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Halfway House 2012. Best Picture (Thus Far)

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! We're taking stock and talking 2012 crop now that the year is half over. If you asked me to nominate for "Best Picture" right now, here are the titles I'd scribble in the air with sparklers... in alpha order.  I fully expect 2 or 3 of them to be written in ink at the end of the year in my top ten list.


The Avengers (review)
Let's not overstate. Popcorn entertainment occassionally does come better than this but The Avengers is still pretty damn fun and clever as it hurdles the complicated 'how on earth do you combine all these franchises into one?' question with confidence and humor. It's easy to forget how wrong this could have gone. Well done Joss Whedon. Extra bonus points for redeeming the two most previously disappointing characters (The Black Widow and The Hulk) by making them the unexpected key pieces of this jigsaw puzzle.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Benh Zeitlin's evocative utopia/dystopia journey is like nothing you've ever seen. So get to seeing it the first chance you get. We'll obviously be talking about it more as the year wears on and top ten lists and awards begin looming.

Bullhead (review)
Michael R. Roskam's brooding tragedy-laced crime drama about a lonely cattle farmer and illegal growth hormones was nominated for Best Foreign Film last year. It finally hit US cinemas this year. They always make us wait. 

Declaration of War 
Valérie Donzelli's restless, experimental retelling of her own traumatic experience as a new parent of a sick child with then boyfriend Jérémie Elkaïm(also playing a version of himself) was a bracing experiene and even an oddly joyful movie. Though it was clearly a longshot for Oscar play (they didn't nominate it for foreign film) I'm glad France submitted it bringing it to our attention here. 

 A Festive 4th of July with Dallas and the Kings of Tampa

Magic Mike (review)
Steven Soderbergh's nuanced observational portrait of a stripper/entrepeneur facing the uncertain future has stylish filmmaking, good solid laughs, and better character portraits than you usually get on the peripheries of the narrative. 

Moonrise Kingdom
Not since The Royal Tenenbaums have Wes Anderson's form and content enjoyed a marriage this whimsical, aching and bittersweet. It's multifaceted and, better yet, enjoyable on serious and silly levels depending on your mood. Seems likely to reward us on future viewings. 

Runners up? Not really. Those six stand head and shoulders, even groins in Mike's case, above the pack. Don't miss any of them. If I had to make a top ten list this early with so few films seen (yikes) 7 through 10 in descending order would go to... no I can't it's too unsatisying... I can't I ca... oh, all right

Try to imagine what would happen if the year ended right now. Which films do you think would make Oscar's BP list? It has to be films that are eligible (i.e. released already) so I'm feeling like there's no way it wouldn't be these five: Avengers, Beasts of, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Hunger Games and Moonrise Kingdom... with Hunger Games losing a Best Director opportunity to Steven Soderbergh for Magic Mike. I've got this alternate reality all figured out! Marketable skill.

Those five movies are arguably the only five that'll have enough devotees to cry "it's going to happen!" in five more months... even if it isn't in most of those cases. Do you agree? Or do you think something heartwarming / messagey (like The Intouchables?) or something critically supported but divisive (like Magic Mike) would surprise and knock the not-beloved-but-way-successful Hunger Games out?

Most importantly: What would your ballot look like so far? And do you think anything we've seen yet is going the distance to an Oscar nomination.

Read Also "Best Of..." Actress, Actor , Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress

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Reader Comments (28)

I haven't watched that many movies so far... I guess mine would like a lot like yours

The Avengers
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom
Safety Not Guaranteed
21 Jump Street

are the five best I've seen so far... I haven't seen Magic Mike or any of the foreign films you talk about yet, but I think I will. I am especially interested in 'Declaration of War'.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConrad

Nat: I doubt Best Exotic will have enough supporters in six months. It sounds TOO light, even for a "light summer movie" slot. Avengers, Moonrise or Safety Not Guaranteed (especially with DVD fan acquisitions) sound more likely. And, just heard Disney's doing a Marvel Comics movie and announcing it at Comic Con. My hope: Something at least related to Nextwave. Likelihood: An adaptation of the seventies supernatural fare. Midway point: Latter option with Elsa Bloodstone cameo.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

volvagia -- sometimes i feel like you're speaking a foreign language. I have no idea wahat nextwave or elsa bloodstone is. or the midway point means in this context ;)

July 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

here's my top 10 movies of 2012 so far: http://wetalkaboutmovies.com/2012/07/01/top-10-movies-of-2012-so-far/

and as for the list of movies that might make the BP list if Oscars were held right now, I'd pick these five films: Amour, The Avengers, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, Moonrise Kingdom

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVinny

My top five so far: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Avengers, Magic Mike, Brave and 21 Jump Street. I could happily do a Top 10 at this point though (Marigold Hotel, Damsels in Distress, Hunger Games, Cabin in the Woods, Moonrise Kingdom). Beasts would also take Actress (hoping for an Oscar nod for her) and Director, though the only Actor winner I could consider from the batch would be Channing Tatum. Pretty great year so far, especially considering we're only halfway there.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

My five thus far? Okay!

1. The Avengers
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. John Carter (don't laugh)
4. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (stop laughing, please)
5. Snow White and the Huntsman (okay, fine. Have at it)

I also hope that Mark Ruffalo wins Best Supporting Actor for "Avengers." He was stellar. Further, I bet anyone that "Moonrise" will nab Cinematography (or, God willing, "The Master," if it's good).

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I just have to say I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild today, and I was mildly entertained. I mean, I understand what Benh Zeitlin wanted to accomplish, and he did to some degree. His folklore storytelling, using recent tragedy to tell a unique story from a completely audacious perspective, and to a very high regard, I was impressed at times. However, the hype is overrated. The script is great, cinematography and symbolism is all there and well executed. The acting, however, became an annoyance for me. Sure "let's use natives and people who have never acted before, and the authenticity will flourish!"- Not so much
There's a reason we have actors (and being one I feel I have the knowledge to explain).
I wanted to see this film based on its unique trailer, and the actors used, who I thought were just unknowns. However, the lead little girl (who is BEAUTIFUL) ,Quvenzhané Wallis, doesn’t get the “Dakota Fanning Award” in terms of her performance. What Justin Henry did in Kramer vs. Kramer, what Catinca Untaru did in The Fall, or Dakota Fanning did in I Am Sam are unique performances because they each held their own with other actors. They used their own emotion to create new emotion for a character. That’s what acting is. Acting is not posing, or giving the same expression in nearly every frame and calling it “natural”. That’s what Quvenzhane did to me. She looked like she was told what to do, and I’m sorry to say that’s not impressive to me. I’m reading reviews, and so many are regarding her performance as a “triumph” or “amazing.” It’s just not so. There were two scenes, very briefly; where I finally saw her emote from within, and those were the scenes she had dialogue. And keep in mind, she barley speaks in the entire film. Yes, I know she narrates it, but acting on screen, and recording your voice in a studio are two different things entirely, and even in her narration she sounds as if she is told what to do. And any child who is bright will know what to do, and do it when they are told. Even Gabourey Sidibe gained weight, had an accent, and physicalized with her face the emotional, dark, and lost places that “Precious” went through. I’m sorry, I just have a problem when these “non-actors” getting really hyped praise when it is not deserved (ala Jennifer Hudson).
And if that was the director’s intention, I got it. Maybe he didn’t want an actor to take away from the atmosphere of the environment. But it would have been more entertaining to see people who can act; to take the audience into the mind of these characters, instead of giving us a surface performance. Same goes for the other actors in the film. Idris Elba in the father role (played by an energetic Dwight Henry) would have been truly entertaining to watch. But the way its shot, to me, feels as if, anybody could have been in this film, and guess what: THEY WERE. (Editing can work wonders, and hinder)
Visually, the film is stimulating, and enthralled me in a world of mystery, humor, and sadness. But I still left disappointed. I wanted to be devastated, and I wasn’t. I was slightly moved.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTory Smith

Tory Smith, I agree.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEric C.

Can I just put The Avengers down for everything?

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I know that you're unwilling to deal with The Avengers on more than an 11 year old fanboy's level, but giving Whedon bonus points for making a kickass woman an "unexpected" key piece is a bit too much, particularly since he couldn't do it without following the established Michael Bay route of a near-naked hot chick. And unfortunately, that's not the only aspect where Joss drew inspiration from Mike. Be that as it may, I find it amusing that you always link to your Avengers review even though you famously refused to review The Avengers.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I guess this is what mine would look like but I have a few to catch up on DVD from earlier in the year like Haywire (In roughly descending order)

Magic Mike
The Secret World of Arrietty
I Wish
Moonrise Kingdom
The Avengers

Haven't seen anything I despised and not too bad a year so far. Probably won't be as amazing as last year but there's a still a lot I've liked and more I'm looking forward to.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeeking Amy

BEST PICTURE: "Beasts of the Southern Wild", "The Avengers", "Moonrise Kingdom", "Your Sister's Sister" and "The Hunger Games"
*RUNNER-UP: "Prometheus"

In the acting categories, I would say the only Oscar contenders by now are Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry (both for "Beasts"), Jennifer Lawrence ("The Hunger Games"), Michael Fassbender (for "Prometheus") and Anne Hathaway for ("Les Misérables movie trailer")... Maybe Bill Murray or Frances McDormand have a chance for their performances in "Moonrise Kingdom".

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

If the year ended now, I would have a very strange list of nominees. The Grey, The Raid: Redemption, The Secret World of Arrietty, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Prometheus. That's ranked, too. Horror, action, fantasy, sci-fi, sci-fi/horror. Next in line is The Hunger Games.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Willy -- yeah, that's me. an 11 year old fanboy.

Ryan T -- do as you must!

Tory -- Thanks for sharing that. I was curious if this would come up and I do think it's an obstacle for her nomination. Some adult actors will surely feel a great performance from a child is more of a triumph of direction than innate skill. But then, many people vote emotionally and if they are affected by her they might not care.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

hmm i'd pick

take this waltz, the avengers, the amazing spider-man, mnl 143, haywire, arriety, hunger games,

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Papa

Good to know. But shouldn't even an 11 year old fanboy know that Hawkeye isn't a pug-faced midget? Or be upset about Hulk being portrayed as an ugly gorilla? Or criticize Mark Ruffalo for not even hinting at a rather unimportant side of his character (particularly since you justifiably praised Viola Davis for revealing hidden anger in The Help)? Or laugh at "I'm always angry", "Gotcha, because you said monster", hypnotized Selvig managing to sabotage Loki while being hypnotized, and Alien invaders coming to kill cars (parked and empty ones, of course)? But I assume that you really loved at least the latter, cause you're usually not that much into violence on screen, just like 11 year olds should be.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I liked "The Hunger Games" far more than I should have (shamed). I'm sort of rooting for it to take that "blockbuster" slot away from "The Avengers," but I know the chances of either making it into BP are virtually zero. The only one that has a legitimate shot is "The Dark Knight Rises."

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I've seen 20 movies that I really like or admire this year.

Six favorite studio movies so far (in this order): Moonrise Kingdom, Brave, The Grey, Chronicle, The Avengers, Men in Black 3 (surprisingly good!).

Six favorite indie/foreign movies (in this order): The Turin Horse, I Wish, The Kid with the Bike, Bernie, Dark Horse, Your Sister's Sister

8 Honorable mentions: Crazy Horse, Cabin in the Woods, Damsels in Distress, The Day He Arrives, Haywire, The Hunger Games, Kill List, Undefeated

Haven't seen: Beasts..., Take This Waltz, Spidey, Magic Mike, Ted

A great year so far. Can't wait for the second half!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Nathaniel, when are you going to finish your 2011 Film Bitch Awards?

Cool choices for the 2012 movies, you should watch The Grey and The Innkeepers, if you like to get some more genre films.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterremy

Maybe it's just what I've seen, or maybe it's the fact that I've never been into the superhero genre, but I'm really let down by this year so far. I've seen one movie I loved-- Beasts of the Southern Wild. That's it.

Bullhead, Your Sister's Sister, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Hunger Games round out a Top 5, but my opinion on those ranges from "Good, but I don't love it" to "Serviceable."

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

My top 5:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Five-Year Engagement
3. The Secret World of Arrietty
4. The Kid with a Bike
5. Your Sister's Sister

Apparently, The Secret World of Arrietty is not eligible for anything because of some bullshit rule regarding its release in Japan, so if I had to take that out, Damsels in Distress would be my number 5.

Next weekend, I'm hopefully seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild and Take This Waltz, so there could be major changes to this list by then.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

haven't seen a lot this year but
1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Avengers
3. The Raid: Redemption (not sure if this counts as 2012)
4. 21 Jump Street
5. The Grey

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Troutman

It would appear that I've had a very different 2012 than everybody else:
1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
2. The Turin Horse
3. Oslo, 31 August
4 The Deep Blue Sea
5. Bernie

I certainly "get" the love for The Avengers, but it's not going to end up anywhere near my year-end top 10. It simply doesn't strike me as anything but an above-average supehero flick, and we have plenty of those already.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Jason Biggs for anything.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Sorry, superhero lovers, but come on. You gotta branch out.

1- The Deep Blue Sea (why did no one see this amazing film?)
2- Bernie (fascinating, disturbing Linklater film)
3- This Is Not a Film (the great and important Jafar Panahi)
4- Kill List (scariest horror movie in many a moon)
5- The Kid with the Bike (the Dardennes are two of the most important directors in the world, and this is one of their best)

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Tighe

1. The Hunger Games
2. The Avengers
3. Ted
4. The Cabin in the Woods
5. 21 Jump Street

Havn't seen Beasts, Kingdom yet and won't be seeing Magic Mike though.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthatguy

1. The Hunger Games
2. The Avengers
3. Ted
4. The Cabin in the Woods
5. 21 Jump Street

Havn't seen Beasts, Kingdom yet and won't be seeing Magic Mike though.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthatguy

thatguy -- why the resistance to Mike?

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R
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