Brock’s Top 10 for 2012

2012 has been a banner year for movies. Being less than two weeks away from the Oscar Nomination announcement, I can’t think of a year in recent memory with this many films that could easily take the top prize. Here is my list of the top films of 2012. Fair warning: I haven’t seen every film that had buzz this year (including the much talked about Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained). Had I seen everything, this list could be very different, but I didn’t. So here are the Top 10 Films (that I saw) for the year 2012.

10. Moonrise Kingdom - A late entry on the list, seeing as I just saw it yesterday so it might have a bias because I’ve seen it so recently, but I don’t think so. The movie is about young love and the lengths two young people will go to in order to be together. The story itself is heartwarming and downright funny at times. So many little things were happening in the background of the main action, I feel like I need to watch it again just to pick up on more of these things. The ensemble cast is great and boasts the talents of Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis.

9. Silver Linings Playbook - Another fantastic indie film, Silver Linings Playbook proves that Robert DeNiro can still act, Bradley Cooper can act at all, and that Jennifer Lawrence is the future of Hollywood. The film touches on the difficulty of dealing with mental illness and importance of the identification and correct treatment for these conditions.

8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - I so desperately wanted this film to be higher on the list. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a huge fan of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy so I have been anticipating this movie for almost a decade. Unfortunately, the movie is quite slow and takes forever to really get going, but once it does, the film soars. The film truly is an amazing job well done by everyone on the film for really bringing the world that Tolkien to life (again).

7. The Avengers - The film didn’t smash box office records for nothing. Marvel did a great job of bringing these characters together from their separate films to form one coherent story. As we move into Phase Two of Marvel films, I can’t wait to see where else they take this franchise, under the watchful eye of Joss Whedon

6. The Dark Knight Rises - I enjoyed this film so much I saw it three (!!) times in theaters. It really was the perfect conclusion (maybe?) of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The only things that brought it down for me was that it harkened back to Batman Begins more than The Dark Knight, which I consider to be a much stronger film, and the use of a villian that I didn’t particularly care about (Bane).

5. Life of Pi - I wish that I could have seen this in 3D as director Ang Lee intended. Visually, this film is one of the most beautiful films ever created. It is amazing to see just how far computer animation has come. I wonder how many people who saw the film thought that the tiger was real, not an animation. An amazing tale of survival, based on a book that no one ever thought was filmable.

4. Les Miserables - The only thing keeping this film out of my top three is my feelings toward the movie’s source material. I find the musical Les Miserables to be long, repetitive, and at times, slow. Such is the adaptation. The movie is a faithful adaptation of the show. Performances of these songs have never been so emotional. The practice of recording the songs live used on this film will revolutionize the ways that musicals will be made in the years to come.

3. Skyfall - Who would have ever thought Bond could be like this? One of the few movies I ever saw that as soon as it was over, I was ready to get back in line and see it again. No only was there edge of your seat action that would expect from a Bond film, but riveting, emotional performances by the entire cast. Never has there been so much character development in a Bond film. I can only hope that the franchise stays on the path that Sam Mendes has put it on.

2. Lincoln - Ask me in a day, or even in an hour, and this film could be my number one for the year. Daniel Day-Lewis reminds us again why he is the greatest actor of his generation. Spielberg reminds us that he still knows how to make real historical dramas (sorry, no disrespect War Horse).  Every little detail was superb on this film, so much so that I’m predicting major wins for it at the Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), as well as an assortment of technical awards.

1. Argo - No film hit me as emotionally this year as Argo, the incredible true story of the escape of six Americans from Iran during the Iranian Hostage  Crisis. Who would have ever thought ten years ago when Ben Affleck was putting out garbage like Gigli that he would ever be able to bounce back and make one of the best pictures of the year (and star in it as well).  Hopefully a sign of more to come from him in the future.

And there you have it. Feel free to disagree in the comments if you wish.

New Year’s Resolution!

New Years Resolution: This blog WILL happen. If only as a stress relieving tool. And if people read it, great. If not, so be it. 

Not all of my post may be Oscar Nominee related, but most will surely be movie related anyways.

Happy New Year!

High Noon (1952)

Goal Progress: 91/485 (18.67%)

So I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge Western fan. To me, they all seem like the same movie. Literally, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all in my opinion. Bad guy comes into town. All the townspeople hide away inside, leaving the dirt streets deserted. The lone lawmaker in the sleepy little town has to meet the bad guy in the town square. There’s a shootout. The good guy wins and gets the girl. The end.

High Noon isn’t that different. In fact, it’s not different at all. That’s the story. It’s been said that High Noon is a Western for non-Western-lovers. Now, while I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I can say that the film just didn’t do it for me. There were a few things that I liked about the film, but it really wasn’t enough to make it a fully enjoyable experience for me.

So. The things that I liked:

1. That the movie is almost done in real time. The time elapsed in the story is a little more than an hour and a half, while the film’s runtime is about 80 or so minutes. I also liked the filmmaker’s use of clocks to count down the time until the  train arrived with the bad guy at, you guessed it, “high noon.”

2. The film is actually supposed to represent Hollywood in the age of McCarthy during the Red Scare. All the townsfolk refuse to stand up for themselves and hide and conform to what the bad guy wants so that they can survive. Even folks who dislike the bad guy shrink back when pressured, to the point where there’s only one man in the entire town who will stand up to the villian. Legend has it that it’s this very reason that High Noon lost the Best Picture race that year and the Academy voted the award to Cecile. B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, one of the biggest upsets in Academy history.

So while I didn’t really care for it, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to try to see it at some point. It’s currently ranked #147 in the IMDB user-voted “Top 250″ and in 2007, the AFI ranked it as the 27th Greatest Film of All Time and the 2nd greatest Western. It hasn’t been put there for no reason. I’ll just be damned if I know what that reason is.

Forest Gump (1994)

Goal Progress: 88/485

Forest Gump. One of the all time greats. Would you believe that I had never seen it until just the other day? It’s true. Loved by so many, it’s taken me 17 years to see it. That being said, for me, this classic lives up to the hype.

The story focuses on a middle-aged Forest Gump, played by Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning role, telling his life story to people at the bus stop. The audience follows Forest from him getting leg braces as a young boy, playing football in college, surviving Vietnam, becoming  a World Class ping pong champion, starting the Bubba Gump shrimp compay, running across the United States for several years, before finally being reunited with the love of his life and begining his most fulfilling adventure, parenthood.

It’s easy to see why it’s so loved by so many. The film is a wonderful piece of nostalgia for those who grew up in the time period covered by the film – the 1950s-the early 1980s. It successfully draws together all different events and movements of that era that really define so many of the folks that grew up in that era, while at the same time invoking themes that are still relevent today.

Forest Gump is a movie for everyone. It’s one of those films that’s a true testimate to the human experience, and is a film that people are going to continue to talk about for generations to come.

What happened?!?!

So much for this blog!!

My summer became much more interesting and busy than I had ever anticipated. Then I got a new job. Then I forgot about this blog.

But now I have remembered. And I’ve been very busy watching all sorts of great Oscar nominated films recently including Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Michael Clayton, Rain Man, Crash, and Forest Gump. Look for all of these entries and more coming here in he near future!!

Casablanca (1943)

Goal Progress: 81/485

“I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I wish I could say that about Casablanca. Instead I’m saying it about my new library card and my discovery that the local library system has free access to half of the movies that I have to see. It was a good day in that respect.

But back to Casablanca. Anytime a new “Best Films of All Time” list comes out, Casablanca is inevitably right at the top alongside such classics as Gone with the Wind and The Godfather. Having said that, when I put the movie in, I was expecting a film of the highest quality. Unfortunately, it looks like my expectations far overshot the reality of my experience with the film. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a terrible film. There’s a reason that it’s survived the ages, but I’m not sure it deserves the pedestal that it get put up on.

The film is set in, where else but, Casablanca. Rick, an American (Humphrey Bogart), owns a nightclub in the city, where he famously doesn’t stick his neck out for anyone. One night, Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo shows up in Rick’s club with his wife, who is no other than Rick’s onetime Paris love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). In Paris, the two fell in love (“Here’s looking at you kid.”). It seems that when the Nazis invaded Paris, Ilsa had told Rick that she would run away with him to avoid the Nazis, only to disappear from his life, leaving only a note. Unbeknownst to Rick at the time, Ilsa was already married to Laszlo. Laszlo tries to no avail to get from Rick two letters of transit which would allow for him and Ilsa to escape the Nazis in Casablanca. After a romantic reunion with Ilsa, Rick decides to use his letters of transit for himself and take Ilsa with him. Or so he tells Ilsa. His real plan is to help Laszlo and send her away to be with her husband. After a tearful goodbye (“Here’s looking at you kid.”), Ilsa gets on the plane with Laszlo just before the Nazis arrive.

Here’s what I didn’t really like about the film. 1. I found it really boring. Not much of anything happens and when it does, it take forever and a day. Most of the movie is set in Rick’s club. There’s lots of dialogue and sometimes its hard to determine all the characters different motivations and their relationships with each other. 2. I didn’t really find any of the characters to be particularly likeable. I didn’t really find myself caring about Rick and Ilsa’s relationship because she was kind of a bitch to him in Paris, and he was just an ass to everyone in the rest of the film.

The only part I really liked was the last maybe 20 minutes, where everything came together and the “lovers” had their goodbye (“Here’s looking at you kid.”).

What I (being a history major) found interesting about Casablanca is that it’s a film that was made during World War II and was also SET in in World War II. It was made without any knowledge about whether or not the Allies would free France, Casablanca would fall to the Nazis, or if the Allies would even win the war! It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a point in time when it was not clear that the Axis Powers would be defeated.

So in conclusion. Casablanca. Not a terrible movie. But maybe not as good as everyone says.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Winter’s Bone was the random movie thrown into the nomination list this year that nobody has ever heard of. It was an acclaimed indie that made its way through the festival circut and won a bunch of awards. However, that doesn’t change the fact that nobody had ever heard of it. That being said, people should hear about it. The film was very well done and without a doubt deserved it’s nomination.

With an absent father and a withdrawn and depressed mother, 17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence in an Oscar-nominated role) keeps her family together in a dirt poor rural area. She’s taken aback however when the local Sheriff tells her that her father put up their house as collateral for his bail and unless he shows up for his trial in a week’s time, they will lose it all. She knows her father is involved in the local drug trade and manufactures crystal meth, but everywhere she goes the message is the same: stay out of it and stop poking your nose in other people’s business. She refuses to listen, even after her father’s brother, Teardrop, tells her he’s probably been killed. She pushes on, putting her own life in danger, for the sake of her family until the truth, or enough of it, is revealed.

The performances in this film are incredible. In the next few years, with X-Men First Class coming out now, Jennifer Lawrence is going to be a force to be reckoned with. The supporting cast is great as well.

Winter’s Bone is action-packed and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat until the end, when all is finally revealed.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Goal Progress: 80/485

So here comes the task of trying to play catch up with all of the films that I’ve already seen. I don’t know where else to start so I might as well start with this last year’s nominees and take a look at who won, and who I think should have won.

Let’s start with an easy one….Toy Story 3.

Toy Story 3 was easily one of the best movies that I’ve ever seen. It was brilliantly done. It has it all…great cast…great music….great visuals…..literally, everything. Additionally, it is the only movie to date to make me cry (I’m not talking a little tear, which I’ve been known to do….I’m talking about full out crying).

I feel like if you didn’t want to know what happens in the movie, you wouldn’t be reading this, but in any case, spoiler alert ahead.

We pick up with our favorite characters probably around ten years from when we last saw them. Andy has grown up and has, as we all have, stopped playing with his toys. He’s getting ready to go to college and his former playmates are all in a tizzy over what is going to happen to them. They decide to sneak into a box of old toys that is being donated to a local daycare so that they can get played with. Unfortunately, upon their arrival at Sunnyside, they become subjects of an evil regime, led by the pink and fuzzy Lotso (short for Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear, voiced by Ned Beatty). Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and the rest of the gang must formulate a plot to escape and get back to Andy’s before he leaves for college.

The final scene in the movie is without a doubt one of the best in the entire film, and really, one that took me by surprise. I had already cried my eyes out during a previous scene, so I thought my heartbreak was over. Oh how wrong I was. I’m not going to go into the ending, just in case anyone hasn’t seen the film or doesn’t know the ending, because I really think it’s something better experienced firsthand.

But I really think it was the perfect end to the trilogy. I can’t imagine Pixar going forth with any plans for a Toy Story 4. Any continuation of this story would serve no purpose and would only be done to milk the franchise for more money. I know that Disney and Pixar are in the business to make money, but there are other franchises for that (Cars 2, for example) and I think they know that. I just hope that there is no possible way for George Lucas to get a job at Disney and get his hands on this series.

San Francisco (1936)

Goal Progress: 80/485

Walking out of the theatre, my friend Erin said “Well that was entertaining, though probably not for the reasons the studio intended.”

Oh Erin, how true….how true. The movie is very funny today, much funnier I’m sure than when it premiered in 1936. Some films from this era age so gracefully that they might have been made a week ago (see future blog entries on Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz). Sadly, San Francisco is not one of those films….(and yes, I did say theatre…a local movie theatre has a summer classic film series so I got to experience this film on the big screen from the balcony of an old theatre).

The story involves club owner, Rhett Butler Blackie Norton…. (played by the handsome Clark Gable) signing a new talent, the pure and gentle Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), who dreams of being an opera star. Eventually, she is noticed by a man who owns a theatre and he wants to buy her contract from Blackie. The problem? Blackie loves Mary and doesn’t want to lose his star. Eventually, he lets her go to be happy (a la Beauty and the Beast), only to have her return to him, just to leave again when she is persuaded that he is taking advantage of her for her talent. She gets engaged to the opera owner….blah blah blah….somewhere in there she has a discussion over whether its better to settle for love or money…..blah blah blah….theres a scene about choosing love over a successful career in there too somewhere….blah blah blah….San Francisco earthquake….blah bl….wait what?????

Yes, the main selling part of the movie (besides the stars). The last fifteen minutes involve the Great Earthquake of 1906. I have to say, that for a movie that’s 85 years old…..there were some damn good effects. Legend says that survivors of the real event attended the film’s premiere and that the accuracy of the scene literally made them sick. The film is worth watching for this scene alone.

Afterwards, Blackie walks around the rubble for days (literally….without stopping) looking for Mary. Eventually, he finds her, and the whole city sings “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and they rebuild the city. The End.

I only recommend seeing this movie if you’re trying to watch all of the Oscar nominated films. If not, just watch this clip of the first part of the earthquake sequence and you’ll be set for life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAoNDihnfbc

New Blog?

So here I am…starting a blog….unsure if anyone is ever going to read it. Whatever…I don’t care. If no one else reads it, at least I’ll have a record of what I’m doing here.

What am I doing here? I’m on a mission….a mission to see every movie ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards…..yes……I’m that crazy.

Currently, there are 485 movies that have been nominated….of those 485….I’ve seen 80.

This blog is to help document my thoughts on each of the films. I hope to have a blog post for every film eventually, but that’s going to take some time playing catch up, but I’m sure I’ll get there one day.

Am I in over my head?……Probably.

Am I going to go crazy trying to find all of these movies?……Most likely.

Am I going to curse myself everytime I get stuck watching a movie that I hate?….Absolutly.

Am I going to watch it anyways?……Unfortunately.

So with that, here we go!

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