Hope you enjoyed yesterday’s Part I of the Brownie Awards. Today, we put a giant silver bow on the year in film that was 2012 – starting with a category where I’m breaking my own rules to include six nominees, because I legitimately can’t find a reason to kick anyone out.
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty – Aces the quiet character moments and shoots the final raid in real time while completely sidelining the protagonist. Another work of art from The Hurt Locker‘s leading woman.
Ang Lee, Life of Pi – Anchors the most astonishing visual sequences this side of Avatar, drawing together random shots and images into beautifully-rendered, somehow-logical clips. Leads a relative unknown (Suraj Sharma) to a brilliant, isolated central performance.
Sarah Polley, Take This Waltz – When you get great DRAMATIC performances out of Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, you, my friend, get on the Best Director list. That dizzying end sequence helps the case, along with the perfect uses of music throughout.
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook – Who knew Bradley Cooper had that kind of performance in him? Russell draws out the best from every member of a varied and diverse cast and manages the film’s difficult tone with aplomb.
Joe Wright, Anna Karenina – The decision to set a potentially stodgy period piece on a literal stage was a bold one, and it pays off handsomely. Wright deserves a whole heaping of credit for his thrillingly creative vision.
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild – His two main characters were a child actor and a bakery owner who’d never been on screen before. He co-wrote the music. He creates an unforgettable universe in scope, sound and look. Oh, and – it’s his feature-film debut. Good luck topping that one.
Honorable Mention: Phil Lord & Chris Miller for 21 Jump Street…Rian Johnson for Looper…Sam Mendes for Skyfall…Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained…Steven Soderbergh for Haywire.
And the Brownie goes to…Ang Lee, Life of Pi. The Oscars got it right – this is an unbridled, sweeping vision the likes of which has rarely been seen on screen. Nearly perfect. Runner-up: the other five.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Django Unchained – For the mustaches alone, if nothing else – but Sam Jackson’s makeup is great, too.
The Impossible – For the incredible post-tsunami markings.
Les Miserables – Obviously.
Lincoln – Right, Hitchock was more deserving of a nomination than this…
Looper – Maybe a little silly, but I dug the “young Bruce Willis” job on JGL.
Honorable Mention: None, really.
And the Brownie goes to…Lincoln. Amazing work on Daniel Day-Lewis – even I can tell that. Honorable Mention: Django Unchained.
Best Film Editing
Jeremiah O’Driscoll, Flight – The extended plane crash sequence couldn’t be any better.
Steven Soderbergh, Haywire – Plays fast and loose, with flashbacks and quick cuts that all fit the style.
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi – Cuts between the present day and the past effortlessly. Love the wipes from story to story and the way Pi flows from scene to scene.
Jay Cassidy & Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook – That scene in the attic with a yelling Bradley Cooper and Led Zeppelin playing may be the best example of this fine work – chaotic at times yet always knows when to slow down, hitting every dramatic and comedic beat with ease.
William Goldenberg & Dylan Tichenor, Zero Dark Thirty – The quickest 157 minutes of your life. Unbearably tense at times.
Honorable Mention: Goldenberg again, for his Oscar-winning work on Argo…Joel Negrone for 21 Jump Street…Crockett Doob and Affonso Goncalves for their 93-minute work on Beasts of the Southern Wild…Stuart Baird for Skyfall.
And the Brownie goes to…Tim Squyres, Life of Pi. Oh, look, another Life of Pi award! This is so much different than the Oscars. Runners-up: Cassidy/Struthers and Goldenberg/Tichenor.
Best Production Design
Anna Karenina – A constant fusion of stages and rooms blending into each other, from the enclosed areas to the open fields.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – The vision of The Bathtub – fantastical yet always real. The exploding levee, the high water line, Hushpuppy’s house…
Life of Pi – It would feel silly not to nominate this for an award dealing with art direction and visual vision, right?
Lincoln – Plays and looks like historic nonfiction. It’s destined to be a guide for Civil War dramas from here on out.
Skyfall – From the underground MI6 to the nights of Shanghai to Silva’s island, it’s Bond at its most breathtaking.
Honorable Mention: Moonrise Kingdom…The Cabin in the Woods…Prometheus…Take This Waltz.
And the Brownie goes to…Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’ve never seen anything quite like it on screen before. Runner-up: Anna Karenina.
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook – The logical evolution of Sack from Wedding Crashers, in a way – his manic energy carries the movie in a career-best performance. (Best Scene: His frustration with Ernest Hemingway.)
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln – We’ll never hear Honest Abe’s voice the same way in our minds again – as it should be. I’d listen to him monologue for hours. (Best Scene: The Ethan Allen story.)
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables – Amazing vocal heights, whether filled with rage as a beggar or hopeful as a remade man. An astonishing physical performance. (Best Scene: “Valjean’s Soliloquy”, tearing up papers at the soaring end.)
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master – Every word, every physical movement, every inch of body language is meticulous. An incredible, fully realized creation of an original character. (Best Scene: Same as Hoffman’s -that great “processing” scene.)
Denzel Washington, Flight – Yep, the Oscars got it right. Washington is brutally effective as alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker (great name), overpowering the screen at all times. (Best Scene: That first scene in the hotel room – a self-assured, no-holds-barred introduction to Whip.)
Honorable Mention: Not only are my five choices the same as the Oscars’ picks, I wager my honorable mentions just missed a nomination there as well…John Hawkes in The Sessions and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour both turn in beautiful work…and a special mention to Channing Tatum, who aces every comedic beat in 21 Jump Street.
And the Brownie goes to…Phoenix, with the performance of the year by anyone in 2012. Runner-up: Cooper.
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty – Her Maya is devoid of backstory and stripped of any preconceived ideals. No matter – Chastain tears through scene after scene with raw power and emotion. (Best Scene: It’s so generically Oscar-baity to say that moment where she reams out Kyle Chandler, but it’s such a perfect character moment and delivered so well.)
Helen Hunt, The Sessions – It’s absolute category fraud to put her in Supporting – this is a leading role. Hunt’s sex therapist commands the frame whether closed or not, bravely getting the most out of her character. (Best Scene: Her third session with Mark.)
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina – She may ham the part up a bit, but it all fits with the highly stylized material. Watching Anna descend into a downward spiral is thrilling through the movements of Knightley, who’s frighteningly effective at every moment. (Best Scene: The horse race, punctuated by one terrifying shout at its end.)
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook – As if The Hunger Games wasn’t enough, Lawrence unleashes a titanic range of emotions in Playbook, owning every minute of her screen time. At 22, there’s already nothing she can’t do. (Best Scene: Calling out Pat, Sr. on the Eagles’ success when she’s with his son.)
Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz – A perfect portrayal of a wildly imperfect character. Williams makes your heart churn for Margot, who’s flawed enough that she may not deserve to inspire those kind of feelings. It’s hard to imagine anyone else could have done better. (Best Scene: A “seduction” scene in the bar with Daniel…more on that in a bit.)
Honorable Mention: Emmanuelle Riva is great in Amour, even if she’s slightly outshone by Trintignant…Naomi Watts, fearless in The Impossible.
And the Brownie goes to…Michelle Williams. Surprise! At no point did I have anyone but Lawrence in this slot from the moment I saw Silver Linings Playbook, but at the 11th hour, I’m going with Williams, who carries Take This Waltz on her back in every astonishing scene. Runner-up: J-Law, obviously.
Best Ensemble Cast
21 Jump Street – The most likable dual-lead combo of the year in Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, plus supporting turns from Ice Cube, Chris Parnell and Nick Offerman? Comedic platinum.
Django Unchained – I’m gonna go ahead and let Mr. Tarantino explain this one himself, from Oscar night…”I really only got one chance to get it right. I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and hopefully live for a long time. And, boy, this time did I do it.”
Lincoln – I didn’t feel that Joseph Gordon-Levitt fit into the role of Robert Lincoln – and other than that, the casting is 100.0% perfect. James Spader! David Strathairn! Lee Pace! John Hawkes! Hal Holbrook! It’s the ultimate “hey, I know that guy” movie.
Looper – JGL sure fit in here, as did Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and a hilarious Jeff Daniels. But it all takes a back seat in the movie’s second half to the kid performance from the year from young Pierce Gagnon.
Silver Linings Playbook – The three nominees I’ve already mentioned, plus it’s Chris Tucker’s first non-Rush Hour in 15 years. Fifteen!
Honorable Mention: My love for the cast of The Master is readily apparent, but there’s not much outside of the top three actors…Zero Dark Thirty was probably next on line here…Anna Karenina and Moonrise Kingdom each had colorful casts…and it’s basically cheating to put The Avengers here, with only Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner joining the preexisting group, but, boy, did Marvel nail all of its casting.
And the Brownie goes to…Silver Linings Playbook. Pick a scene, any scene, and you’ll see why. Runner-up: Lincoln.
Best Individual Shot
Chronicle – Andrew lies in bed as he plays with the camera, which floats in the air and shoots down on him.
Flight – A solitary mini vodka bottle, standing on a counter, waiting to be grabbed by Whip.
Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln walks down the hallway en route to the Ford Theater (a moment that SHOULD have been the ending of the film).
Life of Pi – Pi falling down in the ocean, with the water illuminated by the sinking ship.
Skyfall – James Bond against a Blade Runner-esque Shanghai backdrop.
Honorable Mention: Just about everything else in Skyfall (Silva’s entrance, Silva framed against the fiery night sky at the cabin, the opening shot)…the final shot of Take This Waltz on a carnival ride…Hushpuppy running through the field with sparklers in Beasts of the Southern Wild… the Rainmaker exploding a hitman in slow-motion in Looper…that breathtaking one-shot of “I Dreamed A Dream” in Les Miserables.
And the Brownie goes to…Skyfall. Simply majestic. Runner-up: Flight.
Best Scene (Too many good ones to limit this to five. Let’s go for 10.)
21 Jump Street – The hilarious car chase sequence, which subverts all other car chase sequences that have gone before. Won’t anything just explode?
Argo – The fake film crew moves through the crowded streets of Iran, encountering a man who shouts after one woman takes pictures with a disposable camera. An unbearable amount of tension.
The Cabin in the Woods – The elevator scene. You’ll never hear an elevator “ding!” the same way again. For fear of spoilers, I will say nothing more.
Flight – The plane crash – perhaps the best scene of a plane crash that’s even been captured on film. Welcome back to live-action films, Robert Zemeckis. Don’t go anywhere.
Les Miserables – “I Dreamed a Dream”, in one mesmerizing take. Your movie theatre has never been quieter.
Looper – Emily Blunt clutches a rubber duck, meant for a walkie-talkie, and signals Joseph Gordon-Levitt up in a moment of fleeting passion.
The Master – That processing scene I keep mentioning, where Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) questions Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), setting the tone for the relationship between the two men in an extraordinarily-acted moment.
Silver Linings Playbook – Pat returns from the disastrous Eagles game, Tiffany confronts Pat, Sr. and the ending parlay is established – all in one glorious scene.
Take This Waltz – Daniel’s verbal seduction of Margot at the bar. Not a single physical action, and it’s the sultriest scene of the year.
Zero Dark Thirty – The raid on Bin Laden. As gripping as if you were sitting right there.
And the Brownie goes to…Les Miserables. I said it was the best movie moment of the year when I walked out of the theatre. I’m not going back on that now. Runner-up: The Cabin in the Woods.
First – an honorable mention to Moonrise Kingdom, Flight, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Chronicle and Django Unchained. You were oh, so close.
And a special shoutout to my three least favorite films of the year – Amour, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and steaming heap of garbage Red Dawn, which is exceptional in its awfulness.
Now, the top 10, from #10 on…
10. The Cabin in the Woods – A brilliant send-up of a flailing horror genre. With lots of Bradley Whitford.
9. Skyfall – The best Bond ever? It’s in the top three, at least.
8. Looper – The most inventive science-fiction film I’ve seen since Inception, and the most inventive I imagine I’ll see in quite some time.
7. Haywire – Who could take a short, stylish action movie that stars an MMA female fighter with no acting roles to these heights? Steven Soderbergh, that’s who.
6. Anna Karenina – What could have been a boring period piece is transformed into something wildly fresh and original. Some people hated it. I loved almost every frame of it.
5. Take This Waltz – My friend, who hated Take This Waltz, said “it tries way too hard to be indie”. I prefer to see the bright side of things, in the gorgeous visuals, incredible acting and perfectly-placed music. For crying out loud, The Buggles are used as a major audio cue, and it works so damn well.
4. Life of Pi – A visual feast, with a story that exceeds the one found in the book. You can’t help but be amazed.
3. Zero Dark Thirty – Following up The Hurt Locker with a film nearly as good is an impossible task. Consider Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal to be miracle workers, then.
2. 21 Jump Street – The hardest I’ve laughed at anything since the first time I saw Borat. An absolute instant classic of a comedy. I still can’t believe how good it was.
And the Brownie for Best Picture goes to…
Silver Linings Playbook. I can’t remember the last time I walked out of a movie theatre with that wide of a smile on my face. Playbook is impeccably acted, perfectly-paced, brilliantly shot and just a wonderful story. It also seems to be a refreshingly raw and honest look at mental illness. And it’s the best movie I’ve seen since The Social Network in 2010. My only “A+” grade of the year – to my eyes, it’s cinematic perfection.
Lincoln – 9
Life of Pi – 9
Silver Linings Playbook – 9
Anna Karenina – 8
Les Miserables – 7
Zero Dark Thirty – 7
Looper – 6
The Master – 6
Take This Waltz – 6
Skyfall – 5
21 Jump Street – 4
Beasts of the Southern Wild – 4
The Cabin in the Woods – 4
Django Unchained – 4
Flight – 4
Haywire – 3
The Dark Knight Rises – 2
Moonrise Kingdom – 2
Argo – 1
The Avengers – 1
Chronicle – 1
The Impossible – 1
Prometheus – 1
The Sessions – 1
Ted – 1
Life of Pi – 3
Silver Linings Playbook – 3
Skyfall – 3
Les Miserables – 2
The Master – 2
Anna Karenina – 1
Beasts of the Southern Wild – 1
Lincoln – 1
Moonrise Kingdom – 1
Take This Waltz – 1
Zero Dark Thirty – 1
Thanks for reading – this post was a hell of a lot of work. Almost an entire day’s worth, if you factor in Part 1.
Why spend so much time on something I’m not getting paid for and not showing to anyone in particular? Because I like writing – and that’s both the beauty and the curse of this blog. There’s a chance we’ll kickstart a new project on the blog on Monday, but there’s a period of rest after that on the horizon.
As always, thanks for supporting the blog and reading these long posts. Maybe one other person gets a kick out of it – maybe no one does. I really don’t know. But it’s fun to write and reflect upon, and I’m glad I’ve been able to keep this website going and full of some new ideas.
Till next time.