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The 5th Annual Munchie Awards; or 2012 in Review

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It's that time! Each year, ahead of those phony-baloney Oscars, I like to recap the year in film with my own, much more objectively correct opinion and also perhaps draw the attention of TAT's many film buffs to some films that may have flown under the radar. That's right, it's time for The 5th Annual Munchie Awards. I ran hot and cold when it came to 2012's feature films, but there was no shortage of great ones when it came to animated films and documentaries, which leads me to the first award:

Best Documentary

How to Survive a Plague
Indie Game: The Movie
The Invisible War
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
The Queen of Versailles
Searching for Sugar Man

These are just 6 of maybe about 10 that blew me away. They're all fascinating in their own way. Sugar Man and Indie Game are the feel-good ones of the bunch. They are delightful little films about very dedicated people. Certainly the one that caused the strongest emotional reaction for me was The Invisible War about the pervasive problem of sexual abuse in the American military. It did what many great docs before it have done - it outraged me. But the one that impressed me the most was The Queen of Versailles. Oh, the prejudice I approached this film with! The main focus of this film, based on the trailer and the promotional art, seems to be this shallow Paris Nicole Kardashian-looking Barbie doll with too much money and atrocious taste. As the film progressed, I was astonished to discover how much I grew to care about her. The financial crisis of 2008 flipped her world upside down and we see her contend with that radical change, a vapid, ungrateful family, an ogre of a husband and her own destroyed dreams. And like many of my favorite documentaries, it maintains a somewhat brisk pace - it's charismatic and completely devoid of dull moments

My Top 15 Films of the Year

15. Zero Dark Thirty
14. Flight
13. Footnote
12. Oslo, August 31
11. Arbitrage
10. The Avengers
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
8. Your Sister's Sister
7. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
6. The Secret Life of Arrietty
5. Wreck-It Ralph
4. Compliance
3. Silver Linings Playbook
2. Argo
1......These films are all great, but there was only one filmgoing experience I had this year where, during the closing credits, I was already planning my next visit to the theater to see it a second time. That film, the winner of the coveted Munchie for Best Picture, was the hyper-controversial Django Unchained. This film is fantastic fun, yes, and no it has little to do with real-life history but it gives the viewer a lot to chew on. Slavery is, of course, the great shame of our nation and it doesn't make for very entertaining films, generally. But while Tarantino is entertaining us with ultra-violence and his trademark, clever, absurdist dialogue, his film re-opens a dialogue on this brutal chapter of our history through the words and deeds of its larger-than-life characters. Combine that with 4 actors giving, in my opinion, career performances and you've got a film that may soon be added to my list of personal favorites.
Honorable mentions: I also really enjoyed - The Deep Blue Sea, ParaNorman, The Hunger Games, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, Cabin in the Woods and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (yes, really)

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Richard Gere in Arbitrage
Anders Danielsen Lee in Oslo, August 31
John Hawkes in The Sessions
Denzel Washington in Flight

Mostly a bunch of heavyweights, but I'll draw special attention to Danielsen Lee for his fantastic work as an adrift, recovering drug addict in the melancholy Norwegian drama Oslo, August 31. A character that could have easily been pathetic or cloying, is convincingly and powerfully portrayed with understated, sympathetic angst. I wish I could go against the grain with this award but I have no choice but to give it to Daniel Day Lewis. My God he's powerful as Abraham Lincoln. What struck me most is how many layers Lincoln has because of all of the unique contexts we see him in - his relationship with his wife is played in a certain way, differently than his relationship with Seward, or his young son, or his oldest son or with the public. All convincing, but all so unique. I think the Oscars are going to copy my choice next week.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Ann Dowd in Compliance
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Quevenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea

A word about Quevenzhane Wallis - where did they find this girl!?! Beasts is not a film I loved, mostly because I found the characters and their actions utterly unbelievable, but her performance is simply the best I've ever seen from a child her age. She's a powerhouse and more talented than she has any reason to be, being so young. However, the performance I was held most rapt by was that of Ann Dowd. Compliance - it's perhaps the most uncomfortable sit you could have this year and Ann Dowd is, in many ways, the villain of the film. She has won a few awards for supporting actress for this film, which I don't understand. She's really at the heart of it. On the surface, she's an overbearing boss (an understatement, really), but Dowd gives her an insecurity and vulnerability from the start that are absolutely crucial to making the film's far-out premise absolutely believable from the start. And I'm going to stop there, because people should see this film without too much information about it.

Best Supporting Actor

Leo DiCaprio in Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained
Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

So, obviously one film is dominating this category and, again we have a bunch of heavyweights, so I'll single out the odd one out - Ezra Miller proved in this film that he's one for me to watch out for. I found him chilling last year as the murderous Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin and this performance shows his range. He plays a troubled gay teen who, while naive and vulnerable at times, is a character full of great affection and charisma at others and Miller plays this tricky role with great skill. But the Munchie goes to Samuel L. Jackson. In a movie like this, who'd have thought that the most deplorable villian would be a slave. I'd go so far as to say that Jackson plays the most complete, three-dimensional slave character I can recall seeing on screen. The complexity of the character still impresses me - he's a slave but he's intensely loyal to his master and intensely disdainful towards freedom, yet he is perhaps the single most cunning and insightful character, yet he can't make that known to many people. He wears a dozen different hats depending on the company he's in, and we marvel at the skill he's honed at swapping hats at a moment's notice. Jackson takes maybe the most fraught, complicated role he's ever been given and hits it completely out of the park.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams in The Master
Emily Blunt in Your Sister's Sister
Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
Helen Hunt in The Sessions
Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz
Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

These were an interesting crop of performances, because they were all departures from the norm for the actresses, in one way or another. The two I narrowed it down to both sent chills up my spine with their work albeit in different ways. Amy Adams gives a scarily icy performance in The Master that, in many ways, made me uncomfortable. She's a woman you'd think 3 times before crossing. However, the chills I enjoyed a great deal more were those given to me by Anne Hathaway. Now, Les Miserables sucked. It really did. But the first half-hour of it is wonderful and it's almost singlehandedly because of Hathaway. Everything has already been written about how good she is - I probably can't add much except that as soon as her character exits, it's fine to exit too.

Best Director

Ben Affleck for Argo
Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master
Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Craig Zobel for Compliance

Interesting to me that 2 films on here didn't even make my top 15. Beasts and The Master were fascinating artistic achievements that I was impressed with and transfixed by, visually, but left me feeling kind of cold. Perhaps this is misguided, but I lay that at the feet of the writing, rather than the direction. The same can be said for what would have been #7 on this list - Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe someday, my Best Director and Best Picture will match, but again there's a disparity. This award goes to Ben Affleck. I've been impressed with all of his films, and maybe someday he'll decide to stay strictly behind the camera, but this film displays a flair for filmmaking that took me a little by surprise. Affleck is incredibly skilled at pacing and creating tension and Argo is the rare film that actually left me on the edge of my seat - I didn't even realize that that actually happened. The whole film displays an easy confidence with the craft, even the nice little closing-credits montage. I simply can't wait for the next thing Affleck does.

I actually was able to get to just about everything this year that I wanted to see - which is why I'm doing this about 2 weeks later than I wanted to. A couple of films I wish I'd seen that might have been featured - Cosmopolis, Holy Motors, Kid With a Bike, In the Family and This is Not a Film.

Stay tuned for the foul side of 2012 in film - The 5th Annual Doobie Awards. Coming soon!

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Tags: 2012, film, munchies
Entertainment , Movies


  1. Jay's Avatar
    Really enjoyed this, Munchin!
    I had already wanted to see Oslo, August 31; but you made me want to watch it even more. Probably gonna get to it this weekend, hopefully

    Also, I don't think it's going to happen this year, but I hope Amy Adams wins an Oscar someday. She's too talented not to. She has, what, 4 nominations now?
  2. munchin's Avatar
    Oh, totally see Oslo. It's surprisingly engrossing. There are a couple of scenes of really interesting construction that make me think the filmmaker is a future master of the medium, too.
  3. GlennHarman's Avatar
    Note that I am posting this in 2016.....way after the fact. But I just read your Munchie's for 2012.

    Anyway, this is a year I'm really going to disagree with. I was totally disgusted by Django Unchained. There is only so much gratuitous violence I can stomach, and this one crossed way over the line. I came very close to walking out when the scene with the dogs mangling the man was shown. While I should have done so, I did decide to stay. But as I left the theater, I vowed never to see another Tarantino film, and that is a vow I have no intention of breaking. (no Hateful 8.....not even to hear Morricone's probably wonderful music).

    I'm not entirely sure what I would have called my favorite film of that year, but looking at your list and using my retrospectoscope, I probably would say it was Argo. I also liked Silver Linings Playbook, a lot. And I wish I had seen Oslo, August 31, but did not.