The 24th Annual Biggie Awards
aka The Biggies
for achievements in film for the year 2012
I’ll be the first to admit I had unfair expectations for 2012. Given the impressive roster of movies on tap, I predicted as early as April of 2011 that 2012 would be the best year in movies since 2000, which I consider to be the best year for movies in my lifetime. In the end, it wasn’t quite the year I wanted it to be, but it was still quite a year. Actually, by my official tally of new entries on my “Movies I Love” list, this was the best year for movies since 2007. I “loved” 24 movies in 2012 (for comparison, 2000 holds the record with 31). What I liked most about 2012 was that it had a lot of variety, as I think you’ll see reflected here in my nominees.
We’ll get into most of the specific films in the descriptions under each category, but there are a few things I want to mention up front.
It was nice to have some of my favorite filmmakers back in action (Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Wachowskis, William Friedkin), even if their new work produced varying results. Ben Affleck continued to show why he’s not only one of the best actor-directors working today, but quickly rising among the ranks of all directors. That said, I’m holding firm on my stance that The Town is better than Argo and remains Affleck’s best directorial effort. In the real world, Argo ended up being one of the most overrated movies in years (it ISN’T the best movie of 2012, despite what every awards show in Hollywood told you these past couple months). In my world, I give Argo its proper due and a necessary reality check.
On the topic of my favorite filmmakers, I can’t go too long in this post without mentioning that we lost one of my favorites, as well as a hero of mine, in Tony Scott, who shocked the world by committing suicide last August. I still find it difficult to swallow the fact that we will never get another new Tony Scott movie.
Goodbye, sir. I hope you’ve found whatever peace you were seeking.
For me, 2012 might be more noteworthy for the movies that disappointed me than for the ones I loved. And by disappointments I am of course referring to Prometheus [my review] and The Dark Knight Rises [my review]. Now, I never expected Prometheus to be Best Movie of the Year material, because I’m not a huge fanboy of the Alien series. However, I did expect it to make a lot more f’ing sense than it did. The movie looks incredible (and as such is represented well here with 5 nominations), but its failure lies in its messy script. I still love watching the movie (the 4-disc Blu-ray is a movie geek’s paradise), but oh god those characters…I hate them all. Except David (Michael Fassbender). But all the humans suck.
Then there’s The Dark Knight Rises, which was far and away my most anticipated movie of 2012. The finale to Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy had more plot holes and logic errors than I could put into words, yet I still saw it 3 times in theaters and still love watching it to this day. It’s just not the holy-fucking-shit epic masterpiece I was hoping for. The film picks up 3 nominations here, though if you’d asked me this time last year, I wanted TDKR to have 12-14 nominations. Twas not to be. Regardless of the fact that the Batfinale didn’t live up to my expectations, the Dark Knight Marathon was the best experience I had in a theater in 2012. I’ll never forget that night, and I hope many of you got to see Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and TDKR back-to-back-to-back on the big screen last July as well. And despite the fact that TDKR didn’t make my Best Picture list, it’s still one of my 5 favorite movies of the year, as you’ll see at the end of this post. Unfortunately though, this means that Nolan’s streak of Best Picture nominees ends at 4. Such is life.
Note: let’s pray Man of Steel doesn’t have quite so many lapses in logic.
I have zero doubt that Christopher Nolan will return to greatness, and Ridley Scott may have a serious 2013 Best Picture contender in The Counselor. Woe is not them.
I wouldn’t have thought that The Avengers would be a better movie overall than TDKR, but that ends up being the case off the strength of Joss Whedon‘s writing, notwithstanding the silly space villains at the end. I’d probably have to say that Avengers actually exceeded my lofty expectations. I was a little worried going in primarily because I thought the first Captain America and Thor movies were just okay. And we obviously had no idea how awesome Mark Ruffalo‘s Bruce Banner/Hulk would be. Anyway, I’m thrilled that Whedon is supervising the Cap and Thor sequels in the lead-up to Avengers 2 in 2015. The Avengers grabs 3 nominations this year on its superb technical merits, though I was very close to nominating it in some of the bigger categories, as you’ll see in my notes.
Now that I think about it, I guess I’d also have to include Skyfall [my review] among my disappointments. Even though I thoroughly enjoy that movie, it is not without its own flaws and gaping plot holes. Still, we got a Sam Mendes-directed Bond movie. What it gets right, it gets really right, and it too picks up 3 nominations.
What were some of my biggest surprises of 2012? I unabashedly enjoyed Wrath of the Titans, a sequel that far surpassed its predecessor. I ate some serious crow on Battleship, which I thought was going to be a steaming turd, but ended up being one of the most fun movies I saw all year. Mind you, it’s not a good movie. It’s also not a bad movie. It was only decent overall, but it is remarkably rewatchable. I’ve probably watched it 4 more times since it debuted on HBO last month. When it’s on, I can’t resist tuning in, and I can never turn if off once I’ve started watching.
I absolutely loved Project X, which was easily my favorite comedy of the year. That’s probably the best party movie I’ve ever seen, and makes my previous favorite party flick, Can’t Hardly Wait, seem downright tame by comparison. Shit, Black Hawk Down seems tame in comparison. I loved that it’s filled with a cast that was almost entirely unknown to me, I loved the way it was shot, I loved the soundtrack, and more than anything I’m jealous of anybody who got to be on that set. I figured I’d like it, but I didn’t know just how big a chord it would strike with me. I’d say I was surprised by The Raid, but that movie had been getting massive “this shit is insane” hype for months before it finally arrived in a theater near me, so I went in expecting all of that badassery. The other two big ones are Killer Joe and End of Watch, but we’ll get into those two below.
I even saw several movies in 3D last year (the Titanic re-release, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit, and Life of Pi), all of which made excellent use of the technology. I haven’t changed my opinion about 3D being a gimmick and the $3-5 surcharge being absolute greedy bullshit, but movies that are shot for 3D typically look really good. It just so happens that this year, some of the most talented visual filmmakers in the world shot their films in 3D. I’m gonna say that Prometheus had the best 3D of the year of the movies I saw.
Sadly, the only animated movie I saw in theaters last year was Brave, and it was sort of disappointing. That’s two less-than-amazing movies in a row for Pixar, something I previously would have thought impossible. It might be 3 in a row this year if Monsters University is as uninspired as it looks so far in the trailers. The only other animated film I was even interested in seeing was Wreck-It Ralph, but I never made the time to get off my ass and into theaters to see it. I also heard good things about Rise of the Guardians, but again I never cared enough to see it.
There were also allegedly some good horror movies in 2012. I only saw two of them, and didn’t particularly like either. Sinister looked really cool, but, well, that didn’t turn out so well. The other, The Cabin in the Woods, had some really interesting and original ideas, but I thought it totally fell apart in the end. I’m also annoyed by how much horror movie nerds have overrated it. I don’t bow down to Cabin in the Woods. Sue me, you fuckers.
I rehash this every year for those unaware, but the Biggies are my answer to the Oscars. I long ago grew tired of the Academy passing over movies and people I thought KNEW should be nominated. In 1997, I started doing my own nominees every year in the same categories as the Oscars (with the exception of Foreign Language films, documentaries and short films, which I don’t see enough of every year to warrant their own categories), and I’ve since gone back and done nominees and winners all the way back to 1989, where Glory is my first Best Picture winner. My awards have evolved over time, and I now do two categories (Best Ensemble Performance, Best Stuntwork) that the Oscars don’t, but should. On the other hand, unlike the Academy, I did not add a Best Animated Feature category, as I’m simply not interested in seeing all 50 of the 3D computer-animated kids movies that come out every year (if I see more than 2, that’s a lot for me- it’s usually that year’s Pixar movie, and maybe one other). They’re called the Biggies because Biggie is my longtime nickname, and it seemed to instantly make sense, since almost every awards show has to end in an “ees” pronunciation (Grammys, Tonys, Emmys, you get it).
You can view the Biggie Awards from the last two years by clicking on THIS. You can view the Oscar nominees and winners from this year HERE for comparison, since you’ve probably already forgotten them. Without further ado, here is the very best Hollywood had to offer in 2012, according to me.
New this year: for each category, I listed some of the really close calls (where applicable) as “Honorable Mentions” and also the Oscar winner in that category (where applicable).
UPDATED! Winners in each category are listed in bold. Additional commentary by me for winners is in dark green. In overlapping categories, I agreed with the Oscars just 5 times this year, which is precisely why I do my own awards in the first place.
1. End of Watch (producers David Ayer, Matt Jackson, Nigel Sinclair, John Lesher)
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (producers Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Zane Weiner)
3. Life of Pi (producers Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark)
4. Lincoln (producers Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg)
5. Zero Dark Thirty (producers Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison)
Many years, there’s a wild card Best Picture nominee, one that you might not expect, one that I didn’t see coming when I looked at what movies were coming out in a particular year. In 2012, it’s David Ayer‘s End of Watch, which blew me away the first time I saw it, and has remained impactful upon seeing it again on Blu-ray. This is one of those movies I’ve been screaming from the mountaintop for all my friends to see. If you claim to love great movies, you cannot miss End of Watch. Every second of the film feels authentic, almost as if you’re watching a documentary. I think that’s why it sticks with you long after you watch it. The performances are visceral, and the police situations are among the most intense you’ll ever see on screen. It’s the best cop movie in at least a decade. Ayer has been writing and/or directing L.A.-based crime movies for years (Training Day, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., Harsh Times, Street Kings), and he may have just made his masterpiece.
I realize a lot of you may find it controversial and perhaps biased for me to have The Hobbit on this list, given the overwhelmingly ho-hum critical reception it received. Let’s just say I vehemently disagree with those detractors (as do the millions of moviegoers around the world who have propelled it to more than $1 billion in worldwide grosses). I saw An Unexpected Journey thrice in theaters, though unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to see it in 48fps. It was pretty much exactly what I expected; not quite Lord of the Rings, but still an incredible fantasy adventure with great writing, great acting, astonishing effects work and epic action sequences. I loved being back in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. I loved seeing all those familiar faces, and I enjoyed getting to know the many new characters. I still can’t name all of the dwarves, though I think Bofur is my favorite. The second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, is my most anticipated movie of 2013.
I found Life of Pi to be a fascinating visual feast of a movie, and it’s the best “survival movie” since Cast Away. Pi is a tremendous directorial accomplishment, and I can see why most people believed the book would be impossible to adapt. Somehow, they pulled it off.
I don’t think I need to repeat my love of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln [see my review], which leads all films this year by a wide margin with 14 nominations. Once again, my favorite director has taken on one of my own dream projects, showing us the tumultuous and compelling final months in the life of Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president. As political theater, it’s endlessly fascinating, and as a showcase for actors, it is unrivaled this year, thanks in great part to Tony Kushner‘s genius screenplay. This is what you call ‘living history’, and I’m a huge admirer of this kind of painstaking accuracy when it comes to the locations, costumes and set design. Lincoln would be the 4th Spielberg movie to take home my Best Picture award, following Schindler’s List in 1993, Saving Private Ryan in 1998, and Munich in 2005. It’s been awhile.
We’ll talk more about Zero Dark Thirty as we get into some of the other categories, but suffice to say if it isn’t the best movie of 2012, then it’s #2.
And Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln reigns supreme in 2012, but anyone who knows me already knew this was going to be the result. It’s nice to have a movie like this actually live up to expectations. I’d say Lincoln is pretty much exactly how good I thought it was going to be given the talent involved. It takes 8 Biggies in total. This is the 4th time a Spielberg film has taken Best Picture & Director, and the first since Munich in 2005. When Spielberg goes historical, the results are usually pretty f’n great. For the record, I thought Zero Dark Thirty was the second-best movie of the year, and it takes home the second-most awards, with 4.
Honorable Mention: Argo (producers Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov)
Oscar Winner: Argo
1. David Ayer, End of Watch
2. Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
3. Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Ang Lee, Life of Pi
5. Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
As usual, my directing nominees line up with the Best Picture nominees. For about 3.9 seconds I considered nominating Ben Affleck here over David Ayer and having End of Watch/Argo split the Picture/Director nominations, but I didn’t want to do something like that only for sentimental reasons. I also didn’t want Best Picture to be End of Watch‘s ONLY nomination. Argo is a very close 6th-best movie of the year, but Ayer’s direction of End of Watch is still phenomenal and merited recognition. I keep hearing how difficult it was to adapt Life of Pi from the book into a script and movie, and no doubt Ang Lee’s skill and vision was a huge part of its success. This is the first time I’ve nominated him since his 2000 masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What you have to respect about Lee is the variety of films he’s made. You can’t pigeonhole the guy in the same way you can with most directors. I’d have trouble answering the question, “What are the characteristics of an Ang Lee movie?” And that’s a good thing. He got a wonderful performance out of a 17-year old first-time actor (Suraj Sharma), filmed a lot of the movie on water (almost always a filmmaking nightmare), mixed in a plethora of visual effects, and shot in 3D for the first time in his career. Yeah, I can see why that might be difficult.
This is two near-masterpieces in a row for Kathryn Bigelow, who I’m thrilled to see is fast becoming one of Hollywood’s prestige directors. I think the Bin Laden raid (which lasts 27 minutes from the time the choppers take off til the time the first one lands back in Afghanistan) is the best extended dramatic action sequence since the opening D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan. ‘Nuff said. From the editing, sound design, music, and action beats to the performances, I’m still in awe of it. As I said in my Lincoln review, the best part of Spielberg’s direction is how restrained it was. Some believe this made the film boring, but I couldn’t disagree more. With North American box office above $180 million on the 150-minute historical drama, clearly I’m not alone in that opinion. As far as Peter Jackson goes, in my view he hasn’t lost a thing off his fantasy fastball. I can’t name any other director working today who handles writing and actors just as skillfully as epic effects sequences. I don’t expect The Hobbit movies to be as good as the Lord of the Rings movies, but I do expect them to be good enough to be in the Best Picture mix, and so far we’re 1/1 on that scorecard.
Honorable Mention: Ben Affleck (Argo)
Oscar Winner: Ang Lee
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. Django Unchained, written by Quentin Tarantino
2. Flight, written by John Gatins
3. Looper, written by Rian Johnson
4. Moonrise Kingdom, written by Roman Coppola & Wes Anderson
5. Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal
Moonrise Kingdom was the first Wes Anderson movie I’ve truly enjoyed since…checking IMDb…really? Since Rushmore? Wow. Granted, I haven’t seen The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but Mr. Anderson and I have simply not been on the same page in years. I’m glad that finally changed, and I’m glad to find a way to recognize the film here. I’ve been increasingly annoyed by Anderson’s repetitive visual style over the last decade, but this particular story fitted his particular style perfectly, so all was forgiven…for now. If the award were for MOST original screenplay, Moonrise would be the winner. With Looper, Rian Johnson finally broke through to mainstream audiences, and has shown everyone that the sky is the limit to his potential. I’m willing to bet this film opened all kinds of doors for him within the industry, and rightfully so. It’s rare these days that we get a sci-fi film that isn’t based on previous material, let alone an original sci-fi film that’s rated R. And then for it to be this good on top of all that? Well, that’s a combination we only get a few times a decade, if that. Before you praise the amazing visuals, fine performances and clever action sequences, you must first recognize that anything great about this film begins with its marvelously inventive script.
I’m usually bored to tears by stories about alcoholics, but the backdrop of the insane plane crash and ensuing legal drama made Flight‘s story of a drunk airline pilot endlessly compelling, all thanks to John Gatins‘ writing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Denzel Washington playing the pilot and Robert Zemeckis behind the camera, but you don’t attract that combination of talent without a script this good. Zero Dark Thirty had to be the most difficult film of 2012 to write, considering it had to be rewritten on the fly. Back in late 2010 when it was announced, the movie was originally intended to document the failed, decade-long attempt to find Osama Bin Laden, and then Bin Laden was killed while the movie was being written, so they had to rework the whole story to make the successful Bin Laden raid the denouement of the plot. The comparisons to the classic All the President’s Men are apt, since ZDT is right up there with it as one of the most fascinating procedurals ever put on screen. Mark Boal should be given a journalistic prize just for being able to obtain all the information necessary to write this script. He and Kathryn Bigelow worked together on The Hurt Locker previously, and I wouldn’t mind seeing this collaboration continue for years to come.
Speaking of The Hurt Locker, Mark Boal was pitted against Quentin Tarantino in the original screenplay category in 2009 as well, with QT coming out on top for Inglourious Basterds. Will Boal get his revenge this year, or will another of these fine candidates take home Biggies gold? (or at least, the award would be gold if there were actual awards, but we won’t quibble over details)
Honorable Mention: End of Watch (David Ayer)
Oscar Winner: Quentin Tarantino
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. Argo, screenplay by Chris Terrio
2. Killer Joe, screenplay by Tracy Letts
3. Life of Pi, screenplay by David Magee
4. Lincoln, screenplay by Tony Kushner
5. Silver Linings Playbook, screenplay by David O. Russell
This is always one of the strongest categories, since Hollywood has so few quality original ideas anymore. One is based on a book once thought unfilmable (Life of Pi), another took 6 years to research and write (Lincoln), and the others are just really damned good. Each of them, much like the Original Screenplay nominees, offers up a unique world you can get totally lost in.
I still can’t put into words how pissed off I am that Argo beat Lincoln in this category at the Oscars. Other than Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance, the screenplay is the best asset of this film.
Honorable Mentions: The Avengers (Joss Whedon, Zak Penn), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro)
Oscar Winner: Chris Terrio
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
2. The Dark Knight Rises
3. Les Misérables
5. Silver Linings Playbook
I couldn’t in good faith give Dark Knight Rises any nominations in the top categories (writing/directing/picture), but I did want to recognize how amazing the cast was. It’s easily Christian Bale‘s best performance in the series, and the same goes for Michael Caine. With more than a dozen other great actors around them, it’s no surprise they all made each other better. It was a good year for Anne Hathaway, who gets nominated twice here in addition to her Supporting Actress nomination below.
I liked Les Mis a lot, even though I had quibbles with the way they chose to shoot it. The performances are almost unanimously great (it wasn’t Amanda Seyfried‘s best work), and the inspired decision to do all the singing live on set created a sense of in-your-face emotion like we’ve never seen in a Hollywood musical.
Kills me every time.
Honorable Mentions: The Avengers, Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Oscar Winner: N/A
1. Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
3. Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
4. Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
5. Denzel Washington, Flight
I hate to admit this, but the Oscars got this category right this year. It’s extremely rare that my nominees line up 100% with the Oscars in any category, let alone a big one like this. Every year is good in this category, but this year in particular was special. With the exception of Bradley Cooper (who is excellent, but not “Holy Shit” excellent), all of these performances are good enough to win in most other years, especially Joaquin Phoenix. Really, you could argue Hugh Jackman and Joaquin Phoenix gave career-best performances in these roles. Unfortunately, though, Daniel Day-Lewis is in the race this year, and his work in Lincoln is among the best acting I’ve ever seen. It’s one thing to play a character; this man became Abraham Lincoln, as if the 16th President had been reanimated, walked out of his tomb and onto a movie set. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Denzel had a fantastic double feature in 2012 with Flight & Safe House, and he’s great in both, but obviously Flight is where he gets to show his real acting chops.
I gave serious thought to nominating Michael Pena & Jake Gyllenhaal together in one of these slots, because they were both so good, yet you don’t get one of those performances without the other. I decided against setting that precedent, but I want it noted how amazing they both were in End of Watch. That’s symbiotic acting if ever there was such a thing.
Honorable Mentions: John Hawkes (The Sessions), Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe), Michael Pena & Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch)
Oscar Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis
1. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
2. Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
3. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
4. Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
5. Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
All of these performances are excellent, but it’s really a two-woman race:
Jessica Chastain has only been a household name for about a year and a half, but because she’s done so much great work in such a small amount of time, I feel like I’ve been watching her for a decade. If she keeps this up, she’ll be my favorite actress in another couple of years. Her work in Zero Dark Thirty is the definition of subtlety and quiet power. I tend to admire actors who can nail the quiet moments as well as they do the moments where they have to emote and scream and yell. I also love characters whose primary trait is determination, and Chastain’s genius work as Maya makes me desperate to know who the real woman is that this character is supposedly based on. Unfortunately, because she’s an active CIA officer, we may not know for years, if ever.
As I’ve pointed out previously, Jennifer Lawrence is all balls and emotion in Silver Linings Playbook, and she’s pretty damn convincing. Not bad for a 22-year old with no professional acting training. The Oscars always prefer emotion to subtlety, which is why she won Best Actress last month. This girl has enough natural talent to grant her limitless potential, and I adored her in this movie. It’s no wonder a lot of people have called her The Next Meryl Streep. We’ll see what kind of decisions she makes going forward, but she’s got a long way to go and a lot of great movies to make before those comparisons are realistic.
And because I’m a shallow male who loves beautiful women, here’s Jennifer Lawrence destroying men’s souls at the Vanity Fair Oscar party a few weeks ago:
Oscar Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
4. Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
5. Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Leo, you’re nominated!
I’m ecstatic that Robert De Niro has finally done something worthy enough to be considered best-of-the-year material. I’d just about thrown in the towel on taking him seriously as an actor anymore, then he goes and does this. It’s his best work in at least 10 years, and it might be his best performance since he was in Heat AND Casino in 1995. Thank you, sir, for restoring our faith in you.
How Leonardo DiCaprio was ignored at the Oscars is beyond me, but fear not! As always, I am here to rectify the Academy’s wrongs. This is his first true villain role, and if you’re gonna play a bad guy, you may as well do it for Tarantino. I love the Calvin Candie character, from start to demise [spoiler alert?]. It’s abundantly clear how much fun DiCaprio was having with this role, and that made his performance all the better.
After watching Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s mesmerizing work in The Master, I started to wonder just how high up the list he’d be if I were to rank the 25 best living actors (which I may have to do now that I think about it). He might have to be in the top 10 as far as pure talent goes. I’ve always known he was great, of course, but it isn’t until a performance like this where you think, Oh yeah, he’s, like, better than pretty much everybody. He is every bit as good as Joaquin Phoenix in this movie, but in less screen time. It’s also nice to see Tommy Lee Jones back near the top of the mountain again. Of course, he never stopped doing good work, but it’s been awhile since he’s had a part that let him truly shine, and it seems as though Thaddeus Stevens was one of the 5 or so roles Jones was born to play.
Matthew McConaughey gets the “pure charisma” nomination here, much like Ryan Gosling did last year for Crazy, Stupid, Love. I’ve always been a huge fan of his, but this is the first time I’ve nominated him since he came roaring onto the scene in A Time to Kill in 1996. I nominated him for Best Actor that year, and 16 years later (goddamn I’m old) he almost got nominated for Actor and Supporting Actor. Needless to say, his comeback from romantic comedy purgatory is officially complete, and nobody is happier about it than me.
Honorable Mention: Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
Oscar Winner: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Amy Adams, The Master
2. Sally Field, Lincoln
3. Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
4. Helen Hunt, The Sessions
5. Juno Temple, Killer Joe
A fine field this year in a category that is typically very weak (it’s hard enough to find lead roles for women that are worth a damn, let alone strong supporting roles). Sally Field and Anne Hathaway are the frontrunners here, both turning in superlative work. Sally Field was up to the task of battling Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones in various scenes, no small feat to be certain. Her portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln’s historically accurate struggle to be a mother is matched by the pride she frequently shows in her husband’s accomplishments. She has much more screen time than Hathaway, who rightfully earns this nomination based mostly on her 3 and a half minute, single-take, emotionally devastating performance of “I Dreamed A Dream”. After I saw Les Mis, I said that that one scene was some of the finest acting I’d ever witnessed, and having watched it again since, that was not hyperbole. I’m not ashamed to say I was in tears by the end of it, and I wanted to give her a standing ovation right there in the theater when it was over. I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like to be on the set after she finished pouring her soul out onto the ground. I can’t imagine there were very many takes. Regardless, that one song validated Tom Hooper‘s decision to have all the songs in the film performed and recorded live on set.
Amy Adams is just being Amy Adams, aka being pretty much perfect every time out. Helen Hunt‘s Boston accent in The Sessions was fucking awful, but it didn’t distract me from the incredible work she was doing in the role. Juno Temple stunned me with how good she was in Killer Joe. Why is that British actors can do American accents so well, yet so few Americans can do British accents? I guess they’re just better actors than we are. Anyway, Temple creates a disturbed redneck girl as authentically as if she’d lived this life herself growing up. It’s amazing work. This girl needs to be getting lead roles immediately. It’s a shame she was underused in Dark Knight Rises.
Honorable Mention: Kelly Reilly (Flight)
Oscar Winner: Anne Hathaway
1. Roger Deakins, Skyfall
2. Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
3. Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master
4. Robert Richardson, Django Unchained
5. Steve Yedlin, Looper
This was a really special year for photography in movies. We’ve got 3 legends (Deakins, Kaminski, Richardson) being their usual awesome selves up against two upstarts who had previously only worked on very small movies. Steve Yedlin has shot all of Rian Johnson’s films, and Looper will likely be the one that starts earning him some mainstream jobs (starting with the upcoming Carrie remake). I loved the consistent use of gorgeous wide angle shots in Looper, and Yedlin & Johnson really know how to move their camera around to enhance tension and action scenes. Mihai Malaimare Jr. got his gig on The Master because P.T. Anderson’s longtime collaborator, Robert Elswit, was busy shooting The Bourne Legacy when filming on The Master had to get underway. It’s sad that their streak had to end, but it’s pretty obvious Anderson chose his replacement wisely. I hated leaving these other guys out, but excluding Zero Dark Thirty, the other 3 I left off the list featured a lot of digitally enhanced cinematography, so I went with the films that shot all or most of their images for real. Of course, as we just saw, this kind of logic escapes the Academy.
Roger Deakins wins for the second time in the last three years, and this is the third time a Sam Mendes movie has taken Best Cinematography (after American Beauty and Road to Perdition, both shot by the late, great Conrad L. Hall). It’s incredible to me that a director who got his start on the stage is such a brilliant visualist. That, or he just knows how to pick the best photographers in the business.
Honorable Mentions: Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty), Andrew Lesnie (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi), Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus)
Oscar Winner: Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
BEST FILM EDITING
1. Alexander Berner, Cloud Atlas
2. Bob Ducsay, Looper
3. William Goldenberg, Argo
4. Michael Kahn, Lincoln
5. Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty
It’s rare that an editor gets double-nominated (in fact I don’t know that it’s ever happened), but it just so happens William Goldenberg worked on two of the year’s best films, and did incredible work on both. I can only imagine how much footage those two editors (Dylan Tichenor won the 2007 editing Biggie for There Will Be Blood) had to go through before they ended up with the 157 minutes that Zero Dark Thirty ended up being. That’s a movie that could’ve been 4 hours long and still been great, yet even at 2 and-a-half hours it still feels lean and moves quickly. I also want to shout-out Alexander Berner for somehow cutting a movie that’s almost 3 hours long and making it flow as seamlessly as a 90-minute Pixar flick. The editing in Cloud Atlas movie is really, really interesting. I noticed how good it was on first viewing, but it’s even more apparent seeing it a second time. Watch the film and notice how efficiently they cut from one storyline in one time period to another storyline set decades or hundreds of years apart, and somehow it all makes sense. After watching the trailer, I thought it would be an irritatingly existential and very difficult movie to follow, but that ended up being the farthest thing from the truth, and I’d suggest it’s primarily due to the editing.
Honorable Mentions: Dody Dorn (End of Watch), Jabez Olssen (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
Oscar Winner: William Goldenberg (Argo)
BEST ART DIRECTION
1. Cloud Atlas
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3. Les Misérables
I like how varied these nominees are. You’ve got movies placing the audience in locations of the past, present and future, and one movie (Cloud Atlas) doing all of the above. Brilliant, intricately detailed work on each of these films.
Lincoln‘s attention to every detail wins it the prize here. It’s some of the best art direction I’ve ever seen. Even the Oscars couldn’t fuck this one up.
Honorable Mentions: Argo, The Dark Knight Rises
Oscar Winner: Lincoln
1. Cloud Atlas
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3. Les Misérables
Strange that these nominees are exactly the same as the Art Direction nominees. I swear I didn’t plan that. Again, kudos to the Cloud Atlas team for coming up with so many different looks covering so many different time periods, cultures and locations. Even though I still can’t name all the Hobbit dwarves, Peter Jackson’s team of geniuses were able to at least make them all appear unique, so you can pick out your favorites by appearance, if not yet by name. The artists on Prometheus created some suitably creepy human/alien hybrid looks, including that of the so-called “engineers”, who kinda freaked me out even during the trailers. That would be a fantastic Halloween costume…if you’re 6-foot-9, bald and ripped. They also did some incredible prosthetics work when it came time for the aliens to kill those stupid scientists. And of course, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in Lincoln isn’t possible if he wasn’t made up to look exactly like Honest Abe. It’s some of the best makeup work I’ve ever seen. The fact that the Lincoln makeup wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars is offensive, yet they nominate AND give the award to the makeup team on The Iron Fucking Lady last year just for making Meryl Streep look old and British. #OscarLogic, my friends.
Oscar Winner: Les Misérables
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
1. Kym Barrett, Pierre-Yves Gayraud, Cloud Atlas
2. Paco Delgado, Les Misérables
3. Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
4. Joanna Johnston, Lincoln
5. Anna Maskrey, Richard Taylor, Bob Buck, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Honorable Mention: Jacqueline West (Argo)
Oscar Winner: Jacqueline Durran
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
1. Alexandre Desplat, Zero Dark Thirty
(“Geronimo. For God and country. Geronimo.” – The mission is accomplished in “Back to Base”)
2. Thomas Newman, Skyfall
(Bond & M escape across the British countryside to 007’s childhood home in the masterfully atmospheric “Skyfall”)
3. Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, Cloud Atlas
(Several interweaving storylines reach their climax in “All Boundaries Are Conventions”)
4. John Williams, Lincoln
(Abraham Lincoln gets his own John Williams theme, “The People’s House”)
5. Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises
(Bane and his boys crash a CIA plane behind the driving force of “Gotham’s Reckoning”)
Another strong year for scores, with the victors from the past two years (Desplat last year for Harry Potter and Zimmer in 2010 for Inception) back in contention. And what a surprise, it may once again come down to the two greatest living musicians: John Williams vs. Hans Zimmer. This year is special for my two favorite composers, for if one of them wins here, it will break their all-time tie. Each has won 4 Original Score Biggies to date. The Dark Knight Rises may have disappointed me on the whole, but Hans Zimmer’s score certainly did not, and this is the 8th straight year he’s been nominated. The Cloud Atlas trio are actually the only nominees here who haven’t won previously, but what beautiful music those guys created for a complex movie that must’ve been incredibly difficult to score. I was skeptical about Thomas Newman scoring a Bond movie (he’d never done a straight-up action movie before), but he sure as shit showed me, as Skyfall marks the first time I’ve nominated a Bond score.
John Williams shows he hasn’t lost much in his age, narrowly defeating Hans Zimmer and breaking their tie to take home his 5th career award in this category. It really was almost a coin flip, because Zimmer’s work on TDKR is truly spectacular. However, I gave the advantage to Williams because a lot of TDKR‘s score uses themes that were created for the previous two films. It certainly has a lot of great new music, but all of the music in Lincoln is new, so that tipped the scales in Williams’ favor.
Honorable Mentions: Steve Jablonsky (Battleship), Howard Shore (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
Oscar Winner: Mychael Danna (Life of Pi)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
1. “Never Had”, written by Oscar Isaac, Alan Doyle – performed by Oscar Isaac, 10 Years
2. “100 Black Coffins”, written by Jamie Foxx, Rick Ross – performed by Rick Ross, Django Unchained
3. “Song of the Lonely Mountain”, written by Neil Finn, David Donaldson, David Long, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick – performed by Neil Finn, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. “Razors.Out”, written by Mike Shinoda & Chino Moreno – performed by Chino Moreno, The Raid: Redemption
5. “Skyfall”, written by Adele & Paul Epworth – performed by Adele, Skyfall
I’m thrilled this category made such a big comeback. Last year, there were so few quality options that I only nominated 3 songs. For 2012, I chose these 5 from a list of 14 strong options. Way to go, songwriters!
This was probably the easiest, most obvious choice this year. “Skyfall” is one of the best original songs in a film in the last 10 years. It’s the second Bond song to take home my prize, after Chris Cornell‘s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale in 2006.
Honorable Mention: “Abraham’s Daughter”, written by Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, T-Bone Burnett – performed by Arcade Fire (The Hunger Games)
Oscar Winner: “Skyfall”
1. The Avengers
2. The Dark Knight Rises
3. The Expendables 2
5. The Raid: Redemption
The first Expendables won this category 2 years ago, and they certainly didn’t lower the bar for the sequel (although there is a lot of CGI blood and gore this time). Think what you will about her acting (bearing in mind this was her first major movie), but Gina Carano handled her shit in those action scenes, which Steven Soderbergh shot mostly in nice wide masters. I’m excited to see what Carano does in Fast & Furious 6 this May. The Raid. Oh boy. Well, The Raid speaks for itself. I knew the instant I left the theater last April that this would be one of my Stuntwork nominees. Christopher Nolan and his team’s insistence in doing as many of their big action sequences for real as possible makes TDKR an easy choice here, especially when you see that behind-the-scenes footage of them driving a full-scale version of The Bat through the streets of Pittsburgh and New York. Even though almost all of the action in The Avengers was created inside computers, it’s pretty damned amazing action. I prefer practical stunts to CGI trickery in this category, but pure jaw-dropping awesomeness is certainly enough to get you nominated.
“You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it.”
Honorable Mention: Skyfall
Oscar Winner: N/A
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
1. The Avengers
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
3. Life of Pi
This was really tough. I truly admire the effects work in the honorable mention films below, but I nominated movies like Looper and Life of Pi instead because the effects in those films better served the stories being told. In fact, they were essential to those stories. On the other hand, the effects in movies like Battleship and Wrath of the Titans, while excellent, are primarily there to entertain and WOW you. Long story short; great effects serving a great story > great effects serving an enjoyable effects movie.
Life of Pi is not as effective a story if these effects aren’t as good as they are. Simple as that. In truth, Life of Pi doesn’t exist without these visual effects. And since Life of Pi is as good as it is, that speaks volumes to how much its effects served and enhanced the story.
I love these visual effects breakdown videos:
Honorable Mentions: Battleship, Snow White and the Huntsman, Wrath of the Titans
Oscar Winner: Life of Pi
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
2. Life of Pi
5. Zero Dark Thirty
As always, the difference between Sound and Sound Editing: “Sound” is basically short for sound mixing, aka deciding what you hear of what surround channel, combining the music tracks, sound effects tracks, dialogue tracks and the sound recorded on set into a quality overall soundtrack. “Sound editing” is just for the creation and implementation of sound effects. It’s a small difference in writing, but a huge one in execution.
Worth the watch:
Honorable Mentions: The Avengers, Django Unchained
Oscar Winner: Les Misérables
BEST SOUND EDITING
1. The Avengers
2. The Grey
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Zero Dark Thirty
I had to find somewhere to recognize The Grey, and this ended up being the best place to do it. From the plane crash to the ice cold gusting wind to the viciousness of the wolves, the sound effects in that movie are phenomenal. All of these films feature incredible sound effects, be they ultra-realistic (Zero Dark Thirty) or otherworldly (Prometheus). Movies like this are why you invest in a 7.1 surround sound system.
Honorable Mentions: Django Unchained, Life of Pi
Oscar Winner: TIE- Zero Dark Thirty & Skyfall
Lincoln – 8 wins [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Score]
Zero Dark Thirty – 4 wins [Original Screenplay, Actress, Film Editing, Sound]
Skyfall – 2 wins [Cinematography, Original Song]
Films: listed are all films with at least 3 nominations
Lincoln – 14 Nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Score, Sound]
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 9 Nominations [Picture, Director, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Song, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]
Zero Dark Thirty – 8 Nominations [Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound, Sound Editing]
Les Misérables – 6 Nominations [Ensemble Performance, Actor, Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup]
Cloud Atlas – 5 Nominations [Film Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Score]
Life of Pi – 5 Nominations [Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, Sound]
Prometheus – 5 Nominations [Art Direction, Makeup, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing]
Silver Linings Playbook – 5 Nominations [Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor]
Django Unchained – 4 Nominations [Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Original Song]
Looper – 4 Nominations [Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effects]
The Master – 4 Nominations [Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography]
Argo – 3 Nominations [Adapted Screenplay, Ensemble Performance, Film Editing]
The Avengers – 3 Nominations [Stuntwork, Visual Effects, Sound Editing]
The Dark Knight Rises – 3 Nominations [Ensemble Performance, Original Score, Stuntwork]
Skyfall – 3 Nominations [Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song]
4 more films had 2 nominations each: End of Watch, Flight, Killer Joe, The Raid: Redemption
Anne Hathaway – 3 Nominations [Supporting Actress, Ensemble Performance x2]
David Ayer – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Director]
Mark Boal – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay]
Kathryn Bigelow – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Director]
William Goldenberg – 2 Nominations [Film Editing x2]
Peter Jackson – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Director]
Ang Lee – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Director]
Steven Spielberg – 2 Nominations [Best Picture, Best Director]
Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Sally Field, Robert De Niro, and Tommy Lee Jones were each double-nominated with their casts in Ensemble Performance in addition to their individual nominations.
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FILMS NOMINATED: 30 (compared to 34 in 2011 and the Oscars’ 23 different films in the same categories) I CRUSHED the Oscars in variety this year!
THE STUDIO OF THE YEAR:
2012 Recipient: WARNER BROS. PICTURES – WB returns to the top of the mountain after a 3-year drought. This is their 8th Studio of the Year victory in the 13 years I’ve been handing it out. (notable films included Project X, Wrath of the Titans, Magic Mike, The Dark Knight Rises, Argo, Cloud Atlas, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
Career achievement/honorary awards:
–Christopher Kenneally (writer/director) & Keanu Reeves (interviewer/producer), for their excellent and important documentary, Side by Side
If you have any interest whatsoever in filmmaking, WATCH. THIS. DOCUMENTARY.
–Ramin Djawadi (composer), in recognition of his exemplary scoring of Game of Thrones: season 2 on HBO, which, on the whole, featured better music than any film in 2012
Here is one of my favorite tracks, “Warrior of Light”:
BIGGIE’S TOP 10 OF 2012
(favorite movies, not best- there’s a difference!)
TEN HONORABLE MENTIONS, in A-B-C- order: BATTLESHIP, DJANGO UNCHAINED, FLIGHT, JACK REACHER, LOOPER, PROMETHEUS, SAFE HOUSE, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, SKYFALL, WRATH OF THE TITANS
I like my closing statement from last year’s Biggie Awards so much that I’m just gonna copy & paste it here again:
If you made it this far, thank you very much for your attention. I put a lot of work into my awards every year, and putting this post together probably took at least 24 combined hours of work, between writing it, gathering and uploading all the photos, finding the videos, uploading the music, etc. etc. I very much appreciate it when people recognize my passion for movies by checking out these entire Biggie Awards posts. I try to keep it entertaining and educational from start to finish, so even if you disagree with me, you’re laughing, learning something, or just sharing in the love of movies. Of course, artistry should never be a competition by naming winners and losers, but I also believe it’s important to recognize and shine a light on the people who did the most impressive work each year, in all aspects of a film’s production. This is usually the biggest blog entry I do each year, and the one I take the most pride in getting right. I welcome your opinions and comments on the best 2012 had to offer.
And now for some fun…
Just for shiggles, let’s go out with one of my favorite single moments from 2012:
Also, Dolph Lundgren throwing a hen. Your argument is invalid.