The Great Evils, 2012

or: Accolades as voted on by a wanker with a superiority complex 

Preamble: Preamble? Bah! Bah, I say! Preamble is for losers who have to explain themselves and pedophiles. I don’t have to explain myself or my fake end-of-the-year film awards to you, or discuss how a good deal of thought went into each and every category but that a few movies slipped through the cracks because they haven’t been released in Washington, D.C., yet. You’ll just have to experience The Great Evils for yourself without any weak justification for the awards’ existence stemming from the fact that everyone else is doing it.

Most Accomplished Piece of Soulless Marketing Award

2012 was a great year for soulless marketing, what with plenty of “respectable” blockbusters and Oscar bait looking to whore themselves out to randy sailors for a quick buck. Surprisingly, perennial winners Mark Woollen & Associates don’t have much to show for themselves this year. I suppose after cranking out those Tree of Life, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailers in a single year, you’re allowed a reprieve.

Honorable mention goes to the just released trailer for Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder for…well, looking like a Terrence Malick movie. Compare to the generic The Thin Red Line and abysmal The New World trailers, that’s saying a lot. Another shout out goes out to the Les Miserables teaser. Not for any actual accomplishment or technical merit, mind you, but for making me weep like a member of the opposite sex.

But the winner of this year’s Most Accomplished Piece of Soulless Marketing award goes to…

Yes, the Skyfall teaser, for effectively boiling down James Bond to a single, pithy one liner while showing off a neat techno remix of that iconic theme. Hats off to you, Sony.

Most Evil Marketing Campaign Award

Credit must be given to the outstandingly evil fucks at Universal Marketing behind the Les Miserables campaign. First, they dropped that “I Dreamed a Dream” teaser in the middle of summer blockbuster season, then they placed that insidious live singing featurette in front of every god damned Regal and AMC movie.

The pièce de résistance? Their lead poster:

It both evokes the original artwork from the musical and is composed such that your eyes are drawn to the little girl’s haunting blue eyes. You feel like a total rat bastard if you don’t end up watching it twice in theaters and buying the collector’s edition DVD/Blu-Ray/Ultraviolet/Death star super pack.

Well done, you assholes.

The Distasteful Redneck Tan Award for Loudest, Shiniest, Blockbusting Dud

There were a lot of big films this year that strived to be more than just hefty in girth. Compare this year’s blockbusters to last years: John CarterThe Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Skyfall and The Amazing Spider-Man versus…versus what? TransformersSuper 8? The only blockbuster with any real ambition from 2011 was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a movie that featured biology PhDs acting like hormone addled teenagers with ADD. 

So, while there have been a lot of duds this year among the big budget boys, most of them don’t qualify as the loud, shiny variety. Except, of course, for Battleship. If it had just been a campy, terrible adaptation of a board game, I could have forgiven it. But no, Battleship is an incredibly anti-civilian, pro-military screed that, while not incompetently filmed, has not one single thrill to its name throughout the course of its bloated 2 hour plus run time.

The Total Fuckbend Award

The Total Fuckbend Award goes to none other than Peter Jackson. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was all right, I suppose, but could have used approximately 50% less runtime padding bullshit. Seriously, that Animal Planet, rabbit sled shit made me want to gouge out my eyeballs. And that’s before you factor in the eventual extended DVD release and the fact that there’s going to be two more of them. You know what, I can understand wanting to squeeze more profit out of a $500 million project. But for Christ’s sake, they don’t all have to be 3 hours long.

So, fuck you, Peter Jackson, for making another fucking 9 hour trilogy. Also, fuck you Peter Jackson for not pushing HFR to more theaters. HFR, when used correctly, proves to be a powerful tool in an action filmmaker’s arsenal, so it’s depressing to see Jackson not stand up for technological advancement.

The Diamond in the Rough Award for Best Performance in an Otherwise Shit Movie

Jennifer Lawrence was really good in the not good The Hunger Games. I mean, I did totally call it earlier last year, but it’s still a revelatory performance.

The Kleenex and Razor Blades Award for Most Depressing Single Moment

Last year proved to be disappointing for fans of masochistic cinema. I suppose BeginnersA Separation, War Horse and Shame had their moments, but nothing really broke your shins and kicked your breast bone until you started crying.

2012, fortunately, brought back the cinematic depression in a big way. We’ve got Amour‘s harrowing depiction of post-stroke degradation, The Deep Blue Sea‘s quiet loneliness, Smashed‘s desperate alcoholism, Uncle Ben dying (again), Abraham Lincoln dying, (spoiler) M dying, and more to choose from. 

But the most depressing? For my money, that goes to Anne Hathaway crying herself to death while belting out “I Dreamed a Dream.”

It’s borderline impossible to sit through, and quite possibly the highlight of an otherwise middling movie.

The High School Football Touchdown Award for Greatest Single Moment

There have been many indelible moments to be found in this year’s movies. From the gutbusting restaurant joke in Ted to the plane heist from The Dark Knight Rises, many directors, this year, have managed to cram in magnificent, transcendent moments of perfection, even in otherwise middling/mediocre affairs.

Honorable mention goes to the following:

  • Gazing into the abyss, Life of Pi: A mesmerizing hallucinatory sequence that doubles as elegant recap and foreshadow. It breaks my heart, every single time.
  • Shanghai Skyscraper, Skyfall: Cinematographer Roger Deakins flexes his considerable lighting prowess in this incredible action setpiece, mixing elements of Blade Runner and classic noir. 
  • KFC time, Killer Joe: I feel kind of bad about putting this scene on this list, but the controversial climax to Killer Joe has haunted me since last August. A gleefully wrong and horrifying bit of the old ultraviolence that solidifies Matthew McConaughey’s Joe as 2012’s most fucked up villain and quells any questions about William Friedkin’s directorial prowess.
  • The burial, John Carter: A sequence that mixes the funny, the sad, the action and the moving as well as anything Pixar has ever made. John Carter, as a whole, is a movie that deserved a far better reception than it received, in part because of these moments of absolute cinematic grace and power.
  • Set changing, Anna Karenina: Joe Wright has included an astonishing single take in nearly all of his films, but he has topped himself with this gob smacking sequence from Anna Karenina. You have to watch it to understand, but just thinking about setting up that shot boggles the mind.

All of those moments stuck with me throughout the year, but are just a little bit outmatched by the winner:

An incredibly graceful montage placed in the middle of OsloAugust 31st, the cafe segment crystallizes the main character’s profound sense of isolation and loneliness as the world around him moves on, oblivious and indifferent to his existence. Yet, at the same time, it reminds us of the life that Anders could be seeking, that he could try to look past his existential funk and try for a life of simple, petty distractions, setting up the wrenching decision Anders is faced with in the third act.

The Greatest Evil Award for Straight Up Worst Piece of FUCK!

Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie that’s gotten largely positive reviews for being adequate, for floating on by most critics without much offense or passion. For me, however, watching Safety Not Guaranteed was an agonizing experience. It was like hanging out with a cast of insufferably twee hipster-wannabe fucks for ninety minutes while Mark Duplass tries to convince everyone he’s actually a physics prodigy. All of the characters are drawn from some screenwriter’s book of generic stereotypes and then underplayed so far as to render them lifeless. The douchie boss is kind of a prick, I guess. That ethnic nerd is kind of a nerd, I suppose. The drama in the film is virtually non-existent because I don’t care about any of the crap that happens. And then the film treats this crap as if it’s some kind of a treat, doling out small, disconnected chunks of plot and exposition the same way a teacher hands out Jolly Ranchers to good students.

But, most depressingly of all, Safety Not Guaranteed is, essentially, a studio movie masquerading as an independent movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Safety Not Guaranteed was financed independently (the endless cavalcade of apartment/cheap motel sets give it away). What I mean is that Safety Not Guaranteed was made with the mentality of a studio film. Its greatest ambition is to be a mindlessly pleasant piece of fluff, with not a single thought-provoking, original, interesting, moving or endearing thought to its credit. The film’s greatest offense is how unoffensive it is. It’s filmed with that pseudo Wes Anderson veneer that every twee indie’s adopted, without any interesting compositions or any sense of adventurous filmmaking. It’s boring, flat, vanilla, by the books – everything an indie shouldn’t be.

This Great Evil’s Top 11 List

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Amour: An unflinching, brutal look at the end of a life filmed with an incredible sense of empathy and sympathy. Perhaps Haneke’s most openly optimistic film ever.
  3. Django Unchained: Loud, abusive and coarse. Please, never change, Tarantino.
  4. Life of Pi: Ang Lee’s unexpectedly moving parable with some of the prettiest imagery of the year and, perhaps, the single greatest CG creation ever.
  5. The Deep Blue Sea: A quietly moving, dignified portrait of a woman yearning, deeply, for passion and love in her life.
  6. Holy Motors: Leos Carax’s batshit ode to cinema past, present and future.
  7. Moonrise Kingdom: Incredibly, Wes Anderson manages to sustain a near constant sense of the most powerful melancholy as children run away, revealing the gaping holes and failed dreams inside of the grown ups of this New England community.
  8. Argo: Historically accurate? No. Damned thrilling and damned funny and damned moving? Hell yes.
  9. The Imposter: A bold mix of reenactment and interview that manages to tell a terrible strange and sad story with wit, elegance and power.
  10. Bernie: Richard Linklater’s greatest coup is in hiring the immensely likable Jack Black as the titular character, forcing us to confront our own biases and the limitations of the justice system.

Consolation Prizes

Gus Van Sant for being at the helm of another film that got away. Better luck next time.

The Loneliest Planet and Skyfall for getting bumped off the top 10 by late additions.

Cloud Atlas for being both a terrible miscalculation and a miraculous feat of filmmaking. But mostly the former.

Battleship, Breaking Dawn Part 2, The Devil Inside and The Five Year Engagement for being terrible movies, but not quite terrible enough.

Everyone who likes Wong Kar-Wai, Alfonso Cuaron and/or Terrence Malick for getting hit with more fucking delays.

The Potential Spoilers

So, I haven’t gotten around to a bunch of movies for a variety of boring reasons. Some of them probably have a good shot at cracking one of these awards. If I get around to watching these films and can be arsed to revise the awards…who am I kidding?

  1. Not Fade Away (dir. David Chase)
  2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  3. Tabu (dir. Miguel Gomes)
  4. Arbitrage (dir. Nicholas Jarecki)
  5. The Impossible (dir. Juan Antonio Bayona, Dec 21)
  6. Promised Land (dir. Gus Van Sant, Dec 28)
  7. The Man with an Iron Fist (dir. RZA…fuck)
  8. The Paperboy (dir. Lee Daniels)
  9. Wreck-It Ralph (dir. Rich Moore)