My Oscars: Best and Worst of 2012

Best Debut: Ben Rivers for Two Years at Sea (also my film of the year).

Best Screenplay: Lisa Aschan & Josefine Adolfsson for the intelligent way they handle the angst-ridden introduction of young girls into womanhood in She Monkeys.

Honourable mentions go to: Kikumi Yamagishi for masterful dramatic storytelling in Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (the kind that grips harder than sped up fights and stunts); Sean Durkin for his superb use of flashback to instill a sense of foreboding danger; Wes Anderson & Roman Coppolla for charming me so completely in Moonrise Kingdom; and James Ellroy and Oren Moverman for reinvigorating the neo-noir genre in Rampart.

Best Scene: ‘She should be covered’ from She-Monkeys. When plump six year old Emma is told not to walk around topless by a lifeguard at the swimming pool, and her swimming instructor retorts by telling Emma its her choice, we know and she knows that after everything that’s been said, she has none. Quietly devastating.


Best Cinematography: Ben Rivers’ for Two Years at Sea. Simply in a league of his own.

Honourable mentions go to: Fred Keleman & Tillman Buttner for the sublime lighting and steadicam work in The Turin Horse; Bobby Bukowski for his sumptuous colours and low-key lighting in Rampart; Robert Yeoman for his delicate closeups and rich colour palette in Moonrise Kingdom; and Alma Har’el for her handling of the desert light and her sometimes haunting, sometimes playful imagery of Bombay Beach.

Best shot/sequence: Ben Rivers for his superlong closeup of the film’s subject, Jake, pensively watching the dying embers of an open air fire. Astonishingly shot with available light, I was lost in a reverie of sheer delight.

Honourable mentions go to: Steve McQueen & Sean Bobbit for their iconic uninterrupted tracking shot of Michael Fassbender on a late night jog on the streets of New York in Shame; Bela Tarr & Fred Keleman for the evocative image of an old man driving his raggedy horse and cart across a barren, wind-swept landscape, which opens The Turin Horse.

Best Editing: Jonathan Alberts for skillfully pulling together Drake Doremus’ improvised material in Like Crazy, and demonstrating that editing is story-telling.

Honourable mentions: Stephen Soderbergh (under the pseudonym Mary Ann Bernard) for the creative way in which he crosscut between identical shots of Alex Pettyfer stumbling on the dancefloor to represent his out of body drug experience in Magic Mike (alone worth with price of admission – Eisenstein would have been so proud.) Patricio Guzman for dissolving from the surface of the moon to domestic objects in Nostalgia for the Light.

Best Director: Ben Rivers for his clarity of vision and the talent to execute it so perfectly on screen in his feature debut Two Years at Sea.

Honourable mentions go to: Michael Haneke and Markus Schleinzer for the integrity with which they handled their material, and their tightly controlled storytelling in Amour and Michael respectively. Sean Durkin for his exceptional command of narrative pace and tension in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Best Performance: Emmanuel Riva in Amour – by far the tougher role, and how she excelled at it.

Honourable mentions go to: Woody Harrelson for making us loathe and love his character – often in the same moment  – in Rampart and for the coolest trick with a cigarette I’ve ever seen; Isabelle Lindquist whose wonderful naturalism as a body conscious six year old made her turn in She Monkeys all the more awkward, and all more memorable.

Worst Film of 2012: Ted by Seth McFarlane. I can’t believe the Guardian and Guardian readers voted this the second best movie of the year. It’s fucking awful. Of course they’ve got a right to offend, but that doesn’t shield them from criticism or scrutiny. I found that their unashamedly puerile, so-called “knowing & good-natured offensiveness” simply put a big seal of approval on bigotry. Problematic, uncool and not funny. Avoid.

Dishonourable mention goes to John Hillcoat’s Lawless. Given how much I admired his work in The Proposition and The Road, I guess I had high expectations of Lawless. It was painfully dull; with nothing to recommend in it. I felt sorry for actors of the calibre of Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, and Jessica Chastain who had nothing whatsoever to work with. I honestly cannot believe that Nick Cave’s script made it into production. A huge disappointment. Possibly the biggest of the year.


About Darwin Franks

Filmmaker, Cinephile, Writer, Athiest, Civil Servant

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