Friday, February 22, 2013

LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Top 10

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films


Runners-Up: #15: Your Sister's Sister; #14: Bachelorette; #13: The Queen of Versailles; #12: Cloud Atlas; #11: 21 Jump Street

#10 -- The Wise Kids: It's so easy to play teenage rebellion in big fat brushstrokes. Often, that's what is called for, since the shattered boundaries and rapid-fire epiphanies of that stage of life feel so huge. But that's not always how they manifest themselves externally, and The Wise Kids is very smart about that. These huge changes happen internally to three high-school seniors that forever affect the way they'll interact with their families, their friends, and their faith. I'm a sucker for a movie that deals with breaking from faith in a way that grants everybody a voice and good intentions. I know that's not always the case, but it very often is, and I think indie culture can get really bratty about religion, refusing to look at people as people. Beyond that, though, it's just a wonderfully empathetic story of three kids figuring their shit out.

#9 -- Chronicle: A second viewing last week shot this movie back into my Top 10. It's just very special filmmaking at every level. It's probably more straightforward about being a superhero movie than most superhero movies, despite the fact that it's set within an otherwise mundane universe. Actually, "superhero" isn't quite the word. Supervillain. This is as solid a supervillain origin story as you'll see, but rather than ground the story with metatextual knowingness (our protagonists are not Wolverine-quoting comic book guys, not even the nerdy one), it's grounded in utterly relatable angst and fear. Nothing Andrew does throughout the movie doesn't make complete sense, once his abilities and his circumstances start to collide. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan are flawless, likeable and fallible at once. Do I wish the filmmakers had ditched the first-person/found-footage crutch? Sure. But I appreciated how unfussily they dealt with the logistics of it. At some point, they're just ... floating a camera. By that point, you're too enthralled to care.

#8 -- Take This Waltz: What a messy movie. What an imperfect creation. What a frustrating lead character. But nothing that stuck with me about Take This Waltz didn't blossom in retrospect. Michelle Williams's performance shed the distracting twitchiness of its early frames and became about the way she cowers from hearing herself speak her desires for the first time. Seth Rogen's ill-fitting comedic sensibility became sad and self-fulfilling. Sarah Silverman's barbed monologues blasted through the petty clichés of the "off-the-wagon drunk" trope. Luke Kirby's rickshaw pretty much vanishes from my memory like Marty McFly's siblings in a Polaroid. I'm left, instead, with a film that sticks around far past the happy ending. Or even the sad ending. I'm not sure there even are endings. I think that's the thing. I think we whirl around on that carnival ride until the music stops, but eventually, we'll be back on that ride again. The best thing I can say for Sarah Polley is that even movies that should be noble failures, like this one, end up utterly indispensable.

#7 -- The Forgiveness of Blood: Joshua Marston is just a really good guy. I know following down the cult-of-personality road with any filmmaker (or, God forbd, actor) is a dangerous game. At any moment, I'm liable to be knocked down by some didn't-tip-his-waiter story or some idiot quote about women in film. But I mean Joshua Marston is a good guy within the boundaries of his filmmaking. What that boils to in regards to The Forgiveness of Blood is that he's an inquisitive guy, a studious guy, a guy who's not going to hang a lantern on how far he's stepping out of his zone of cultural familiarity. He just wants to get it right. In this case, with this particular story of Albania blood feuds and the children left bewildered and orphaned in their wake, he gets it so right.

#6 -- Middle of Nowhere: Indecision is a hard emotion to sell. Ambivalence. Really deep, internal indecision and ambivalence. So much of the terrain in Middle of Nowhere exists within Ruby herself, somewhere in the vast expanses between her stubborn loyalty and joyful selfishness. Ava DuVernay illuminates those internal struggles through smartly drawn supporting characters (Ruby's sister, her mom, a new love) and a whole lot of confidence in Emayatzy Corinealdi's ability to play the part. That faith pays off.

#5 -- Beasts of the Southern Wild: You can leave your "poverty porn" comments at the door, I can tell you that right now. First of all, what does that even mean? Second of all, don't even bother. If there's nobility to be found within Hushpuppy's universe of the Bathtub, her covertly mythological neighbors and overtly mythological monsters that she's dreamed into being, it's the nobility afforded to anyone by virtue of being a human person. In her own words, she's just one piece of the puzzle; an indispensable piece, as they all are. Nobility like that can stay right where it is. Nothing in the universe of this movie is cute (well, fine, Quvenzhane Wallis is, but the girl can't help it), and the magic that produces things like spiky beasts and talking t-shirts and offshore mom-brothels is neither soothing nor indicative of condescension on the part of the filmmakers. Is giving these characters dignity and pride something we shouldn't be doing? I can't agree. For me, this movie goes far beyond message. It's about building worlds within our own worlds, about defining their rules and the places where those rules and the outside world meet, about a girl fighting for her place in the universe.

#4 -- Anna Karenina: You can see Joe Wright's big ideas floating above the screen throughout Anna Karenina. I'm not going to pretend you can't, and I'm not sure he would either. This film calls attention to its own conceits immediately and constantly. I think to be subtler about the "all the world's a stage" aspects of this movie would be imbuing that message with a solemnity that it doesn't need. The flourishes found all over Anna aren't there for you to stroke your chin at, any more than the Grimm imagery in Hanna was supposed to make you say, "Ah. Allusions to classical children's tales. I see." Anna's palace life is a ridiculous, soapy burlesque of costumes and horses and marriage as stock-trading, choreographed and contrived to the last. Within these constructs, watching the string play out (nobody's even pretending we don't know that you-know-who ends up under you-know-what) is thrilling good fun; Wright once again knows exactly where and how to let unreality bleed in to enhance the experience. Packed with elaborate costumes and savory performances -- Keira Knightley in particular. She and Wright are practically finishing each other's sentences, they're so in tune with one another. The chemistry between Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is disgustingly hot. Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander are improbably sweet. Matthew McFadyen and Ruth Wilson are a riot. There's something for everyone.

#3 -- Amour: I don't think I'm being all that hyperbolic when I say Amour is perfect. I'm not even being THAT effusive about it. It's more a matter of fact. Everything Amour sets out to accomplish, it accomplishes. Every emotion it's meant to evoke, every truth about aging and helplessness and death, they're all conveyed. Nothing misses its mark. The pigeon is goofy enough to undercut the obviousness of the metaphor by the perfect percentage. The nightmare with the hands is exactly as jolting as it needs to be at the exact right time. Emmanuelle Riva projects the precise level of strength vs. bewilderment vs. panic. Jean-Louis Trintignant holds up just long enough, just nobly enough, before the fear creeps in at the exact right moment. Nothing misses. Michael Haneke is content to let you just be devastated without judging you for it. Perfect. Perfection.

#2 -- Zero Dark Thirty: This was a difficult movie for me. I'm not surprised that it ended up being the subject of a contentious response ... I'm just a bit surprised as to what we ended up arguing about. I probably shouldn't have been. The torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty were unsparing, vile things; of course people would react strongly. That people took the movie for supporting torture will never not seem wrongheaded, though. My hard time was more about the general spirit of rah-rah vengeance ("the GREATEST MANHUNT IN HISTORY," which makes me wonder whether we've been keeping tally of great manhunts all this time). But the more I sat with the movie, the more I respected Kathryn Bigelow's willingness to allow the story to play out and let us answer our own questions. The film is strong -- indelible images; an ensemble full of actors capable of taking the narrative baton and running with it at a moment's notice -- enough to stand up to such scrutiny.

#1 -- Life of Pi: I was surprised enough by my reaction to Life of Pi that I didn't arrive at my full assessment of it right away. The fact that I stopped evaluating the movie in my head as I watched it left me at a bit of a loss in the immediate aftermath. It had been a while since I was so thoroughly engaged in a story, almost in a childlike way, to the point where everything else just disappeared and I was on that boat with Pi and Richard Parker. Once I was able to gather my critical faculties again, Ang Lee's achievement only improved in my estimation. Beyond the captivating adventure story (my favorite on film since Where the Wild Things Are), Lee conveyed the religious framing parable into something contemplative rather than mindlessly vague and spiritual. What some readers of the book promised would be a heavy-handed case for the necessity of God became instead an evocative case for the necessity of storytelling itself.


LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Actors, Part 3

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + ActressBreakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Dane DeHaan- Chronicle
Jean-Louis Trintignant - Amour
Tommy Lee Jones - Hope Springs
Channing Tatum - Magic Mike/21 Jump Street

Now that it's on HBO, suddenly people are starting to actually watch Chronicle, so now people are beginning to get my whole obsessive Dane DeHaan fandom. He tracks Andrew's movement from desperate, bullied teen to apex predator without a single misstep. Also flawless was Tommy Lee Jones, who never once took the easy way out with a character who constantly could have become a Grumpy Old Cliché (apparently, Tommy was saving that routine for awards season).

Jean-Louis Trintignant is every bit Emmanuelle Riva's equal in terms of emotional honesty and devastation. He doesn't deteriorate physically ... and yet he DOES. Just look at him. Speaking of deteriorating physically ... no, that doesn't work. The opposite, really. Channing Tatum, you guys. He's not just a perfect body anymore. Well, he still is. But now with comic timing and a thread-the-needle self-aware-meat-slab screen persona.

As for Daniel Day-Lewis. He's Daniel Day-Lewis. You figure it out. I'm not even all that excited about the performance, but I'd feel like a fraud leaving him out for pretty much anyone else.

Runners Up: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master); Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook); Jack Black (Bernie); John Hawkes (The Sessions); Garrett Hedlund (On the Road).

Emily Blunt - Your Sister's Sister
Emayatzy Corinealdi - Middle of Nowhere
Kirsten Dunst - Bachelorette
Keira Knightley - Anna Karenina
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour

The competition for that fifth slot was FIERCE, you guys. A big part of me really wanted to have Jennifer Lawrence in this five just to throw my support behind a performance too many people are slighting as shallow movie-starrness. First of all, pinpoint-focused charisma is a skill that many actresses lack, second of all ... no. I can't get bogged down in talking about the actresses who didn't make this list. That said, if I want to talk about the way channeled charisma can be award-worthy, Emily Blunt is a great start. I don't know how she works herself up to be so naturally delightful onscreen at all times, but she never makes a false move.

Can we also talk about Keira Knightley and how unforced and unavoidable she made Anna's despair seem? Or how Kirsten Dunst burrowed her way back into my heart with a performance that stubbornly refused to give up one inch of Regan's hard-won reputation. There was a degree of that in Riva's performance, too, that kind of self-aware desperation to hold on to some sense of the woman she worked very hard to become.

And then there's Emayatzy Corinealdi, playing just the most appealing sort of real person, full of contradictions and internal crises. So much of the movie is watching Ruby try to work her shit out without letting anybody see it. Corinealdi plays that so clearly but without putting a spotlight on it either. It's so exciting to watch someone new make her mark like this. She needs to be fielding dumptrucks full of offers.

Runners Up: Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed); Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook); Ann Dowd (Compliance); Melanie Lynskey (Hello, I Must Be Going); Greta Gerwig (Damsels in Distress).


Thursday, February 21, 2013

LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Vision

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard - The Cabin in the Woods
Stephen Cone - The Wise Kids
Vanessa Taylor - Hope Springs
Ava DuVernay - Middle of Nowhere
Lynn Shelton - Your Sister's Sister

Generosity, creativity, and honesty. Those are the qualities I latched onto in this year's best original scripts. Cone's script for The Wise Kids spreads its love around, from its three protagonists, to their hesitant loved ones, to the more troubled souls in their midst. Vanessa Taylor brings that same kind of even-handed kindness and curiosity to the marital discord in Hope Springs. Ava DuVernay's depth exceeds her breadth in Middle of Nowhere, but the family portrait is a rich one, and the degrees of open/closed-off in Ruby's character are pretty fascinating. Lynn Shelton draws such rich and specific relationships -- in concert with her three brilliant leads -- that Your Sister's Sister manages to navigate past one hell of a narrative speed bump in its final third. Finally, the fun Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are having in drawing up the rules and regulations of their universe, cracking jokes all the way down to the ninth circle of hell, is fantastically infectious.

Leslye Hedland - Bachelorette
Lucy Alibar; Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Richard Linklater - Bernie
Tony Kushner - Lincoln
Stephan Chbosky - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I still don't see in Lincoln what its most ardent supporters see in it, but I have such respect for the direction Kushner took with the film, eschewing battles and mythmaking for nitty-gritty 19th century politics. Richard Linklater knows his way around a script, and he structured Bernie brilliantly. Then we're left with three authors who adapted their own work. Lucy Alibar collaborated with Benh Zeitlin, making big changes in service of a story that blended the world inside Hushpuppy's head with the world outside it and kept the lines of demarcation sparking and translucent. Hedland and Chbosky went it alone -- directed their own films and everything. Hedland's film didn't feel the least bit stagebound, and its willingness to let its characters be nasty but recognizably human was admirable, yes, but funny foremost. Chbosky made smart, streamlining decisions, but also managed to open his story up to characters who were only glanced at in his novel.

Michael Haneke - Amour
Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee - Life of Pi
Ava DuVernay - Middle of Nowhere
Kathryn Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty

SHOCKINGLY close to the Oscars lineup! I'm in love with the ambition of these five men and women. Be it the logistical and technological ambition of Ang Lee, while still telling a smarter, and more layered story than even the source novel was interested in telling. Bigelow's ambition was probably the riskiest of all, since she experienced actual consequences for how plainly she depicted her hunt for Bin Laden. Haneke took a risk by being as unlike himself as he's ever been. He sacrificed none of his story's impact by omitting his usual directorial sneering. Zeitlin and DuVernay have me so excited for the next ten years of filmmaking, I can't even tell you. Not only were their films gorgeous and bold, but they're peering into narrative corners that don't get peered into very much.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Actors, Part 2

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Domhnall Gleeson - Anna Karenina
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Matthew McConaughey - Magic Mike
Ezra Miller - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Alessandro Nivola - Ginger & Rosa
Ben Whishaw - Cloud Atlas

As always, I'm giving myself permission to stretch one category to six nominees. I sometimes feel like if Matthew McConaughey wasn't always trying so hard, he would be Alessandro Nivola, so it's nice to have them both on the same list. Nivola infuses his mid-life-crisis dad with the exact right level of belief in his philosopher-king bullshit. McConaughey has a decent amount of philosopher-king bullshit too, with the added benefit of a level of showmanship few actors can pull off as effortlessly. Tommy Lee Jones is showboating it in a different way, frowning and glowering and growling his way through the lawmaking process. In a movie so determined to show the unglamorous side of American political history, Jones gets to play the statesman.

Domhnall Gleeson is such an exciting young actor, and Anna Karenina gave him the biggest opportunity yet to show his depth and sensitivity, his romanticism forever troubled by the truths of the world. There are whole side stories happening on Ben Whishaw's face in Cloud Atlas, while he plays the piano, while he puzzles out his own sense of longing, while he imagines a world he'll never know. Patrick from The Perks of Being a Wallflower is closer to living in that world that even he knows; his indomitable teenage confidence is all the better for the moments when Miller lets it crumble away.

Runners Up: Matthew McFadyen (Anna Karenina); John Travolta (Savages); Noah Segan (Looper); Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers).

Megalyn Echikunwoke - Damsels in Distress
Salma Hayek - Savages
Brit Marling - Sound of My Voice
Sarah Silverman - Take This Waltz
Lorraine Toussaint - Middle of Nowhere

This isn't necessarily a rebuke to the Oscars -- look below to see the actresses with whom the Academy and I are in agreement -- but the best performances in this category this year were happening far away from where Academy eyes have been trained to look. I've said enough about Salma Hayek in Savages this year, so I will just make a plea into the wilderness that people give actresses hamming it up in junky genre fare a chance. Sarah Silverman is a brilliant comedian with an uncanny ability to commit to a bit, so it's no surprise that she's able to channel that into a character who's all too aware of the wire she (and everyone around her) is walking on. Lorraine Toussaint has been a familiar face in movies and TV forever, and I think Middle of Nowhere was just smart enough to give her a lot of room to work. What a fascinating woman to play, full of resentment but also more concern for her daughters than she knows what to do with. Megalyn Echikunwoke proves to be a shockingly perfect Whit Stillman vessel, slavish to a social order that might not actually extend past her dorm room, but she will clock you SO QUICK if you violate it. Finally, Brit Marling scared the shit out of me in Sound of My Voice, point blank.

Runners Up: Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister's Sister); Helen Hunt (The Sessions); Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty); Amy Adams (The Master); Judi Dench (Skyfall).


LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Actors, Part 1

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Jason Clarke - Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Holland - The Impossible
Fran Kranz - The Cabin in the Woods
Logan Lerman - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Tyler Ross - The Wise Kids

As always, there's a degree of "breakthrough is in the eye of the beholder" to a category like this. Lerman, Clarke, and Kranz have all had lead (or in Kranz's case, featured supporting) roles on network TV shows. And even if we disqualify TV work for our purposes, Lerman has been ascending in the movie scene for years, from 3:10 to Yuma to Percy Jackson and the Olympians to the by-all-accounts terrible Three Musketeers. But with Perks, Lerman broke through from Guy They're Trying to Make Happen to Guy That's Now Happening. It's exciting to watch. Hopefully Kranz's performance will get him cast in projects that can make use of his signature combination of weirdo-geek comedy and sneaky vulnerability. Certainly, Clarke's quiet intensity will get him bunches of offers (Hollywood loves quiet intensity). Tyler Ross is so far off the studio radar that I wonder how much more of him we'll be seeing, but I hope he makes it; his kind of unshowy openness is a joy to watch. Tom Holland carries huge portions of The Impossible on his tiny shoulders (and the film would have been even stronger had it let him carry more of it).

Moon Bloodgood - The Sessions
Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Molly Kunz - The Wise Kids
Brie Larson - 21 Jump Street
Allison Torem - The Wise Kids

Okay. Okay. Brie Larson is pushing it, I admit. To tell the truth, I almost mentioned her in this category for Rampart. But it's one thing to lay down a tortured teen in an indie. It's another to combine naturalism and magnetism they way she did in very few scenes in 21 Jump Street. She's in. Molly Kunz and Allison Torem combined with Tyler Ross for the sweetest, realest trio of the year. I didn't realize Moon Bloodgood was a model until I went and looked her up after The Sessions. She was incredibly magnetic, without the benefit of any real story beats. As for Quvenzhane, I've said elsewhere that I don't think a child that young is capable of the kind of intention that goes into "acting" as we know it, which is why she won't be on my Best Actress ballot. But as a magnetic little presence with a face that lights up the screen, she makes an amazing impression. I really hope she gets chances to grow into something.

Kay Epperson - Bernie
Tommy Heleringer - Gayby
Elizabeth Marvel - The Bourne Legacy
Jason Schwartzman - Moonrise Kingdom
Julia Stiles - Silver Linings Playbook

As always, credit for this category goes to Nathaniel. Schwartzman probably stretches the definition of the category as far as it can go. He gets a name credit in the trailer, after all. But he's really only in two scenes, and his impact far outweighs his screen time. Similarly, Julia Stiles is probably closer to a small-role supporting actress than a cameo, but she was left off the SAG list for the SLP ensemble, so I wanted this recognition to make up for that. It totally does. Elizabeth Marvel is more the classic definition of what this category should be. One scene; HUGE impact. Bernie is full of bit players as the various townies. Kay Epperson's Camel-lights voice and sugar-free line readings made her the most memorable. Tommy Heleringer ... perhaps a shallow choice? I was ambivalent (if we're being generous) about Gayby, but this guy's a star. His incredibly brief scene as a prospective date pops right off the screen, and I love him so much on The Outs and deal with it.


Anna Karenina: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Matthew McFadyen, Alicia Vikander, Ruth Wilson, Emily Watson, Kelly MacDonald, Olivia Williams, Michelle Dockery, Shirley Henderson.

Damsels in Distress: Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Adam Brody, Carrie MacLemore, Hugo Becker, Ryan Metcalf, Billy Magnussen, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Aubrey Plaza, Alia Shawkat, Zach Woods.

21 Jump Street: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Dakota Johnson, Rye Rye, Chris Parnell, Nick Offerman, Jake Johnson, Caroline Aaron, Joe Chrest, DeRay Davis, Dax Flame, Johnny Pemberton, Stanley Wong, Justin Hires.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, Johnny Simmons, Paul Rudd, Erin Wilhelmi, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun.

Zero Dark Thirty: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini, Mark Strong, Stephen Dillane, Harold Perrineau, Reda Kateb, Jessica Collins, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt.

Runners-Up: Bachelorette; Your Sister's Sister; Magic Mike; Argo


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Sounds

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

The Impossible
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

Oh, Best Sound. You unknowable beast. Part of me feels like I'm falling for a scam in complimenting the ostentatious mutings of Cosmopolis, but that airless silence, while used to pretty obvious effect by Cronenberg, is still effective on a primal level. Speaking of primal, the mixing in Looper put an edge of futuristic unfamiliarity on things while keeping them from flying too far into Jetsons-land. Water effects can be showy and easy paths to awards, but the aquatic environs in Life of Pi made the ocean so very dreamy, while the nightmarish flooding in The Impossible was an assault of precisely arranged chaos. Precision was also the name of the game with the whispered intel and order-from-chaos SEAL-team communications in Zero Dark Thirty.

Dario Marianelli - Anna Karenina
Benh Zeitlin, Dan Romer - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil - Cloud Atlas
Jon Brion - ParaNorman
Thomas Newman - Skyfall

If the trailer didn't give you enough of an indication, I fell head-over-heels in love with the scores for both Beasts and Cloud Atlas this year. Two unabashedly emotional place settings for their films' fantastic voyages. Marianelli is once again at Joe Wright's service with an appropriately lush and theatrical score. Thomas Newman's score, like the rest of Skyfall, took the best of Bond and made it into a wholly 2012 enterprise. Finally, Jon Brion's sweet little score for ParaNorman snuck up on me, eventually becoming my most lasting impression of that film. I dearly wish Brion would score more films.

Damsels in Distress
Les Miserables
Take This Waltz

As always, this category is a catch-all for original songs plus the skillful deployment of non-original music. This year, the former is represented by Adele's transcendent Bond pastiche, "Skyfall," and the preppy "Things Are Looking Up" and catchy dance craze "The Sambola" in Damsels in Distress. The latter is represented by Sarah Polley redefining "Video Killed the Radio Star" in a blur of carnival lights in Take This Waltz, and Bachelorette summing up its leads via Edwyn Collins, backing up Adam Scott with The Proclaimers, and nailing the best Heart-based punchline of all time. As for Les Mis, I'm not saying everything worked. Russell Crowe was overmatched, and Hugh Jackman was too sometimes (more than that Oscar nomination would suggest), and beyond the songs everyone had heard of, things can get a bit dreary. But the live singing gave the film what vitality it had, Samantha Barks nailed both of her songs, and while I'm ambivalent about Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream," it certainly was memorable.


LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Sights

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Magic Mike
Sound of My Voice
Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty managed to deliver tension (the final raid), misdirection (the Marriott bombing), and pulled together about a billion characters into a bullet train of a story. It only loses points for the crushing predictability of that Jennifer Ehle meetup scene. Amour handled the dreamlike interludes into the hell of daily life. Similarly, the Beasts editing kept the balance between what felt all too real and what felt dreamy and magical. Magic Mike gets a Masters degree in delivering finely-tuned casualness. Sound of My Voice built tension through secret handshakes, costumes, and other things that could have read as silly in lesser hands.


Anna Karenina
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Cabin in the Woods
The Master

That apartment in Amour, you guys. I may never stop talking about it. All those little, unshowy details, illuminating a long life spent within its walls, and an even longer decline therein. The Anna Karenina art direction had a big ol' spotlight put on it, and it lived up to the attention. Beasts did world-building like no other movie this year, while Cabin in the Woods did the same kind of service for underworld-building. Finally, The Master, with all that I found overblown and faux-profound about it, managed evocative period detail with as little self-satisfaction as possible.

Anna Karenina
Damsels in Distress
Magic Mike
Sound of My Voice

Damsels does one of my favorite things with costumes in stylized movies: making period-looking clothing in a contemporary setting. For that matter, Magic Mike does Tampa costumes as if central Florida is its own country, which it kind of is. The simplicity of the cult-wear in Sound of My Voice is so straight-forward it ends up being off-putting, in the best way. Argo might have done period clothing and hair better than anything else. And Anna Karenina ... I mean, my God, the dresses, the jackets, the HATS by God the hats!


The Grey
The Impossible
Life of Pi

The weird Killface-looking guys in Prometheus were a letdown narratively, but boy did they look cool. Plus all the goopy, gooey, biological awfulness you'd expect from an Alien movie. For all its CG wonderment, the deteriorating physical state of Pi was a triumph of makeup, ditto Liam Neeson in The Grey (plus all those bloody wounds). Speaking of wounds, The Impossible gets a nod simply for making Naomi Watts's leg gash the most kinetic moment in the movies all year. But it really all comes down to Lincoln, right? Praise Daniel Day-Lewis all you want, and rightly so, but that makeup work on Lincoln's face walked right up to the line of being a Bill & Ted parody and never stepped across it.

The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Life of Pi

Nothing really touches the technical achievement of Life of Pi this year, from top to bottom a breakthrough in blending realism (the tiger!) and fantasy without sacrificing the veracity of either. Of all the summer blockbusters, The Avengers had the courage to go big and bright, and it paid off with the climactic midtown showdown. The Dark Knight Rises was comparatively safer, but it had its moments of muted, realist brilliance. Whatever my problems with Prometheus, we'll always have that crazy-ass birthing scene. As for Chronicle, I loved the way it pulled off high-stakes visual wonders while keeping to the film's low-fi aesthetic.

Roger Deakins - Skyfall
Greig Fraser - Zero Dark Thirty
Darius Khondji - Amour
Ben Richardson - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Bradford Young - Middle of Nowhere

Roger Deakins does it again, I don't know what to tell you. He brings it every single time, gifting the Bond franchise with some of its most stylish images of all time. Richardson and Khondji both get to every last corner of their vastly different environs. Bradford Young makes some very commonplace locations look positively sumptuous in Middle of Nowhere (that nightclub scene alone...). And Greig Fraser is quickly building a reputation for excellence, and with good reason. Bureaucracy never looked so handsome.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Low Res 2012 Movie Awards: The Trailers

The 2012 LowRes Movie Awards: Video Compilation / 35 Amazing Moments / Best Trailers / Best Techs (Visual) / Best Techs (Audio) / Screenplays + Director / Supporting Actor + Actress / Lead Actor + Actress / Breakthrough + Cameo + Ensemble / Top 10 Films

Anna Karenina 
Cloud Atlas 
For a Good Time Call 
Snow White and the Huntsman

Good group of trailers this year! I already felt bad about leaving out excellent trailers for How to Survive a Plague and Les Miserables.

Already by this time last year, the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer was making promises that the movie itself couldn't keep. I guess pacing can't help be better at two minutes than two hours.

Similarly, my love for the preview clip for Prometheus far outpaces my affection for the finished product. Both this and Snow White represent the Inception-baiting trend in movie trailer this year, but Prometheus took things to a maddening crescendo, and Noomi Rapace's "We were SO WRONG" didn't become a meme for no reason.

For a Good Time, Call wasn't breaking any ground, but it made best use of M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls," out of all the movies that tried to employ that song this year, and it was also the film that benefitted most from the red-band-trailer strategy.

Cloud Atlas took a chance with a five-plus minute super-trailer that still felt like it was only scratching the surface of the places the film would go. But what a masterful choice to employ M83 for the latter half as things built to a chills-inducing crescendo.

Same thing with Anna Karenina, really, which built and built to the point where I was about to throw myself in front of a train in a fit of frenzied ecstasy.


LowRes 2012 Movie Awards: The Moments

Dane DeHaan's Andrew, simmering with no-longer-impotent rage, tearing apart a spider with his powers in Chronicle

The choice is made in the basement in Cabin in the Woods.

Black Widow recruits the Hulk in The Avengers.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill tripping major ballsack in 21 Jump Street.

Hushpuppy talking to her "mother" in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Everything that happens in the background -- from Kevin Nash's non-dancing to Matt Bomer's skin-care regimen -- in Magic Mike.

Self-surgery in Prometheus.

Kirsten Dunst's furious wedding-morning rampage in Bachelorette.

Elizabeth Marvel's psychologist pays traumatized Rachel Weisz a visit in The Bourne Legacy.

Video killing the radio star on the Scrambler in Take This Waltz.

Vomiting as proof of devotion in Sound of My Voice.

Everything to do with that interloping pigeon in Amour.

Salma Hayek and Blake Lively dine and discuss in Savages.

Anna's ostentatious fanning of herself blending with approaching horse-hooves in Anna Karenina.

The motion-capture sex scene in Holy Motors.

Art Gallery Dance in Step Up: Revolution.

WTF with the chicken?!?!?! in LOL.

The Riff-Off in Pitch Perfect.

Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones square off in the receiving line in Lincoln.

The Marriott bombing in Zero Dark Thirty.

The delicate surrender of "A Little Fall of Rain" in Les Miserables.

Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy imagine a china shop -- and maybe the entire old world -- crashing down around them in Cloud Atlas.

Tom Wilkinson reuniting with an old love in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The Moment That Changes Everything in The Loneliest Planet.

The plane crash, quite simply, in Flight.

Leslie Mann and Megan Fox dancing to "Where Them Girls At" in This Is 40.

Marion Cotillard quietly going through the "Firework" motions in Rust and Bone.

Two scenes of awkward teens dancing like no one's looking, in The Wise Kids and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The birthday dinner in Middle of Nowhere.

Tiffany running into Pat like a guided missile during his morning jogs in Silver Linings Playbook.

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland reaching for each other across the mattress in The Impossible

The bad death of Garrett Dillahunt in Looper.

Greta Gerwig smelling bar soap in Damsels in Distress.

Horrifying dinner with friends of your parents in Hello, I Must Be Going.

The timeshare hustle that doubled as the scariest horror movie in 2012 in The Queen of Versailles


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Low Res 2012 Movie Awards: Coming Monday

The 2012 Low Res Movie Awards kick off on Monday. This is somehow my seventh year of this navel-gazing little endeavor, and I hope there are enough of you who enjoy them each year to justify their existence. This year, I decided to get a little ambitious and create something of a teaser video. You know how much I love movie trailers, so once I picked up the rudimentary technical knowhow, this was inevitable. So. I hope you like the video, and I hope you check in on Monday for the first awards posts!

2012 Movie Awards trailer from Joseph Reid on Vimeo.