I did this last year and want to continue the trend. I look at the year’s cinematic efforts and list my favorites. Obviously, I can’t see every movie that gets released in a given year, but I do see a lot of them. This year’s notable exclusion is Life of Pi … I just haven’t gotten around to it.
And with the Oscars airing tonight, it’s time to do it again.
Note: I don’t attempt to proclaim “the best” of anything because I’m not (nor will I ever be) a cinematic “authority.” But I do know what I like, my favorites. Here they are…
1. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Killing Them Softly
5. The Sessions
6. Django Unchained
7. This Is 40
8. Les Misérables
9. Silver Linings Playbook
Even though Killing Them Softly was criminally underrated, I felt like both Argo and especially Zero Dark Thirty acheived an emotional gravity that Killing Them Softly never could. I didn’t expect to like Lincoln or The Sessions more than Django Unchained, but that was definitely the case. I was surprised that I didn’t like Les Misérables more. It wasn’t just a disappointing film; it was one of the most disappointing films in a long time. Finally, as a movie, I wasn’t as over the moon about Silver Linings Playbook as everyone else seemingly was. It was more of a collection of great performances held together by a piece of great screenwriting. Parts were better than the whole. Looper and This Is 40 were just great, fun films for different reasons, but both achieved an inventiveness and sense of cinematic daring that I was expecting but that still managed to surprise me.
Favorite Directorial Effort:
1. Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty
2. Ben Affleck for Argo
3. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
4. Andrew Dominik for Killing Them Softly
5. Tom Hooper for Les Misérables
The last 25 minutes alone were Best Picture-worthy. Bigelow has an amazing facility with weaving story and exposition together while commanding fantastic performances from her ensembles. That’s the definition of a great director.
Favorite Performance by a Lead Actor:
1. Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
2. John Hawkes in The Sessions
3. Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
4. Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
5. Denzel Washington in Flight
No-brainer, really. From now on, I’m going to view Abraham Lincoln through Day-Lewis’ performance. Yes, it’s all soliloquy and impression and not much range, but Day-Lewis nailed it. I will say Hawkes was a very close second in a fantastically moving performance.
Favorite Performance by a Lead Actress:
1. Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
2. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
3. Naomi Watts in The Impossible
4. Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
5. Leslie Mann in This Is 40
Chastain is a star, plain and simple. There are handfuls of Oscar nominations in her future. She is harrowing in Zero Dark Thirty as the emotional core of a brilliant, important film.
Favorite Performance by a Supporting Actor:
1. Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
3. Tom Holland in The Impossible
4. Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
5. Scoot McNairy in Killing Them Softly
Miller’s performance was the very definition of subtlty going entirely unnoticed. Miller’s portrayal was nuanced, heartbreaking, and more realistic than almost nything on screen this year, bringing life to an exceptional literary character.
Favorite Performance by a Supporting Actress:
1. Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
2. Noomi Rapace in Prometheus
3. Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook
4. Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect
5. Amy Adams in The Master
I don’t really care if she only had handfuls of screentime, Hathaway killed it in Les Misérables. If there was a better supporting actress performance this year, I didn’t see it.
Favorite Original Screenplay:
1. Zero Dark Thirty by Mark Boal
2. This Is 40 by Judd Apatow
3. Django Unchained by Quentin Tarentino
4. Flight by John Gatins
5. Looper by Rian Johnson
Without his words and story development, Bigelow’s movie is so much less. He elevates her uncanny style to top-of-the-game heights.
Favorite Adapted Screenplay:
1. Lincoln by Tony Kushner
2. Killing Them Softly by Andrew Dominik
3. Argo by Chris Terrio
4. Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild by Lucy Aliber/Behn Zeitlin
Tony Kushner is the rich man’s Aaron Sorkin. His flair for words and grand monologues are unmatched. He was born to adapt a movie like Lincoln. Day-Lewis’ performance is so great because of the words he’s saying, not the way he’s saying them. It takes you a while into the film to realize that, but it’s true.