Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

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):

BEST PICTURE:

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

BEST ACTOR:

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

BEST ACTRESS:

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

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

BEST DIRECTOR:

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

ENJOY THE OSCARS!

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: LES MISERABLES

When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.  Additional note: I have been a little behind in my writing turnover since the holidays.  Expect more prompt delivery in the new year.

5 Things You Need to Know About… 

LES MISÉRABLES

1. Tom Hooper, winner of the 2011 Best Director Oscar for The King’s Speech, directed Les Misérables.  For some, who thought that The King’s Speech was a monumental motion picture deserving of its Best Picture Academy Award win, this should come as welcoming news.  How wonderful for one of the industry’s most impressive young auteur voices to tackle the beloved stage musical!  For others, including myself, who remember the monotone and less than engrossing visual and storytelling boredom that permeated The King’s Speech, this intel is bleak.  Unfortunately, many of the too flat or too sharp moments in Les Misérables seem to be consistent with the kind of filmmaker Mr. Hooper has been (Even the mostly successful John Adams from HBO, with many episodes directed by Hooper, has a similar tone.  At the time, I thought it was just the conditions of an American Revolution in the wintery Northeast, but now, I understand Hooper’s role).  The result of Hooper’s muted monotony is a movie that struggles to find emotional crescendos (some of the incredible performances trump this trend) that are so pervasive in the live stage experience.  The single-shot song performances are used too frequently and in some of the wrong places.  Hooper creates a world of the play that is successfully intimate and personal, but never fully realizes the external circumstances and historical stakes that surround this epic tale crafted by Victor Hugo.  The parts are there, but the sum never adds up.

2. Anne Hathaway deserves to win the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award at this year’s ceremony.  Her brief performance as factory worker turned prostitute Fantine in the first act of the movie is revelatory.  I freely admit that I am and always have been a member of Team Anne (it is not hard to find a member of her surprisingly feisty group of detractors that openly do not respond well to her “earnestness”), but after her four minute and thirty eight second performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” you cannot help but catch your breath from the sheer brilliance of what you have just beheld.  She is raw, unwavering, and FEARLESS.  Hooper’s decision (more on this in a bit) to have his actors sing live may constrict the best possible vocal performance, but it allows the character to explore the song in an unleashed and unencumbered manner.  Anne Hathaway takes this opportunity to the most incredible place, delivering a career defining (even if all too brief) performance.

3. Albeit perhaps used in too many instances, Hooper’s decision to have his actors sing live provides a forum for some of the most memorable song performances ever on film.  Combined with one-take, single shot execution, Hooper creates individual Les Misérables music videos that would have swept any past VMA ceremony.  The most successful songs, besides Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” are Samantha Barks’ (“It’s raining!”) “On My Own” and Eddie Redmayne’s “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”  The latter song, positioned so late in the long musical saga, crept up on me and then surprised as the most uniquely intimate and relatable rendition of this Marius vehicle that I have ever heard.  Eddie Redmayne is stunning as Marius and his delicate delivery and pained mourning of his fallen comrades is the highest peak of the movie besides Anne Hathaway’s early appearance.  Samantha Barks as Eponine, one of the few lead actors who also played her role on stage, came alive within Hooper’s structure on an intimate song that likely benefits from a live audience to ride the emotional wave.  She manages to redefine “On My Own” as a most personal and beautiful soliloquy through restraint and a dose of Ms. Hathaway’s fearlessness.

4. The Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert conflict and ongoing battle that is central to the story of Les Misérables is unsuccessful on film because of the casting of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.  First, I give both actors tremendous credit for their effort, commitment to the work and the structure of intimate live singing that Hooper has created, and for managing to find several moments of beauty and emotional connect.  In Russell Crowe’s case, his is simply miscast as Javert.  Yes, his vocal chops (a long-time member of the rock band, 30 Odd Foots of Grunt) may not be traditional musical theater, but even more so, his best work on screen has always been as an underdog (GladiatorA Beautiful MindThe Insider) achieving amidst great adversity.  Javert is in power throughout the movie and Crowe seems uncomfortable there.  Even when Javert has more introspective moments, Crowe’s performance feels oddly unearned.  Much of the credit (or in this place blame) has to go to Hooper’s World that does not allow a brooding talent like Crowe to ever come out from under the mono tone. As for Hugh Jackman, a likely nominee for a Best Actor Academy Award, I never fully appreciated his performance as Jean Valjean.  Jackman has a classical musical theater voice and he is certainly competent here, but I think he would have benefited from pre-recorded vocals more than some of his other cast mates.  His voice will never be transcendent, but I do think some of Valjean’s most iconic songs call for the vocal to be able to transform and inspire and Jackman will never be this kind of performer.  Jackman seems small and weak here in role of great size and scope.  Again, Hooper seems all over this and the oft choices to play down moments that should be played up, but somewhere in the casting and performance, Hugh Jackman feels a bit out of place.

5. Les Misérables is a movie wearing a motion picture’s story and material that despite some of the best individual song performance moments in movie musical history (Anne Hathaway!!!), stalls in Tom Hooper’s world of tedious sameness, monotone execution, and visual monotony.  Not including a wide lensed opening segment with a gaunt and shackled Hugh Jackman, the movie never captures the epic and historical backdrop and stakes of the French Revolution that the stage version manages to convey so successfully.  This version gets the intimate and personal, but never understands how the momentous nature of the external circumstances informs these internal struggles.  The Les Misérables movie is a series of singular songs and performances that struggles to amount to the epic composition of the source material.

David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company.  He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (next up, Fox’s “The Following”) and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.