Pop-Ed: The Best & Worst in Film of 2012

daniel cohen gives us his annual superlatives …

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2012 is officially over, but the movies of 2012 won’t stop being discussed until that six-hour Oscar telecast comes to an end … so why should I stop? And even though you can read my top 5 films of the year, along with the rest of the Pop-Break staff in our fantastic film wrap-up piece, I did want to dive deeper into the year that was in film, because 2012 really was a great year for movies. I’m going to hit on just about everything, from acting to directing to some of the best moments (and some of the worst) the cinema had to offer us this year. And while I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to (Robot & Frank, Sessions), I got in a hell of a lot. And while I don’t really spoil anything here, some of the categories may ruin stuff for you, but the film titles mentioned will be in bold, so be on the look out. But let’s grab Captain America’s shield, go on a field trip with Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, and watch ’80s television with Ted … it’s the best and worst of 2012 in Film!

BEST ACTOR

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
This was Phoenix’s first movie since 2008 (I’m not counting I’m Still Here). While finally putting to rest his ‘I’m nuts, and doing a rap album’ gimmick, Phoenix gets back to acting, and boy did we miss him. Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a naval veteran right on the brink of insanity in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Phoenix’s scenes really stuck with me, even days after seeing the film. There’s a moment where Quell works as a photographer that is just unsettling to watch. This movie is good, but it’s Phoenix who makes it great.

Honorable Mentions: Liam Neeson (The Grey), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom), Denzel Washington (Flight)

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BEST ACTRESS

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
This is another one where the movie is pretty good, but Lawrence takes it to that next level. She is intense, funny, sad, determined, and just one of those characters that draws you in from the first 3 seconds she’s on screen. And this didn’t surprise anyone…it was all right there in the trailer. Bradley Cooper is superb as well, and the two have great chemistry, but as far as I’m concerned, this was Lawrence’s show.

Honorable Mentions: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Kara Hayward (Moonrise Kingdom), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Emily Blunt (Looper)

JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Absolutely chilling. Every single second spent with Silva had me shaking. While I loved Gert Forbe’s Goldfinger, and Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye, it’s not even close — Silva is now the best Bond villain.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Rises), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Alan Arkin (Argo), Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
While she’s not in the film for very long, Hathaway has one of those scenes where she has to get an Oscar by law. While I’m not a hater on musicals, I don’t like how everybody always has to overact. But the sequence where it’s just Hathaway alone singing felt more real than in any musical I’ve ever seen … a truly powerful moment.

Honorable Mentions: Charlize Theron (Snow White And The Huntsman), Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man), Amy Adams (The Master), Judi Dench (Skyfall)

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BEST DIRECTOR

Ben Affleck (Argo)
Yes, he was snubbed by the Oscars, but Affleck’s direction is perfect. This is such a tight film. Nothing needs to be edited down, the tension is built up beautifully, but what’s most impressive about Argo is Affleck’s seamless blending of multiple genres, which is always a challenge. Give the film Best Picture.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Carnahan (The Grey), Josh Trank (Chronicle), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Rian Johnson (Looper)

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BEST SCREENPLAY

Rian Johnson (Looper):
For all the people who bitch, ‘Hollywood never has any original ideas,’ go see Looper. While we have to suspend our disbelief on one major plot hole, which is one of the pitfalls of doing a time travel movie, the script is otherwise flawless. This is the best character development I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the same character, younger and older, going through two different arcs that come together at the end perfectly … I love this movie.

Honorable Mentions: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom), Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Chris Terrio (Argo), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

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SCENE OF THE YEAR

Bruce Wayne climbs out of Bane’s prison (The Dark Knight Rises)
When you look at all the iterations of Batman, whether it be movies, TV, comics, video games, whatever, this to me was the biggest Bruce/Batman moment I’ve ever seen. We see a man at his lowest point instantaneously reach his highest. And I understand it’s predictable and cliche as all hell, and maybe even a little bit corny when the bats fly out of the wall, but I don’t care … this moment erupted like a volcano as we watch all the prisoners chant, and that score by Hans Zimmer rocks you like a fricking hurricane.

Honorable Mentions: Ottway engages the wolf/’Once more into the fray’ (The Grey), Andrew loses it/final showdown (Chronicle), The Rainmaker revealed (Looper), The raid on bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty)

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MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Lincoln
It’s over the top, schmaltzy, and underwritten. Look … Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. You’ll never hear me dispute that. But I’m sorry … just like with War Horse last year, I’m not going to give this guy a free pass. This is an underwhelming film, and at times even comically over the top. It shouldn’t be recognized for major awards except for maybe Daniel Day-Lewis. Get over it.

Honorable Mentions: The Hunger Games, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Life Of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty

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MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Chronicle
Yeah, it did solid business, and the people who saw it like it a lot, but it’s been completely forgotten. With the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, this is one of the most human and emotionally driven comic book movies I’ve ever seen. It also manages to use one of the biggest gimmicks in Hollywood to great effect … that’s an achievement in it of itself.

Honorable Mentions: The Grey, Snow White And The Huntsman, Dredd, Jack Reacher

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MOST DISAPPOINTING FILM OF THE YEAR

Prometheus
Disappointing with a capital D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-I-N-G. This is proof that a great trailer doesn’t always translate to great movie. Prometheus has no clue what the hell it wants to say. What is this? Why do I care? Please…give me a reason. And please, don’t say, ‘Oh, well you didn’t get it, man.’ THERE WAS NOTHING TO GET! Look, if you like this film, fine. I wish I could love it like you do. Charlize Theron was great, and that was it. I know people have been praising Michael Fassbender, but talk about an inconsistent character. The acting was awful, and while people are giving all the blame to screenwriters Joe Spaihts & Damon Lindelof (don’t get me wrong, they deserve a lot of the blame), I’m not letting director Ridley Scott off the hook. This is a guy who has been really slipping the last few years. I hope we get one more great film from Ridley, but there’s no doubt about it…this was a miss.

Honorable Mentions: Total Recall, Taken 2, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty

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THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOOD WHEN I FIRST SAW IT, BUT ON FURTHER REFLECTION, YEAH, IT’S NOT THAT GOOD” AWARD

The Hunger Games
While the first half is great, and I generally like all the acting, it’s a pretty putrid second half. Once the actual Hunger Games start, it suddenly becomes uninteresting. There isn’t a whole lot of tension, the action is filmed horrifically bad, and the two main characters end up hanging out in a cave for a while not really doing anything. This left me cold, and unenthusiastic for the sequel. Thank heavens Jennifer Lawrence is in this series to keep me somewhat engaged.

Honorable Mention: Life Of Pi

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THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE THE END OF ME, BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE OKAY” AWARD

The Watch
I think me and Ben Stiller’s family were the only people who saw this film. It looked horrendous, but it actually turned out to be pretty fun, and gave me a lot of chuckles. It was the best I’ve seen Vince Vaughn in a long time, and Jonah Hill continues to grow on me. I just wish he would get out of that Seth Rogen/Danny McBride circle. You don’t need them anymore, man.

Honorable Mentions: Wrath Of The Titans, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Campaign, Playing For Keeps

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BREAKOUT STAR OF THE YEAR

Seth MacFarlane
No one else is in this conversation. A year ago, MacFarlane was a very successful television executive … now he’s responsible for one of the highest grossing films of the year, and is hosting the Oscars.

Honorable Mentions: Dane DeHaan, Channing Tatum, Liam Hemsworth, Frank Grillo

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THE “PLEASE GO AWAY” AWARD

Sacha Baron Cohen
He’s a one trick pony. Borat was funny for one viewing, but he’s been doing the same crap ever since. The Dictator was a disgrace to comedy. And why the hell are people giving him big roles in award friendly movies. Last year he was in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, and this year it was Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables. And he really brought that movie down significantly for me. In the words of Principal Belding, ‘What is going on here!?’

Honorable Mentions: Jason Statham, Russell Brand, Shia LaBeouf, Everyone involved with the Paranormal Activity franchise

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BEST LINE SPOKEN BY BANE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES:

“Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it … molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man. By then it was nothing to me but blinding! The shadows betray you … because they belong to me!”
Whether you like this film or not, you cannot argue how bad-ass that monologue is.

Honorable Mentions:

“It doesn’t matter who we are. What matters is our plan. No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.”

“Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you.”

“We will destroy Gotham. And then when it is done, and Gotham is ashes … then you have my permission to die.”

Daggett: “I paid you a small fortune …”
Bane: “And you think this gives you power over me?”

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BEST LINE SPOKEN BY TED IN TED

“I love you girls. You know, somewhere out there are four terrible fathers I wish I could thank for this great night.”
This is probably the consensus on Ted‘s best line, and for good reason.

Honorable Mentions:

“John, I look like something you give to your kid when you tell ’em Grandma died.”

“Well, or, or, is the floor on the shit?”

“There. Proof … Garfield’s eyes look like a pair of tits.”

“Hey Lori, can you turn the alarm to 11 a.m.? I’ve got a lot of stuff to do tomorrow.”

TWO CHARACTERS I WANT TO SEE IN A MOVIE TOGETHER

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Bane and Ted
I think this would make for a provocative conversation. Let me try my hand at a Bane/Ted interaction:

Bane: “Fame has defeated you, Ted. You aren’t the crass bear you once were.”
Ted: “Geez, what’s with your voice? You sound like Darth Vader on hemorrhoids.”

BEST LINE OF THE YEAR NOT SPOKEN BY BANE OR TED

Ottway: “Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.” (The Grey)
I’m cheating slightly, because it’s a poem written by Ottway’s father. The line itself for me is pretty powerful, but in conjunction with how it’s used at the end of the film … it’s unstoppable.

Honorable Mentions:
Gordon: “I know exactly who he is … he’s The Batman.” (The Dark Knight Rises)

Old Joe: “I don’t want to talk about time travel, because if we start talking about it, then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” (Looper)

Lester: “You’re worried about the Ayatollah? Try the WGA.” (Argo)

Tiffany: “I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” (Silver Linings Playbook)

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FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Ted
Yeah, I don’t think much needs to be said here. There were about 900 quotable one-liners.

Honorable Mentions: The Cabin In The Woods, 21 Jump Street, Moonrise Kingdom, The Watch

BEST SCORE OF THE YEAR

Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises</em>)
I know The Dark Knight Rises didn’t get any big Oscar nominations, but I was at least hoping they would throw Zimmer a bone. This score was incredible … the end.

Honorable Mentions: Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises), Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises), Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises), Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises)

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2013 FILM

Star Trek Into Darkness
Is there anybody not looking forward to this film?

Honorable Mentions: Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Man Of Steel, After Earth (but remember … it’s an M. Night Shymalan film)

WORST MOVIE OF 2012
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Paranormal Activity 4
Critics and moviegoers can complain all they want about how there’s too many superhero movies, or big budget crap, or an endless stream of re-makes and adaptations, but as I said in my review…Paranormal Activity 4 are the true dangerous movies. It’s nothing but filming a house, and trying to trick people into thinking ‘Hey, we’re doing something clever, and out of the ordinary. Aren’t we cool?’ No, you aren’t cool. You aren’t actually making a movie! Thankfully, the box office declined significantly for Paranormal Activity 4, but because of the low budgets it takes to make these films, we’ll be getting plenty more. I don’t want to talk about this movie anymore … just go read my review to get the full brunt of my rant.

Honorable Mentions: Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, A Thousand Words, The Raven, The Dictator

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.