent Vice highly underrated as well).