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Sunday
Dec232012

Lump of Coal, Anyone? Cinematic Shame (Pt 1)

YEAR IN REVIEW

I plan to get all joyously positive from Christmas Eve through January 9th as I share my take on the Best of the Film Year That Was. But I make no promise about my mood come January 10th...  That's the fateful morning when 6,000 Academy voters play puppet master and yank my fragile psyche about with abandon. But until then... And before the Year End Best of hits, we purge.

MOST "OVERRATED" ANYTHING

I know that people quibble with this word and wish it dead and buried. But that's only because they take it far too seriously. It's a silly adjective but silly is fun. One should always take things for what they're worth. No matter who is using the word "overrated" it only ever means:

Other people are under the mistaken impression that this thing I think is merely okay is really great! They are quite wrong."

Unsatisfying performances, miscasting, bad moves in good films and more after the jump...

05 AMY ADAMS
I've gone back and forth on her performance in The Master, which I've seen twice now. And I've gone back and forth on her gifts as an actress over the years which are, as far as I can figure, strong if not quite exceptional. Give her a good role that she understands and is well cast in (Enchanted, Junebug, The Fighter) and she'll reward you with true excellence. Give her a nothing role and she'll give you nothing (Charlie Wilson's War, and other movies we've forgotten she was in). Give her a strong if potentially one-note role dropped into a larger ocean of roiling complexities (The Master, Doubt) and she'll glide across the surface rarely risking the undertow.  I've come to the conclusion that everything people are responding to in this particular performance is what's in the sketchy writing so can we give Paul Thomas Anderson a few "Best Supporting Actress" prizes instead of wasting them here?  Even if I'm wrong about Amy Adams in The Master-- a possibility, as I am unperfect -- I think you have to subtract points for her Razzie-ready cameo in On The Road.

04 FILM CRITICS
So many have lost their minds in overstatements, projections and fannish abandon this year -- No, Django  Unchained is most certainly not Quentin Tarantino's best film. I think by "best" they mean "newest!" and therefore "most temporarily exciting" and in that case: correct!  And critics are shirking their advocacy duties, too. It's not helping, I don't think, that the online conversation is increasingly oroborus-insular and consensus-premature since movies are withheld from public view too long and by the time the conversation has opened up critics have tired of playing with them, like catswho've grown bored with their own tails or a dead mouse. 

03 KEEP THE LIGHTS ON
Danish actor Thure Lindhart (Max Manus) plays a young filmmaker Erik who falls for the closeted Paul (Damages' Zachary Booth) after an anonymous hookup. The two drift in and out of each other's lives (mostly in) for the next ten years as their relationship is undone by showy bouts of self-destructive sex and drug addictions and less dramatic but more universal relationship issues such as trust and boredom. Though some of its sharpest scenes are piercing (like an emotionally harrowing moment when sober Erik holds Paul's hand during an obliviating bender with drugs and a rentboy), writer/director Ira Sachs forgets to shape these surely cathartic biographical exorcizms into an entertainment* for audiences. So many critics were so enamored of this sad story of a decade long gay romance undone by sex and drug addictions that I do genuinely wonder what it is about it that I missed. I thought it was shapeless, overlong, and only intermittently impressive in the acting. But bonus points for including the always welcome Paprika Steen in a cameo as Erik's sister.

*"Entertainment" is often misinterpreted as the sole province of happy simplistic and disposable product. Some of the most depressing movies ever made are very entertaining, if you ask me. The question is always: does it hold you in its thrall?

02 LIFE OF PI
That chunk of the movie with the boy and the tiger on the boat is a real corker. That stuff is Grade A entertainment and movie-movie showmanship. Pity about the rest of the movie and that there's quite a lot of it. The framing device is so wooden it has termites and they infect nearly every scene as they devour the movie (the framing device interview might be more accurately referred to as "commercial breaks" it interrupts the flow of the narrative so often. The biopic like 'and-then-this-happened' mundanities of the prologue are also a huge drag. And then there's the pathetic "what we hope the tiger is thinking about" double exposed image in the sky. And don't get me started on the "let me explain this to you and destroy your imagination" ending since Michael already went there.

01 SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK 
Readers have taken me to task for dissing this movie on multiple occasions. Any movie so beloved that people get angry that you don't like it much at all, must by default then be, your mandatory #1 slotter on your own Most Overrated List. But before I could get started on whining about it again I heard Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffay in my head warning me to check myself.

Calm down, crazy!"

FIVE DISAPPOINTING THINGS OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD ABOUT PEOPLE OR FILMS I LIKED/LOVED

05 Sweeney Todd Redux
The Threnadier's have always been my second least favorite thing about Les Misérables (the least favorite being Javert) and their big number is the comic relief "Master of the House". The movie version of the musical phenomenon exactly replicates my experience with the stage show from every time I've seen it performed. The Threnadiers and Javert are still my two least favorite things about a show I otherwise worship. I love Helena Bonham-Carter and she gets a few good laughs in in Les Miz but why after Sweeney Todd is anyone letting her sing onscreen again? Worse yet, when you pair her with another Sweeney Todd alum, Sacha Baron Cohen you're forcing us to acknowledge/remember that she's been allowed back into the musical genre, the one genre in which she has no place being. I'll take her in any other genre with relish but she doesn't do enough genre-hopping. Wouldn't she be just awesome in a sci-fi film? 

04 Chronicle's Last Act
I really liked Chronicle's found footage execution, low budget invention, and its economically tossed off "origin story" . Dane DeHaan continues to be one of the most promising New Generation of male movie stars. But it goes way off course in that final act when our sympathetic nerd protagonist has his psychotic break into rabid dog that must be put down in the f/x heavy 'Destroy Everything' climax; in short, I always prefer Carrie when it's got Sissy Spacek in the lead role and hemmed in split screen carnage to overwrought CG madness.

03 Not Enough Michelle Pfeiffer or Laura Dern
MICHELLE: Dark Shadows and People Like Us both brought the screen goddess back. Neither of them made sufficient use of her. When will she get another Chéri or a Stardust? I've given up dreaming for another White Oleander.
LAURA: She gets a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and that's all he has for her? For shame! I've never hated Philip Seymour Hoffman more than when he barked at her in The Master. "What do you want from me?" If he's the P.T. surrogate I wanted her to bark back "a decent role, bitch. I know you've seen what I can do! Do I have to bring David Lynch to your set to talk some sense into you?"

On this note: If you switch Amy Adams and Laura Dern's role in The Master you get an instantly more complicated film. Think about it.

02 Catherine Zeta-Jones Transformation from Red Hot Mama To Pinched Matronly Prude
Post Chicago, I was thrilled to hear that Catherine Zeta-Jones would be returning to the movie musical genre for Rock of Ages. And though she was fun her scenes were poorly staged and she was mostly cut short of maximum potential as the prudish zealot. Then, this poster for Side Effects happened at us this week and she looks even more prudish. What happened to the sexy mofo of Chicago? They used to sell her ass in the air (Entrapment) rather than her nose.

This is not Hitting Us With Your Best Shot, Catherine. Can't someone rehabilitate this career? She's only 43, not 80.

01 Double Standards in The Sessions
I liked The Sessions quite a lot but it's strange double standards about nudity actually marred the sex-positive film. The entire narrative rests on John Hawke's character accepting his disabled body, his sexuality, and what he can and can't do to express himself physically. And yet in a potentially very moving crucial scene when his frequently fully nude sexual partner Cheryl (Helen Hunt) holds up a mirror for him to see his body for the first time -- he's never seen it due to his disabilities and the tilt of his head -- the direction and framing prudishly rob him of his genitalia. That's the most hypocritical shot possible in a movie about accepting and loving your earthly body, disabiities and all. 

WORST PERFORMANCES THAT AREN'T IN "CLOUD ATLAS" AND WHO I BLAME FOR THEM BECAUSE, GENERALLY SPEAKING, I PREFER NOT TO BLAME ACTORS BECAUSE I HAVE SHAMELESS STARF***ING TENDENCIES

05 EVERYONE in "The Avengers" when they aren't in close-up.
The Avengers is a ton of fun the first time through, no shade. And even if it doesn't hold up spectacularly well on repeat viewings, the actors are impressively on their game as the comic book icons they've been entrusted with. At least when they're in close-up. The Film Experience applauds all movies, directors and cinematographers that remember to use a variety of lenses and shot lengths with their cameras and would like to start a "Save This Endangered Species!" charity for the preservation of two shots, three shots and four shots at the cinema, before they're snuffed out altogether by the oppressive tyranny of close-ups and shot/reverse shot hackiness. However, The Film Experience does expect professional often very good actors to remember that they're still being filmed when they share a frame and that they shouldn't just stand there stiffly waiting for the next big moment or line reading to happen. (Who do they think they are, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls?)
Who I am considering blaming: Alexandra Byrne because the costumes are too tight for acting below the neck. I kid. The more likely culprit is the talent agents and managers calling during the breaks, destroying their collective focus with new film offers and spokesperson deals. Or maybe we should blame the movies themselves. Too few movies use wide or medium shots anymore and it's quite possible that actors have forgotten how to act in them. Our prescription: Watch five 70s movies back to back. It'll come back to you. Good actors can do amazing character work with their bodies if filmmakers encourage them... Good actors don't even need dialogue sometimes.

04 TOM HARDY in "The Dark Knight Rises"
Even if the weird Sean Connery meets school marm affectations and enunciations of his voice weren't so unthreatening and weirdly judged, Hardy (a very promising star) was a terrible choice for Bane.
Who I blame: Two culprits here. Heath Ledger's "The Joker" for being an impossible act to follow as supervillains go; and Chris Nolan. Nolan's asexual tendencies as a filmmaker have caused trouble for nearly all of his movies save, perhaps, Memento which managed some degree of erotic tension despite Nolan's sexless tendencies. For all his gifts, Nolan is straight-up terrible with female characters (Hathaway's Catwoman and Carrie Anne Moss are but badass anomalies -- blame, or rather, thank the actresses ) and he's equally clueless when it comes to the more erotic specimens within male movie star community. I shan't try to top Anthony Lane who said it best when he said:

Bane wears a crablike mask over the lower part of his face—a disastrous burden for Tom Hardy, whose mouth, sensual and amused for such a tough customer, is his defining feature.


03 JORDIN SPARKS in "Sparkle"
You can get away with bare minimum adequacy in the sidelines of deep bench movies. But when you're at the center it creates a vacuum. We're supposed to believe that "Sparkle" is the one with all the talent in Sparkle and that her sister "Sister" is just coasting on her looks. This dynamic doesn't work at all when the delicious Carmen Ejogo as Sister is acting impressive circles around Jordin Sparks as Sparkle who is the one coasting (on off-cinema fame). 
Who I blame: Stunt casting. Note to all musicians who would like to try acting: try a supporting role first. Less risk / More practice. Acting is actually an art, not a hobby.

02 JOHN CUSACK in "The Paperboy" 
He's playing one of the most outrageously loathsome film characters in years, but you don't have to come across as loathsome as an actor while doing so! Ask anyone in Django Unchained or Killer Joe for tips.
Who I blame: Nicole Kidman? Honestly, who can keep up? It's better to not try to pull focus (Matthew MConaughey) or step back in awe (Zac Ephron) than to attempt head-to-head or, in this case, groin-to-groin battle. The most analagous scuzzy thespian combat in a film might well be Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart... so maybe Cusack ought to have committed that film to memory before stepping into this particular ring.

01 QUENTIN TARANTINO in "Django Unchained" 
Who I blame: Quentin Tarantino. Stop soiling your otherwise superbly acted movies with your terrible acting! STOP SELF-SABOTAGING!

Your turn.

Share you quibbles, minor disappointments, and miscasting claims in the comments or tell me I'm wrong... that's what overrated posts are for!

We'll get to the true "Worst" tomorrow and really let loose. 

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Reader Comments (52)

Amy Adams was Razzie-ready in "On the Road"? I thought she was awesome in that. I wanted more of her!

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Anything in Alex Cross!!! esp Carmen Ejogo comedy death gasp!!

The uncomfortable feeling i had listening to Tommy Lee Jones talk masturbation and Meryl enacting it

Charlize crushed in prometheus swap her with Noomi and you have new female action heroine

Tom Hardy as bane,why cover his face

Marion Cotillards death gasp in tdkr

the Apatow actors club and the spin offs -s imply self indulgent

Emily Blunt ripley- lite

more resident evil films - STOP!!!!

Andrew Garfield as spider man

Sally Fields new face

Brad Pitt's chanel advert

How unbelievable Ted was!!!

Rachel Wiesz in deep blu sea so so stiff.

Maggie Smith's coasting.

Daniel Craig as Bond

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

First thing to pop into my mind, Léos Carax and "Holy Motors". Yes, Denis Lavant was terrific but consensus was almost hailing this movie as the rebirth of cinema (which is always an overstatement). It hardly held a candle to the rapturous energy and vision Carax bottled in two best movies (Mauvais Sang and Lovers on the Bridge), IMO.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew P

"Good actors can do amazing character work with their bodies if filmmakers encourage them..."

So did it ever occur to you to blame Joss Whedon for The Avengers? Oops, I forgot, Nathaniel's idol... Thank God that Hitchcock, Fellini, and Bergman are already dead. Otherwise they instantly would have to stop making movies in light of Whedon's artistic genius and unparalleled filmography.
However, I agree with everything you said about Helena Bonham Carter - But wasn't she in Terminator Salvation, a movie that would qualify as Sci-Fi? - and most of what you said about Amy Adams.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

On John Cusack: Remember when he was actually succeeding at charming audiences? Imagine this in your head, Nat: John Cusack in The Sessions and John Hawkes in The Paperboy. Does The Paperboy, at least, improve because of that change?

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I wrote a ranty response but decided to shorten it to this: The lack of respect for Life of Pi's ending among some critics, which completely baffles me, has to be my biggest disappointment of the year. What is the Oscar season without people hanging unfair criticisms on your favorite films though?

Anyway, I'll focus on the "bests" when they show up.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Absolutely overrated:

The Untouchables

I understand the amount of money it has made based on the amount of clichés it shows. But awards? Really??? Would anyone name this your best in a foreign language?

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcelo

Anne Hathaway, in everything she made this year.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Gah, and the Nolan women too! You mention Moss and Hathaway, but then of course there's Cotillard in Inception, who gave one of the most brilliant performances of the last few years. Nolan certainly needs to pick a film with a woman front and center, but I just don't buy the Nolan-can't-write-for-women argument. TDKR was a mess, I'll happily grant you, but these three turns are among the best we've seen from women in the last 15 years.

Sexless I'll give you. Maybe that's the real issue. I think part of the problem is he simply takes himself too seriously, which adds to the tension in some of his films (Memento and TDK especially). It also allows him to get overly complicated, like he does in The Prestige and TDKR. Still, I don't think for a second that "The Cat" was ever written as a sexless role.

I will say your call on John Cusack is dead on though.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I'll never quite get the whole sexless thing being held against Nolan. It's not as if he focuses on that aspect to a great degree to begin with. I mean it's one thing not to be into a filmmaker for not having those qualities but its another thing to make it seem like it's something all filmmakers should have. Some people choose not to go down that path.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

Couldn't agree more on HBC. Can she just stay in Burton land forever? She single handidly ruined the film version of one of the best musicals ever in Sweeney Todd. Youtube Angela Lansbury or Julia MacKenzie singing Worst Pies in London and you'll see evidence of the greatness that we were robbed off in celluloid. unforgivable! Whispering is not singing dear Helena. And she's back. Not only bad singing this time but brought her Burton make up and over the top caricature sticking out like a sore thump. I'm so mad.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Science fiction:
Prometheus and Looper (Looper is the worst movie to receive good reviews in 2012)

The rejection of THE MASTER:
You bitches will complain why can't we have nice things and then one the very best possible thing is presented to you you think you know better than it. Your intellect is shit.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Daniel -- that's a good point to a point (I mean he'll never be my favorite because i need more actresses than he provides so some of it is a matter of taste sure) but since sexuality is as central to life as any other part of life that affects everyone, shouldn't his movies have some sort of erotic snap, somewhere? I think this damages INCEPTION most of all because there's no way to look at the language of dreams and the inner psyche without including sex.

Volvagia -- oooh, i love that switcheroo in my head, The Paperboy definitely improves in that scenario and Sessions wouldn't necessarily get worse. As long as you had the 1980s or early 1990s John Cusack ;)

mark -- sally field does not have a new face. her face has looked like that for at least a decade. and also... I don't think TED was going for believability ;) but agree on Brad Pitt's chanel ads. so so unsexy and dull (and i am a superfan of Brads so it was just an odd experience)

December 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The blog has gotten awfully sour lately. Two posts in one week to complain about the same handful of films? And another one on the way? Having an opinion is one thing (a good thing), but when everyone hunkers down in their separate corners, nursing their individual grudges and believing that the rest of the world is against them - I mean, that's not the way to promote discussion, is it?

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Helena definitely should not stay in Burton-land forever - she needs to do more interesting, ordinary characters once in a while. Her best performances in the past decade were in Conversations with Other Women and Sixty Six - women who could feasibly be real people. I'm not saying fantastical characters aren't just as interesting, but she seems to be increasingly reliant on her make-up box of tricks for her performance.

If you switch Amy Adams and Laura Dern's role in The Master you get an instantly more complicated film. - I want to see this. I appreciated Adams a fair bit but I definitely think Dern would've found infinitely muddier and intriguing ways to play it.

More CZJ. She can be quite an explosive performer when given the chance, and this year looked solid on paper (add Lay the Favorite even if Frears has gone totally off in the last decade) but none of it has come together at all.

As for Keep the Lights On, the style (particularly the cinematography) was so crisp and Lindhart so immediate that I was totally carried through the later, slower patches of the film and found it all very fresh and painful. It felt very personal which I often find appealing - connecting to someone behind the scenes through the film. If that makes sense.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I feel the same way as you do about Amy Adams in "The Master" and I too am doubting myself about whether I didn't give the performance enough time. When "OMG there was so much underneath the surface" talk starts happening it makes me wonder, but then that happens all too frequently, and "The Master" is a film that needs far more audience projection to validate it than most.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCal

I agree with 3rtful, except that last line where he castigates everyone. (And, I didn't totally hate on Prometheus--the art direction was pretty sick--as much as Looper.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVince Smetana

You have to wonder about the economy of Oscar nominations with Amy Adams. If she gets nominated this year, she'll be treading in a pool way over her depth. I don't see her earning more than six in her career, so her fourth puts her over the halfway mark (to be generous) with very little significant work to show for it.

She either needs to turn out an unquestionably great performance (and bag a win) or her popularity wiith the AMPAS will drop off precipitously. To suggest she can continue turning in middle-of-the-pack supporting performances and keep getting recognized for much longer is really foolish. She's at a real transitional moment.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Victoria -- that's just this time of year. Only one more negative post ;) and the. We're on to Best Of.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Good call on Nolan's sexlessness. I'd never noticed it before, but all the parts of his films that demand sexiness (particularly Inception & The Prestige) rely on that whole telling instead of showing business.

How about Pixar this year. Not because they made a movie that was short of a masterpiece. Brave was a perfectly fine (and gorgeous) little movie. But because they let that movie get overwhelmed by a narrative of studio in-fighting and overall messiness that made it much easier for pundits to see the faults in that film. It's as if they just wanted to get this one over with so they could get on to the more profitable sequels to come.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A.

I rather wait until I go see Les Misérables. I know you love it, but I'm not sure how I'll respond to it. Two more days!

PS I saw The Sessions last friday and I thought exactly the same thing: Helen, please, straighten that mirror!

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

1) Helen Mirren's performance in Hitchcock...if it had been released earlier in the year, I doubt it would have received any Oscar buzz
2) Ted...just. not. funny.
3) Magic Mike...neither titillating nor interesting

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

Life of Pi: I never read the book so I wasn't in love with it going in. I found it unbearable, preachy, shallow. Maybe it is one of those ones where you have to read the book. It made me think of The Lovely Bones. Respected novel, respected director, good visuals, yet didn't work for everybody.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I would eagerly second you on every single part of this post (Keep the Lights on, Silver Linings, The Avengers in three-shot, depriving the world of Hardy's lips). I only disagree with one part: Amy Adams.

Not so much about her performance in The Master (I thought she was solid rather than great) but the assertion that she is somehow a limited actress. Definitely the three performances of hers that you highlight stand head and shoulders above the rest of her career so far - but I don't see how any woman who has delivered those three particular performances gets to be branded as limited. For Junebug alone, she gets a lifetime pass from me. And for The Fighter she deserved a (second) Oscar.

In the meantime though, I too would have preferred to see Laura Dern in her role in The Master - but that's partly because I would love to just see Laura Dern in any role ever.

However I don't feel PTA deserves any credit whatsoever for whichever bits of 'Mrs. Master' people are responding to. That is a role that seems complex - and if written properly, it certainly would be - but in reality, it is just offensively underbaked. Never mind the lack of arc (no one in that film had an arc), the lack of throughline just reeks of amateurism and student-film-first-draftiness. She's not even a proper character - she's just a bunch of shock-effect glances and monologues strung together in random order. I feel that PTA now needs to make a film with an iconic female protagonist to compensate for what he did to both Dern *and* Adams in The Master (and also because, you know, every half-decent director in the 21st century needs to make at least one film with an iconic female protagonist). So if I were to list my most overrated of the year, I'd put PTA down in first place for both his writing and directing.

Second place would be Rachel Weisz. For Deep Blue Sea and also just in general for convincing people she is an actress of great depth. I hate to sound so negative about her because she is clearly very intelligent and warm and beautiful and principled and risk-taking and committed and all these things I normally respond to in an actress. But I find her as one-note and unimaginative in Deep Blue Sea (a film I quite liked, incidentally) as I do in The Mummy and About a Boy. I don't understand how this lady went from The Least Credible Egyptologist Ever to Prized Arthouse Staple.
(Along these lines though, I must admit, I saw nothing special about her poor-man's-Kate-Winslet pizzazz in Constant Gardener and every other intelligent person in the world clearly did, so it's very likely I'm just missing something here.)

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoran

mikey67 --I found Hitchcock a (very) mildly enjoyable in spurts but it certainly riled some people up to hate. but you're absolutely right about MIrren's Oscar buzz. I mean she wouldn't even be in the conversation at all (not even in the field) let alone winnign nominations had it debuted in the spring, like say, Deep Blue Sea.

December 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

"If you switch Amy Adams and Laura Dern's role in The Master you get an instantly more complicated film. Think about it."

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJA

goran: Well, 1. It's the Mummy franchise, so no one was expecting a "realistic egyptologist." For the comedic stock character she had, she did well. As far as a "get me on the pop map" role, it's FAR from Twilight or Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern. 2. Even with that, she still did far better than (ugh) Maria Bello in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

OMG, Quentin is in Django?! What is his problem...he must really think he can act.

As for Amy Adams, it's hard to believe she's come so far from starring in Cruel Intentions 2. Good on her.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Mathew Modine in TDKR was a surprise, but he was given as much to do as his Married to the Mob co-star in Dark Shadows. It's just painful to watch them asking for more, and not having it.

Everything others said about TDKR and Nolan. Though I could have Bale whispering in my ear about how important wealthy superheroes are.

The Hunger Games. I don't want to piss off the fans, but I felt that if you weren't a fan of the books, and only saw the movie, even as entertaining as it was, it was easily forgettable.

The actors/actresses race. I don't follow them as closely as I should? But, I think it''s impossible that Lawrence or Chastain will win, or DDL will win his third, which is how things seem to be now. There must be some surprises awaiting, but time passes and they don't happen. Don't want to get into old wounds, but Davis or Close could have been much luckier if they had been in contention this year.

Not that he is highly rated in his acting skills, but after seeing Henry Cavill as the lead in two movies, from serviceable to awful, I have serious doubts about The Man of Steel. But maybe superhero angst ftis him.

Movie theatres and prices. They're getting just ridiculous, even more so when undubbed cinema is more expensive than serialized dubbed popcorn products.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

skyfall - what started as a thrilling, sexy engaging movie turned into a sub par Home Alone (minus Macauley Culkin) before taking a left hand turn and finishing up as Carry on Bond.

does no one in Hollywood realise that thanks to some bad hair choices it is impossible to take Javier Bardem seriously anymore? Why add to the mess of his career with the bad die job. Was it supposed to be a side effect of swallowing cyanide???

The one decent point in the 2nd half of the movie was M. addressing the inquiry - but even that was marred by the choice of Tennyson as her poet of choice.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermatt

Tom Hanks' hilarious performance(s) in Cloud Atlas.

Looper pulling a Jean Gret out of the blue and ruining the entire movie.

Flight, while not bad at all, is probably the prettiest depiction of addicts ever. Also, forgetting the importance of Kelly Reilly as a character. "Oh shit, Nicole, we forgot. No matter, let's just show a picture of her near the end. Yeah..."

Alec Baldwin in Rock of Ages.

Nicole Kidman still not getting every award ever. Or a new Oscar category: Best Performance by Nicole Kidman in a Nicole Kidman Movie.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Looper, Life of Pi, and Miss Bala all come to mind as overrated to my eyes.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

mark: Agree on the Resident Evil films. How are they still making enough money to make more films!?

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I don't know why but I really fear Amy Adams is gonna get snubbed for The Master, then she's gonna win for Janis Joplin & finally she'll turn into Renee Zellweger and fade away forever

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChecko

Jeremy Renner, in everything. How about a movie where he isn't brandishing a weapon? He's getting typecast worse than Kiera Knightley.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Disappointing things in movies I loved (or liked):

1. Double standard in "The Sessions." Completely agree.

2. Not enough Javier Bardem in "Skyfall." Should have given him some more meaty scenes.

3. The endings of "Lincoln" and "Holy Motors." Both should have ended about two minutes earlier.

4. The extensive farm scenes in "Looper." Slows the pace down hard.

5. "The Master" just not being quite finished... it doesn't feel fully formed despite its brilliance.

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Don't worry -- totally on your side on finding SLP contrived (and this year's The Descendants)

December 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterP

I know it's probably not fair to compare the two films just because they're the top/most high profile gay films of their respective years the past couple years, but I think I would've liked/appreciated KEEP THE LIGHTS ON more if I hadn't seen WEEKEND first. I couldn't stop thinking about WEEKEND weeks, months after I saw it. I forgot about KtLO a couple of days later.

As for the rest, I will respectfully disagree on your takes on LIFE OF PI and CHRONICLE. The ending for both, gave the films a darker edge that I really responded to. Though that may speak more to my current state of mind than the films' qualities.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Nathaniel. I agree with some of your points about the talented Amy Adams. She was unbelievably annoying and whinny in Doubt ( Viola Davis gave the only strong performance) , and she didn't bring anything special to her role in Charlie Wilson's War ( to be fair only Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave a decent performance) . Adams was forgettable in The Master ( the worst PTA film to date), and the poor girl had nothing to work with.

Hayden W. , you made a good point about Amy Adams.

Everyone involved in This Means War. I really want Reese Witherspoon to retire from the business. She doesn't even try to give a decent performance. Reese has no care in the world, as long as she cashes those big paychecks. Sadly, she was only good, when she was hungry- Election & Freeway.

Jennifer Lawrence. Her acting is always passable with no real flair and no depth ( watch X-Men First Class & The Hunger Games) . She stood out like a sore thumb in Silver Linings Playbook ( highly overrated film ) . Jennifer couldn't pull-off the sexiness, the complexity, the wit, nor the dramatic fireworks of her role. She was awkward throughout the film, and her youthfulness made matters worst. If Laura San Giacomo ( Sex, Lies , & Videotape) , Linda Forientino ( The Last Seduction) , Lena Olin, Rebecca DeMoray ( Risky Business) or Annette Benning ( The Grifters) were much younger, they would have been perfect for the Tiffany role.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersteve

Amy Adams is on my supporting actress ballot, so at least for me, I thought she was fine with what she was given in "The Master." I guess it wasn't enough for some people, but it wasn't really her story to begin with. It was a one-two man show (and my God, what a show--both Phoenix and PSH should be locked in for nominations after that first processing scene ALONE!), so I accepted it on those terms. It's also my favorite film of 2012, so I'm inherently biased for it, I guess.

I'm not getting what you're saying about Hawkes. You wanted him to go full frontal? I doubt a film like "The Sessions" would have the balls (no pun intended) to "go there" with him. But I do see a clear double standard with female nudity vs. male nudity that's pretty shameful and sadly consistent to this day. And the worst of it all is that I'd bet Hawkes would have been perfectly game for doing it. Helen Hunt sure as hell was.

I won't rehash my love for "Silver Linings Playbook" (I got into hot water here before about it, but hey, you asked us if we thought you were wrong or not, and I think you've missed the boat big time on it), so I'll leave it at that. I've seen it twice now and think it's even better on a second viewing. Tomatoes, tomatoes. And after seeing it a second time, I think that Jennifer Lawrence is winning an Oscar in February.

And can I say how mad I am that not one damn theater played "The Paperboy" in my area when it premiered? I mean, you'd think the top-tier cast and Oscar-nominated director would have counted for something. Maybe it was the poor reviews that stifled it. Now I have to impatiently wait for the DVD (which is happening when exactly?). I needs me my next Nikki fix ASAP. John Cusack looks really gross in that pic.

Oh well. That was longer than it should have been. But they're inspired by your words and views! You should be happy about that as a blogger at least. I'll brace myself for the Worst of 2012 posts.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiam

I agree that Amy Adams might follow the fate of Rene. It is unbelievable that she may be a 4-time Oscar nominee and we are not yet convinced of her skills. Yes, she is very good, but there is something missing. At the same time - she should have been nomnated for her vibrant heartwarming performance in Enchanted.
What I didn't like this year - the overhyped Looper and Ted, Marion Cottilard in Rust and Bone (extremely overrated, just an OK performance)
I liked but still think that are overrated -
The Avengers
Alan Arkin in Argo
Denzel Washington in Flight (such an uneven movie - started interestingly and then fell apart)
Richard Gere in Arbitrage
Magic Mike
the career of McConaughey
TDKR - misused Hardy, hardly believable Cottilard (I know I sound as if I don't like her - on the contrary, I adore her), bad screenplay

I have to agree with Zeta-Jones - her career is so formless that I don't know what to think of her with the exception of her beauty.
I have to disagree with:
Life of Pi - beautifully crafted, enchanting and true to its source. I know the edning is a little off-putting but I still believe that the story with tiger is what really happened.
The negativity towards Cloud Atlas

And btw - when Ewan McGregor is going to receive his several Oscars? Maybe they want to give them to him at the same time. I can't believe how one of the most constantly good actors hasn't been recognized by the Academy (that fact questions the name "Academy") while we have the nominated Jonah Hill and the winners Roberto Benigni and Cuba Gooding Jr.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel B.

Loving the views on Nolan. I find his films so cold. I liked The Dark Knight but hated the Dark Knight Rises, he does take himself far too seriously & his films are just too long.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuzy

And no one was shocked to see Silver Linings at #1. Ever see a Capra or Wilder film, Mr. Rogers? They would be proud of that film. It's an important, vital film in a cinematic universe full of cynicism, have a heart you cold bastard.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Nat, I tend to agree with you that Silver Linings Playbook is overrated. What really gets me, though, is reading reviews and comments calling it a rom-com. It's actually a pretty heavy rom-drama with occasional some comic relief. After I'd seen it, the first film I thought of in comparison was Two Lovers, which, you'll remember, was a pretty heavy rom-drama...and which I actually preferred to SLP.

Also, in SL^, I was taken aback at how Jackie Weaver was criminally underrused. Except in the opening minutes, when she picks Cooper up from the hospital and drives him back to Philly, she hardly has anything to say; she mostly just smiles and facially reacts.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

NEPOTISM is rife in the uk and hollywood at the expenzse of struggling actors/writers/directors seems if you are the son/duaghter of an actor/screenwriter/director,friend etc or someone who brought you dad tea in 1989 on a film set you can act and direct,you know who i mean male and female some are just starting some have been around for a few years without showing us an ounce of talent or charisma that is directl;y of their making lena dunham,zoe kazan,eddie redmayne,keira k,jaden smith,jake hoffman,the fannings,rosie huntington whitely,jake gyllenhall and maggie gyllenhaal the list goe on and some i have enjoyed.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

Although I agree that swapping Laura Dern and Amy Adams is a frightfully exciting idea, I cannot agree that Adams was disappointing in "The Master". I felt that PTA let her down more than anything. She defined supporting performance for me - in the background of every shot was her complex, counter-intuitive characterisation and in the two or so moments where she was able to take centre frame, she nailed it so hard. I have nothing but respect for Adams.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Matt -- i love Wilder and Capra (with a couple of notable exceptions in each filmography but that's true of all directors) but excuse me while i get back to the cold-hearted bastardry -- it's time consuming!

Bill -- but at least Weaver was fantastic given how little she had to do. If I loved SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK for any reason it would be this: giving Jacki Weaver a decent (if not great) part in a movie everyone loves (but me) and thereby giving her more shots at continued work in major movies. LOVE HER.

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Yeah, I was happy to hear Catherine Zeta-Jones return to film after having her rom-com "The Rebound" be delayed for so many years (not to mention her dealing with Michael Douglas' cancer prognosis), but the three films she's released this year have been pretty underwelming: "Rock of Ages" "Lay the Favorite" "Playing the Field."

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

Overrated: The Master
Most disappointing thing in something I loved: Ending to Lincoln

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Overrated

- Ted
- Perks of Being a Wallflower
- Avengers

Underrated

- The Master
- Prometheus
- Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

December 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTorontom

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