Tag Archives: 5 Things

5 Things You Need To Know: Summer Movie Edition Part I – NEIGHBORS, GODZILLA, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

With the summer movie semester well into the summer session, the time has finally come to comment on some of what I have seen. This edition will feature Neighbors, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

As always, when I see a movie in theaters, I will (attempt to) write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About…

NEIGHBORSRose Byrne and Seth Rogen

1) Although I hated Neighbors and most of my Neigbors viewing experience, I recognize its relative success as a modern, pushing-the-envelope comedic summer romp.

2) Zac Efron’s body and physical persona may be the closest thing I have ever seen on screen to a Greek God and he and the filmmakers seem to both know and celebrate this.

3) Ike Barinholtz has a brand of comedic timing on The Mindy Project that he brings to his supporting role in The Neighbors. As on The Mindy Project, he is both sometimes hilarious and sometimes far too many steps over the top.

4) I was pleasantly surprised by the chemistry between Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as an oddly-coupled set of new parents. They both were willing to go there – with each other, with other co-stars (particularly the surprisingly fantastic Efron), and with the hyperbole of the plotted circumstances.

5) Neighbors is a movie that delivers a full filling of disgusting raunch and was frequently too much out of control partying for me to take. If this kind of thing is your jam, Neighbors is an escapist escapade, but if you are at a place in your life in which you are ready to settle down with a spouse and kids, be warned.

GODZILLAElizabeth Olsen

1) Godzilla‘s relative CGI and monster reveal procrastination fuels its suspenseful success. Like summer blockbuster heavyweights like Jaws and Jurassic Park (both under the helm of Steven Spielberg the Magnificent), we earn the climactic curtain pull-back.

2) Bryan Cranston is good at acting – sure, see: Breaking Bad. But also, see: Godzilla.

3) Director Gareth Edwards has recently been attached to helm an “untitled Star Wars project.” With operation total secrecy expertly and indefinitely locked in the bag on everything Star Wars movies related, one secret did recently get out: a future Star Wars movie may be even luckier to have Gareth Edwards as its director than Gareth Edwards is lucky to be able to direct a Star Wars movie. If Godzilla’s promise is any indication, this is an outstanding choice.

4) I am not sure when it is going to come and Godzilla is certainly not it (this is by no means a bad thing – the character performance stakes are just a little lower in a movie about a fictionalized monster), but I have a strong premonition that Elizabeth Olsen is going to have an iconic film performance at some point in her career. She has something undeniably unique and compelling going on as an actor and with the right character/director/writer combination may have the talent to deliver something really special.

5) Godzilla is a movie that executes its mission (a summer escape, a chance to see cool looking monsters that destroy things, a platform for  Bryan Cranston to reinvent himself post Walter White) with a confidence, artistry, and intrigue not often reserved for the modern summer blockbuster. Although littered with characters built from traditional stock and a little darker (as in lighting and mood) than necessary, Godzilla entertains (and decimates property and other monsters in its path!) most responsibly.


1) My X-Men movie journey is very similar to my at-large X-Men journey. Throughout my life, X-Men has always been a franchise, a concept, and a group of action figures to play with that I enjoy and indulge in on extended breaks from Batman. Although they adequately fill the gaps during forced vacations from Gotham City, rarely do Professor Xavier’s crew of mutant super outcasts stand tall against Batman’s human awesomeness. With Batman and Robin and director Joel Schumacher defecating on Batman, the moviegoing experience, and human decency in 1997the X-Men had been handed their cinematic window to makes some dents in Batman’s armored nipples. Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) was a passable franchise welcoming (this does not include anything to do with the mistreatment of Halle Berry’s Storm character nor the CGI budget limitations that make its production value seem much closer to a movie released in 1990). X2 (2003) was a revelatory leap forward and stands up well to this day (the bigger budget and everything to do with Nightcrawler were significant contributors). By the time the inferior and belabored X-Men: The Last Stand rolled out in 2006, Christopher Nolan had just given Batman an exceptional new cinematic restart (Batman Begins in 2005), and the X-Men franchise had to re-mutate again. One attempted genetic experiment was resoundingly anti-climatic – besides the estate of Hugh Jackman, I am not sure there are too many people who have benefitted in any way from the Wolverine movies (their complete lack of pop cultural impact is really telling). 2011’s X-Men: First Class had the opposite effect. Set in 1962 and infused with a nostalgic charm by director Matthew Vaughn, First Class expertly told the X-Men origin story of young Professor Xavier and Magneto through the brilliant chemically balanced performances of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (although a little too miscast as Raven/Mystique, it never hurts to have Jennifer Lawrence on your team). If First Class rebooted and restarted the X-Men mythos in the best of ways, X-Men: Days of Future Past was an opportunity to tie the two X-Men time periods (and actors thereof) into one elegant through-story. The resulting movie, again with Bryan Singer at the helm and again buttressed between two Batman movie franchises, conveniently resets the events of the past movies by creating an entirely new history (popular deceased characters can now have new life in future movies), but unfortunately works to both cheapen what was good about the original three movies and the goodwill brought on by X-Men: First Class. Time travel is the trickiest of fantasy tropes. Mind-blowing is palatable if there is some restraint (this is why I am so stoked for Interstellar and why Inception worked so well – thanks again Christopher Nolan). X-Men: Days of Future Past does not show as much restraint as it could (everything seems awfully convenient, especially the premise that Jackman’s Wolverine is the perfect candidate to take the journey) and the result is a lot of sloppy and imprecise filmmaking (the anti-Usual Suspects).

2) I am thrilled for Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s onscreen chemistry and offscreen professional and personal relationship that has grown from their time together on the first movies, but after seeing Fassbender and McAvoy again do their young Erik and Charles thing, there is nothing quite like it. I could sit and watch these two play a board game together or model vintage fashion and it would be mesmerizing (it’s a good thing because these opportunities come up throughout DoFP).

3) If you have seen any of Peter Dinklage’s work on Game of Thrones, you immediately recognize two things – he is a superior actor and you want to see him perform more. I thought that Dr. Bolivar Trask, the sentinel’s Dr. Frankenstein lobbyist, would be the perfect dichotomized bad guy for Dinklage’s talents to shine. Sadly, Trask is written poorly and without a desired amount of ethical and psychological depth. Dinklage is wonderful so not all is disappointing, but this is a lost opportunity to showcase the full extent of Dinklage’s brilliance.

4) For her second straight movie release (I see you, American Hustle), Jennifer Lawrence has played a part she was not born to play. The weight of her movie superstardom and talent may even at times be more of a detriment than of a benefit. You know she is capable of such incredible things, so when her Raven character is given such choppy dialogue and inconsequential and confusing motives, you are left feeling as blue her full-body suit.

5) X-Men: Days of Future Past is a movie with epic, interstellar storytelling ambition that too often feels grounded to Earth. It is too many things all at once such that what it really needs to be – thoughtful, provocative, compelling – fails to fully develop. The future scenes are action-sequence pleasure, but of little care or consequence. The past scenes from the 70s are fogged by a blurry dedication to external realism over internal truth.

5 Things You Need To Know: Non-Stop

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1) As the recent 21st Century early calendar year movie release schedule has come to dictate, Liam Neeson, the sixty-one-year young modern movie action star, will star in a movie where his character gets to show a motley crew of brooding, ill-advised international bad guys, wolves, and unknown kidnappers his specific set of skills. For the bad guys nefarious, criminal aspirations this is the worst of news – one can expect beatings will be taken. For the audience of such films looking for a mindless and purely entertaining respite from awards season seriousness, Liam Neeson has come to deliver punch after punch. Non-Stop, a classically compelling (in a mid 90s In the Line of Fire/Air Force One kind of way) thriller featuring Neeson as an United States Air Marshal attempting to save every “character actor” soul on board of an increasingly dangerous transatlantic flight, is the best of these “Neeson saves the day” pictures since Taken and a most enjoyable, appreciatively plausible (my scornful eyes are squarely on you, Taken 2), “who done it” thinker of a ride.

2) Much of the success of Non-Stop is driven by its “Hitchcockian,” “everyone could be a suspect,” “Agatha Christie mystery-like” suspense. Plot twist after red herring reveal after bad guy profiling tropes keep you fumbling guesses of culpability until the climactic end. The screenplay team, led by John R. Williams, create a variety of potential guilty party narratives that all could work. Oftentimes the journeys on mystery thrillers can be fun, but once you get to the last chapter, the resolution comes out an unrealistic mess. Non-Stop manages to avoid these pitfalls by giving the audience a healthy dose of dramatic irony filled up by the unapologetic first person point of view of Neeson’s Bill Marks character. We never doubt his motivations (as many rowdy passengers, TSA agents, and F16 pilots do), freeing us to spend the movie suspect hunting alongside Neeson’s native 6’4” Belfast frame.

3) If you are going to spend an entire movie with a finite group of characters on a plane facing imminent danger, you best fill it, cockpit to coach, with some reliable talent. With Julianne Moore (aging, both in roles and in looks, so beautifully) and Corey Stoll (after two seasons, his performance is still the best thing about House of Cards) as passengers, Michelle Dockery (I promise, 2014 will be the year I finally indulge in Downton Abbey) and Academy Award winner (!!!!) Lupita Nyong’o as flight attendants, and Linus Roache (Thomas Wayne and Liam Neeson’s Batman Begins co-star) and Jason Butler Harner (a “that guy TV award” candidate) as pilots, your chances of making a successful movie are greatly enhanced.

4) Liam Neeson does not disappoint in Non-Stop (at this point, not that anyone would expect him to). This action star niche, third act of a career reinvention is just remarkable. Although he continues to carry the trustworthy gravitas of earlier performances like Oscar Schindler and Qui-Gon Jinn, seemingly each of his recent characters have an infectious “don’t mess with me, I have nothing to lose” abandon that has transformed him into the go-to (Neeson is now a United States citizen) symbol of the American Action Hero (as this week’s SNL cold open suggests, Mr. Putin). Neeson wears this distinction with a power, weight (his height only helps), and earned credibility that his predecessors (Stallone, Willis) may not have ever achieved. This obviously kind and generous (as every interview I have seen him do suggests) widower dad of two boys has become our real-life Superman. Be warned fictional bad guys everywhere – you don’t want to mess with a character played by Liam Neeson. (Even his late night talk show talking point wrath directed at New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s proposed policies to destroy the horse and buggy industry gains traction through his action movie star cred. You want to see the stables? He’ll show you the stables.)

5) Non-Stop is a unabashedly fun, exhilarating, throwback movie thriller. You are taken on a suspenseful ride through turbulent twists and turns in which you can only trust two things: everyone is a suspect and you never want to mess with Liam Neeson’s specific set of skills.

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Holiday Season Edition

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

It’s been a while.  ’Tis the season to be busier than usual and this holiday season proved to be a formidable foe to free time.  Consequently, this post will feature not one, but three movies that I have seen in recent days and weeks.  Let us hope that the beginning of 2014 affords more time…


  1. I trudged out of the movie theater into the bristly cold, New England night after the three hour runtime of The Wolf of Wall Street believing the following things to be true: I was exhausted, I needed a shower to clean myself from the unrelenting visual debauchery of the cocaine hooker-ville that was this latest Martin Scorsese picture, and I DID NOT like the movie I had just watched.

  2. I also believed the following things to be true: I had just witnessed the best acting performance of 2013, the best acting performance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career, Martin Scorsese’s best film since Goodfellas (I am looking at you, The Departed), and a masterpiece (despite the length and the redundancy of misbehavior) of a movie.

  3. Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely phenomenal in The Wolf of Wall Street.  His performance as the morally incompetent, but toxically charismatic wolf, Jordan Belfort, is physically and emotionally fearless, breathtaking scene after scene after scene, and as naked (literally and metaphorically) as I have ever seen Leo.   Here, he is the movie star he was always destined to be – free from any inhibition and constraint to cruise control (and frequently out of) his way through an unyielding barrage of the baddest behavior.  His scene work and chemistry with fellow actors is the best of his career and rivals his work with Kate Winslet, his professional star-crossed lover.  Although content-wise, I would not recommend The Wolf of Wall Street to many in or out of my circle, for anyone who enjoys the movies, you must see this pinnacle performance of Leo’s career.

  4. Although appreciating and respecting his body of work and fully believing he is the on the Mount Rushmore of American filmmakers, I have never been on Team Scorsese (I play for Team Spielberg and more recently, for Team Nolan).  What makes Martin Scorsese prolific has never aligned with what I most love about cinema.  Notwithstanding, The Wolf of Wall Street is a great Martin Scorsese movie and it is hard to believe he could possibly ever have had as much fun making a movie before.  Scorsese creates a vast playground for his actors to take unheard of risks, push every possible button of squeamish discomfort and unchecked mayhem, and to challenge each other to go there.  Every actor in the movie is on some level of awesome and career best (The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal was my biggest surprise performance and could not have strayed further from the dopey anguish of Shane).  Jonah Hill (brilliantly cast) gives Leonardo DiCaprio his best and most consistent scene partner (their several near death flirtations in the movie are the clear frontrunners for best scenes), but I may have been even more impressed with Scorsese’s work with the relatively green, Margot Robbie.  She matches the brilliant DiCaprio during each of their marital trysts slap for punch (as excruciating to watch as it was) in a way that speaks to the free creative expression on-set environment that Scorsese must have crafted.

  5. The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie, unlikeable, oftentimes unwatchable, and certainly interpretable as not an indictment, but rather a glorified celebration of the filthy excess and monetary tomfoolery of the protagonist’s world, that provides an exhilarating, exhausting, awesome cinematic ride.  It is not out of contention as potential motion picture in the foreseeable future as either a tentpole of DiCaprio and Scorsese’s outstanding careers or sooner, if critical momentum leads to some Academy Award success.

American Hustle


  1. American Hustle, portrayed as a cacophony of the 1970s (in music, fashion, culture, and sleaziness) in its trailers, does not disappoint in its period pizazz, but rather in its totally messy storytelling and filmmaking.  Much of its direction and focus feels arbitrary.  It is a movie about too many things so that the ultimate result is that is about nothing at all.

  2. As one could expect from a David O. “character is my focus” Russell film, many of the performances in American Hustle are strong.  Bradley Cooper has a tremendous amount of fun and seems to have been given free reign over his dialogue.  Christian Bale is in method mode, forty pounds heavier, and doing some skillful physical acting.  Although Jennifer Lawrence, America’s muse for over a year now, is woefully miscast and far too young for the part, she manages to sparkle and shine through many of her scenes.  Amy Adams manages to salvage much of the confusion surrounding her character with some expected professional work.

  3. These strong, scene-chewing performers and characters could have all carried their own movies, but put together in American Hustle, they amount to very little.  The parts are far greater than the some in this case.

  4. If meant to be a crime caper, American Hustle lacks the requisite scintillating plot twists.  As a picture about governmental corruption, it puts its foot in the water for too brief a second to matter.  As a movie about a combustible love triangle among relatable characters, it is just too confusing.

  5. American Hustle is a movie that, despite its on paper goods, fails to connect, to entertain, and to inspire any passion.  Without a full understanding of what it aims to do and be, the audience are the ones who are left feeling hustled.

Saving Mr. Banks


  1. Saving Mr. Banks does not focus on the making of Mary Poppins, but rather on the courtship of Disney, in the form of Walt (played with American Dream warmth by Tom Hanks) and his writing team, to P.L. Travers and all of the curmudgeonry that comes with her in a belabored attempt to acquire the rights to her book.  As Mrs. (do not call her Pam!) Travers roadblocks each intersection of the direction that Team Disney wants to take, we are more exposed to how her childhood in the Australian Outback may inform her decisions in the present than to why it matters to her now.  The flashback connections do not always yield logical results (seriously though, why not the color red?), and we are left with the impression that Mrs. Travers is just being difficult.

  2. If you are going to see Saving Mr. Banks, it will be worth it to set up a Mary Poppins refresher viewing first.  Much of the whimsy, effective writing, and referential fun of Saving Mr. Banks is in comparison and with a heightened understanding of the motion picture, Mary Poppins.

  3. Although there is a some reasonable chatter contesting just how historically accurate this telling of the Mary Poppins rights acquisition is, the vision of early 1960s Disney studios, Disney hotel welcome packages, Disney rehearsal room door decals, and Disneyland Main Street USA autograph seekers are all a series of the most delightful period movie ornamentation that I have seen in some time (and an appreciated pace change from the bombastic sites and sounds from the seedier scenes of the movies discussed earlier).  For a studio where “movie magic” seems to be one of the ultimate goals, mission accomplished.

  4. Just to clarify: Saving Mr. Banks, a story about the writer of the book that became the movie Mary Poppins (one of the most successful motion pictures ever made by Walt Disney Pictures) and her dealings with Walt Disney, was made by Walt Disney Pictures.  As mentioned, access to certain forms of visual authenticity may be appreciatively enhanced, whereas the objectivity in regards to the less favorable side of all things Disney (including the portrayal of Walt himself) is harder to value.

  5. Saving Mr. Banks is a delicate, delectable, and most pleasant movie that aspires to create a tale of great emotional power (the flashback trope is a constant visitor) out of something far simpler.  When centered on P.L. Travers battles with Walt Disney and the Sherman musical tandem over details and content, there is certain “inside the actor’s studio” intrigue (especially since I had seen Mary Poppins just hours before).  There is additional interest in Travers’ childhood flashback world, but when an attempt is made to fully understand her present obstinance out of her past memories, we are left without knowing really what to say.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, indeed.


5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Captain Phillips

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1. Captain Phillips is a taut, clinically precise, tension builder of a movie that drives the dangerous waters of the story of a 2009 Somali pirate hijacking of everyman Captain Richard Phillipps and his US Cargo ship off the Eastern African coast safely to shore.

  1. Tom Hanks, sporting an at times nondescript, an at times unintentionally comedic New England accent that certainly does not pass the native Bostonian authenticity muster station, gives his best (and least Tom Hanks-ian performance) since Cast Away.

  2. With Bloody Sunday, United 93, and Captain Phillips now in bold on his directorial resumé, Paul Greengrass is the most prolific filmmaker working today of true stories of harrowing real life events involving a highjacking (In the case of the brilliant Bloody Sunday, the 1972 massacre of innocents at the hands of British soldiers in Derry, Northern Ireland, the hijacking was of a more metaphoric nature.  The civil rights march was hijacked by the violent actions of the IRA and the British Army.).  All three movies, told through the lens of a hand-held documentarian cinematic style and a straight forward, unsentimental plotted delivery, are successful sojourns in accuracy and realism, but Captain Phillips is most successful of the three at character.  Part of this is due to the undeniable screen charisma of Mr. Hanks and part of this is due to the nature of the real life story (it is really about Captain Phillips fight for survival), but Greengrass also provides a deeper zoom here into both Hanks’ heroic portrayal of Captain Phillips and the mindset of each of Somali pirates.  Much of the action of the movie is spent in the claustrophobic confines of a stuffy life boat and Greengrass allows the audience to endure our own seat as a fateful passenger.

  3. In working under the presumption of complete realism, Greengrass does not often allow for much sentimentality or for an overarching or overbearing message to peer through his pictures (the anti-Oliver Stone, so to speak).  He simply allows for the facts to speak for themselves.  Yet, the story of Captain Phillips does have some pertinent allegorical overtones about the nature of power, both at the individual level (Captain Phillips versus his handful of attackers) and at a much larger level (The inevitability of who is going to lose – the little leaguer Somali pirates – when the US military rescue operation albatross rears its Major Leaguer status, is striking.).  I do not for a nautical knot have any sympathy for the actions of the Somali pirates, but I do appreciate the way that Captain Phillips is not afraid to point out how they do derive from an unjust system of “haves” and “have-nots” that limits options and can lead to a more nefarious existence.

  4. Although Captain Phillips may at first glance be well-fit in the classic “great rental, but don’t need to see it in theatres” category, such a movie of pristine competence, execution, and entertainment value, deserves a cinematic viewing.  Most importantly, Captain Phillips delivers the best performance by the best modern movie actor of the last twenty-five years without the first name “Daniel” and the last name “Day-Lewis” in over a decade.  With Saving Mr. Banks on the holiday season horizon, it is a pleasure to have Tom Hanks back in the conversation and Captain Phillips is a most meaningful way to start it.



When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1) The 2154 world of Los Angeles and the space habitat, Elysium (the only settings of the movie) that Neill Blomkamp creates are as visually stunning and well shot as any movie I have seen.  Cameras effortlessly swoop in and out of environments like you are a passenger on the greatest helicopter trip you have ever taken or if you are on an actualized version of the great ride Soarin’ from the Disney Parks.  There is just so much visual detail and nuance to take in.  Many of the best movies that take us to the relatively near future have excelled at what the world feels like on the ground (Elysium does this effectively as well), but Blomkamp’s accomplishment here are his sights from a short distance above.

2) If Elysium had been released in 1983 or even 1993, it becomes an iconic science fiction motion picture in the vein of Blade Runner.  Matt Damon’s protagonist hero Max makes him an even bigger star (on the Harrison Ford mid-80s level).  Elysium Kenner action figures and playsets fill the aisles of Toys ‘R Us and Caldor.  Sharito Copley’s over the edge and over the top Kruger (despite a performance and character that takes a promising concept to an uncalled for extreme) is considered for a spin-off and given glorified villain treatment à la Boba Fett.  Perhaps muted in the over saturated destruction fest that has been the 2013 summer movie season and definitely muted in the current state of the international revenue focused modern cinema, Elysium in 2013 is a short-lasting August box office blip that never reaches its potentially potent cultural relevance.  It just fills a whole in the summer season between Pacific Rim and Kick-Ass 2 and will be soon out of both our collective consciousness and water cooler twitter conversations weeks before Labor Day.

3) Ultimately, Elysium’s failings are intrinsic to its form and the execution thereof.  What makes Elysium great – an engrossing near future interpretation of our world that further disenfranchises its citizenry by race, xenophobia, and class, the “haves” versus the “have nothings” – would have been much better suited for the crock pot marination of a television series.  Blomkamp creates a world that we want to spend so much more time in where we could have explored the vast story possibilities found within.  Unfortunately, the constraints of a movie and its need to create a more succinct central story damaged the ultimate result.  Once Elysium’s plot thickens, characters driven by honest and understandable motivations are thrown off the transport.  We are left with unnecessary violence, unnecessary violent verbal spewing (looking at you Sharito Copley and Jodie Foster), and a pace that ruins the enjoyment of the meal.  A television series of Elysium that crash landed into many different aspects of the segregated future vision that maintains Blomkamp’s exceptional visual mastery is an immediate success story that could thrive for many years over the course of many seasons.

4) Jodie Foster’s performance, character, accent, motivations, horrible overdubbing, and decision-making skills were the definitive low point of the movie.  It is an awful performance that gets more problematic as the movie continues.  Apparently, the original accent was too distinctively French (I would have been fine with this), so a new less pronounced addition was overdubbed over every line of dialogue.  Not only does what is said struggle, but now the how (both what you hear and what you see) becomes close to farcical, pulled from the worst Rita Repulsa scene from a Power Rangers episode.  I thought that after her speech Golden Globes, Jodie Foster had reached the hot mess apex for her 2013, but this Elysium performance has more than eclipsed any viewer discomfort from January.

5) Like District 9Elysium is a movie that creates such a vivid futuristic world allegory that I could have spent many hours in it, digesting its story possibilities.  Unfortunately, the story chosen to support the less than two hour runtime of this movie is too sloppily plotted, leaves too many lingering questions, and requires too many leaps of logical faith to sustain its ultimate credibility.  Elysium is a movie based upon an incredible idea.  Blomkamp and his team chose the wrong story, mostly the wrong characters, and the wrong medium to present Elysium to its intended effect.

My Year in Movies 2012 (Finally!)

Right before I saw The Muppets in November of 2011, I commented to my closest movie allies that starting with this Kermit and friends’ return to cinematic form from Disney, the next 12-14 months could be the best year (or a little over a year) of cinema that I have ever experienced.  After The Muppets, there was a new Mission Impossible opening in December of 2011 (Ghost Protocol ended up as my favorite movie of 2011), and then 2012 was to feature a new historical drama from Steven Spielberg starring the great Daniel Day-Lewis, a new Bond, two new Marvel movies, a new Bourne, lots of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a prequel to Alien from Ridley Scott, a movie version of one of my all-time favorite musicals, a promising new Pixar outing, Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth, and of course, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Batman series.  Now, on the eve (or for many, morning) of the Oscars and the unofficial culmination of the 2012 year in cinema, despite some unfortunate disappointments (Middle-Earth did not feel so good in 2012), 2012 was as close to movie heaven as I could ask for.

What follows are my rankings, my designations, my Oscar votes (if I had them) in the six major categories, and some new awards that I have cooked up for 2012, an epic year of cinema:

2012 motion pictures: Lincoln

2012 movies that could have been motion pictures: The Dark Knight Rises, Zero Dark ThirtyThe Master

The best acting performance of 2012: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Marvel movie that is probably a little bit overrated: The Avengers

Marvel movie that is probably a little bit underrated: The Amazing Spider-Man

5 most memorable sequences/scenes: The opening of The Dark Knight Rises, Silva’s single shot first scene in Skyfall, the hood scene from Django Unchainedthe tsunami attack in The Impossible, Georges’ pigeon pursuit in Amour

Best footage to be used in an acting master class: The entire performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s interview scene with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Most unexpected narrative turn of events: The use of bears in The Brave

Ranking the Joseph Gordon-Levitt performances: 1. John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises  2. Playing a young Bruce Willis in Looper  3. Bike messenger in Premium Rush  4. A forgettable Robert Lincoln in Lincoln

Best performance by an animal: Richard Parker in Life of Pi

Worst performance by an animal: The wolves in The Grey

The movies that made me think the most after viewing: The Master, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises

The movies that made me think the least after viewing: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Flight, Savages

The most emotional movie experiences: The Impossible, Lincoln

The least emotional movie experiences: The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I just don’t get why people liked it: The Hunger Games, The Grey, Deep Blue Sea, 21 Jump Street

I just don’t get why people don’t like it more: The Bourne Legacy, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Impossible

Movies that could have been longer: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, The Impossible

Movies that should have been shorter: The Master, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained

Performances that needed to be longer to make more sense: Gloria Reuben in Lincoln, Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises

Best use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) in Argo, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) in Argo, Jared Harris (Mad Men) in Lincoln, Victor Garber (Alias) in ArgoBradley Cooper (Alias) in Silver Linings Playbook, Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Office) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) in The Dark Knight Rises

Most distracting use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) in Zero Dark Thirty, James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) in Zero Dark Thirty, Harold Perrineau (Lost) in Zero Dark Thirty

Movies that I saw because I like the actor, but the movie was not very good: Deep Blue Sea (Rachel Weisz), The Grey (Liam Neeson), Premium Rush (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Best use of Jeremy Renner: The Bourne Legacy

Worst use of Jeremy Renner: The Avengers

Nominees for the “welcome back to the cinema” award: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, after the challenge that was War Horse – Steven Spielberg, Batman, James Bond, a Pixar movie not featuring cars

Movies where death is a struggle to watch: The Impossible, Amour

Movies where death seems too easy to watch: Django Unchained, Skyfall

Accents that worked the best: Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, John Hawkes in The Sessions

Accents that struggled the most: Helen Hunt in The Sessions, Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

Best adaptation of a book into a movie: Lincoln (Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Worst adaptation of a book into a movie: Cloud AtlasThe Hunger Games

Directors I am interested to see more from: Rian Johnson (Looper), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Directors I have seen enough from: Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)

When AFI picks the best movies of the 21st Century, the likely nominees from 2012 are: Lincoln, Argo

Best use of a one word title: Brave, Argo, Amour

Worst use of a one word title: FlightSavages

The “I want to see that again” award: The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Argo

The No Country For Old Men “I liked it, but I never want to see that movie again” award: The Impossible, Amour

The “a great movie to take a nap in” award: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Grey

My biggest disappointment: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My most pleasant surprise: The Bourne Legacy, Django Unchained

Movies with the greatest number of moments that I had to turn away or close my eyes because it was so difficult to watch: Django Unchained, Amour, Prometheus

Movies with the greatest number of moments that I did turn away because I didn’t care and looking up IMDB facts on my phone was more interesting: Flight, The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

After 2012, actors that I want to see more of: Jessica Chastain, Christoph Waltz, Quevenzhané Wallis, Daniel Day-Lewis

After 2012, actors I want to see less of: Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Wes Bentley

The award for “highest quality funeral guest list”: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises

Movie that would have been great on stage: Lincoln

Movie that should have remained on stage: Les Misérables

My 5 least favorite movies of 2012: Deep Blue Sea, Savages, The Grey, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games

My 5 favorite movies 2012: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Bourne Legacy

My favorite movie of 2012: The Dark Knight Rises

The best movie of 2012: Lincoln


Finally, if I had an Oscar vote, here are my selections in the six major categories (in order of voting):


Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings PlaybookLes Misérables, Life of Pi


Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Denzel Washington (Flight)


Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Alan Arkin (Argo)


Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)


Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)


David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  For more in depth opinions on movies, check out the “5 Things You Need To Know” page.



5 Things You Need To Know: Amour

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.  Additional note: I am working my way through the movies that are relevant to this weekend’s Academy Awards (nominated in one of the six major categories).  Stay tuned for LIFE OF PI (my final viewing) before Sunday’s Oscar telecast.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 


1. Although Amour is nominated for Best Picture at this weekend’s Academy Awards, it is justifiably not going to win (there are several more deserving pictures).  It is not an epic tour de force, nor the most groundbreaking work of modern cinema, nor one of the handful of films of 2012 that we are going to remember for decades to come.  However, Amour is the most intimate, the most personal, and presents the the most realistic relationship (between Jean-Louis Trintignant’s Georges and Emmauelle Riva’s Anne) of any film I saw in 2012.

2. Speaking of Emmanuelle Riva, WOW.  Born in 1927 (!) and turning 86 (!!!) on Oscar Sunday, this French screen star of more than the last half century portrays Anne’s struggle with a degenerative and debilitating illness after suffering a stroke with a beautiful command of the both the physical and emotional pain.  Her embodiment of Anne is absolute and deeply vulnerable and subsequently at times quite difficult to watch.  Anne’s journey toward death is so unexpectedly alive (and Best Director nominee Michael Haneke does not hold back) exploring feelings of embarrassment, frustration, and nostalgia that when it reaches its final stage, we too mourn the loss.  Madame Riva is rightfully nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture and in a field of performances without a definitive frontrunner, she would be a deserving winner.

3. Jean-Louis Trintignant’s portrayal of Georges (he turns 83 in December) may not be a formal Oscar contender like his co-star, but his performance is just as brilliantly vulnerable, painfully real, and expertly executed.  We never consider Monsieur Trintignant to be acting – he is Georges and watching him walk the walk of his love through his steadfast (though it times tested) all encompassing care and support of Anne earns the film’s title.

4. According to Oscar prognosticators, Michael Haneke is in the mix to win Best Director (Mr. Spielberg may have something to say about this), and, even if he does not have my vote, I am most impressed with his work.  He directs Amour delicately, attending to the subtleties and precious mundanities of both the sights and sounds of home life as an enhancement of all the more there is to lose.  His cameras give complete access to the Parisian flat – we too feel trapped in the downward inevitability of Anne’s physical condition – such that by the end of the film it feels like we have lived there for decades.  Most impressively, it is evident that Haneke fostered a working environment for his actors that was based on an essential trust among Monsieur Trintingant, Madame Rivas, and himself.  This trust yielded the most incredible results.

5.  Amour is a film (a foreign film!) that depicts loves final chapter without inhibition.  Although the decision to see Amour is a harrowing commitment in itself, its beautiful lessons about the commitment part of love are worth the toll of admission.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.