Monday, December 24, 2012

The Entirely Pointless Film Ha Ha Annual Review 2012

Part Two: The Best of Miscellaneous 

Best Actor: Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
What can be said about this miraculous, shapeshifting performance? Lavant is absolutely, hypnotically committed to his role as Oscar - a mysterious figure riding around Paris in a limo and adopting various personas throughout the night. From his bizarre slow-motion motion-capture ballet to the return of that flower-munching beast known only as Merde, Lavant doesn't only provide this year's best performance - he provides the best dozen performances.
Best of Teh Rest:
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Jean-Louis Trintignant - Amour
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene

Best Actress: Riisa Naka - Mitsuko Delivers
Let me throw a curveball here, because I'm hipster like that. While the performances mentioned below were all absolutely wonderful, they have received their deserved praise elsewhere. Go look! Naka, however - in her forceful, charismatic and dominating performance as heavily preganant Mitsuko - was revelatory, but almost completely ignored. Mitsuko Delivers itself is merely pretty good - a charming if occasionally mildly irritating farce. Naka, however, owns the screen in a performance completely removed from the quiet, borderline submissive female characters many viewers expect from Japanese cinema. A wonderful performance.
Best of Teh Rest:
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
Marion Cotillard - Rust & Bone
Anna Paquin - Margaret
Golshifteh Farahani - About Elly

Acting Discovery: Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Who'd have thunk it? An Olsen sister with genuine acting talent. This is a remarkably committed breakthrough performance from the third prominent Olsen sibling. The believability of Martha's situation and paranioa is immesurably enhanced by the fearlessness of the lead perfromance. Let us hope her other roles this year - in the less than inspiring likes of Liberal Arts of Silent House - give way to performances that truly utilise her talents in 2013 and beyond.
Best of Teh Rest:
Shôta Sometani / Fumi Nikaidô - Himizu
Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Aubrey Plaza - Safety Not Guaranteed

Best Scene: The Accordion March - Holy Motors
An interlude. A church. An accordion. Let My Baby Ride. A tracking shot. A marching band. A single, inspired edit. Trois, douze, merde! The single finest burst of pure, invigorating cinema in a film chock full of bursts of pure, invigorating cinema.
Best of Teh Rest:
Intro to the Bathtub - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ending - Himizu
The final fight with lightbulb - The Raid
The first processing - The Master
An imagined piano recital - Amour

Best Cinematography / Editing: Keyhole
Guy Maddin's films, for all their obscure themes and surreal tonal identities, always have a technical ingenuity that never fails to hypnotise. Keyhole once again delivers. Shot in stark black & white, the film is a triumph stylistically. It embraces the techniques of silent cinema while bringing a few tricks of its own to the table (most notably the circling, menacing searchlights outside the window). Maddin is a fearless aestethic innovator, albeit one deeply indebted to classical cinematography. It makes for a stunning visual feast, even when you're trying to desperately unravel the complexities of Maddin's eccentric narrative.
Best of Teh Rest:
Moonrise Kingdom
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Master
Life of Pi (added bonus of having the best special effects)

Film That Deserved Better: Himizu
Himizu - Sion Sono's greatest achievement since Love Exposure - was a triumph. Then why did it fail so miserably at the box office? The film's insultingly low gross in the UK & Ireland forced its distributor Third Window Films - the finest purveyors of offbeat Asian cinema of the moment - to completely abandon theatrical screenings of their films (with the exception of one-off festivals). When great films such as this are ignored and Hollywood's most mediocre offerings break records, there is real reason to despair for world cinema fans looking for bold, original cinematic voices.

Soundtrack / Score of the Year: Beasts of the Southern Wild / Berberian Sound Studio
There was something wildly infectious and joyful about Beasts... score. It acted as the perfect accompaniment to the images on screen, while the compositions proved equally compelling on their own. Berberian Sound Studio, meanwhile, offered the full package - a film where sound design was pivotal to the design and flow of the film. The boldness of Berberian's soundscape reminds us how sound is taken for granted, and how a little bit of audio invention can add a whole other layer to the cinematic experience.

Best Director: Asghar Farhadi - About Elly 
What can be said? Farhadi's greatest strength is that he refuses to indulge in anything that distracts from his story or characters. His style is completely devoid of excess or pretension, and he is in complete control of the images on screen. Just watch the film and get intoxicated by a new cinematic master's almost peerless storytelling ability.
The Best of Teh Rest:
Michael Haneke - Amour
Leos Carax - Holy Motors
Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene

And finally... The Worst of the Year
The Tall Man was a clear lowlight of 2012, especially given that it was the sophomore feature from the promising director responsible for Martyrs. The Tall Man was so muddled, so thematically ridiculous (some kind of weird anti-adoption stuff?) and so generally obnoxious that it was borderline offensive. Meanwhile, The Amazing Spiderman was such a colossal waste of resources it was quite staggering. It updated a story that didn't need it, while discrepancies between the trailer and the finished product bizarrely illustrated the actual new stuff was left on the cutting room floor (later confirmed by the DVD's deleted scenes). In a world filled with bad films, Mark Webb's film most damning failure is its sheer mindless mediocrity.

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