Tag Archive for best of film

Best Voice Acting in Film 2012

Aside from a bunch of big budget blockbuster animated features, 2012 had a surprising amount of voice over performances in film. It seems like voice overs are back in a big way. This does not mean that films are lazily relying on narration to cover for plot holes. It means that screenwriters are creating characters that communicate to the audience even when they aren’t onscreen.

Here are the best voice acting performances of 2012. Each film can only have one nominee in the actual ranked category; otherwise, Brave, Paranorman, and Wreck-It Ralph could have filled up the whole thing.

Honorable Mentions:

bestvoiceactinghonorablementions Best Voice Acting in Film 2012

  • Jodelle Ferland, Paranorman
  • Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi
  • Seth MacFarlane, Ted
  • John C. Reilly, Wreck-It Ralph
  • Emma Thompson, Brave
  • Julie Walters, Brave

Best Performers in Limited Roles of 2012

These are the one or two scene wonders or ensemble performers who really stand out. The films wouldn’t be the same without them, but they sadly do not have a lot to do. They’re the could-be heroes and villains of someone else’s story that stole the spotlight for a brief moment in time.

Here are the Best Performers in Limited Roles in 2012.

bestlimitedperformances2012honorablementions Best Performers in Limited Roles of 2012

Honorable Mentions

  • Elizabeth Banks & John Michael Higgins, Pitch Perfect
  • Toni Collette, Hitchcock
  • Clea DuVall, Argo
  • Tilda Swinton, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Sigourney Weaver, The Cabin in the Woods

Best Film Songs of 2012

Not to be confused with Best Use of Music in Film, Best Film Songs is about those little musical diversions that actually take center stage in a film and leave an impression. The origin doesn’t matter. A cover song used for good effect can be just as impressive as an original song.

Here are the Best Film Songs of 2012. An asterisk indicates a VOD release. Each film was limited to one ranked entry to allow for a wider discussion. Skip over to Page 4 for a playlist of most of the entries. Three were not available to embed from YouTube.

Honorable Mentions:

bestfilmsongs2012honorablementions Best Film Songs of 2012

  • Damsels in Distress, “Things Are Looking Up”
  • The Devil’s Carnival*, “Grace for Sale”
  • Les Miserables, “Lovely Ladies”
  • Moonrise Kingdom, “Cuckoo”
  • Magic Mike, “Ladies of Tampa”
  • Sound of My Voice, “Dreams”

Page 2: #6-4
Page 3: #3-1
Page 4: Playlist

Best Screenplays of 2012

Forget about original or adapted. I’m once again condensing categories for 2012. A good screenplay is a good screenplay regardless of the source material. The only use in considering the source material when looking at the film is either for a critical/scholarly article on the physical adaptation or as a post-mortem on how such a good source turned into such a bad film (or, vice versa). So let’s celebrate the best in narrative feature writing altogether rather than separate the categories because of tradition.

The Best Screenplays of 2012. Six honorable mentions followed by a ranked Top 6.

Honorable Mentions:

bestscreenplays2012honorablementions Best Screenplays of 2012

  • The Avengers, Joss Whedon, Story by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon
  • Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, From the Novel by Don DeLillo
  • The Grey, Joe Carnahan & Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, From the Short Story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
  • Magic Mike, Reid Carolin
  • Les Miserables, William Nicholson, From the Musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, and Kerbert Kretzmer
  • Sinister, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill

Best Use of Music in Film in 2012

Instead of trying to parse out original scores from musical scores (thanks for that distinction, Academy) from adapted song-scores, I’m just going to look at the best overall use of music in film.

2012 had a wide variety of approaches to film soundtracks and scores. A growing (and welcome) trend is what I refer to as precision scores. These are soundtracks/scores that sync up directly with the action onscreen. Every note, every beat has a purpose in relation to the visual storytelling rather than general atmosphere.

Other films used wise choices to bring out unexpected laughs and insights in the text of the film. These could be moments of parody, original songs, or even well-selected catalog songs that elevate their films with a sharp ear and a keen wit.

These are the best uses of music in film in 2012. Asterisk indicates VOD.

Honorable Mentions:

bestuseofmusic2012honorablementions Best Use of Music in Film in 2012

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Original Music by Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin
  • Damsels in Distress, Music Supervisor Annie Pearlman; Original Music by Mark Suozzo
  • The Dictator, Original Music by Erran Baron Cohen; Music Supervisor Richard Henderson
  • Hysteria, Original Music by Gast Waltzing
  • Moonrise Kingdom, Original Music by Alexandre Desplat
  • Ted, Original Music by Walter Murphy, Lyrics by Seth MacFarlane

Best Directors of 2012

2012 saw a number of big budget blockbusters produced with high production values and strong directors at the helm. It also saw really innovative low budget features gain rave reviews with specific mentions of strong direction. With so many strong films, it should have been no surprise when the Academy Awards went squirrely with their nominees. “Squirrely” is an oversimplification of the issue as the five nominees are strong choices; there were just a few other consistently rallied behind directors that missed the cut in the end.

Here are my Best Directors of 2012. An asterisk indicates a VOD/home video release.

Honorable Mentions:

bestdirectorsof2012honorabementions Best Directors of 2012

  • Darren Lynn Bousman, The Devil’s Carnival*
  • Panos Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow*
  • David Cronenberg, Cosmopolis
  • Bobcat Goldthwait, God Bless America*
  • Stephen Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Gary Ross, The Hunger Games

Best Supporting Actors of 2012

The Oscar nominations are out and, shocker of shocks, they line up with very few of my acting choices. Helen Hunt, Bradley Cooper (one of my honorable mentions), Christoph Waltz (honorable mention, wrong category) and Jennifer Lawrence (right actress, wrong performance) are the only crossovers in equivalent acting categories. Jackie Weaver and Quvenzhane Wallis appear in lists that are coming out next week for very different categories. My Director list, coming next week, probably has the most crossover. But Supporting Actor? We’re 0/5 on that list and I had 12 tries to line up with the Academy’s tastes.

So here are what I consider the Best Supporting Actors of 2012. An asterisk indicates a VOD release.

Honorable Mentions:

bestsupportingactors2012honorablementions Best Supporting Actors of 2012

  • Michael Caine, The Dark Knight Rises
  • Billy Crudup, Thin Ice
  • John Goodman, Flight
  • Richard Jenkins, The Cabin in the Woods
  • Matisyahu, The Possession
  • Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games

Best Supporting Actresses of 2012

I keep reading that 2012 was a weak year for supporting actresses. This is based on the critics groups and precursors rallying around the same six or seven performances en masse. It’s also a gross misrepresentation of the year in film.

The way I came about these best of lists this year was to list every possible performance I thought could be worthy of an award for their work. Supporting Actress had over 30 performances listed before I had to start paring down the list to make a best of list seem doable. Then I saw another eight films that added an extra dozen potential nominees to the long list.

2012 was not weak for Supporting Actresses. 2012 was so full of excellent performances that people began rallying around the names they knew rather than dive into every possibility. That can happen when you’re overwhelmed.

This is the category that made me create a big rule for all the 2012 lists. A single film or a single performer can only take up one of the Top 6 slots. Otherwise, I could have easily filled the entire list with, say, Cosmopolis to make a point. I didn’t.

Here are the Best Supporting Actresses of 2012. Asterisk indicates VOD release.

Honorable Mentions:

bestsupportingactresses2012honorablementions Best Supporting Actresses of 2012

  • Samantha Barks, Les Miserables
  • Ann Dowd, Compliance
  • Salma Hayek, Savages
  • Jessica Lowndes, The Devil’s Carnival*
  • Sarah Silverman, Wreck-It Ralph
  • Rebel Wilson, Bachelorette*

Best Leading Actors of 2012

Yesterday, we looked at the leading ladies who made 2012 a great year for film. Today, it’s all about the men.

It’s almost harder to judge male actors because Hollywood has really developed a rigid structure of what men can or cannot do on film. You will rarely see a male protagonist start crying unless there’s serious injury or death involved. They won’t get very happy unless we’re meant to laugh at them. They can get really mad, really serious, or really charming with seemingly no limit, but every other emotion is intentionally more subdued for believability. It’s a stupid series of limits, but it’s one that has developed for whatever reason.

2012 wasn’t much of an exception. The difference that set these 12 performances above the rest of the field is commitment. These actors found a unique approach to the material they were working with that enhanced the overall production.

We’re going with the same rules as yesterday: six honorable mentions and a top 6. Here are the Best Leading Actors of 2012. Asterisk indicates a VOD release.

Honorable Mentions:

bestactors2012honorablementions Best Leading Actors of 2012

  • Jack Black, Bernie
  • Steve Carell, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Martin Freeman, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Denis Lavant, Holy Motors
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Leading Actresses of 2012

We’re keeping the 12 wide field but narrowing down the descriptions to the top six from here out. So here are my top Leading Actresses of 2012. An asterisk indicates VOD/home video release.

Honorable Mentions:

bestactresses2012honorablementions Best Leading Actresses of 2012

  • Emma Fitzpatrick, The Collection
  • Greta Gerwig, Damsels in Distress
  • Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina
  • Tara Lynne Barr, God Bless America*
  • Aubrey Plaza, Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Juno Temple, Killer Joe

Top 12 Films of 2012

2012 was a great year for films. Sure, there were plenty of bad ones. There always are. But the good so outweighed the bad that I decided the struggle to pare the list down to 10 wasn’t worth it. Choosing just 12 was a struggle, but it gave me more room, especially when guided by scores. A film needed an 8/10 or higher on the site to even be included in the discussion.

here’s what happened in film this year. A ton of low budget sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films got relatively wide releases and did well enough to warrant long stays in theaters. Big budget tent-poles were made with a lot of sensitivity and nuance. The streaming market allowed for faster turn arounds for under-performing films and word of mouth allowed smaller titles with name actors to expand to big healthy theatrical releases.

Prestige films came and went in the third and fourth quarter but the critics groups rallied around a wide range of titles released throughout the year. I can only hope that means the end of the “dump them in December and hope” strategy for Oscar glory.

So many great films did one weekend releases and went straight to VOD. Documentary films didn’t travel as much as usual because of the new, less restrictive rules for qualifying for the Oscars. Foreign language films were a bust unless you were in a major film market.

As such, I’m opting not to include documentaries on my Top 12 list. I haven’t seen enough to fairly compare the genre to the narrative films of the year. Same with a lot of the one week qualifying releases of foreign language films. The Devil’s Carnival misses out solely due to running time. It got enough of a theatrical release for me to include it in other categories, but it is under an hour long, which makes it a short, albeit a very accomplished one.

So here’s my list of the Top 12 Films of 2012. If I’m going to reflect on a great year for film, I’m really going to reflect on it.

12: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games could have been just another hit book to film cash grab with no style or substance. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Writer/director Gary Ross, working with original novelist Suzanne Collins and screenwriter Billy Ray, found a great conceit to take an internalized narrative of angst, fear, and survival and turn it into something wildly cinematic. Much of Katniss’ internal monologue is replaced with color commentary from the Capital’s telecast of the Hunger Games and, even better, scenes inside the Gamemaker’s control room. It’s still Katniss’ story, but it provides a clever way to handle a deeply psychological novel onscreen without voice over.

thehungergameskatnisseffie Top 12 Films of 2012The film looks and sounds great. From the extravagance of the Capital to the desolation of the outlying Districts, The Hunger Games succeeds in setting the tone for the cruel entertainment of the haves at the expense of the have nots. The costumes and makeup are as wild as necessary, no matter how much the parody hurt the feelings of the Academy voters (per Academy chatter relayed by Oscar bloggers).

The ensemble cast deliver knock-out performances in roles that were re-weighted to open up the novel onscreen. Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, who is the main reason the entire film works. Once the action in the arena kicks off, she barely has any dialogue. Yet, you can’t take your eyes off of her because she is living this role. It’s one thing to tell the audience they should root for a character; it’s quite another for the character to speak for herself without dialogue.

Full Review


12 Great Films You Missed in 2012, Part 2

Here’s Part 2 of the 12 Great Films You Missed in 2012. So far, we’ve looked at horror, sci-fi, history, and experimental prestige films that slipped by without notice. What will the second half of the list bring to the table? Keep reading to find out.

7: Thin Ice

How You Missed It:

thiniceposter 12 Great Films You Missed in 2012, Part 2That’s an easy one. This was dumped to a February release on 53 screens with no marketing and only word of mouth to keep it open. The film actually stayed in theaters through May, but dropped screens every week.

Why You Should See It:

Thin Ice is a really cool dark comedy/crime caper with a great cast. The only weak link is the “you’re not going to believe this story” premise that always preps the audience to distrust everything you put onscreen. The actual story is shocking in all the right ways. If the distributors or producers were actually invested in the film, there would have been a big push for Billy Crudup, Greg Kinnear, and screenwriters Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher to pick up some awards from the critics groups. They easily would have been shortlisted for what they put out there.

Full Review

8: The Raid: Redemption:

How You Missed It:

I have a sinking feeling that no one involved in the distribution of the film thought the summer blockbuster fans would sit through a foreign language action film. It was a mistake. When the film did well in a very limited release, they jumped straight up to hundreds of theaters with no real marketing push and the sales went stagnant. Then they didn’t know what to do, so they let it linger in select markets until only $34 were brought in on the final weekend of release.

Why You Should See It:

theraidredemptiontower 12 Great Films You Missed in 2012, Part 2 The Raid: Redemption is the action/thriller you’ve been waiting for. It’s a high stakes espionage film about a top notch team of agents called in to take down a mob boss who controls a gigantic, towering apartment complex. The action is used to develop characters because the story itself is so simple. The new score for the US release does wonders to bridge the gap between Indonesian and American cinema and culture.

Full Review

12 Great Films You Missed in 2012, Part 1

I’ve spent the past week going through my archives and building spreadsheets of reviews for all the media I cover. By the time I got through 2012, I realized what an amazing year it’s been for film. To make the cut for my Top 10 list for 2012, a film needs to score an 8/10 or higher; only one of those 8/10 films can get in at this point and I still haven’t seen Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, or Django Unchained.

Yet, there are a number of strong, inventive films from 2012 you might have missed for any number of reasons. Maybe they bombed at the box office due to a poor marketing campaign. Maybe they only did a one week qualifying release in New York and Los Angeles and spent the rest of the year shipping out screeners to critics and Academy members. Maybe it’s a genre of film you don’t typically seek out or a big budget blockbuster that you dismissed in summer movie season. Whatever the case, these 12 films deserve your attention.

As a quick note, this list purposely excludes the end of the year one week qualifying releases like Rust & Bone and Amour. Even if I do get to see them before 2013, they’re going to open in a more substantial way in the next few months.

1: The Devil’s Carnival

How You Missed It:

devilscarnivalscorpion 12 Great Films You Missed in 2012, Part 1The Devil’s Carnival decided to steal a page from the golden age of Hollywood and screen as a series of events. Darren Lynn Bousman toured the show throughout North America with large, immersive screenings. Cast members and circus performers showed up to interact with the crowd before the hour long film played. The ticket price was high for a film–$22 just to get in, significantly more for the full experience–and the lower price sold out quickly in most markets.

Why You Should See It:

Forget the nightmare of the previous Bousman/Terence Zdunich collaboration Repo: The Genetic Opera. The Devil’s Carnival is an old-fashioned musical with a dark edge. Three cosmic revenge stories pair recently deceased sinners with carnies and attractions that riff on Aesop’s Fables to create big music hall-styled song and dance numbers. The cast is great and the songs are strong and memorable. This is what horror musicals should be like.

Full Review

Top 10 Films of the Aughts

You can thoroughly blame Pajiba for this. I appreciate Dustin giving us the business for criticizing the Pajiba Top Whatevers of the Aughts by choosing our more questionable suggestions. I think it's hilarious. I don't care for being called out by other readers for something I planned on admitting immediately (my love of The Village), especially since it was exaggerated by way of Dustin's joke. 

I don't rank, and I'd probably write a different list tomorrow. Here are some of the Top 10 Films of the Aughts in no particular order. All links below to IMDB pages.